Category Archives: Conferences

BV I/O: Dr. Jason Baldridge – Scaling Models for Text Analysis

Every year Bazaarvoice holds an internal technical conference for our engineers. Each conference has a theme and as a part of these conferences we invite noted experts in fields related to the theme to give presentations. The latest conferences was themed “unlocking the power of our data.” You can read more about it here.

The following video is of Dr. Jason Baldridge, currently an associate professor in the Linguistics Dept. at University of Texas and co-founder of People Pattern. Dr. Baldridge presented on the subject of text analysis. During his hour long talk he identified the desirable traits of a good text analysis function and focused on the problems of performing text categorization tasks given different amounts of labeled data. Big thanks to Dr. Baldridge for his informative presentation. The full talk is below:

BV I/O: Imagination unlocked

What do you get when you lock 100+ engineers, product managers, designers and other techies in a building for 2 days and ask them to come up with new and creative ways to “unlock the power of our data”? Well, I could tell you, but then I would have to… yeah that’s top secret awesome product roadmap stuff now. (and even redacted)


As an extension to our BV.IO internal tech conference that I recently blogged about, we held an engineering wide Hackathon for everyone in our technical community to go nuts with our data and try to come up with some of the next big ideas for Bazaarvoice. We had over 100 folks participate, form teams of 3, and after 2 days, we had 31 really cool prototypes that they demo’d to the entire company. It was such a great experience to see so many smart and passionate people singularly focused on innovation and building some cool new ideas and value for Bazaarvoice. Here is a quick summary of how things went down:

Tuesday = BV.IO tech conference & speakers, present Hackathon ideas
Wednesday = Form teams & brainstorm
Thursday = Hackathon & XBOX Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 tourney
Friday = Pancake breakfast, Hackathon, Demos, Prizes
Saturday = Sleep

We started the hackathon as a continuation of the BV.IO event at the Alamo Drafthouse, where we had anyone with a proposal come on stage and try and sell the idea. Think about it like trying to sell your idea to a group of engineers to come work with you on your startup idea. After we heard all the interesting ideas, everyone went off and self formed teams, and started brainstorming.


On Thursday, we kicked off the Hackathon, and it was eerily quiet in engineering. Everyone split off into small teams and was heads down coding or held up in a breakout room whiteboarding designs. We had tons of food and snacks brought in for breakfast, lunch and dinner to keep everyone energized, and by the end of the day everyone had made some amazing progress and were ready to blow off some steam…and by “blow off”, I mean blow up, and by “steam”, I mean COD:BO2.


We set up 8 portable flat screen monitors and 8 Xbox 360s, and we got our game on. It was so simple and so much fun, I don’t know why we hadn’t done this earlier. It was a huge hit, and we are thinking about how we can keep that set up all the time. Everyone self rated their skill level, and we balanced teams for a round robin Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 tournament.


Friday morning, all the managers got together to show our appreciation for the team with pancakes and bacon. I really think there is no better way to show your appreciation than with bacon.


“That’s way too much bacon”‘, said no one ever…

Coding continued throughout the day, and at 3pm it was pencils down, and time for demos. The company filled the All Hands, and it was rapid fire through 31 demos.



We even had a really slick Google Glass hackathon project.We even had a really slick Google Glass hackathon project.

The energy was awesome, the ideas were awesome, and the conversations it inspired across the entire company was awesome. After all the teams had demo’d, the company voted, and winners across several categories were selected. We had a few cool prizes for the winners like iPad Minis, Parrot Drones, Rokus, cash money and of course totally custom Lego trophies.


If you haven’t done a full on Hackathon at your company in a while, I highly recommend it. Every time we do it here, I am amazed by the creativity, the innovative ideas and solutions that are created in such a small time. And the ripple effect that happens from that continues for months as the business internalizes the ideas and roadmaps and direction start to change based on those ideas. The key is to not let the ideas die on the vine. Champion them, advocate them, and push them forward, and you too can change the world one authentic conversation at a time.

IMG_7962a_cto_approved-smThis hackathon is CTO approved.

BV I/O: Unlocking the power of our data

At Bazaarvoice, we strongly believe that our people are our most important asset. We hire extremely smart and passionate people, let them loose on complex problems, and watch all the amazing things they create. We had another opportunity to see that innovation engine in full effect last week at our internal technical conference and 2 day hackathon.

Every year we hold an internal technical conference for our engineers and technical community. If you are lucky enough to have been at Bazaarvoice, you remember our conference last year called BV.JS which was all about front end UI and javascript, and in years’ past we did Science Fairs. Last year at BV.JS we were focused on redesigning our consumer facing ratings and reviews product (Conversations) so we gathered some amazing javascript gurus such as Paul Irish (@paul_irish), Rebecca Murphey (@rmurphey), Andrew Dupont (@andrewdupont), Alex Sexton (@SlexAxton) and Garann Means (@garannm) to school us on all the latest in javascript.

This year our event was called BV.IO and we are focused on “unlocking the power of our data”, so we asked some great minds in big data analytics and data visualization to come inspire our engineering team.

The event kicked off with a day at the Alamo Drafthouse. Bazaarvoice is powered by tacos, so of course there were tons of breakfast tacos to get us ready for a fun filled day of learning and mind opening presentations, and a colorful pants competition, but I digress and will get to that in a minute.

First up was Adrian Cockcroft (‪@adrianco‬), cloud architect from Netflix. We are big fans of Netflix’s architecture and we use and have added to several of their open source packages. Some of the projects we use are Curator, Priam and Astyanax. Adrian gave us an update on some of the new advancements in Netflix’s architecture and scale as well as details on their new open source projects. Netflix is also running an open source competition called NetflixOSS and they have some cool prizes for the best contributions to their projects. The competition is open until September 15, 2013, so get coding.

Jason Baldridge (‪@jasonbaldridge‬), Ph.D. and associate professor in Computational Linguistics at the University of Texas, presented on scaling models for text analysis. He shared some really interesting insights into things that can be done with geotagged, temporal, and toponym data. Nick Bailey (‪@nickmbailey‬), an engineer at DataStax, presented on Cassandra best practices, new features, and some interesting real world use cases. And Peter Wong (‪@pwang‬), Co-founder and President of Continuum Analytics, gave a really entertaining talk about planning and architecting for big data as well as some interesting python packages for data analysis and visualization.

Ok, and now back to the most important aspect of the day, the Colorful Pants Competition. Qingqing, one of our amazing directors of engineering, organized this hilarious competition. Can you guess who was the winner?

We really enjoyed all the speakers, and we know that you will too, so we will be sharing their presentations on this blog in the coming days and weeks.

Check back regularly for the videos.