Microsoft and Setur Datathon 2019

This past weekend was a busy one :) One other event I was invited to was the “Setur Travel Datathon” organized in collaboration with Microsoft. The data-focused hackathon took place during the full weekend. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the first day because of my sessions at another conference. Sunday, I was there as a late observer and mentor.

Here is what I saw that surprised, excited, and disappointed me. I was surprised by the amount of data Setur, the host company for the datathon, was able to share with the teams. The effort the organizers put out there was remarkable. Was it worth the effort? Definitely. Seeing so many competing groups trying to come up with original ideas and building full-blown AI systems from scratch was very exciting to watch. What disappointed me was the lack of desire in rapid application development and prototyping. Most of the groups wanted to build from ground-up and craft the perfect experiment. First, there is no perfect experiment in data science :) there is “good enough.” Second, in a hackathon where you are supposed to deliver a functioning idea, prototype in two days, you have to tap into what’s available out there and discover the ready-to-consume solutions (SaaS offerings out there hint hint!). I felt like everyone had this feeling that using a hosted service like Azure Cognitive Services was cheating. Oh boy! Right? With that said, now that the hackathon is done, let me be transparent. I was in the jury room and heard some of the juries belittle a solution arguing that the team should not be considered to have built their project just because they used an AI hosted service. Maybe it is time to consider time-to-market? Ok, ok… I’m not trying to be the big head here. I just don’t think it is fair to underrate a solution in a data-focused hackathon because of the use of Serverless AI services where groups are supposed to use data and come up with smart insights. If this was an AI hackathon, that could have changed my perspective, maybe… :)

With the rumbling flushed, thanks to the folks at Microsoft for inviting me to this event as a mentor. I hope I was able to add some value. Ciao.