Posts By Author: Catia

Trivago Hackathon: I Was There

Posted by Catia

Hi guys!
My name is Catia, and I’m a student in Informatics. I would like to tell you about my experience at the Trivago Hackathon.

Let’s start with the question: What is a Hackathon?
The name Hackathon is a portmanteau of hack – intended as exploratory programming – and marathon. Normally it consists of a group of computer programmers and other people involved in software development that meet/come together to code collaboratively in an extreme manner over a short period of time, normally a few days.

In my case, the Hackathon was organized by Trivago: they selected 50 applicants from all over Europe, and the topic was geodata.

I was really surprised when I arrived the first day: the Trivago building in Dusseldorf is really amazing, and we were invited to watch the football match between Germany and France. Beer, drinks and snacks were waiting for us!
After the match there was the official prehack: a little “welcome party” that gave us the opportunity to explore a bit, have a talk with the staff of Trivago and meet the other hackers; this was probably the most important moment for me, because I arrived alone from Italy and I needed a team to work with! That means, put on a big smile, and talk with as many hackers as possible.

The following morning: I still didn’t have a team.. Luckily I had already some interesting proposals, but I wasn’t sure how to choose, so I prefered to wait.
During the breakfast I found the first not German hacker, a very smart guy from Milan. He didn’t speak German, and he hadn’t a team too. We decided to search together for a team: the instructions were to form groups of five people, and finally we joined two programmers and a designer.
Little time was left before the start of the official Hackathon, and we needed to decide very fast what to do, and how to do it.. not easy to coordinate the work of five strangers.

Every team were assigned an own big conference room to work in, equipped with a fridge full of soft drinks, water and beer, a big bowl with food and snacks, a smaller bowl with Haribo sweeties and a coffee machine. Just one word: wow.

Now, I was in there with four people that I didn’t even know, the Hackathon had officially started and time was running. We had a lot of ideas, perhaps too many, and we tried to create a “concept”: improve the Hotel search for customers with trip suggestions, taking into account trend analysis, weather, events, and other useful information that we extrapolated from the geodata.
Before starting with the actual programming, we needed to clarify our different opinions, and to take time to discuss about how to proceed, how to divide the tasks and which technologies to use.

A lot of lines of code later (and something like liters of coffee, probably the only way to survive a Hackathon), it was three o’clock am, time to sleep and rest a bit. But it wasn’t really possible to relax: the next morning we had to wake up at 7 am and run to our computers.. we had left only few hours of Hackathon and we really needed to hurry up!

In the early evening our time was up: each team had only three minutes to talk about their work, and convince the jury about their concept. It was really surprising to see how many different ideas and projects came out in only two days! The best three teams won a price in money… but even who didn’t win like my team got a nice surprise: every participant received a Raspberry Pi!

In conclusion, when I think about this wonderful experience, I can only suggest to each of you to do the same as I did: event when you think that it’s impossible that they will select you, try anyway! And if you get the chance, just grab it! Buy your flight and go, don’t miss out on such an opportunity: You will learn a lot from the persons you meet, and it’s probably the most pleasant way to grow up professionally for both students and not.

2014 – Lipari Summer School on Computational Complex Systems – 3rd and last pt.

Posted by Silvia Malatini

Friday the last week of the 2014 Lipari Summer School on Computational Complex Systems has been concluded.

For the last days, some students have presented their research works to the class: very interesting topics on traffic load predictions, social networks data analysis and complex systems data modelling.

And to close the works a (not so easy) exam has been subjected to the students, questioning about lectures of the week.

Just a couple of personal opinions about the Summer School.
Firstly, I think that attending lectures about so specific topics, it’s quite a unique occasion, both for students and also for people working in the field: getting to know actual research fields and being able to talk about everybody’s projects and ideas is a very stimulating thing.
Secondly, getting in touch with international students and knowing how research is lead in other european and international universities, it’s something that every student should do, in my opinion, to understand the importance of doing experience in international universities.

A great thanks goes to the organizers of the Summer School and their efforts for letting us have a really great experience.

So, c u next year in Lipari!

2014 – Lipari Summer School on Computational Science

Posted by Silvia Malatini

Let’s continue our recap of this last week of Lipari Summer School on Smart Cities.

After the introductory lectures of the first two days, on Wednesday and Thursday, professors Batty and Bettencourt continued to show us their main researches.

Prof. Batty showed us some really interesting projects about urban modelling, with LUTI (land use transportation interactions) models, based on principles of social physics that pertain to ideas about aggregate potential and gravitation (http://www.spatialcomplexity.info/outline-of-the-course).
Moreover he showed us how scale, size, shape, hierarchy for locations and interactions defining systems of cities (inter-urban) and the city system (intra-urban) has not been assembled yet, pointing out the difficulties of fitting these ideas into data and the application to real cities (London in this case) (http://www.spatialcomplexity.info/lipari-school).

Prof. Bettencourt continued his lectures talking us about how cities scales, in terms of population and infrastructures, and how the scaling affects other aspects of a city, showing predictable average properties with size (pdf). This showed us how the cities scaling affects social interactions and how costs of interactions change when the city scales (pdf).

All presentations and course material can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/lwoocwvci8rygjb/AAD5lgZ8oDN3gdIG1OkHPjrta.

For the last day, on Friday, we expect students to present their own researches and… a FINAL EXAM!!
Better if I go to study then 😉

2014 Lipari Summer School on Smart Cities

Posted by Silvia Malatini

For the fourth year,  The international School for scientific research J.T. Schwarz has organized in Lipari a 4-week Summer School on Computational Complex Systems.

Four weeks in which Ph.D. students, junior and senior researchers from all over the world have the possibility of attending lectures taken from international recognized authorities, that address the main arguments in an interdisciplinary way, depending on the their field of expertise.

The main focus of this year are the smart cities and in this last week of the school, lectures will address them relating to the complex systems.

Works have started on Monday, with an introduction on smart cities, from Francesco Profumo, which is actually the Chairman of the Smart City Observatory at ANCI, and former Minister of Education University and Research from November 2011 to April 2013.
He introduced the matter starting from urbanization and talking about the key challenges of smart cities, presenting also a case study for the Expo 2015.

Following Dirk Helbing, from ETH Zurich, introduced the FuturICT project: a European multidisciplinary international scientific endeavour with focus on techno-socio-economic-environmental systems. Its aim is to understand and manage complex, global, socially interactive systems, with a focus on sustainability and resilience. The need for such projects is the great interdependency in cities matters, causing cascade effects that can soon turn into big disasters.

Then prof. Vito Latora from the University di Catania presented us spatially embedded complex systems, such as nervous systems, the Internet and transportation networks and their characteristic of having nontrivial topological patterns of connections. Studying centrality measures in spatial networks, he showed they could have a good empirical analysis of two databases, describing respectively 200 years of evolution of the road network in a large area located north of Milan, and the growth of the nervous system of the C. elegans (a worm), from the moment of fertilization to adulthood.

On Tuesday, work have been continued from Micheal Batty from The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, UK. Mr. Batty has 20 years of experience in data visualization and spatial analysis, and he’s actually chief of Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London. He began showing how cities can be represented as networks and presenting some older examples, like LUTM (Land Use Transportation Modelling), presenting some models for the city of London, and a 3D model for London, tagged with economic data. Other more modern examples were presented, about public transport networks, particularly the interpretation of data from the Oyster card in London, and another example about the Public Bike Scheme.

To finish, on Tuesday, Luìs Bettencourt, from the Santa Fe Institute, USA, introduced his work talking about smart cities as complex adaptive systems. The main focus of the lecture was the problem of modeling and planning cities, showing that at a certain point, self-organizing cities can be smarter than the engineered ones. The conclusion has been that from this point of view, in order to make real progress, there is the need of constraining the problem of planning cities understanding interactions of space and infrastructures and the natures of urban social networks.

In the following three days, more lectures from same authors are scheduled, deepening the introduced topics and presenting new ones.

Stay tuned!