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CoveoBlitz - the journey to a memorable event

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A New Competition Appears! And Its Name Is Coveo Blitz

The first time I heard about the Coveo Blitz was through a spam^H^H^H^H email from my school faculty informing me that some company I’d never heard of from Quebec was organizing a coding competition. Having nothing else to do and looking for some way to hone my coding skills, I enlisted my friends to register for the competition as a group. After all, the only requirement they asked for registration was to be able to send an email (something I, and others apparently, still fail to properly do even today).

Cove-Who?

After some lackadaisical research, I found out that Coveo was a company specialized in search (interesting) and that they were a spinoff from Copernic, the meta-search engine from the late 90’s (Copernic was built in Quebec?! Wow that’s crazy!).

Being as cocky as a young student can be, I assumed the challenge would be search related. I wanted, no, needed to prepare at some level, so I did what we used to do back in the day; I went to the school library to find a book about searches. No, I’m not a baby boomer who’s confused by the “facebooks” and yes, I knew Google existed back in my university days. My problem was that all my online searches yielded very bad results! I didn’t know what to search for (classic), so all my searches yielded results about SEO and how to Google search (very meta, very useless). I did find a paper by Larry Page and Sergey Brin (if you don’t know them, Google them ;)) and some basic “how to use the indexOf function and maybe a hashmap if you’re really advanced.” This didn’t help me one bit.

Did you mean Search Engines ?

While hunting in the library for the information I truly needed, I found a very interesting book about search engines which really opened my eyes about how complex providing good results can be, what returning good results means, and how to deal with a shit-ton (technical slang) of documents.

What I thought would be an easy read that would allow me to over indulge in gaming in my spare time turned into a wonderful winter vacation (yep, I had too much free time back in the days XD) where I started to, following the physical book wisdom, index a bunch of documents, build an inverted index, fiddled with ranking algorithm based on word occurrences, or other mind-blowing-oh-my-god-how-does-it-even-work stuff like latent semantic indexing. Crazy to think I spent most of my Christmas vacation programming, debugging, and fighting like hell to figure out how to build a full scale search engine.

Of course, when I asked my friends what they did during their vacation, I had assumed they would have sharpened their programming chops, or at least learned something new. But, to assume is to make an ass out of you and me. Good thing they have some grade-a raw programming skills.

The funny thing is that while this research took place six years ago, I still retain a lot of this information in the ol’ noggin. Meanwhile, I can barely remember my prolific university courses. I suppose there’s a lesson in there…

The Blitz Before the Storm

Let me be frank. On the day of the event I was shipping my pants. I found myself second guessing all the preparation I’ve done. Why did I put all my research eggs in the search engine basket? What if it wasn’t useful at all?? Jesus, the amount of stress I was going through while the Coveo team was announcing the goal of the contest and… OMG yes! That student arrogance of mine payed off!

The contest was about search! It was crazy, I knew exactly what I had to do and how to split the project so we could effectively work on this together.

Well, you know, I thought I knew

The Blitz Day

Before I take a deep dive into the madness that is Coveo Blitz, I’d like to take a moment to underline how AWESOME this kind of event is. It’s been six years and I can still remember all those details from the preparation that preceded the day of the event. On my best days, I can barely remember what I had for lunch a day ago. But Coveo Blitz bucks that forgetfulness and is ingrained as one of those memories you constantly look back on with pride and joy, easily one of my highlights from my college years. I had the chance to develop friendships, meet like-minded passionate devs, got to learn what the heck Coveo is, and truly learn how great the company is.

Stay tuned for the next post - there, I’ll talk about the big day. Maybe you’ll even pick up some interesting tidbits for you and your team. I mean, if you plan on participating. You are participating, right?

Andy out

Written by
Machine Learning Platform Developer