Haystack Europe 2018, a brief retrospective

It’s been a couple of weeks now since the first Haystack search relevance conference in Europe, which we ran with our partners Open Source Connections (OSC). Just under a hundred people came to the Friends’ House in Euston for a day of talks covering both the business and technical aspects of relevance engineering. Doug Turnbull of OSC started the day by introducing what would be a major theme of the conference, Learning to Rank, and how Bloomberg had used and benefited from open sourcing their LTR plugin for Solr. Karen Renshaw of Zoro (a division of Grainger Global Online) talked about how to tune relevance from a business perspective. Sebastian Russ of Tudock showed how even something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet can be a useful visualisation tool for relevance, while Alessandro Benedetti and Andrea Gazzarini of Sease demonstrated Rated Ranking Evaluator, a complete platform for relevance measurement. After lunch, Torsten Köster & Fabian Klenk of Shopping 24 and consultant René Kriegler described their journey with LTR for an ecommerce site and Agnes Van Belle of Textkernel showed how similar techniques can be applied to recruitment search. Tony Russell-Rose was our last speaker on strategies and tools for managing complex Boolean queries.

My only regret was how little time I had personally to catch up with the attendees, many of whom were from Flax clients past and present – I must have had 20 or 30 very brief chats during the day! Luckily a few of us went on for a drink afterwards and eventually a curry nearby. It was a very long day but from the feedback we’ve recieved so far a very successful one. We hope to make this a regular event on the calendar.

Thanks to all who made the event possible, our speakers and everyone who came – the slides are now available on the event website.

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