Meetup at Big Data London – One-click Solr & Factchecking with Solr

Last week I spoke at the Big Data London conference, a very busy event with several thousand people attending. My session was on using open source search to make sense of Big Data – you can get slides here.

In the evening we ran another Lucene/Solr London Usergroup event with speakers Upayavira and Full Fact. After a brief but friendly fight with the Datastax team over pizza we settled down to see Upayavira show us his method for creating a fully functional SolrCloud stack and search application with a single command line using tools such as Docker, Rancher and Exhibitor. Upayavira’s system only needs to be given details of an Amazon Web Services cloud hosting account and it will create host instances, install and start Zookeeper, wait for a quorum to be established, install and start Solr and create a SolrCloud cluster and finally install and start a search application. The whole thing is managed by his own script Uberstack and is undeniably impressive.

Our second talk (and I think my favourite talk from all our Solr Meetups) was from Will Moy and Mevan Babakar of Full Fact, a charity who monitor the news for accuracy (something we increasingly require in these ‘post-truth’ days). Will told us how false and misleading claims can be amplified by the media and may end up directly influencing government policy, even though the underlying facts are wrong. FullFact are attempting to build open source, freely available systems for automating the factchecking process using Apache Lucene/Solr and our own stored query library Luwak and Flax have been donating some time to help them with this process. Their Hawk system currently indexes over 70 million sentences. This project is a wonderful example of how free, open source software can be used to create tools that benefit us all and at the end of this inspiring talk many of the audience offered ideas and even direct assistance with the project. I urge you to read Full Fact’s recent report on automated factchecking and get involved if you can. One idea was to run a Hackday for Full Fact – more details when we have them.

Thanks to Big Data London for inviting me to speak and hosting the Meetup and to Elsevier for sponsoring pizza and drinks. We’ll be back with another Meetup soon!

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