BigQuery & new users – the top “WTF!?” moments

“What the Fudge?”

I use Google BigQuery a lot. On a daily basis I run dozens of queries, use it to build massively scalable data pipelines for our clients, and regularly help new users navigating it for the first time. Suffice it to say I’m somewhat accustomed to its little quirks. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the new users who are commonly left scratching their heads, and shouting “What the fudge!?” at their monitors.

Here’s the top three WTFs that I regularly hear from new BigQuery users:

Beam me up Google – porting your Dataflow applications to 2.x

Will this post interest me?

If you use (or intend to use) Google Cloud Dataflow, you’ve heard about Apache Beam, or if you’re simply bored in work today and looking to waste some time, then yes, please do read on. This short post will cover why our team finally took the plunge to start porting some of Dataflow applications (using the 1.x Java SDKs) to the new Apache Beam model (2.x Java SDK). Spoiler – it has something to do with this. It will also highlight the biggest changes we needed to make when making the switch (pretty much just fix some compile errors).

Whispers from the other side of the globe with BigQuery

Setting the scene

A couple of months ago my colleague Graham Polley wrote about how we got started analysing 8+ years worth of of WSPR (pronounced ‘whisper’) data. What is WSPR? WSPR, or Weak Signal Propagation Reporter, is signal reporting network setup by radio amateurs for monitoring the ability for radio signals to get from one place to another. Why would I care? I’m a geek and I like data. More specifically the things it can tell us about seemingly complex processes. I’m also a radio amateur, and enjoy the technical aspects of  communicating around the globe with equipment I’ve built myself.

Homer simpson at Radio transceiver
Homer Simpson as a radio Amateur

Gobbling up big-ish data for lunch using BigQuery

Beers + ‘WSPR’ = fun

To this day, I’m a firm believer in the benefits of simple, informative, and spontaneous conversations with my colleagues – at least with the ones who can stand me long enough to chat with me . Chewing the fat with other like minded folks over a beer or two is a bloody good thing. It’s how ideas are born, knowledge is shared, and relationships are formed. It’s an important aspect of any business that is sadly all too often overlooked.

Analysing Stack Overflow comment sentiment using Google Cloud Platform

The decline of Stack Overflow?

A few months back I read this post from 2015 (yes, I know I’m a little late to the party) about how Stack Overflow (SO) was in serious decline, and heading for total and utter oblivion.  In the post, the first item to be called  out was that SO “hated new users“:

Stack Overflow has always been a better-than-average resource for finding answers to programming questions. In particular, I have found a number of helpful answers to really obscure questions on the site, many of which helped me get past a road block either at work or in my hobby programming. As such, I decided I’d join the site to see if I could help out. Never before has a website given me a worse first impression.

At the time, I remember thinking that this seemed like somewhat of an unfair statement. That was mostly down to the fact that when I joined the community (many years ago), I had fond memories of a smooth on-boarding, and never experienced any snarky remarks on my initial questions. Yes, gaining traction for noobs is very, very hard, but there is a good reason why it exists.

For me, SO is invaluable. How else would I be able to pretend to know what I’m doing? How else could I copy and paste code from some other person who’s obviously a lot smarter than me, and take all the credit for it? Anyway, once I had read the post, and gotten on with my life (e.g. copying and pasting more code from SO), I did’t think too much more about the post. Maybe I had just been lucky with my foray into the SO community?

However, just last week, I was reminded of that post once again, when I noticed that BigQuery (BQ) now has a public dataset which includes all the data from SO – including user comments and answers. Do you see where I am going with this yet? If not, then don’t worry. Neither did I when I started writing this.

Shiner to present at very first YOW!Data conference

 

Shine’s very own Pablo Caif will be rocking the stage at the very first YOW! Data conference in Sydney. The conference will be running over two days (22-23 Sep) and is focused big data, analytics, and machine learning. Pablo will give his presentation on Google BigQuery, along with a killer demo of it in action. You can find more details of his talk here.

Google BigQuery hits the gym and beefs up!

At Shine we’re big fans of Google BigQuery, which is their flagship big data processing SaaS. Load in your data of any size, write some SQL, and smash through datasets in mere seconds. We love it. It’s the one true zero-ops model that we’re aware of for grinding through big data without the headache of worrying about any infrastructure. It also scales to petabytes. Although we’ve only got terabytes, but you’ve got to start somewhere right?

If you haven’t yet been introduced to the wonderful world of BigQuery, then I suggest you take some time right after this reading this post to go and check it out. Your first 1TB is free anyway. Bargain!

Anyway, back to the point of this post. There have been a lot of updates to BigQuery in recent months, both internally and via features, and I wanted to capture them all in a concise blog post. I won’t go into great detail on each of them, but rather give a quick summary of each, which will hopefully give readers a good overview of what’s been happening with the big Q lately. I’ve pulled together a lot of this stuff from various Google blog posts, videos, and announcements at GCP Next 2016 etc.

Creating a serverless ETL nirvana using Google BigQuery

Quite a while back, Google released two new features in BigQuery. One was federated sources. A federated source allows you to query external sources, like files in Google Cloud Storage (GCS), directly using SQL. They also gave us user defined functions (UDF) in that release too. Essentially, a UDF allows you to ram JavaScript right into your SQL to help you perform the map phase of your query. Sweet!

In this blog post, I’ll go step-by-step through how I combined BigQuery’s federated sources and UDFs to create a scalable, totally serverless, and cost-effective ETL pipeline in BigQuery.