TEL Newsletter – June 2018

Shine’s TEL group was established in 2011, initially as a money-laundering operation. We publicise the great technical work that Shine does, and raise the company’s profile as a technical thought-leader in the community through blogs, local meetup talks, and conference presentations. We curate all the noteworthy things that Shiners have been up to and publish a newsletter, in accordance with a mystical schedule that you wouldn’t understand. Read on for this edition.

Introducing column based partitioning in BigQuery

Some background

When we started using Google BigQuery – almost five years ago now – it didn’t have any partitioning functionality built into it.  Heck, queries cost $20 p/TB back then too for goodness’ sake!  To compensate for this lack of functionality and to save costs, we had to manually shard our tables using the well known _YYYYMMDD suffix pattern just like everyone else.  This works fine, but it’s quite cumbersome, has some hard limits, and your SQL can quickly becomes unruly.

Then about a year ago, the BigQuery team released ingestion time partitioning.  This allowed users to partition tables based on the load/arrival time of the data, or by explicitly stating the partition to load the data into (using the $ syntax).  By using the _PARTITIONTIME pseudo-column, users were more easily able to craft their SQL, and save costs by only addressing the necessary partition(s).  It was a major milestone for the BigQuery engineering team, and we were quick to adopt it into our data pipelines.  We rejoiced and gave each other a lot of high-fives.

Google Cloud Community Conference 2018

As a co-organizer for GDG Cloud Melbourne, I was recently invited to the Google Cloud Developer Community conference in Sunnyvale, California. It covered meetup organization strategies and product roadmaps, and was also a great opportunity to network with fellow organizers and Google Developer Experts (GDEs) from around the world.  Attending were 68 community organizers, 50 GDEs and 9 open source contributors from a total of 37 countries.

I would have to say it was the most social conference I have ever attended. There were a lot of opportunities to meet with people from a wide range of backgrounds. I also got many valuable insights into how I could better run our meetup and better make use of Google products. In this post I’ll talk about what we got up to over the two days.

TEL Newsletter – February 2018

Shine’s TEL group was established in 2011 with the aim of publicising the great technical work that Shine does, and to raise the company’s profile as a technical thought-leader in the community through blogs, local meet up talks, and conference presentations. Every now and then (it started off as being monthly, but that was too much work), we curate all the noteworthy things that Shiners have been up to, and publish a newsletter. Read on for this month’s edition.

Trams, Shiners and Googlers!

Shine’s good friend Felipe Hoffa from Google was in Melbourne recently, and he took the time to catch up with our resident Google Developer Expert, Graham Polley. But, instead of just sitting down over a boring old coffee, they decided to take an iconic tram ride around the city. To make it even more interesting, they tested out some awesome Google Cloud technologies by using their phones to spin up a Cloud Dataflow cluster of 50 VMs, and process over 10 billion records of data in under 10 minutes! Check out the video they recorded:

Getting ya music recommendation groove on with Google Cloud Platform! Part 2

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In part 1, we learnt about recommendation engines in general, and looked at ways to implement a service using the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). In part 2 of the blog series, we are getting our hands dirty on the item-similarity model and TensorFlow implementation of it.

This is our first technical blog of the series. Here, I deep dive into the data processing step, the recommendation service, and some hints on how to optimise the code to have real-time responses. You should expect to know how to build a simple item-similarity recommender engine by the end of this blog.

So let’s get the party started!

The best code is no code! Using Google Cloud’s new automated services.

Here in Australia, we do a lot of work on Google Cloud Platform for one of the country’s largest ISPs, Telstra. Most of that work involves building data pipelines and running analytics off the back of them for their Media business unit. As you can well imagine, they generate a huge amount of data on a daily basis. We use tools like BigQuery, Cloud Dataflow and Data Studio to wrangle, manage, and understand that data.

On one such project for Telstra, we saw an opportunity to delete three code repositories and finally rid ourselves of some of the headaches associated with maintaining those applications, all the while saving money on the operational costs.

We were able to replace the system comprising these repos with two new Google Cloud Platform services:

In this blog post, I’ll introduce you to those new services that Google have spun up, and how we were able to use them to replace our legacy applications. Who doesn’t like a good spring clean, huh?

Scheduling BigQuery jobs: this time using Cloud Storage & Cloud Functions

Intro

Post update: My good friend Lak over at Google has come up with a fifth option! He suggests using Cloud Dataprep to achieve the same. You can read his blog post about that over here. I had thought about using Dataprep, but because it actually spins up a Dataflow job under-the-hood, I decided to omit it from my list. That’s because it will take a lot longer to run (the cluster needs to spin up and it issues export and import commands to BigQuery), rather than issuing a query job directly to the BigQuery API. Also, there are extra costs involved with this approach (the query itself, the Dataflow job, and a Dataprep surcharge – ouch!). But, as Lak pointed out, this would be a good solution if you want to transform your data, instead of issuing a pure SQL request. However, I’d argue that can be done directly in SQL too 😉

Not so long ago, I wrote a blog post about how you can use Google Apps Script to schedule BigQuery jobs. You can find that post right here. Go have a read of it now. I promise you’ll enjoy it. The post got quite a bit of attention, and I was actually surprised that people actually take the time out to read my drivel.

It’s clear that BigQuery’s popularity is growing fast. I’m seeing more content popping up in my feeds than ever before (mostly from me because that’s all I really blog about). However, as awesome as BigQuery is, one glaring gap in its arsenal of weapons is the lack of a built-in job scheduler, or an easy way to do it outside of BigQuery.

That said however, I’m pretty sure that the boffins over in Googley-woogley-world are currently working on remedying that – by either adding schedulers to Cloud Functions, or by baking something directly into the BigQuery API itself. Or maybe both? Who knows!

Getting ya music recommendation groove on with Google Cloud Platform!

Intro

Recommendation systems are found under the hood of many popular services and websites. The e-commerce and retail industry use them to increase their sales, the music services provide interesting songs to their listeners, and the news sites rank the daily articles based on their readers interests. If you really think about it, recommendation systems can be used in pretty much every area of daily life. For example, why not automatically recommend better choices to house investors, guide your friends in your hometown without you being around, or suggest which company to apply to if you are looking for a job.

All pretty cool stuff, right!

But, recommendation systems need to be a lot smarter than a plain old vanilla software. In fact, the engine is made up of multiple machine learning modules that aim to rank the items of the interests for the users based on the users preferences and items properties.

In this blog series, you will gain some insight on how recommendation systems work, how you can harness Google Cloud Platform for scalable systems, and the architecture we used when implementing our music recommendation engine on the cloud. This first post will be a light introduction to the overall system, and my follow up articles will subsequently deep dive into each of the machine learning modules, and the tech that powers them.

TEL Newsletter – December 2017

Shine’s TEL group was established in 2011 with the aim of publicising the great technical work that Shine does, and to raise the company’s profile as a technical thought-leader in the community through blogs, local meet up talks, and conference presentations. Every now and then (it started off as being monthly, but that was too much work), we curate all the noteworthy things that Shiners have been up to, and publish a newsletter. Read on for this month’s edition.