In the era of Internet distractions, I find podcasts one of the best sources of knowledge (after books). I seek shows, that educate me in some direction, giving tangible value vs “just story telling”. The following is a succinct list of podcasts that worked for me in three areas of my interest: profession; business; history, culture, science and entertainment.

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Photo by Juja Han on Unsplash
  • Professional. I’m in IT and enjoy listening to a wide range of podcast shows, from technically deep: https://www.se-radio.net/ to career mentorship: https://develomentor.com/ to AI and philosophy: https://lexfridman.com/podcast/
  • Business. The topics of startups and midsize businesses is a passion of mine in connection with my own startups. Stories in How I built this have been interesting from the guest’s personal journey in business world. It is hard to believe that some of businesses launched were a pure coincidence or even a way out from some tough situation in life. Lately I’ve discovered the podcast by Justin Kan called The Quest. What I particularly like in this podcast is that it is not a typical up-beat type of a show telling you how easy and fun it is to build a successful business. Justin drills into many facets of entrepreneur journey from coming up with an idea, to facing day to day challenges, to exiting and (sometimes!) returning back to their business, offering moral authority (like it happened for Steve Huffman of Reddit). …

In his book on communication secrets “Five Stars” Carmine Gallo talks about SCARF — acronym reflecting the foundation of high-performing organizations introduced by David Rock.

More so when we are remote, but also when we are in the office (hopefully someday!) we care for being connected, recognized, supportive and good team players. What makes a good team truly good for all of us? I’d like to share a little Slack app with you to try out and improve your team and company culture — Wowwlr. But first, let’s see what are the integral components of a high-performing team.

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Enable your team to rock

Rock presents a system of values, that differentiate a great place to work from a mediocre one. These values are considered on individual level, summing into a greater big in an organization. …

After publishing the blog post on neural search with BERT and Solr (6.6.0), I got a few questions on how to run this with version 8.6.x of Solr. It took me a few days of going back and forth, and quite honestly a bit of despair, and finally a helping hint from the Lucene committer Adrien Grand (https://twitter.com/jpountz/status/1324093784460873731) to solve. I thought I’d share a few bits on what it took to upgrade vector query functionality from Solr 6.6 to 8.6.x and also explain the nitty-gritty detail of storing the dense embedding in Lucene and querying it in Solr.

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Bert with Lucene in mind

Background

The original implementation was published in https://github.com/saaay71/solr-vector-scoring accompanied with an easy to follow tutorial on how to set up vector search in Solr 6.6.0. The plugin allows to index vector data representing your documents and query them, applying document scoring based on cosine or dot product similarity. This plugin is very similar to the Elasticsearch plugin: https://github.com/MLnick/elasticsearch-vector-scoring (currently unmaintained, since Elasticsearch got their own implementation of dense vectors and vector based scoring: https://www.elastic.co/guide/en/elasticsearch/reference/current/dense-vector.html offered under X-Pack which requires a commercial subscription). …

It is exciting to read the latest research advances in the computational linguistics. In particular, the better language models we build, the more accurate downstream NLP systems we can design.

Update: if you are looking to run neural search with latest Solr versions(starting version 8.x), I have just published a new blog where I walk you through low-level implementation of vector format and search, and the story of upgrading from 6.x to 8.x: https://medium.com/@dmitry.kan/fun-with-apache-lucene-and-bert-embeddings-c2c496baa559

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Bert in Solr hat

Having background in production systems I have a strong conviction, that it is important to deploy latest theoretical achievements into real life systems. …

How often do you project your mental image of a great working environment onto your current company setting? How often do you look for ways to improve the environment in the hope to attract more talent or retain and motivate your current staff? How frequently you, as a staff member, keep thinking about your role within the organisation and your ability to connect with other individuals and teams to achieve goals?

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Microsoft office in Finland (Espoo). Why is it here? Read on (copyright: Dmitry Kan, 2019)

As AlphaSense was prepping to announce its Series B funding round led by Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavours, I worked for a month in New York City, interacting closely with my team building AI. In the house where we stayed with my family, every morning and evening before and after work waiting for the elevator I kept staring at a book deck (fancy NYC buildings!) atop of which laid the book by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg ‘How Google Works’. I believe it was a pure coincidence this book popped into my sight as Eric’s new investment company had just invested into AlphaSense, yet a very interesting one. I decided to pull the book into the apartment and began immersing into it every day after work and some early mornings. By the end of the first chapter Introduction — Lessons Learnt from the Front Row it dawned on me, that this was the book I had been looking for, thinking a lot about company structures that enable innovation, support inclusiveness, embrace multi-culture environment and create a culture fabric that replicates itself. …

Long gone are the days, when company culture did not matter or was a second-class citizen. Today, when choosing a company to work for, above all you choose the culture (may be even not realizing it and thinking that you are after technology or product). When you look at the job openings or office photos with employee smiles and general cheering atmosphere you will likely not see the culture of the company. You may get a glimpse of it during the interview process, but it is not enough.

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Why is culture important?

What is culture? Citing Wikipedia:

Culture (/ˈkʌltʃər/) is the social behavior and norms found in human societies.

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The Martian is my top favourite movie (and a book) that in action shows the excitement around engineering professions. Mark Watney, being left alone on Mars, fights for his life with all the knowledge and skills he has, from botany to chemistry and physics. Of all engineering professions, software engineering is probably the most booming right now in light of Artificial Intelligence breakthroughs. But does this profession have ethical aspects that we as engineers and humans need to be continuously thinking about?

I began to follow the work of Yuval Noah Harari and his call to the humanity on a potential big issue we are facing. It does not yet dawn at many of us to start thinking about potential threats to how we operate today. Many of us focus on day-to-day activities and may not have enough time to look beyond. …

Quite many machine and deep learning problems are directed at building a mapping function of roughly the following form:

Input X — -> Output Y,

where:

X is some sort of an object: an email text, an image, a document;

Y is either a single class label from a finite set of labels, like spam / no spam, detected object or a cluster name for this document or some number, like salary in the next month or stock price.

While such tasks can be daunting to solve (like sentiment analysis or predicting stock prices in realtime) they require rather clear steps to achieve good levels of mapping accuracy. …

About

Dmitry Kan

Founder, tech team lead, software engineer, manager, but also: cat lover and cyclist. Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/@DmitryKan

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