What you should know about TripAdvisor's deCODE workshop

Q&A with Jean-Philippe Daigle

Q: Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and telling us about TripAdvisor?

Sure, so I’m actually an alumni of the University of Ottawa, I graduated back in 2005 from the software engineering program. I currently work at TripAdvisor as an engineering manager and I lead a team called “Search Navigation”. What some people may not know yet, is that TripAdvisor has a software development office right here in Ottawa at the corner of Rideau and Dalhousie.

Most people are aware that TripAdvisor is the world’s biggest research and travel website. We hold the most content out of any other resource. However, having a lot of content isn’t useful unless you can easily search and find exactly what you’re looking for.

The aim and navigation team’s goal is to make all content, anything from restaurants to hotels and attractions, findable on the site. We want to make it so that after visiting our website, people can easily plan their perfect trip, even their perfect date out to a restaurant.

By participating in the deCODE event, we’re hoping to connect with the university community in Ottawa, more specifically engineering students (software, computer science, ...) who might also have an entrepreneurial aspiration. We have a lot to offer students; there are some things that you're not going to learn in school, and that's what we aim to make these workshops about. 

We have quite a lot of experience building site search engines. With these workshops, we’ll be giving students a crash course over two days on running ElasticSearch, which is a very good and solid open source tool for any document storage or retrieval, and we want to teach them how to use it to index and search content, as well as build their own little search engines.

Q: Cool! Alright, elevator pitch me TripAdvisor’s deCODE workshop - go!

A: The pitch for deCODE this year is that you’ll come in, build a team, and as a team we’ll be spending our time building a mini restaurant search engine from scratch by using entirely open source software.

It’s going to be a very fast paced introduction on how to build a search product. From the data indexing point of view to generating search queries, matching search queries to documents and building a productive user interface for your users to search. It’s all about search and we’re not going to assume that you know anything coming into this, it will all be from scratch. 

Q: That’s awesome! So you mentioned that you wanted students to walk away having learned something valuable, for them to be able to work with open source software, is that correct?

A: Yeah, so that’s really our goal here, for you to come out of this workshop weekend with some hands on experience using ElasticSearch, building API’s and Web UI to interact with all of that data. As an alumni I’m happy to say that students can come out of this and write ElasticSearch on their resume.

Q: As an alumni and someone who’s been involved with the community, why are you excited for the workshop? What made you want to do this in the first place?

A: I think this is something that’s been long overdue. We’ve never held a hackathon in the Ottawa area, although we have held some in the States. So far, it’s been nothing but a positive experience that everyone really enjoyed, so why not bring some of that energy and some of that fun here in Ottawa.

I think this is a great city for technology and there is not enough of these kinds of events. As an alumni, I want to reconnect with the university community and create something educational, something that may be a little niche but definitely useful if you’re ever going to try managing large quantities of data. This isn’t something you’ll see in school or will try learning on your own.