Looker Blog : Data Matters

Putting the Hack in Hackathon: The Winners of Looker_Hack : London

Scott Sirowy & John Kaster, Staff Engineer & Sr. Engineer at Looker

Jul 18, 2019

Note: This is one part of a two-part series on Looker_Hack : London, hosted in May 2019. This post is focused on highlighting the winning projects and the rockstar developers that built them. The second post is about the tools we used to make the Hackathon such a success, which you can find on our Looker Engineering Blog.


Following the success of our first Hackathon last October at JOIN 2018, we wanted a way to show some #LoveLookerLove to the folks across the Atlantic. To do this, we decided to fly out to the UK, meet more of our innovative Looker customers, and host our first Hackathon event in London.

Why A Hackathon?

Hackathons are a great way to quickly build projects and solutions that can help teams meet specific business goals. For Looker specifically, hackathons provide an avenue for our engineers, designers, and product managers to meet developers and understand how they’re building on the Looker platform.

Our hope is that by attending these hackathons, attendees get more enjoyment and benefit out of using Looker and that everyone is able to learn more about the Looker API and all the powerful integrations and customizations that can be built on Looker.

Our Favorite Hacks

After a day of collaboration, a panel of three judges scored the day’s hacks and presentations on four main criteria: ambition, execution, coolness, and impact.

The winners for Best Hack and Nearly the Best Hack were then announced and bestowed some amazing hardware to proudly display in their office, at home, or over their fireplace.

Best Hack: Acrotrend / Yoti

The Best Hack for the 2019 London_Hack was for an application that allows users to ask quick followup questions of a dashboard using plain English. Leveraging Looker’s Embed SDK to embed a dashboard into their application and Looker’s core API to extract Looker model information, the Acrotrend/Yoti team generated a lexicon which then extracted semantic meaning from the English questions. Using this to generate queries (again through the Looker API), the winning team was then able to visualize those results using their own custom visualizations.

Nearly the Best Hack: Farfetch

The award for Nearly the Best Hack went to the team that built a custom Data Action through Looker’s Action Hub. The data action sent data to a Google spreadsheet, which in turn was the backing data source for a Google presentation. This awesome team of hackers demonstrated nearly instant updates to a slide deck that then had the ability to be used to present on the state of their business.

(Very) Nearly the Best Hack: Turner

Because of an incredibly tight race, we also awarded a Nearly the Best Hack to a team who extracted results from two data sources Looker’s API that had a nearly common field, performed fuzzy logic using a Jupyter notebook and a generated Python SDK to match the data, and pushed back into Looker to visualize.

What impressed us about their hack was that the team itself represented two different departments within their organization, and this hack was built to solve a real problem that affected some of their business goals. In just under a day, this team was able to come together and, leveraging the Looker platform, was able to make it easier for both departments within the organization to answer critical business questions.

Future Hacks

We’ve had a blast hosting and being a part of our Looker Hackathons. Not only have the completed projects impressed and inspired us, but they have also encouraged us to continue iterating on their successes for Hackathons yet to come.

Our next Hackathon is scheduled for November 4th, 2019 in San Francisco to coincide with JOIN 2019. We look forward to sharing more updates about this and future Looker hackathons and hope to see you in attendance at one in the near future!

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