Vertica and Qlik Team Up to Hack for a Cause

Posted August 17, 2015 by Sarah Lemaire, Manager, Vertica Documentation

This blog was co-written by Vicki Lindem and Myles Collins

On November 17 2014, Vertica took part in the annual Qlik Hackathon in Orlando, Florida. The hackathon, which took place the day before the Qlik World Conference, brought together engineers, developers, and Qlik experts from all over the world. The challenge was simple: leverage features from Qlik and its partners to create an application to aid the United Nations in their commitment to maintain international peace and security.


Qlik Hackathon: Bringing people together


Qlik and Vertica: The Perfect Fit
According to a Senior Political Affairs Officer at the United Nations Department of Political Affairs:

“Internet information streams offer an instant snapshot, in real time, of the state of international affairs worldwide at any given moment. The patterns of nations’’ Internet interaction with one another and their on-line articulation of emerging international issues frequently reveal diplomatic nuances and changing priorities. The synthesis and channeling of this information produces a powerful analytical tool and briefing resource, focusing not merely on content but also how the information is packaged and communicated – and to whom.”

From the officer’’s comment, we can see how companies like Qlik and Vertica are in a unique position to aid organizations like the United Nations in their goals.

Qlik and Vertica are a powerful combination because of Qlik’’s ‘’Direct Discovery’’ feature, which is included in both the QlikView and Sense products. This feature enables business users to conduct associative analysis on large data sets that come directly from external big data sources, like Vertica. Users then have the ability to combine that big data with data stored in memory for rapid, intuitive visual analysis.

With the Vertica Analytics Platform, combined with the data visualization powers of Qlik products, the United Nations can take advantage of these massive internet information streams and apply the findings to important initiatives. The Qlik Hackathon provided a space for developers from all over the world to do just that.

Like all successful events, the Qlik Hackathon required preparation and collaboration. For weeks before the actual event, Vertica employees and partners were hard at work preparing.

Vertica employee Myles Collins worked with representatives from the United Nations, Qlik, Attivio, and Twitter to define goals and organize datasets for the hackers to use. The setup included accessing online data from various websites and Twitter feeds, retrieved by Attivio and Twitter, respectively. That data was then loaded into the Vertica Analytics Platform, which Myles installed on ‘’on-metal’’ servers provided by Rackspace.

A couple weeks before the Hackathon, partners met up for a test hackathon, to make sure everything ran smoothly. Once all the kinks were worked out, the hackathon was ready to begin.

The Hackathon Challenge
The morning of the hackathon, twenty teams of two, armed with resources from Qlik, Vertica, Attivio, Twitter, and Rackspace, geared up to create a web-based data visualization application using the Qlik Sense mashup API. This application would ultimately help the United Nations gather and explore data to help with their mission.


 The hackers only had 8 hours to finish a challenge

 The teams worked for eight hours straight to complete one of two challenges. For the first challenge, hackers needed to develop a diplomatic monitoring and analytics tool to monitor online data from official government sources. For example, teams could use the tool to analyze how official bodies of government in different countries respond to certain topics.

The second challenge asked participants to create similar visuals, but for public sentiment regarding UN initiatives. For example, teams could use this tool to gauge public opinion on how the UN has handled a certain situation.


Hackers hard at work

 The applications produced during the hackathon are invaluable. They can help United Nations officers gauge sentiment from different bodies of people from different countries, which can lead to appropriate crises prevention or reaction initiatives.

In the aftermath of the hackathon, while the hackers rested, the partners were still hard at work judging the competition. The judges took many criterion into consideration, the foremost being: Does this address a United Nations need? The judges also based their decisions on technical criteria, innovation, ease of use, ability to leverage Qlik Sense’’s Mashup API, and the “wow” factor. In the end, only three could win.

The winning teams, along with their Qlik Sense Mashups are shown here:



Third Place: Team 5



Second Place: Team 10



First Place: Team 9


We supplied prizes to the winners, including HP 10 Plus Tablets, HP Chromebooks, and Beats Solo HP on-ear headphones.

The entire process was a wild success, not just for Vertica, but for the United Nations as well. Through the Qlik Hackathon, hackers not only got to experience the power of Vertica, but were able to apply their projects to an organization that strives for international peace and better standards of living.

Until next year, keep hacking!