Fast Forward Labs at the Science Fair

Jul 16 2015

Last night was the New York Times’ Open Source Science Fair. It kicked off with a keynote speech by our own Hilary Mason.

Photo by Chrys Wu:

After a dinner meet-and-greet session, the attendees and exhibitors got down to business, showing off their open source software projects, science fair style.

Fast Forward Labs was an exhibitor. Micha Gorelick impressed the crowd with our realtime stream analysis prototype, CliqueStream.


CliqueStream visualizes the landscape of conversation on Reddit and Twitter, in realtime. This type and scale of analysis would generally be handled by a high-powered cluster and would take upwards of ten minutes to complete. But by using probabilistic algorithms, we are able to analyze the streaming data in realtime on a laptop.

The probabilistic modules underlying CliqueStream are used to distill stream data by counting it and later selectively “forgetting” it; this is the key to speedy analysis in small memory. These appropriately named modules are open source.

CliqueStream was just one among many great open source projects at the Fair. Two of our favorites were the New York Public Library Labs’ book cover generator and MIT’s App Inventor software.

  • The New York Public Library Labs’ 10PRINT book cover generation algorithm creates cover art for digital books in its collection, many of which are public domain titles that never had cover art.
  • MIT’s App Inventor software is a teaching tool that allows kids to develop Android apps.

The Fast Forward Labs team had a great time learning about these and the other presenters’ work. Thanks to New York Times Labs for a great event!

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