How Xeek Became Masters of Data by Unlocking the True Power of Crowdsourcing
Introducing crowdsourcing solutions at the nexus of data and geoscience.
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Welcome to our Q&A session with a member of our Studio X team. Today we have Jessica Noglows who’s joining us from the Xeek team. (5–10 min read)
Can you give us a brief introduction on Xeek in a few sentences, particularly to some people who may not have data science experience?
Xeek is a crowdsourcing platform to solve data science and geoscience challenges. Basically, we are bringing together people from around the globe to create innovative solutions for data science and geoscience problems in exploration. We call these people Xeekers and we have seen some really talented Xeekers engaging with our platform. How it works is pretty simple. We invite Xeekers to our platform, anyone can join, learn a little bit of geoscience. Then they are actually presented with challenges that we’re trying to solve. And Xeekers come and compete in those challenges.
Let’s say it’s a data science challenge. Once you are in, you can see a description of the problem, some detail on the underlying nature of the problem and why it’s important, as well as data sets that supports you in solving that challenge. You can download that data, analyze the data, create a data science model and then actually upload your predictions. Our platform then scores those predictions, returns to you a score and if you are ranked high enough you get placed on the leaderboard. The top finishers at the very end are awarded prizes for their work.
We sometimes do other types of challenges too. Some are geoscience challenges where you don’t need as strong of a data science background. We’re continuing to evolve our range of challenges and we’re always here for new ideas if anyone reading this has any cool challenge ideas to consider.
Can you give us an idea of who Xeekers are and why they are excited about Xeek?
We have a really wide community on Xeek. At this time, we have over 800 Xeekers in our community and they come from all over the world. They have all kinds of backgrounds with a big chunk of our community having a blended data science/geoscience background. Those are the folks who end up being the most drawn to the problems we’re presenting. But we also have a lot of folks with no geoscience background at all, pure data scientists who are interested in these challenges because of the nature of the data or because they want to learn something new. And then we also have geoscientists who are just learning about data science, just figuring out how to apply it to their work and for them, they really see Xeek as a platform where they can learn more and collaborate with more experienced data scientists.
Let’s talk about the flip side. What part of Xeek excites you the most?
I think for me, when you consider that the nature of this platform, exploration in particular has a really unique data landscape compared to other industries. The exploration companies around the world collect petabytes upon petabytes of data, almost more data than any other industry. You can imagine it’s quite incredible for a data scientist. And a lot of that sits relatively un-leveraged because most of the big data solutions we have today aren’t well equipped to handle this sort of data. And what we strive to do with Xeek, is find new ways to look at this enormous quantity of data and enable actionable insight out of it for the companies we work with.
I think that’s very exciting, it’s an untapped potential of data. When we launch a challenge, it’s always inspiring to see submissions come in. I immediately Slack with my co-Program Director when someone gets a new high score, or the leaderboard gets shuffled. We really get excited to see people being driven to solve these problems, spending hours and hours of time on these problems, and wanting to collaborate with us to deliver the best possible solutions.
It’s not just about having the data, but also having the opportunity to apply data science in structured problems. We are in this state of the world where you can find lots of data on the internet; many governments are open sourcing their data. Companies are as well. You can find lots of data, but it can be hard, particularly if you’re newer to data science to know what to do with all the data, to know where to focus your attention. So the other benefit is that we are providing these structured challenges where we define what the answer is. We’re looking to enable people to go down the right path and come up with creative solutions.
Why is it important for Studio X to launch Xeek? What do you think is the opportunity Xeek has in this market?
Great question. There’s Kaggle, Crowdanalytix…there’s a pretty wide pool. The problem is that these sites are very broad and do not focus on a specific industry or niche. And so, what we saw was a real opportunity to have a platform that’s totally focused on a single type of problem, a single type of data that in this case is the exploration space. And this enables us to create a community that’s really focused on exploration specific problem and data and willing to really dive deep and collaborate on them together. We think that’s where the opportunity lies.
What is your favorite part about working with the team on Xeek?
I think seeing the excitement of our community to participate in these challenges and really come up with new and creative ways of solving problems is what brings me to work every day. When I look at Studio X as a whole, it’s a really incredible group of people that works so quickly. We work very agile, we pivot where we need to. Everyone is comfortable standing up and having an opinion. I think the thing I would say I miss most of all, is our actual office in Austin, which we’ve unfortunately not been able to go to for quite some time, but we’re all very eager to get back to and do a big launch event to welcome the broader community into our studio space.
Fun fact about you and then we’ll sign off.
Fun fact, I’ve been playing ice hockey for 22 years, though unfortunately not at the moment because all the rinks are closed. But I eagerly look forward to getting back out on the ice once we are all allowed to leave our homes again and it is safe to do so.