TRANSFORM happened!

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How do you describe the indescribable?

Last week, Agile hosted the TRANSFORM unconference in Normandy, France. We were there to talk about the open suburface stack — the collection of open-source Python tools for earth scientists. We also spent time on the state of the Software Underground, a global community of practice for digital subsurface scientists and engineers. In effect, this was the first annual Software Underground conference. This was SwungCon 1.

The space

I knew the Château de Rosay was going to be nice. I hoped it was going to be very nice. But it wasn’t either of those things. It exceeded expectations by such a large margin, it seemed a little… indulgent, Excessive even. And yet it was cheaper than a Hilton, and you couldn’t imagine a more perfect place to think and talk about the future of open source geoscience, or a more productive environment in which to write code with new friends and colleagues.

It turns out that a 400-year-old château set in 8 acres of parkland in the heart of Normandy is a great place to create new things. I expect Gustave Flaubert and Guy de Maupassant thought the same when they stayed there 150 years ago. The forty-two bedrooms house exactly the right number of people for a purposeful scientific meeting.

This is frustrating, I’m not doing the place justice at all.

The work

This was most people’s first experience of an unconference. It was undeniably weird walking into a week-long meeting with no schedule of events. But, despite being inexpertly facilitated by me, the 26 participants enthusiastically collaborated to create the agenda on the first morning. With time, we appreciated the possibilities of the open space — it lets the group talk about exactly what it needs to talk about, exactly when it needs to talk about it.

The topics ranged from the governance and future of the Software Underground, to the possibility of a new open access journal, interesting new events in the Software Underground calendar, new libraries for geoscience, a new ‘core’ library for wells and seismic, and — of course — machine learning. I’ll be writing more about all of these topics in the coming weeks, and there’s already lots of chatter about them on the Software Underground Slack (which hit 1500 members yesterday!).

The food

I can’t help it. I have to talk about the food.

…but I’m not sure where to start. The full potential of food — to satisfy, to delight, to start conversations, to impress, to inspire — was realized. The food was central to the experience, but somehow not even the most wonderful thing about the experience of eating at the chateau. Meals were prefaced by a presentation by the professionals in the kitchen. No dish was repeated… indeed, no seating arrangement was repeated. The cheese was — if you are into cheese — off the charts.

There was a professionalism and thoughtfulness to the dining that can perhaps only be found in France.

Sorry everyone. This was one of those occasions when you had to be there. If you weren’t there, you missed out. I wish you’d been there. You would have loved it.

The good news is that it will happen again. Stay tuned.

TRANSFORM 2019

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Yesterday I announced that we’re hatching a new plan. The next thing. Today I want to tell you about it.

The project has the codename TRANSFORM. I like the notion of transforms: functions that move you from one domain to another. Fourier transforms. Wavelet transforms. Digital subsurface transforms. Examples:

  • The transformative effect of open source software on subsurface science. Open source accelerates our work!

  • The transformative effect of collaborative, participatory events on the community. We can make new things!

  • The transformative effect of training on ourselves and our peers. Lots of us have new superpowers!

Together, we’ve built the foundation for a new, open software platform.

A domain shift

We think it’s time to refocus the hackathons as sprints — purposefully producing a sustainable, long-lasting, high quality, open source software stack that we can all use and combine into new tools, whether open or proprietary, free or commercial.

We think it’s time to bring a full-featured unconference into the mix. The half-day ‘unsessions’ open too many paths, and leave too few explored. We need more time — to share research, plan software projects, and write code.

Together, we can launch a new era in scientific computing for the subsurface.

At the core of this new era core is a new open-source software stack, created, maintained, and implemented by a community of scientists and organizations passionate about its potential.

Sign up!

Here’s the plan. We’re hosting an unconference from 5 to 11 May 2019, with full days from Monday to Friday. The event will take place at the Château de Rosay, near Rouen, France. It will be fully residential and fully catered. We have room for about 45 participants.

The goal is to lay down a road map for designing, funding, and building an open source software stack for subsurface. In the coming days and weeks, we will formulate the plan for the week, with input from the Software Underground. We want to hear from you. Propose a session! Host a sprint! Offer a bounty! There are lots of ways to get involved.

Map data: GeoBasis-DE / BKG / Google, photo: Chateauform. Click to enlarge.

If you want to be part of this effort, as a developer, an end-user, or a sponsor, then we invite you to join us.

The unconference fee will be EUR 1000, and accommodation and food will be EUR 1500. The student fees will be EUR 240 and EUR 360. There will be at least 5 bursaries of EUR 1000 available.

For the time being, we will be accepting early commitments, with a deposit of EUR 400 to secure a place (students wishing to register now should get in touch). Soon, you will be able to sign up online… we are working on a smooth process. In the meantime, click here to register your interest, share ideas for content, or sign up by paying a deposit.

Thanks for reading. We look forward to figuring this out together.


I’m delighted to be able to announce that we already have support from Dell EMC. Thanks as ever to David Holmes for his willingness to fund experiments!


In the US or Canada? Don’t despair! There will be a North American edition in Quebec in late September.

The next thing

Over the last several years, Agile has been testing some of the new ways of collaborating, centered on digital connections:

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  • It all started with this blog, which started in 2010 with my move from Calgary to Nova Scotia. It’s become a central part of my professional life, but we’re all about collaboration and blogs are almost entirely one-way, so…

  • In 2011 we launched SubSurfWiki. It didn’t really catch on, although it was a good basis for some other experiments and I still use it sometimes. Still, we realized we had to do more to connect the community, so…

  • In 2012 we launched our 52 Things collaborative, open access book series. There are well over 5000 of these out in the wild now, but it made us crave a real-life, face-to-face collaboration, so…

  • In 2013 we held the first ‘unsession’, a mini-unconference, at the Canada GeoConvention. Over 50 people came to chat about unsolved problems. We realized we needed a way to actually work on problems, so…

  • Later that year, we followed up with the first geoscience hackathon. Around 15 or so of us gathered in Houston for a weekend of coding and tacos. We realized that the community needed more coding skills, so…

  • In 2014 we started teaching a one-day Python course aimed squarely at geoscientists. We only teach with subsurface data and algorithms, and the course is now 5 days long. We now needed a way to connect all these new hackers and coders, so…

  • In 2014, together with Duncan Child, we also launched Software Underground, a chat room for discussing topics related to the earth and computers. Initially it was a Google Group but in 2015 we relaunched it as an open Slack team. We wanted to double down on scientific computing, so…

  • In 2015 and 2016 we launched a new web app, Pick This (returning soon!), and grew our bruges and welly open source Python projects. We also started building more machine learning projects, and getting really good at it.

Growing and honing

We have spent the recent years growing and honing these projects. The blog gets about 10,000 readers a month. The sixth 52 Things book is on its way. We held two public unsessions this year. The hackathons have now grown to 60 or so hackers, and have had about 400 participants in total, and five of them this year already (plus three to come!). We have also taught Python to 400 geoscientists, including 250 this year alone. And the Software Underground has over 1000 members.

In short, geoscience has gone digital, and we at Agile are grateful and excited to be part of it. At no point in my career have I been more optimistic and energized than I am right now.

So it’s time for the next thing.

The next thing is starting with a new kind of event. The first one is 5 to 11 May 2019, and it’s happening in France. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Weekend worship in Salt Lake City

The Salt Lake City hackathon — only the second we've done with a strong geology theme — is a thing of history, but you can still access the event page to check out who showed up and who did what. (This events page is a new thing we launched in time for this hackathon; it will serve as a public document of what happens at our events, in addition to being a platform for people to register, sponsor, and connect around our events.) 

In true seat-of-the-pants hackathon style we managed to set up an array of webcams and microphones to record the finale. The demos are the icing on the cake. Teams were selected at random and were given 4 minutes to wow the crowd. Here is the video, followed by a summary of what each team got up to... 


Unconformist.ai

Didi Ooi (University of Bristol), Karin Maria Eres Guardia (Shell), Alana Finlayson (UK OGA), Zoe Zhang (Chevron). The team used machine learning the automate the mapping of unconformities in subsurface data. One of the trickiest parts is building up a catalog of data-model pairs for GANs to train on. Instead of relying on thousand or hundreds of thousands of human-made seismic interpretations, the team generated training images by programmatically labelling pixels on synthetic data as being either above (white) or below (black) the unconformity. Project pageSlides.

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Outcrops Gee Whiz

Thomas Martin (soon Colorado School of Mines), Zane Jobe (Colorado School of Mines), Fabien Laugier (Chevron), and Ross Meyer (Colorado School of Mines). The team wrote some programs to evaluate facies variability along drone-derived digital outcrop models. They did this by processing UAV point cloud data in Python and classified different rock facies using using weather profiles, local cliff face morphology, and rock colour variations as attributes. This research will help in the development drone assisted 3D scanning to automate facies boundaries mapping and rock characterization. RepoSlides.

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Jet Loggers

Eirik Larsen and Dimitrios Oikonomou (Earth Science Analytics), and Steve Purves (Euclidity). This team of European geoscientists, with their circadian clocks all out of whack, investigated if a language of stratigraphy can be extracted from the rock record and, if so, if it can be used as another tool for classifying rocks. They applied natural language processing (NLP) to an alphabetic encoding of well logs as a means to assist or augment the labour-intensive tasks of classifying stratigraphic units and picking tops. Slides.

 

 

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Book Cliffs Bandits

Tom Creech (ExxonMobil) and Jesse Pisel (Wyoming State Geological Survey). The team started munging datasets in the Book Cliffs. Unfortunately, they really did not have the perfect, ready to go data, and by the time they pivoted to some workable open data from Alaska, their team name had already became a thing. The goal was build a tool to assist with lithology and stratigraphic correlation. They settled on change-point detection using Bayesian statistics, which they were using to build richer feature sets to test if it could produce more robust automatic stratigraphic interpretation. Repo, and presentation.

 

 

A channel runs through it

Nam Pham (UT Austin), Graham Brew (Dynamic Graphics), Nathan Suurmeyer (Shell). Because morphologically realistic 3D synthetic seismic data is scarce, this team wrote a Python program that can take seismic horizon interpretations from real data, then construct richer training data sets for building an AI that can automatically delineate geological entities in the subsurface. The pixels enclosed by any two horizons are labelled with ones, pixels outside this region are labelled with zeros. This work was in support of Nam's thesis research which is using the SegNet architecture, and aims to extract not only major channel boundaries in seismic data, but also the internal channel structure and variability – details that many seismic interpreters, armed even with state-of-the art attribute toolboxes, would be unable to resolve. Project page, and code.

GeoHacker

Malcolm Gall (UK OGA), Brendon Hall and Ben Lasscock (Enthought). Innovation happens when hackers have the ability to try things... but they also need data to try things out on. There is a massive shortage of geoscience datasets that have been staged and curated for machine learning research. Team Geohacker's project wasn't a project per se, but a platform aimed at the sharing, distribution, and long-term stewardship of geoscience data benchmarks. The subsurface realm is swimming with disparate data types across a dizzying range of length scales, and indeed community efforts may be the only way to prove machine-learning's usefulness and keep the hype in check. A place where we can take geoscience data, and put it online in a ready-to-use for for machine learning. It's not only about being open, online and accessible. Good datasets, like good software, need to be hosted by individuals, properly documented, enriched with tutorials and getting-started guides, not to mention properly funded. Website.

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Petrodict

Mark Mlella (Univ. Louisiana, Lafayette), Matthew Bauer (Anchutz Exploration), Charley Le (Shell), Thomas Nguyen (Devon). Petrodict is a machine-learning driven, cloud-based lithology prediction tool that takes petrophysics measurements (well logs) and gives back lithology. Users upload a triple combo log to the app, and the app returns that same log with with volumetric fractions for it's various lithologic or mineralogical constituents. For training, the team selected several dozen wells that had elemental capture spectroscopy (ECS) logs – a premium tool that is run only in a small fraction of wells – as well as triple combo measurements to build a model for predicting lithology. Repo.

Seismizor

George Hinkel, Vivek Patel, and Alex Waumann (all from University of Texas at Arlington). Earthquakes are hard. This team of computer science undergraduate students drove in from Texas to spend their weekend with all the other geo-enthusiasts. What problem in subsurface oil and gas did they identify as being important, interesting, and worthy of their relatively unvested attention? They took on the problem of induced seismicity. To test whether machine learning and analytics can be used to predict the likelihood that injected waste water from fracking will cause an earthquake like the ones that have been making news in Oklahoma. The majority of this team's time was spent doing what all good scientists do –understanding the physical system they were trying to investigate – unabashedly pulling a number of the more geomechanically inclined hackers from neighbouring teams and peppering them with questions. Induced seismicity is indeed a complex phenomenon, but George's realization that, "we massively overestimated the availability of data", struck a chord, I think, with the judges and the audience. Another systemic problem. The dynamic earth – incredible in its complexity and forces – coupled with the fascinating and politically charged technologies we use for drilling and fracking might be one of the hardest problems for machine learning to attack in the subsurface. 


AAPG next year is in San Antonio. If it runs, the hackathon will be 18–19 of May. Mark your calendar and stay tuned!

An invitation to start something

Most sessions at your average conference are about results — the conclusions and insights from completed research projects. But at AAPG this year, there's another kind of session, about beginnings. The 'Unsession' is back!

   Machine Learning Unsession
   Room 251 B/C, 1:15 pm, Wednesday 23 May

The topic is machine learning in geoscience. My hope is that there's a lot of emphasis on geological problems, especially in stratigraphy. But we don't know exactly where it will go, because the participants themselves will determine the topic and direction of the session.

Importantly, most of the session will not involve technical discussion. It's not a computational geology session. It's a session for everyone — we absolutely need input from anyone who's interested in how computers can help us do geoscience.

What to expect

Echoing our previous unconference-style sessions, here's the vibe my co-hosts (Brendon Hall and Yan Zaretskiy of Enthought) and I are going for:

  • Conferences are too one-way, too passive. We want more action, more tangible outcomes.
  • We want open, honest, inclusive conversations about our science, and our technical challenges. Bring your most courageous, opinionated, candid self. The stuff you’re scared to mention, or you’d normally only talk about over a beer? Bring that.
  • Listen with an open mind. The minute you think you’re right, you’ve checked out of the conversation.
  • Whoever shows up — they are the right people. (This is a rule of Open Space Technology.)
  • What happens is the only thing that could have happened. (This is a rule of Open Space Technology.)
  • There is no finish line; when it's over, it's over.
  • What we are doing is not definitive. It's just a thing that we're doing.

The session is an experiment. Failure is most definitely an option, just the least desirable one. Conversely, perfection is the least likely outcome.

If you're going to AAPG this year, I hope you'll come along to this conversation. Bring a friend!


Here's a reminder of the very first Unsession that Evan and I facilitated, way back in 2013. Argh, that's 5 years ago...

This year's social coding events

If you've always wondered what goes on at our hackathons, make 2018 the year you find out. There'll be plenty of opportunities. We'll be popping up in Salt Lake City, right before the AAPG annual meeting, then again in Copenhagen, before EAGE. We're also running events at the AAPG and EAGE meetings. Later, in the autumn, we'll be making some things happen around SEG too. 

If you just want to go sign up right now, head to the Events page. If you want more deets first, read on.

Salt Lake City in May: machine learning and stratigraphy

This will be one of our 'traditional' hackathons. We're looking for 7 or 8 teams of four to come and dream up, then hack on, new ideas in geostatistics and machine learning, especially around the theme of stratigraphy. Not a coder? No worries! Come along to the bootcamp on Friday 18 May and acquire some new skills. Or just show up and be a brainstormer, tester, designer, or presenter.

Thank you to Earth Analytics for sponsoring this event. If you'd like to sponsor it too, check out your options. The bottom line is that these events cost about $20,000 to put on, so we appreciate all the help we can get. 

It doesn't stop with the hackathon demos on Sunday. At the AAPG ACE, Matt is part of the team bringing you the Machine Learning Unsession on Wednesday afternoon. If you're interested in the future of computation and geoscience, come along and be heard. It wouldn't be the same without you.

Copenhagen in June: visualization and interaction

After events in Vienna in 2016 and Paris in 2017, we're looking forward to being back in Europe in June. The weekend before the EAGE conference, we'll be hosting the Subsurface Hackathon once again. Partnering with Dell EMC and Total E&P, as last year, we'll be gathering 60 eager geoscientists to explore data visualization, from plotting to virtual reality. I can't wait.

In the EAGE Exhibition itself, we're cooking up something else entirely. The Codeshow is a new kind of conference event, mixing coding tutorials with demos from the hackathon and even some mini-hackathon projects to get you started on your own. It's 100% experimental, just the way we like it.

Anaheim in October: something exciting

We'll be at SEG in Anaheim this year, in the middle of October. No idea what exactly we'll be up to, but there'll be a hackathon for sure (sign up for alerts here). And tacos, lots of those. 

You can get tickets to most of these events on the Event page. If you have ideas for future events, or questions about them, drop us a line or leave a comment on this post!


I'll leave you with a short and belated look at the hackathon in Paris last year...

A quick look at the Subsurface Hackathon in Paris, June 2017. 

Looking ahead to SEG

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The SEG Annual Meeting is coming up. Next week sees the festival of geophysics return to the global energy capital, shaken and damp but undefeated after its recent battle with Hurricane Harvey. Even though Agile will not be at the meeting this year, I wanted to point out some highlights of the week.

The Annual Meeting

The meeting will be big, as usual: 108 talk sessions, and 50 poster and e-presentation sessions. I have no idea how many presentations we're talking about but suffice to say that there's a lot. Naturally, there's a machine learning session, with the following talks:

The Geophysics Hackathon

Even though we're not at the conference, we are in Houston this weekend — for the latest edition of the Geophysics Hackathon! The focus was set to be firmly on 'machine learning', but after the hurricane, we added the theme of 'disaster recovery and mitigation'. People are completely free to choose whatever project they'd like to work on; we'll be ready to help and advise on both topics. We also have some cool gear to play with: a Dell C4130 with 4 x NVIDIA P100s, NVIDIA Jetson TX1s, Amazon Echo Dots, and a Raspberry Shake. Many, many thanks to Dell EMC and Pioneer Natural Resources and all our other sponsors:

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If you're one of the 70 or so people coming to this event, I'm looking forward to seeing you there... if you're not, then I'm looking forward to telling you all about it next week.


Petrel User Group

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Jacob Foshee and Durwella are hosting a Petrel User Group meetup at The Dogwood, which is in midtown (not far from downtown). If you're a user of Petrel — power user or beginner, it doesn't matter — and you're interested in making the most of technology, it'd be good to see you there. Apart from anything else, you'll get to meet Jacob, who is one of those people with technology superpowers that you never know when you might need.


Rock Physics Reception

Tuesday If you've never been to the famous Rock Physics Reception, then you're missing out. It's your best shot at bumping into the luminaries of rock physics — Colin Sayers, Stefan Gelinsky, Per Avseth, Marco Perez, Bill Goodway, Tad Smith — you know the sort of thing. If the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning is Lamé's second parameter, RSVP right now. Hurry: there are only a handful of spots left.


There's more! Don't miss:

  • The Women's Network Breakfast on Wednesday.
  • The Wiki Committee meeting on Wednesday, 8:00 am, Hilton Room 344B.
  • If you're an SEG member, you can go to any committee meeting you like! Find one that matches your interests.

If you know of any other events, please drop them in the comments!

 

Subsurface Hackathon project round-up, part 1

The dust has settled from the Hackathon in Paris two weeks ago. Been there, done that, came home with the T-shirt.

In the same random order they presented their 4-minute demos to our panel of esteemed judges, I present a (very) abbreviated round-up of what the teams made together over the course of the weekend. With the exception of a few teams who managed to spontaneously nucleate before the hackathon, most of these teams were comprised of people who had never met each other before the event.

Just let that sink in for a second: teams of mostly mutual strangers built 13 legit machine-learning-based geoscience applications in one weekend. 


Log Healer      

Log Healer

 

 

An automated well log management system

Team Un-well Loggers: James Wanstall (Glencore), Niket Doshi (Teradata), Joseph Taylor (Teradata), Duncan Irving (Teradata), Jane McConnell (Teradata).

Tech: Kylo (NiFi, HDFS, Hive, Spark)

If you're working with well logs, and if you've got lots of them, you've almost certainly got gaps or inaccuracies from curve to curve and from well to well. The team's scalable, automated well-log file management system Log Healer computes missing logs and heals broken ones. Amazing.


An early result from Team Janus. The image on the left is ground truth, that on the right is predicted. Many of the features are present. Not bad for v0.1!

An early result from Team Janus. The image on the left is ground truth, that on the right is predicted. Many of the features are present. Not bad for v0.1!

Meaningful cross sections from well logs

Team Janus: Daniel Buse, Johannes Camin, Paul Gabriel, Powei Huang, Fabian Kampe (all from GiGa Infosystems)

The team built an elegant machine learning workflow to attack the very hard problem of creating geologically realistic cross-section from well logs. The validation algorithm compares pixels to score the result. 


Think Section's mindblowing photomicrograph labeling tool can also make novel camouflage patterns.

Think Section's mindblowing photomicrograph labeling tool can also make novel camouflage patterns.

Paint-by-numbers on digital thin sections

Team Think Section: Diego Castaneda (Agile*), Brendon Hall (Enthought), Roeland Nieboer (Fugro), Jan Niederau (RWTH Aachen), Simon Virgo (RWTH Aachen)

Tech: Python (Scikit Learn, Scikit Image, Flask, NumPy, SciPy, Pandas), AWS for hosting app & Jupyter server.

Description: Mineral classification and point-counting on thin sections can be an incredibly tedious and time consuming task. Team Think Section trained a model to segregate, classify, and label mineral grains in 200GB of high-resolution multi-polarization-angle photomicrographs.


Team Classy's super-impressive shot gather seismic event Detection technology. Left: synthetic gather. Middle: predicted labels. Right: truth.

Team Classy's super-impressive shot gather seismic event Detection technology. Left: synthetic gather. Middle: predicted labels. Right: truth.

Event detection on seismic shot gathers

Team Classy: Princy Ikotoko Ndong (EOST), Anna Lim (NTNU), Yuriy Ivanov (NTNU), Song Hou (CGG), Justin Gosses (Valador).

Tech: Python (NumPy, Matplotlib), Jupyter notebooks.

The team created an AI which identifies and labels different events on a shot gather image. It can find direct waves, reflections, multiples or coherent noise. It uses a support vector machine for classification, and is simple and fast. 


model2seismic: An entirely new way to do modeling and inversion. Take note: the neural network that made this image knows no physics.

model2seismic: An entirely new way to do modeling and inversion. Take note: the neural network that made this image knows no physics.

Forward and inverse modeling without the physics

Team GANsters - Lukas Mosser (Imperial), Wouter Kimman (Meridian), Jesper Dramsch (Copenhagen), Alfredo de la Fuente (Wolfram), Steve Purves (Euclidity)

Tech: PyNoddy, homegrown Python ML tools.

The GANsters created a deep-learning image-translation-based seismic inversion and forward modelling system. I urge you to go and look at their project on model2seismic. If it doesn't give you goosebumps, you are geophysically inert.


Team Pick Pick Log

Team Pick Pick Log

Machine learning for for stratigraphic interpretation

Team Pick Pick LOG - Antoine Vanbesien (EOST), Fidèle Degni (Mines St-Étienne), Massinissa Mesbahi (Pau), Natsuki Gunji (Mines St-Étienne), Cédric Menut (EOST).

This team of data science and geoscience undergrads attacked an automated stratigraphic interpretation task. They used supervised learning to determine lithology from well logs in Alberta's Athabasca play, then attempted to teach their AI to pick stratigraphic tops. Impressive!


Pretty amazing, huh? The power of the hackathon to bring a project from barely-even-an-idea to actual-working-code is remarkable! And we're not even halfway through the teams: tomorrow I'll describe the other seven projects. 

Looking forward to EAGE

Evan, Diego and I are flying to Paris today for the EAGE Conference and Exhibition. It's exciting. We're excited. 

But the excitement starts before the conference. The Subsurface Hackathon is this weekend!

My diary

Even the hackathon excitement starts before the weekend, because tomorrow, Friday, we're running the hacker's bootcamp — a sort of short course appetizer for the hackathon. We have about 25 geoscientists coming to the Booster TOTAL (an event space at TOTAL's La Défense offices) to get some hands-on practice with Python and the latest in machine learning tools. It's especially exciting because we'll also have engineers from NVIDIA on hand to help with the coaching. The idea is to help people hit the ground running when the hackathon starts on Saturday.

After that, on Saturday and Sunday,  it's the hackathon itself. We have no fewer than 60 geoscientists and engineers registered for this breakout event. They're coming to the Booster to work on a wide array of machine learning ideas for the subsurface. It's going to be epic. You can read all about what happens next week, I promise. 

Then on Monday it's the Data Science for Geoscience workshop, at which I'm giving a keynote. Since I'm far from possessing expertise, I'm using it as a chance to get people jazzed about helping make the coming AI revolution in geoscience a positive experience. I'm really looking forward to it.

The conference itself starts on Tuesday. In the afternoon I'm co-chairing a session on machine learning (have you spotted the theme yet?) in seismic interpretation, along with Victor Aare of Schlumberger. It will be awesome to see what kind of progress our community is making in this field — it's fun to imagine what seismic interpretation might be like in a few years. There are so many fascinating problems to work on! Here are the talks in that session:

On Wednesday we'll be taking in some more talks and posters, then in the afternoon I'm reprising my keynote talk at IFPEN, a subsurface research institute in the Bois de Boulogne. I've never been there before, although I have met a few IFP scientists before. I'm looking forward to it very much. 

It all ends for us on Thursday. Evan and Diego fly home and I'm off to Cambridge (the old one in the fens, not the one in Massachusetts) for a few days with family (and bookshops). Until then, expect much blogging!


Going to EAGE?

If you're reading this and would like to meet up with us at Agile or some of the Software Underground crowd — the friendliest bunch of coding geoscientists you could hope for — let's plan to meet at the end of the workshop, at the workshop location. Look for the Software Underground shirts.

Unearthing gold in Toronto

I just got home from Toronto, the mining capital of the world, after an awesome weekend hacking with Diego Castañeda, a recent PhD grad in astrophysics that is working with us) and Anneya Golob (another astrophysicist and Diego's partner). Given how much I bang on about hackathons, it might surprise you to know that this was the first hackathon I have properly participated in, without having to order tacos or run out for more beer every couple of hours.

PArticipants being briefed by one of the problem sponsors on the first evening.

PArticipants being briefed by one of the problem sponsors on the first evening.

What on earth is Unearthed?

The event (read about it) was part of a global series of hackathons organized by Unearthed Solutions, a deservedly well-funded non-profit based in Australia that is seeking to disrupt every single thing in the natural resources sector. This was their fourteenth event, but their first in Canada. Remarkably, they got 60 or 70 hackers together for the event, which I know from my experience organizing events takes a substantial amount of work. Avid readers might remember us mentioning them before, especially in a guest post by Jelena Markov and Tom Horrocks in 2014.

A key part of Unearthed's strategy is to engage operating companies in the events. Going far beyond mere sponsorship, Barrick Gold sent several mentors to the event, the Chief Innovation Officer Michelle Ash, as well as two judges, Ed Humphries (head of digital transformation) and Iain Allen (head of digital mining). Barrick provided the chellenge themes, as well as data and vivid descriptions of operational challenges. The company was incredibly candid with the participants, and should be applauded for its support of what must have felt like a pretty wild idea. 

Team Auger Effect: Diego and Anneya hacking away on Day 2.

Team Auger Effect: Diego and Anneya hacking away on Day 2.

What went down?

It's hard to describe a hackathon to someone who hasn't been to one. It's like trying to describe the Grand Canyon, ice climbing, or a 1985 Viña Tondonia Rioja. It's always fun to see and hear the reactions of the judges and other observers that come for the demos in the last hours of the event: disbelief at what small groups of humans can do in a weekend, for little tangible reward. It flies in the face of everything you think you know about creativity, productivity, motivation, and collaboration. Not to mention intellectual property.

As the fifteen (!) teams made their final 5-minute pitches, it was clear that every single one of them had created something unique and useful. The judges seemed genuinely blown away by the level of accomplishment. It's hard to capture the variety, but I'll have a go with a non-comprehensive list. First, there was a challenge around learning from geoscience data:

  • BGC Engineering, one of the few pro teams and First Place winner, produced an impressive set of tools for scraping and analysing public geoscience data. I think it was a suite of desktop tools rather than a web application.
  • Mango (winners of the Young Innovators award), Smart Miner (second place overall), Crater Crew, Aureka, and Notifyer and others presented map-based browsers for public mining data, with assistance from varying degrees of machine intelligence.
  • Auger Effect (me, Diego, and Anneya) built a three-component system consisting of a browser plugin, an AI pipeline, and a social web app, for gathering, geolocating, and organizing data sources from people as they research.

The other challenge was around predictive maintenance:

  • Tyrelyze, recognizing that two people a year are killed by tyre failures, created a concept for laser scanning haul truck tyres during operations. These guys build laser scanners for core, and definitely knew what they were doing.
  • Decelerator (winners of the People's Choice award) created a concept for monitoring haul truck driving behaviour, to flag potentially expensive driving habits.
  • Snapfix.io looked at inventory management for mine equipment maintenance shops.
  • Arcana, Leo & Zhao, and others looked at various other ways of capturing maintenance and performace data from mining equipment, and used various strategies to try to predict 

I will try to write some more about the thing we built... and maybe try to get it working again! The event was immensely fun, and I'm so glad we went. We learned a huge amount about mining too, which was eye-opening. Massive thanks to Unearthed and to Barrick on all fronts. We'll be back!

Brad BEchtold of Cisco (left) presenting the Young Innovator award for under-25s to Team Mango.

The winners of the People's Choice Award, Team Decelerate.

The winners of the contest component of the event, BGC Engineering, with Ed Humphries of Barrick (left).


UPDATE  View all the results and submissions from the event.


Wish there was a hackathon just for geoscientists and subsurface engineers?
You're in luck! Join us in Paris for the Subsurface Hackathon — sponsored by Dell EMC, Total E&P, NVIDIA, Teradata, and Sandstone. The theme is machine learning, and registration is open. There's even a bootcamp for anyone who'd like to pick up some skills before the hack.