Hackathons are emerging as one of the key ways students develop hands-on skills, develop exciting products, and work with tech companies. London is at the centre of the 21st century tech revolution, with London hackathons organised by companies such as Facebook; and KCL Tech‘s own internationally attended event, hackkings.
Buoyed by the success of this, first-year informatics student Fares Alaboud wanted to create a hackathon for his classmates. The premise was simple: take the essence of a hackathon experience (teamwork, hacking code, free pizza, prizes); make sure it’s accessible to first years by giving them some code to help them get started; then stand back and watch the magic happen. With the assistance of Mark Ormesher, Mustafa Al-Bassam, Alex Iurov and Sanyia Saidova, and the kind support of King’s Student Opportunity Fund, and King’s College London Teaching Fund, thus was born…
At the crack of noon, the hackathon began – the students, in teams of three, had eight hours to make an automated trading system based on trading shares of kickstarter projects, using a trading platform developed by Piotr Galar as part of Steffen Zschaler’s ‘Challenge2Code’ project. The system gives a novel slant on classical trading – their system has to use the same sort of intelligent algorithmic techniques to choose when to buy and sell shares, based on the market conditions. At the end of the day, the students’ systems competed against each other, with a range of prizes up for grabs:
- For the first-placed team, £30 each of Amazon vouchers
- For the second-placed team, £15 each of iTunes vouchers
- For the third-placed team, £10 each of Pizza Hut vouchers
Students were also entered into an hourly random draw to win a one-month premium Spotify subscription.
The day was a great success. Fares’s own words sum it up well: “It was everything I hoped it would be and more! They enjoyed the event and, most importantly, the atmosphere. They were really excited and active throughout the whole eight hours. They never gave up and always put a lot of effort into coding, knowing they didn’t have to win but at least to accomplish something. They understood that it was all about the learning experience, more than the one of winning. And that’s how they became winners.”
First place – The Exceptions
Second place – Scarpinici
Third place – Team Rocket
As we speak, first-year Informatics students at King’s College today are engaged in a Saturday programming tournament, aiming to successfully predict funding of Kickstarter projects. This hacking challenge is led by Dr Steffen Zschaler and Dr Andrew Coles, with the platform development being led by Piotr Galar. The day was organized by Fares Alaboud of the KCL Tech Society, with support from Mustafa Al-Bassam, Iurov Alex, Mark Ormesher and Sanyia Saidova. Photos here.
Thanks to the King’s College Teaching Fund for supporting the development of the tournament platform, and to the King’s Experience Fund and the School of Natural and Mathematical Sciences for supporting the prizes and the pizzas!
A while back, we talked about automated pricing algorithms running amok on Amazon.com. Here is another strange and amusing tale about pricing bots on Amazon – this time regarding a book about computers – and the automated pricing of books which, when sold, need first to be purchased by the seller. (HT: RS)
We have just received news of successes for our papers at AAMAS 2012 workshops, to be held in Valencia, Spain, in June 2012. The topics range from adaptive and self-organizing systems, through network science, to automated trading. This range gives some idea of the diversity in contemporary computer science research.
Martin Chapman, Gareth Tyson, Katie Atkinson, Michael Luck and Peter McBurney : Social networking and information diffusion in automated markets. In: C. Kiekintveld, O. Shehory, E. David, S. Stein and V. Robu (Editors): Joint International Workshop on Trading Agent Design and Analysis (TADA 2012) and Agent-Mediated Electronic Commerce (AMEC 2012).
Samhar Mahmoud, Michael Luck, Jeroen Keppens and Nathan Griffiths : Overcoming hub effects in scale free networks. In: H. Aldewereld and J. Simão Sichman (Editors): 14th International Workshop on Coordination, Organisations, Institutions and Norms (COIN 2012).
Matthew Shaw, Jeroen Keppens, Michael Luck and Simon Miles : Towards a general model of organisational adaptation: pipelines. In: H. Aldewereld and J. Simão Sichman (Editors): 14th International Workshop on Coordination, Organisations, Institutions and Norms (COIN 2012).
Congratulations to all involved!
The first plenary speaker at the 13th International Conference on E-Commerce (ICEC 2011) in Liverpool last week was Robert, Lord May, Professor of Ecology at Oxford University. His talk was part of the special session on Robustness and Reliability of Electronic Marketplaces (RREM 2011), which I helped to organize.
May began life as an applied mathematician and theoretical physicist, then applied his models to food webs in ecology, and now finds the same types of network and lattice models useful for understanding inter-dependencies in networks of banks. Although, as he said in his talk, these models are very simplified, they still have the power to demonstrate outcomes which some may not expect: for example, that actions which are individually rational may not be desirable from the perspective of a system containing those individuals.
Andrew Haldane and Robert May : Systemic risk in banking ecosystems. Nature, 469: 351-355.
Robert May, Simon Levin and George Sugihara : Complex systems: ecology for bankers. Nature, 451, 893–895.
What happens when automated algorithms interact in ways unforeseen by their creators? One example is shown by two online book-pricing algorithms, automatically adjusting prices in response to each other’s price adjustments, in an infinitely-ascending dance of the algorithms:
A few weeks ago a postdoc in my lab logged on to Amazon to buy the lab an extra copy of Peter Lawrence’s The Making of a Fly – a classic work in developmental biology that we – and most other Drosophila developmental biologists – consult regularly. The book, published in 1992, is out of print. But Amazon listed 17 copies for sale: 15 used from $35.54, and 2 new from $1,730,045.91 (+$3.99 shipping).
Even rather simple adaptive systems can exhibit unintended global behaviours. Full story here. (HT: ER)
Welcome to InKings! This post is a quick shout to our work on automated trading systems and automated mechanism design.
A few weeks ago I gave an invited talk on competition between financial markets to a conference on Algorithmic Trading held in London. The conference was jointly organized by the Financial Computing Centre of University College London and LMAX, an innovative online financial trading marketplace. I spoke mainly about the CAT Market Design Tournament, an international research tournament established in 2007 to encourage research into the design of adaptive and automated market mechanisms. With the rapid recent growth of online financial trading, electronic marketplaces have proliferated, some under the labels “alternative trading platforms,” “upstairs markets,” or “dark pools of liquidity” (since many of these markets permit anonymous trades).
Competition between traditional stock exchanges and these alternative venues has intensified, and the need for adaptive responses by online markets to dynamic competitive conditions has therefore increased. The CAT Tournament has sought, through crowd-sourced research, to provide the theoretical and deployment underpinnings for the development of the science of automated and adaptive marketplace design. The tournament has been run successfully four times since 2007, under the aegis of the Trading Agent Competition, and has attracted entrants from every continent. The Tournament was undertaken as part of a major research project funded by the EPSRC, undertaken between the Universities of Birminghan, Liverpool and Southampton, with the involvement of Brooklyn College New York. A special issue of the academic journal, E-Commerce Research and Applications, devoted to reseach arising from the CAT Tournament, is due to appear in 2012.
The UCL/LMAX conference on Algorithmic Trading was very successful, and speakers pointed to the opportunities and risks arising from the deployment of sophisticated computing technology in economic and financial domains. Event co-sponsor LMAX is a newly-established multilateral online financial trading marketplace, created with a goal of enabling retail financial traders to undertake automated software trading through an open API. Videos of the talks can be found here (you will first have to register with LMAX). I recommend watching the talk by Dave Cliff of Bristol University, who summarizes compellingly the current lack of understanding we have of the workings of automated trading systems: we may be sitting at the confluence of four centuries of macro-economic crises and two centuries of technological disasters.