“Everyone’s a Winner” at the Inaugural Socrata-thalon

December 19, 2012 12:31 pm PST | Data as a Service, Data Rockstars

Socrata hosted a recent company-wide competition intended to get newly-hired Socrata employees up to speed on our latest innovations. And, while people did learn, fierce competition and prank-pulling seemed to take center stage. 

Organized by technical program manager Lilia Gutnik and senior software engineer Marc Millstone, the event involved three ten-minute tasks. Completing these “challenges” required participants to upload datasets, layer datasets on a map, mine APIs for data and create interesting data visualizations, all on the Socrata platform.

In the Battle

Our office DJ cranked up “Eye of the Tiger” as the competition between Team Vanagon, the Shot Callers and Team Data Demolition began. Nerf bullets flew through the air to knock fingers off of keyboards, the ref threw players in the penalty box (one minute with fingers off the keyboard), and false server shut downs were announced to distract members of the engineering team. Captain Cam of Team Vanagon even shouted inspirational messages to his players like, “You were born for this” and “You own this.”

In the end, the “winning-est of the winners” (to quote Gutnik, who said all of the participants were winners) was Team Data Demolition. Perhaps they were helped by the black shirts they wore and the video they showed pre-competition of the All Blacks rugby team of New Zealand doing their pre-match war chant

Learning the Latest

The intention of the event was to teach “Socrata-thaletes” about our newest technology. Data analyst Kellie Fontes said, “I learned not to underestimate the system. It is evolving and changing everyday. The engineers are coming up with some neat features.” Fontes learned how to run a query on a dataset using SoQL, Socrata’s RESTful API for dataset access. Fresh out of college, she also learned another important lesson, “Communicating with team members under pressure is an important skill.” 

How tough were the challenges? One Socrata developer finished all of the challenges in about six minutes. This is significantly shorter than Team Data Demolition’s near-45 minutes. It looks like we Socrata-thaletes have some more training to do before the next Socrata-thalon.

It’s Your Turn 

Would you like to give the Socrata-thalon challenges a try? Here are the first two challenges for you. The animated gifs are courtesy of bikk.it and Marc’s love of cat pictures. Creators, please write us to claim your credit.

Everyone, please write us with your questions and experiences at info at socrata dot com. If you do, we’re happy to send you the third challenge. 

Good luck and see Lilia’s hints below if you get stuck.

Socratathalon Challenges

Challenge 1


  • Hello, Larva! Welcome to the first challenge
  • Upload this dataset into Socrata on opendata.socrata.com. The Dataset
  • Create a map out of this data
  • Find the Socrata Headquarters on this map
  • Find the incident number corresponding to this point on the map
  • Keep going


  • Now, look for an incident on 2nd and Cherry
  • OH NO! Our data is incomplete. There is no incident there
  • The additional data you require is found: The Other Dataset
  • Verify that the new data is there
  • Find the incident that happened on 19 September at 2nd and Cherry
  • Congratulations, you have completed the task

Challenge 2


  • Hello, Cocoon. Time to create a map with the dataset from Challenge 1
  • Layer this map with another relevant map of a different type
  • Return to your original dataset
  • Make a helpful visualization that compares the quantity of different incident types
  • How many incidents are “Aid Response?”
  • Congratulations Cocoon! You have progressed to the Butterfly stage
Hints from Lilia
Challenge 1: Import the files by URL  – don’t open them in Excel! And please, append.
Challenge 2: Group by and roll up first, then visualize

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