Haystack 2021 – The Search Relevance Event returns

As we all know, it’s been a difficult time to organise – or to even think about visiting – in-person conferences. In 2020 we cancelled our Haystack US conference and moved to an online event combined with Berlin Buzzwords. Haystack EU was cancelled later that same year. This year we’ve already planned, re-planned and re-adjusted Haystacks several times – but we still want to run an event for our search and relevance community!

Haystack is the conference for improving search relevance. If you’re like us, you work to understand the shiny new tools or dense academic papers out there that promise the moon. Then you puzzle how to apply those insights to your search problem, in your search stack. But the path isn’t always easy, and the promised gains don’t always materialize.

Haystack is the conference for organizations where search, matching, and relevance really matters to the bottom line. For search managers, developers, relevance engineers & data scientists finding ways to innovate, see past the silver bullets, and share what actually has worked well for their unique problems.

Haystack US 2021

Our latest plan is to run a single-track, one day Haystack conference event on 29th September 2021 with both online and in-person options. If you are able to do so you can join us in OSC’s home town of Charlottesville, Virginia to meet the OSC team, network, watch the conference talks and join an evening social event. If you can’t, we will stream all the talks online on Zoom. Tickets are available now for both options (the online option at a low price of $25 – we’re charging this small amount so we can be sure we know the numbers in advance, as our experience of running the Haystack LIVE! Meetup has taught us that registration doesn’t always guarantee participation).

Our talk schedule for Haystack US 2021 features some great speakers – from Trey Grainger, co-author of AI-Powered Search, Simon Hughes of e-commerce giant Home Depot to OSC’s own Nate Day. You’ll have a chance to ask questions of all our speakers either in-person or online via Zoom.

If in the worst case scenario we have to cancel the in-person event, rest assured we’ll refund anyone who asks. We’ll be taking COVID-19 precautions recommended by the State of Virginia (asking for proof of vaccination and for attendees to wear masks).

We hope you can join us – and there’s more!

Tech Radar for Search

OSC’s co-founder Eric Pugh is leading an effort to map the future of search – and we need your help. As Eric explains:

Search is constantly reinventing itself, and it can be hard to figure out which technologies you should be investing in. I’ve been a long time fan of the Tech Radar created by ThoughtWorks.   It’s my go-to resource for helping me make technology choices for software development.    Unfortunately, nothing exists for our specific world of Search, beyond the industry analyst reports that focus on primarily commercial search engines.  At this year’s Haystack conference we’re going to tap the collective knowledge of the community to develop the Search Radar for 2021.  We will publish the Search Radar on the Haystack website as part of the conference.

How can I be prepared to contribute during Haystack US 2021?

During Haystack we’ll be soliciting ideas to be evaluated throughout the day from both the online audience as well as the folks at the conference, called blips in Radar parlance.   We’ll be looking for ideas across four quadrants: Techniques, Tools, Platforms, Frameworks.

Three thoughts:

  • This isn’t meant to be a popularity poll, but instead a tool to help us all make more informed decisions when building search systems & applications.
  • There are existing channels and resources that help you judge commercial products, so instead we will focus on the needs of search teams building systems themselves from components – rather than those who purchase packaged search engine products.
  • This is the first time we’re trying this, so we’ll only include blips where there is strong agreement on where they fit in the Radar.   We know this will be an incomplete picture, and we hope to build on this effort in the future.

Day 2 – we build the Search Radar

The day after Haystack, we’re going to try and do an in person session  to  go through all the blips  submitted during Haystack and place them on the  Search Radar.  I anticipate this will be an intense day of discussions, with a goal of delivering the Search Tech Radar on the Haystack Conference website by the end of the day.   We’ll take advantage of the great project that Zalando published for building a tech radar:

For those who can participate in Day 2, after the conference, please listen to the podcasts  and read the blog to be prepared:

Please let Eric know if you plan on attending the in person discussion on 30th September (venue to be confirmed, but it will be in Charlottesville).  We want as many people from as many different backgrounds and industry verticals to come to help drive this shared vision!