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Montreal Yackathon MVP Interview

Yelp’s Second Community Hackathon wrapped recently in Montreal — you can read a bit more about the before and after here and here. Since it was a mashup challenge, we really tried to highlight and celebrate collaboration at the Yackathon this year. One way we did that was by offering a prize package specifically for the Most Valuable Player: the single person who was voted by other participants to have been the most helpful. When the votes came in, the winner was obvious, but still totally surprising: George Kliamenakis is a non-engineer who had initially wondered whether he had any role to play in the Yackathon at all. George joined a kickass team that produced amazing insights into the location accuracy of Yelp vs Google in Montreal. He offered to help the event organizers and other teams at every turn, and ended up winning the very first Yackathon MVP prize. He shares some of his thoughts on the experience below.

Montreal Yackathon MVP

Yelp Montreal: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What’s your academic background? Where do you work? What’s your dream job?

George K: I’m a Cegep student, or at least I was before I decided to take a break from that for a year to travel the world. My passion is philosophy, mainly German existentialism. You might think it odd that someone can be passionate about existentialism as that is the most depressing ideology (in my opinion), but I feel it truly speaks to the grumpy old man buried within my soul that yearns to yell at children to get off his lawn.

YM: How did you find out about the Yackathon, and what made you interested in participating?

GK: I was invited to participate, and I hadn’t done so before, so I figured it could be something interesting. Also the food. Pickled quail eggs. Yum!

YM: How did you come to join a team and pick a project idea?

GK: At first I wasn’t really interested in participating because programing is not my strong suit. Various people kept telling me that people other than developers and programmers could be useful. This, plus a daunting competitiveness, eventually shook me of my shyness and I kind of patiently waited in the corner for a team to assemble around me. It did, and I was thrust into the fray of competition! The ideas were the simple part. It was a process of creating an amalgamation of ideas that would lead to the synthesis of one potentially decent idea.

Montreal Yackathon

YM: How do you think open data can help cities and citizens?

GK: The trouble with experts is that they are much too busy dealing with absolute precision — which is a good thing. That is how information becomes and remains validated. If the internet has taught us anything, it is that if you instill any hint of competition in a problem that befuddles the experts, there will be a horde of average Joes ready to bring that problem to cessation, simply for the title of having done so. There is no greater example of this than with games like Foldit, which aims at folding protein structures in certain new and interesting ways to help researchers who examine the highest scoring results find real, applicable cures and innovations for real medical problems.

YM: Did you meet anyone cool during the Yackathon? Tell us about them!

GK: My team was really cool. In fact, they were absolutely lovely. My team and I worked rigorously, pulling and crunching data to create something glorious. I find that sense of productivity, when everyone works together, so serene.

Montreal Yackathon

YM: Did you learn anything interesting during the Yackathon? Tell us about it!

GK: I guess the single thing I learned is that I can be a useful, productive member of the Yackathon next year, which will probably provoke me to participate again. I also learned that Yelp clobbers Google in terms of location accuracy.

YM: What motivated you to try and help others during the Yackathon? What motivates you in life in general?

GK: It is actually statistically beneficial and reasonable to focus on helping others rather than being selfish. The way I see it, given that we don’t know who we might run into some odd time in the future, we don’t know who could be in a position to help us out later on.

The more bridges between people we leave intact, the better our walk through life will be.

YM: Thanks to George and to all our uplifting, curious, and talented Yackathon 2016 participants! Please check out the final project submissions here alongside all of our inspiring judges and mentors and prizes! We also invite you to learn more about the co-working space that hosted us here, and to get involved in the inspiring scene of creators and innovators that are igniting Montreal. And most of all, we can’t wait to See You On Yelp.