Catch up on Algolia DevCon 2023

Having now hosted two Algolia Developer Conferences, I can honestly say they keep getting better. Algolia DevCon 2023 streamed live worldwide on June 28th and 29th. This year’s theme of “Discover your path to AI-powered search” carried across two days of presentations, demos, and workshops, showing developers how to harness AI for every aspect of building search and discovery experiences.

If you missed it (or just need a refresher), I’ve compiled a list of highlights, including embedded videos and links to the recordings of each session. There’s also a playlist on YouTube including sessions by our developers, product teams, field engineers, and ambassadors from our developer community. Now on to the highlights!

Keynote and announcements

CEO Bernadette Nixon welcomed us to the conference and shared how Algolia incorporates AI “end-to-end” into query understanding, retrieval, and ranking for every query (with five 9s of availability). Bernie then handed it over to our Chief Product Officer, Bharat Guruprakash, who gave us some quick numbers (35 billion searches a week, 17,000 customers in production, a community of 5 million developers, 119 releases last year) before moving on to the product announcements.

Making developer lives easier

Bharat reviewed our recent efforts to make life easier for Algolia developers, like the Algolia Build plan (1 million records free plan with no time limit), the Algolia CLI (700 applications using it from the terminal and CI/CD pipelines), our no-code Connector platform for data ingestion, our new documentation, and the magic insights: true line to add analytics to InstantSearch front ends. This last point is particularly important since event data is, as Bharat put it, “the electricity that powers AI.”

Our new innovations

In the second part of the keynote, the product team walked us through several new features and pilot programs. Many of these came with beta sign-ups and longer demos later in the day:

  • Algolia DocSearch is now available for any public technical website, and not just open-source projects.
  • Algolia NeuralSearch now includes multi-language support, query categorization, fusion ranking (taking weights from various inputs), and adaptive correction (to define which results are more relevant for a given query). You can request access to NeuralSearch through the Algolia dashboard.
  • The Algolia Generative AI e-commerce framework provides back end tools and front end widgets for quickly building browse and discovery solutions powered by back end machine learning models and generative AI. Use cases include custom-generated buyer’s guide, SEO friendly product descriptions, and chat assistants with buyer context. You can sign-up to learn more about this early pilot today.
  • Finally, we showed off our Inference API. This API endpoint can generate hashed vectors from rows of data sitting in a traditional relational database. The hashes can be stored as a new column in the existing DB, allowing classic SQL queries to operate on a vector space without the need for GPUs and requiring significantly less RAM. You can become a collaborator for the beta right now.

“A vibe is worth a thousand words”
Recommendations from your own pictures

Vibes are hard to put into words. Senior Software engineer Raed Chammam demonstrated LookingSimilar, a new Algolia Recommend model coming soon that gives your app the gift of sight! LookingSimilar unlocks the power to suggest great looking items from your catalog. Raed walked through several examples generating solid image recommendations, and showed you how to use them in your next project.

AI as launchpads for entrepreneurship,
Using Algolia NeuralSearch and Generative AI

Director of Product Abhijit Mehta showed you how generative AI can be used to build a company from the ground up. On this entrepreneurial journey, he showed how to
generate business ideas, craft marketing content, and design products using Generative AI tools. This included using Algolia NeuralSearch to generate highly relevant, personalized search experiences for the new business’ customers.

The impact of ChatGPT on smart apps

ChatGPT is revolutionizing how we approach solving problems. Director of Engineering Nicolas Fiorini reviewed the history of ChatGPT, how it evolved, and its inherent strengths and shortcomings to help you decide whether ChatGPT or alternative forms of AI are the right solutions for your problems.

Creating a r/place clone with Algolia

In one of my favorite sessions of Day 1, Senior Software Engineer Lucas Bonomi showed how Algolia’s low latency APIs can be used in creative ways. In this case, he used them to re-create a collaborative pixel art canvas similar to the r/place project on Reddit. He described some of the technical hurdles and highlighted key technical decisions along the way. The coolest part is that the canvas is live right now!

AI Search in your database

Our VP of AI, Hamish Ogilvy, went a little deeper with the Algolia Inference API, demonstrating live how embedding vector hashes directly into your relational database can unlock the power of vector search without the need for GPU processing or massive amounts of memory. Transforming large vectors into binary hashes maintains relevance while reducing cost in terms of both processing and memory. We’re looking for developer collaborators for this project right now.

Continuous search improvement using Google Tag Manager

Click and conversion events are used to train AI features and improve relevance. Developer Support Engineer Cat Weiss walked us through the reasons why, and demonstrated how to feed these events to Algolia if you are already using Google Tag Manager.

DX delight: An exploration of new documentation

Product Manager Khalid Elassaad, Engineer Loïc Say, and some guy with a mustache walked us through features of the new Algolia documentation including dark mode, DocSearch-powered search, and the interactive WebCLI. The new docs are available in beta right now!

AI for Commerce: Live Coding

Continuing on from the keynote, Principal Engineer Sarah Dayan walked you through several use cases with the Algolia Generative AI e-commerce framework to assist with “long tail” merchandising. This included a custom-generated buyer’s guide, SEO friendly product descriptions, and chat assistants based on the buyer’s current context. You can sign-up to learn more about this early pilot today.

What’s new in InstantSearch

Senior Engineer Haroen Vianene walked us through the latest features in InstantSearch and gave us some behind-the-scenes insights on their implementation. Learn how to build better search UIs using simplified events (insights:true), optimistic updates, and modern templating (so long, Hogan.js).

Fine-tuning LLMs for Search

Dr. Rasit Abay is a Senior Data Scientist at Algolia. In his session, he walked us through several of the methodologies Algolia uses to train and fine-tune Large Language Models (LLMS), from supervised learning with Contrastive Loss to reinforcement learning. He demonstrated how this training improves search results by comparing the new models against pre-trained models for the Amazon ECSI datasets.

Data Connectivity made easy,
Algolia’s no-code connector platform

Senior Product Manager Keshia Rose provided a look at the new BigQuery connector as part of the Connector Hub, our no-code connector platform. Keshia walked through the steps of building our own data connections with custom configuration, auto-magic data mapping, and real-time observability.

Blazing fast search results in Nuxt with Algolia

Who better than Algolia and Nuxt ambassador Jakub Andrzejewski to describe the ins and outs of implementing a great (and fast) search experience in Nuxt? Jakub literally wrote the module to allow the Vue.js community to easily utilize Algolia to build fast search results.

Solving Algolia’s most common issues

For those already using Algolia in production, (or preparing to), it doesn’t get any more practical than Staff Developer Support Engineer Tatsuro Handa’s troubleshooting techniques for debugging Algolia applications. This sessions presented common pitfalls and addressed recurring questions developers face when implementing and managing Algolia applications and capturing event data.

Workshops and Hands-on Labs

The second day of DevCon kept up the momentum with a series of three developer focused workshops:

Practical applications of Query Categorization

In this 45 minute workshop, Alphonse Bouy, software engineer on the AI Search Understanding team, demonstrated the powerful capabilities of Algolia’s Query Categorization and walked you through using React InstantSearch and Query Categorization to create an impactful frontend widget, elevating the end-user experience.

Building an Algolia wizard experience on Adobe Experience Manager

It makes sense for developers to integrate Algolia directly into the tools their customers use. In this 45 minute workshop, Global Alliance Director Debanshi Bheda was joined by Lead Channel Solutions Engineer Micah Garside-White and Senior Director of Integrations Sajid Momin show you how to do just that. Learn how to wrap the InstantSearch and AutoComplete libraries in a tool like Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) or Salesforce Lightning Web Components (LWC), allowing creators to build complex and efficient federated discovery experiences without a line of code.

Algolia 101: A comprehensive and hands-on developer training from Data Ingestion to Front-End

The mother of all workshops! Solutions Architects Jérôme Cohonner and Elias Ingea joined Customer Success Engineers Ji-won Eun and Stephen Tweeddale to teach you how to build a comprehensive search experience from scratch.

The session kicked off with an introduction to indexing through our different clients and integrations. As a practical exercise, they developed a simple Node.js script to import a dataset into Algolia. Aftwerward they moved on to building the search front-end using Algolia’s InstantSearch Libraries. There were two technical tracks available for the front-end live coding session: InstantSearch.js (vanilla JS) and React InstantSearch Hooks, but only the vanilla JS version is available online.

Once they had a running Algolia index and a ready-to-use front-end, they dive into Algolia’s Relevancy Algorithm. They wrapped with a final presentation of advanced features.

A bit of fun

Thanks to everyone who came to the conference! It was so great having your questions and energy present with us throughout both days. As a special treat for reading all the way to the end, here is Senior Machine Learning Engineer Paul-Louis Nech performing a set of code-generated music during one of the breaks!

See you again in 2024!

About the authorChuck Meyer

Chuck Meyer

Sr. Developer Advocate

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