An introduction to serverless and OpenWhisk for Kafka users

July 13th, 2019

I gave a talk at Kafka Summit London this year about Apache OpenWhisk. It was aimed at Kafka users who want to know what the serverless hype is all about.

I covered:

  • a simple introduction of what serverless is for
  • an introduction to some of the serverless platforms available
  • a quick crash course in how to get started with Apache OpenWhisk

I also had a quick tangent looking into how Apache OpenWhisk itself uses Kafka internally, because I thought that was interesting!

My slides are on SlideShare if you’d like to see a higher-res version of any of them.

If this convinces you to give OpenWhisk a try, I have a post on how to get started with OpenWhisk that has all the commands you need to copy/paste to get yourself a working OpenWhisk environment connected to a Kafka source of events.

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Getting started with OpenWhisk and Kafka

July 6th, 2019

Apache OpenWhisk (and serverless platforms in general) are a great way to host and manage code that you want to run in response to events.
Apache Kafka topics are a great source of events.

In this post, I’ll run through a super simple beginner’s guide to writing code for OpenWhisk that processes events on your Kafka topics.

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Using Node-RED with IBM Event Streams

June 28th, 2019


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IBM Event Streams is the distributed streaming real-time data platform Apache Kafka, from IBM.

Node-RED is a visual flow-based development tool, with nodes that you drag and drop onto a canvas and wire together. It’s useful for loads of tasks, such as quick and flexible prototyping.

In this post, I’ll show how Event Streams and Node-RED work well together. You can use Node-RED to quickly and easily create flows that consume messages from Kafka topics, or that process events from different sources and produce the output to Kafka topics.

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Curated sample training datasets for Machine Learning for Kids

June 26th, 2019

Machine Learning for Kids now includes support for a curated collection of training data sets, to enable children to create different types of machine learning projects.


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The tool lets children make things using machine learning. The principle I’ve worked to is that children train their own machine learning models, as doing this is a great way to teach them about how this tech works.

Preparing their own training data is a useful exercise, but it is time-consuming. Project worksheets I’ve written so far have all been written with the assumption that the student will prepare the training data within a single lesson. This has been a limiting factor on the kinds of ML projects I’ve been able to include.

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Are indie games better value than AAA games?

June 23rd, 2019

This post started life as a debate with friends about whether big triple-A games are better value than cheaper indie games. We didn’t have data, the debate was just opinions. But it stuck with me, so I decided to collect data to prove I was right. 🙂

The plan was to plot time I spend playing games against how much money I spent on them, and use the clear correlation to prove my point. That didn’t work. I didn’t find much of a pattern, but it’s been a while since I’ve done this sort of quantified-self thing and collecting the data was a pain so I’m sharing it anyway!

To start with, this graph plots the cost of each game (x axis) against the number of hours I’ve spent playing them (y axis).


Cost against Hours played – click for larger version

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How to increase your social impact

June 16th, 2019

This is a talk I gave at an event about how we are able to make a social impact through volunteering and community projects.

I’ve written before about how I made Machine Learning for Kids. But this talk had a different focus.

For this presentation, I looked to see if there are any general lessons that could be learned from my experience, to let me offer a little advice for people working in large companies like IBM about how to increase the impact of their volunteering efforts.

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Using kafkacat and kaf with IBM Event Streams

June 9th, 2019

IBM Event Streams is IBM’s Kafka offering. Naturally it comes with it’s own UI and CLI tools, but one of the great things about Apache Kafka is that it’s not just a single thing from a single company – rather it is an active and diverse ecosystem, which means you’ve got a variety of tools to choose from.

I thought I’d try a couple of open source CLI tools, and share how to connect them and what they can do.

First up, kafkacat.

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Using nginx to enable custom domains in Auth0

December 2nd, 2018

In this post, I’m sharing the nginx config needed to set up a reverse proxy for enabling custom domains in Auth0.

I’ll start by explaining why I needed this, but if you don’t care about that, you can just skip straight to the code.

I’ve mentioned before that I use Auth0 for authentication and authorization in Machine Learning for Kids. (And I’ve mentioned before that the developer experience using Auth0 is generally fantastic).

But I’ve had one auth-related complaint from schools since launching the site. And it’s been increasing in the last couple of months:

Users who have their web browsers set to block third-party cookies weren’t able to log in.

This is because the cookies were coming from an auth0.com domain, and not machinelearningforkids.co.uk.

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