How a Student Algorithm Made a Wave.

What began as a student project became an algorithm noted in a prestigious independent report. 
Chris Sugrue
Chris Sugrue
May 15, 2015 - 3 min. read

At Falcon Social we regularly welcome paid student workers to our various departments. It’s a win-win policy. They get work experience, while we meet fresh young minds and often future team members.

And sometimes a student’s work here sparks something exceptional.

One example is that of Jess Alfredsen. Now a data engineer with us, Jess first stepped into Falcon Social a year and a half ago to work on a project for the Technical University of Denmark.


Data engineer Jess Alfredsen started here as a student.


“The best unified social to-do list we’ve seen”

Fast forward to last month, when the Falcon platform was included in The Forrester Wave™: Social Relationship Platforms Q2 2015.

This independent report by US research and advisory firm, Forrester Research, paid particular note to our platform’s monitoring and prioritization automation, stating, “Falcon Social offers the best unified social to­-do list we’ve seen.”

The backbone of this feature is the priority algorithm that Jess began developing during his student days here.

As the Forrester report states, the algorithm, “collects posts from a variety of social sites, ranks each on a range of factors (e.g. sentiment, activity level, and the influence of those contributing), and then orders them by priority so clients can respond to the most important first. Better yet, the algorithm tracks what clients actually respond to so it can improve over time.”

To compile the report, Forrester evaluated what it identified as “the 11 most significant software providers” within social relationship platforms. So in that context, ‘something exceptional’ truly was sparked during Jess’s internship.

Trial, error, repeat…

Like so many of our platform features, the priority algorithm emerged from the trial and error process our R&D team thrives on.

Jess says, “I had come to Falcon Social to work on machine-learning. It was trial and error, seeing what works, what data we had and what I could do with it.”

He was working with a combination of algorithms and statistics alongside Head of Innovation & Partnerships, Dennis Green-Lieber, and Head of Engineering, Laszlo Fogas,  when the priority algorithm began to take shape.

“It took a while, but after a few months we had something working.”

Jess says he was surprised to later hear that Forrester evaluated the algorithm and the Priority Inbox it powers, even more so when the report came out making specific reference to it.

Nevertheless, in his mind it remains an ongoing project.

“Like everything we do it’s still a work in progress. We focus on making the algorithm as good as possible, rather than just making it good enough. There’s a big difference.”

Forrester Wave

The Priority Inbox is in the Engage section of the Falcon Platform.


Two-way inspiration

Jess feels his student experience at Falcon Social was invaluable for his professional development. He says there is “a world of difference” between doing university assignments and actual work experience, with the number one benefit being “definitely to play with real-world data, and lots of it.”

“I really recommend students to come out and work on actual things. The world is never as pretty as it is in school assignments.”

Meanwhile Dennis describes student internships as a two-way inspiration. While tech students are given the opportunity to learn from the voice of experience, they also bring a “non-biased mindset to solving problems that helps us move our own.”

Aside from that benefit, Dennis says the reason we “open our doors widely” to students is the chance to nurture and grow local talent, who may or may not stay on at Falcon Social.

He cites the example of two former interns, Anders Michael Nielsen and Benjamin Dalsgaard Hughes, whose highly successful thesis, Real-time suggestions for improving engagement of social media posts using machine learning, was co-published by us. You can read it here.

Benjamin, now a Developer at DR-Danmarks Radio, says he most enjoyed “working with cutting-edge technology, extremely interesting projects and really smart people.”

That, and “free lunch, awesome parties and the foosball table.”

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