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Category: Data Science

Power BI: New Features for Data Analysts

Tomaz Kastrun looks at some new functionality in Power BI which might interest data analysts:

Small multiples is a layout of small charts over a grouping variable, aligned side-by-side, sharing common scale, that is scaled to fit all the values (by grouping or categorical variable) on multiple smaller graphs. Analyst should immediately see and tell the difference between the grouping variable (e.g.: city, color, type,…) give a visualized data.

In Python, we know this as trellis plot or FacetGrid (seaborn) or simply subplots (Matplotlib).

In R, this is usually referred to as facets (ggplot2).

Read on for an example of this, as well as two other features, as well as how you might have worked with these ideas in Python and R.

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Gradient Descent in R

Holger von Jouanne-Diedrich lays out the basics of gradient descent:

Gradient Descent is a mathematical algorithm to optimize functions, i.e. finding their minima or maxima. In Machine Learning it is used to minimize the cost function of many learning algorithms, e.g. artificial neural networks a.k.a. deep learning. The cost function simply is the function that measures how good a set of predictions is compared to the actual values (e.g. in regression problems).

The gradient (technically the negative gradient) is the direction of steepest descent. Just imagine a skier standing on top of a hill: the direction which points into the direction of steepest descent is the gradient!

Click through for an example in R.

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Hyperparameter Tuning as Technical Debt

John Mount has an interesting take on hyperparameter tuning:

The hyper dance is the venial trick of pushing user facing technical debt and flaws as user controllable features. These controls are usually named “hyper parameters” and they are parameters or arguments that control the behavior of an algorithm. Users think “hyper parameters” must be even better than “regular parameters”, just like “hyper drive” is better than “sub-light drive.” However the etymology of the name isn’t from science fiction, it is just the need in statistical contexts to have a name for controls other than parameter, as parameter is often used to name the fit coefficients of a model (i.e. to name an output, not an input!).

In addition to this, I’d be concerned that heavy hyperparameter tuning could lead to a garden of forking paths problem where we end up accidentally doing the equivalent of p-hacking: modifying hyperparameters until we come up with the “right” answer.

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The Nature of Overfitting

John Mount has a nice essay on overfitting:

What is meant by “overfitting” is: the estimated f() will tend to show off or over perform on the data used to fit, train, or construct it. I have some notes on this sort of selection bias here: https://win-vector.com/2020/12/10/overfit-and-reversion-to-mediocrity-the-bane-of-data-science/.

Selecting a model that “looks good” is enough to bias the model’s evaluation with respect to the data set we said it “looked good” on. So even when using unbiased methods, the data scientist can introduce bias by choosing to use one model (say the one fit by logistic regression) over another (say using using an observed prevalence everywhere as a probability prediction).

The way I talk about overfitting is to say that we’ve trained a model which latches onto the particulars of the training data set. To the extent that the particulars of the training data set are matched by the broader world, that’s “fitting.” To the extent that the particulars of the training data set are unique to that data set and are not generally applicable, that’s “overfitting.” Generally, I don’t have any more time to get into what this means, but John dives into the topic in an accessible way.

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Basic Theory on Correlation Analysis, Using R

Petr Baranovskiy wants to take us through the key concepts of correlation analysis, starting with basic theory:

When I was learning statistics, I was surprised by how few learning materials I personally found to be clear and accessible. This might be just me, but I suspect I am not the only one who feels this way. Also, everyone’s brain works differently, and different people would prefer different explanations. So I hope that this will be useful for people like myself – social scientists and economists – who may need a simpler and more hands-on approach.

These series are based on my notes and summaries of what I personally consider some the best textbooks and articles on basic stats, combined with the R code to illustrate the concepts and to give practical examples. Likely there are people out there whose cognitive processes are similar to mine, and who will hopefully find this series useful.

This is clear and well-written, so check it out even if you feel like you have a solid understanding of the topic.

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Bayesian Modeling of Holiday Behavior

Daniel Marthaler and Brian Coffey have an interesting post:

As the year unfolds, our demand fluctuates. Two big drivers of that fluctuation are seasonality and holidays. With the holiday season upon us, it’s a great time to describe how both seasonality and holiday effects can be estimated, and how you can use this formulation in a predictive time series model.

In this post, we describe the difference between seasonality and holiday effects, posit a general Bayesian Holiday Model, and show how that model performs on some Google Trends data.

Read the whole thing.

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Naive Bayes and Continuous Predictor Variables

Akhila takes us through the intuition of how Naive Bayes works:

Usually we use the e1071 package to build a Naive Bayes classifier in R. And then using this classifier, we make some predictions on the training data.

So probability for these predictions can be directly calculated based on frequency of occurrences if the features are categorical.
But what if, there are features with continuous values? What the Naive Bayes classifier is actually doing behind the scenes to predict the probabilities of continuous data?

Click through for the answer. Also, Naive Bayes isn’t Bayesian, but that’s not important.

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The Intuition Behind Averaging

The Stats Guy takes a look at averages:

In this diagram, there are a bunch of numbers and a single question mark. Behind the question, is also a number. The known numbers are the same as in our friend v above.

Our task is as follows:

– Make a guess on what that mystery number could be. And,
– If we can’t get it right, then reduce, as much as possible, the error we incur on our guess.

This is a well-written explanation of an important concept. H/T R-Bloggers

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Stochastic Processes in R

David Robinson takes us through simulation of a random walk in R:

What’s fun about this problem is that it’s an example of a random walk: a stochastic process made up of a sequence of random steps (in this case, left or right). What makes this a fun variation is that it’s a random walk in a circle- passing 5 to the left is the same as passing 15 to the right. I wasn’t previously familiar with a random walk in a circle, so I approached it through simulation to learn about its properties.

Click through for a simulation. Or 50,000 of them.

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Understanding Decision Trees

Ram Tavva walks us through the algorithm to design decision trees:

A decision tree is made up of several nodes:

1.Root Node: A Root Node represents the entire data and the starting point of the tree. From the above example the
First Node where we are checking the first condition, whether the movie belongs to Hollywood or not that is the
Rood node from which the entire tree grows
2.Leaf Node: A Leaf Node is the end node of the tree, which can’t split into further nodes.
From the above example ‘watch movie’ and ‘Don’t watch ‘are leaf nodes.
3.Parent/Child Nodes: A Node that splits into a further node will be the parent node for the successor nodes. The
nodes which are obtained from the previous node will be child nodes for the above node.

Read on for an example of implementation in R.

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