Fallacies of Data Science

Adnan Masood and David Lazar have a list of fallacies in the world of data science:

Extrapolating beyond the range of training data, especially in the case of time series data, is fine providing the data-set is large enough.

Strong Evidence is same as a Proof! Prediction intervals and confidence intervals are the same thing, just like statistical significance and practical significance.

These are some good things to think about if you’re getting into analytics.

POCs As A Problem

Bill Vorhies argues that data science proofs of concept fall short of the mark:

If you do a quick read through of some of the Gartner or O’Reilly studies you’ll quickly see that a lack of executive sponsorship is one of the major barriers to adoption.  So isn’t the POC a good way to get the attention of the C-level?  Yes and no.

If as we described above it leads to the adoption of a series of stand alone ‘technology projects’, then no.  If it was really necessary to start with little firecracker POCs to demonstrate the explosive strategic value of becoming data-driven, then maybe so.

Here’s a simple change of mindset (borrowed from John Weathington referenced above) that instead of focusing on Proof of Concept, we should instead create projects to demonstrate Proof of Value.  By focusing on value we change the orientation so that any projects are aligned with value to the company.  In other words, they are aligned with the company’s strategic objectives.

This is an interesting argument which goes against my inclinations.  Check it out.

Cortana Intelligence Suite

Buck Woody discusses various components of the Cortana Intelligence Suite:

It’s not a simple matter of “choose one from column B and two from column A” – you have to learn the processes, and then the tools, and then think about your situation. In other words, some things are complicated because they are…complicated. However:

There are some things you can consider out of the box. So I spoke with my friend Romit Girdhar while we were co-teaching in London last week, and he put together a great visualization. You can see them here, and download the PDF below. Thanks, Romit!

And of course they had to change the name—it wouldn’t be a Microsoft product if the name didn’t change every six months…

Exploring Spark

Adnan Masood has photos of slides from a Spark-related meetup:

Apache Spark is a general purpose cluster computing platform which extends map-reduce to support multiple computation types including but not limited to stream processing and interactive queries. Last week IBM’s Moktar Kandil presented at the Tampa Hadoop and Tampa Data Science Group Joint meetup on the topic of exploring Apache Spark.

Apache Spark for Azure HD-Insight

Following are some of the slides discussed in the meetup. To play with the ALS Recommendation engine notebook, please register at www.datascientistworkbench.com which is a free notebook for Apache Spark platform for educational purposes.

Check out the links.

Key Components For A Successful Project

Ginger Grant lists five key components for a successful data analysis project:

Security is an obvious consideration which needs to be addressed up front. Data is a very valuable commodity and only people with appropriate access should be allowed to see it. What steps are going to be employed to ensure that happens? How much administration is going to be required to implement it? These questions need to be answered up front.

I want to extend special thanks to Ginger for putting security as the top item on the list.  Also, this seems like a pretty good set of criteria for most projects, so definitely check it out.

Data Science Notebooks

Dan Osipov discusses data science notebooks:

Even though they’ve become prominent in the past few years, they have a long history. First notebooks were available in packages like Mathematica andMatlab, used primarily in academia. More recently they’ve started getting traction in Python community with iPython Notebook. Today there are many notebooks to choose from: Jupyter (successor to the iPython Notebook), R Markdown, Apache Zeppelin,Spark Notebook, Databricks Cloud, and more. There are kernels/backends to multiple languages, such as Python, Julia, Scala, SQL, and others.

Traditionally, notebooks have been used to document research and make results reproducible, simply by rerunning the notebook on source data. But why would one want to choose to use a notebook instead of a favorite IDE or command line? There are many limitations in the current browser based notebook implementations that prevent them from offering a comfortable environment to develop code, but what they do offer is an environment for exploration, collaboration, and visualization.

Back In The Day, developers and infrastructure staff used runbooks to make sure they listed and hit all of the steps in an operation.  I don’t really know of one which integrates directly with SQL Server, but Jupyter is probably the best-known cross-platform notebook.

Linear Regression In Azure ML

Ginger Grant gives a brief discussion of linear regression:

There are two types of indicators for linear correlation, positive and negative as shown on the following charts. The Y axis represents Grades, and the x axis is changed to show positive and negative correlation of the amount of X on grades. When X is the amount of study hours, there is a positive correlation and the line goes up. When X is changed to watching cat videos, there is a negative correlation. If you can’t draw a line around the points there is no correlation. If I were to create a graph where X indicated the quantity of the bags of Cheese Doodles consumed on grades, it would not be possible to draw a straight line, where the data points cluster around it. Since this is Line-ar regression, if that line doesn’t exist there is no correlation. Knowing there is no correlation is also useful.

Simple linear regression is a powerful tool and gets you to “good enough” more frequently than you’d think.

Sloan Digital Sky Survey

Joseph Sirosh and Rimma Nehme show a SQL Server use case, walking us through the Sloan Digital Sky Survey:

Astronomers wanted a tool that would be able to quickly answer questions like: “find asteroid candidates” or “find other objects like this one”, which originally gave the motive to build the SQL-based backend. Indeed, right from the beginning Jim Gray asked Alex Szalay to define 20 typical queries astronomers might want to ask and then together they designed the SkyServer database to answer those queries. The anecdote is that the conversation went as follows:

Jim: What are the 20 questions you want to ask?
Alex: Astronomers want to ask anything! Not just 20 queries.
Jim: Ok, start with 5 queries.
[it took Alex 30 minutes to write them all down]
Jim: Ok, add another 5 queries.
[it took Alex 1 hour to write them all down]
Jim: Ok, now add another 5 queries.
[Alex gave up and went home to think about them]

Alex (said later): In 1.5 hours, Jim taught me a lot of humility!

Alex (said later): It also taught us the importance of long-tail distribution and how to prioritize.

This is my favorite part of the article.

Asking The Right Question

Buck Woody argues that the hardest thing about data science is asking the right question:

When I started down the path of learning Data Science, I was nervous. I have to work hard at math – it’s a skill I love but one that does not come naturally to me. I was nervous because I thought the most daunting task I would face in Data Science waslearning all the algebra, statistics, and other maths I would need to do the job.

But I was wrong.

Math isn’t the hardest thing in Data Science. Actually, since it’s so mature, and documented, and well-known, it’s quite possibly the easiest thing to conquer in the skillset. No, the hardest thing about Data Science is asking the right question.

I’ll lodge a bit of a disagreement here.  I’m okay with the argument that asking the right question is the toughest part, but the math’s not particularly easy either…  Knowing when to use which distribution, which model, and which parameters requires a definite amount of skill.

Cortana And Power BI

Paul Turley combines Cortana Analytics and Power BI:

I’ve made a quick video to demonstrate how it works.  By the way, you can just type your questions instead of speaking them to Cortana.  Questions are sent to the Power BI Q&A feature for the datasets you chose to integrate from your subscription.

Check out the video.  I want Jarvis within 10 years, people.

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