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Using Rapid Miner and R for Sports Analytics #rstats

Rapid Miner has been one of the oldest open source analytics software, long long before open source or even analytics was considered a fashion buzzword. The Rapid Miner software has been a pioneer in many areas (like establishing a marketplace for Rapid Miner Extensions) and the Rapid Miner -R extension was one of the most promising enablers of using R in an enterprise setting.
The following interview was taken with a manager of analytics for a sports organization. The sports organization considers analytics as a strategic differentiator , hence the name is confidential. No part of the interview has been edited or manipulated.

Ajay- Why did you choose Rapid Miner and R? What were the other software alternatives you considered and discarded?

Analyst- We considered most of the other major players in statistics/data mining or enterprise BI.  However, we found that the value proposition for an open source solution was too compelling to justify the premium pricing that the commercial solutions would have required.  The widespread adoption of R and the variety of packages and algorithms available for it, made it an easy choice.  We liked RapidMiner as a way to design structured, repeatable processes, and the ability to optimize learner parameters in a systematic way.  It also handled large data sets better than R on 32-bit Windows did.  The GUI, particularly when 5.0 was released, made it more usable than R for analysts who weren’t experienced programmers.

Ajay- What analytics do you do think Rapid Miner and R are best suited for?

 Analyst- We use RM+R mainly for sports analysis so far, rather than for more traditional business applications.  It has been quite suitable for that, and I can easily see how it would be used for other types of applications.

 Ajay- Any experiences as an enterprise customer? How was the installation process? How good is the enterprise level support?

Analyst- Rapid-I has been one of the most responsive tech companies I’ve dealt with, either in my current role or with previous employers.  They are small enough to be able to respond quickly to requests, and in more than one case, have fixed a problem, or added a small feature we needed within a matter of days.  In other cases, we have contracted with them to add larger pieces of specific functionality we needed at reasonable consulting rates.  Those features are added to the mainline product, and become fully supported through regular channels.  The longer consulting projects have typically had a turnaround of just a few weeks.

 Ajay- What challenges if any did you face in executing a pure open source analytics bundle ?

Analyst- As Rapid-I is a smaller company based in Europe, the availability of training and consulting in the USA isn’t as extensive as for the major enterprise software players, and the time zone differences sometimes slow down the communications cycle.  There were times where we were the first customer to attempt a specific integration point in our technical environment, and with no prior experiences to fall back on, we had to work with Rapid-I to figure out how to do it.  Compared to the what traditional software vendors provide, both R and RM tend to have sparse, terse, occasionally incomplete documentation.  The situation is getting better, but still lags behind what the traditional enterprise software vendors provide.

 Ajay- What are the things you can do in R ,and what are the things you prefer to do in Rapid Miner (comparison for technical synergies)

Analyst- Our experience has been that RM is superior to R at writing and maintaining structured processes, better at handling larger amounts of data, and more flexible at fine-tuning model parameters automatically.  The biggest limitation we’ve had with RM compared to R is that R has a larger library of user-contributed packages for additional data mining algorithms.  Sometimes we opted to use R because RM hadn’t yet implemented a specific algorithm.  The introduction the R extension has allowed us to combine the strengths of both tools in a very logical and productive way.

In particular, extending RapidMiner with R helped address RM’s weakness in the breadth of algorithms, because it brings the entire R ecosystem into RM (similar to how Rapid-I implemented much of the Weka library early on in RM’s development).  Further, because the R user community releases packages that implement new techniques faster than the enterprise vendors can, this helps turn a potential weakness into a potential strength.  However, R packages tend to be of varying quality, and are more prone to go stale due to lack of support/bug fixes.  This depends heavily on the package’s maintainer and its prevalence of use in the R community.  So when RapidMiner has a learner with a native implementation, it’s usually better to use it than the R equivalent.

RCOMM 2012 goes live in August

An awesome conference by an awesome software Rapid Miner remains one of the leading enterprise grade open source software , that can help you do a lot of things including flow driven data modeling ,web mining ,web crawling etc which even other software cant.

Presentations include:

  • Mining Machine 2 Machine Data (Katharina Morik, TU Dortmund University)
  • Handling Big Data (Andras Benczur, MTA SZTAKI)
  • Introduction of RapidAnalytics at Telenor (Telenor and United Consult)
  • and more

Here is a list of complete program

 

Program

 

Time
Slot
Tuesday
Training / Workshop 1
Wednesday
Conference 1
Thursday
Conference 2
Friday
Training / Workshop 2
09:00 – 10:30
Introductory Speech
Ingo Mierswa (Rapid-I)Resource-aware Data Mining or M2M Mining (Invited Talk)

Katharina Morik (TU Dortmund University)

More information

 

Data Analysis

 

NeurophRM: Integration of the Neuroph framework into RapidMiner
Miloš Jovanović, Jelena Stojanović, Milan Vukićević, Vera Stojanović, Boris Delibašić (University of Belgrade)

To be announced (Invited Talk)
Andras Benczur 

Recommender Systems

 

Extending RapidMiner with Recommender Systems Algorithms
Matej Mihelčić, Nino Antulov-Fantulin, Matko Bošnjak, Tomislav Šmuc (Ruđer Bošković Institute)

Implementation of User Based Collaborative Filtering in RapidMiner
Sérgio Morais, Carlos Soares (Universidade do Porto)

Parallel Training / Workshop Session

Advanced Data Mining and Data Transformations

or

Development Workshop Part 2

10:30 – 11:00
Coffee Break
Coffee Break
Coffee Break
11:00 – 12:30
Data Analysis

Nearest-Neighbor and Clustering based Anomaly Detection Algorithms for RapidMiner
Mennatallah Amer, Markus Goldstein (DFKI)

Customers’ LifeStyle Targeting on Big Data using Rapid Miner
Maksim Drobyshev (LifeStyle Marketing Ltd)

Robust GPGPU Plugin Development for RapidMiner
Andor Kovács, Zoltán Prekopcsák (Budapest University of Technology and Economics)

Extensions

 

Optimization Plugin For RapidMiner
Venkatesh Umaashankar, Sangkyun Lee (TU Dortmund University; presented by Hendrik Blom)

 

Image Mining Extension – Year After
Radim Burget, Václav Uher, Jan Mašek (Brno University of Technology)

Incorporating R Plots into RapidMiner Reports
Peter Jeszenszky (University of Debrecen)

12:30 – 13:30
Lunch
Lunch
Lunch
13:30 – 15:30
Parallel Training / Workshop Session

Basic Data Mining and Data Transformations

or

Development Workshop Part 1

Applications

 

Introduction of RapidAnalyticy Enterprise Edition at Telenor Hungary
t.b.a. (Telenor Hungary and United Consult)

 

Application of RapidMiner in Steel Industry Research and Development
Bengt-Henning Maas, Hakan Koc, Martin Bretschneider (Salzgitter Mannesmann Forschung)

A Comparison of Data-driven Models for Forecast River Flow
Milan Cisty, Juraj Bezak (Slovak University of Technology)

Portfolio Optimization Using Local Linear Regression Ensembles in Rapid Miner
Gábor Nagy, Tamás Henk, Gergő Barta (Budapest University of Technology and Economics)

Extensions

 

An Octave Extension for RapidMiner
Sylvain Marié (Schneider Electric)

 

Unstructured Data

 

Processing Data Streams with the RapidMiner Streams-Plugin
Christian Bockermann, Hendrik Blom (TU Dortmund)

Automated Creation of Corpuses for the Needs of Sentiment Analysis
Peter Koncz, Jan Paralic (Technical University of Kosice)

 

Demonstration: News from the Rapid-I Labs
Simon Fischer; Rapid-I

This short session demonstrates the latest developments from the Rapid-I lab and will let you how you can build powerful analysis processes and routines by using those RapidMiner tools.

Certification Exam
15:30 – 16:00
Coffee Break
Coffee Break
Coffee Break
16:00 – 18:00
Book Presentation and Game Show

Data Mining for the Masses: A New Textbook on Data Mining for Everyone
Matthew North (Washington & Jefferson College)

Matthew North presents his new book “Data Mining for the Masses” introducing data mining to a broader audience and making use of RapidMiner for practical data mining problems.

 

Game Show
Did you miss last years’ game show “Who wants to be a data miner?”? Use RapidMiner for problems it was never created for and beat the time and other contestants!

User Support

Get some Coffee for free – Writing Operators with RapidMiner Beans
Christian Bockermann, Hendrik Blom (TU Dortmund)

Meta-Modeling Execution Times of RapidMiner operators
Matija Piškorec, Matko Bošnjak, Tomislav Šmuc (Ruđer Bošković Institute)

Conference day ends at ca. 17:00.

19:30
Social Event (Conference Dinner)
Social Event (Visit of Bar District)

 

and you should have a look at https://rapid-i.com/rcomm2012f/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=65

Conference is in Budapest, Hungary,Europe.

( Disclaimer- Rapid Miner is an advertising sponsor of Decisionstats.com in case you didnot notice the two banner sized ads.)

 

Interview Rob J Hyndman Forecasting Expert #rstats

Here is an interview with Prof Rob J Hyndman who has created many time series forecasting methods and authored books as well as R packages on the same.

Ajay -Describe your journey from being a student of science to a Professor. What were some key turning points along that journey?
 
Rob- I started a science honours degree at the University of Melbourne in 1985. By the end of 1985 I found myself simultaneously working as a statistical consultant (having completed all of one year of statistics courses!). For the next three years I studied mathematics, statistics and computer science at university, and tried to learn whatever I needed to in order to help my growing group of clients. Often we would cover things in classes that I’d already taught myself through my consulting work. That really set the trend for the rest of my career. I’ve always been an academic on the one hand, and a statistical consultant on the other. The consulting work has led me to learn a lot of things that I would not otherwise have come across, and has also encouraged me to focus on research problems that are of direct relevance to the clients I work with.
I never set out to be an academic. In fact, I thought that I would get a job in the business world as soon as I finished my degree. But once I completed the degree, I was offered a position as a statistical consultant within the University of Melbourne, helping researchers in various disciplines and doing some commercial work. After a year, I was getting bored doing only consulting, and I thought it would be interesting to do a PhD. I was lucky enough to be offered a generous scholarship which meant I was paid more to study than to continue working.
Again, I thought that I would probably go and get a job in the business world after I finished my PhD. But I finished it early and my scholarship was going to be cut off once I submitted my thesis. So instead, I offered to teach classes for free at the university and delayed submitting my thesis until the scholarship period ran out. That turned out to be a smart move because the university saw that I was a good teacher, and offered me a lecturing position starting immediately I submitted my thesis. So I sort of fell into an academic career.
I’ve kept up the consulting work part-time because it is interesting, and it gives me a little extra money. But I’ve also stayed an academic because I love the freedom to be able to work on anything that takes my fancy.
Ajay- Describe your upcoming book on Forecasting.
 
Rob- My first textbook on forecasting (with Makridakis and Wheelwright) was written a few years after I finished my PhD. It has been very popular, but it costs a lot of money (about $140 on Amazon). I estimate that I get about $1 for every book sold. The rest goes to the publisher (Wiley) and all they do is print, market and distribute it. I even typeset the whole thing myself and they print directly from the files I provided. It is now about 15 years since the book was written and it badly needs updating. I had a choice of writing a new edition with Wiley or doing something completely new. I decided to do a new one, largely because I didn’t want a publisher to make a lot of money out of students using my hard work.
It seems to me that students try to avoid buying textbooks and will search around looking for suitable online material instead. Often the online material is of very low quality and contains many errors.
As I wasn’t making much money on my textbook, and the facilities now exist to make online publishing very easy, I decided to try a publishing experiment. So my new textbook will be online and completely free. So far it is about 2/3 completed and is available at http://otexts.com/fpp/. I am hoping that my co-author (George Athanasopoulos) and I will finish it off before the end of 2012.
The book is intended to provide a comprehensive introduction to forecasting methods. We don’t attempt to discuss the theory much, but provide enough information for people to use the methods in practice. It is tied to the forecast package in R, and we provide code to show how to use the various forecasting methods.
The idea of online textbooks makes a lot of sense. They are continuously updated so if we find a mistake we fix it immediately. Also, we can add new sections, or update parts of the book, as required rather than waiting for a new edition to come out. We can also add richer content including video, dynamic graphics, etc.
For readers that want a print edition, we will be aiming to produce a print version of the book every year (available via Amazon).
I like the idea so much I’m trying to set up a new publishing platform (otexts.com) to enable other authors to do the same sort of thing. It is taking longer than I would like to make that happen, but probably next year we should have something ready for other authors to use.
Ajay- How can we make textbooks cheaper for students as well as compensate authors fairly
 
Rob- Well free is definitely cheaper, and there are a few businesses trying to make free online textbooks a reality. Apart from my own efforts, http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/ is producing a lot of free textbooks. And textbookrevolution.org is another great resource.
With otexts.com, we will compensate authors in two ways. First, the print versions of a book will be sold (although at a vastly cheaper rate than other commercial publishers). The royalties on print sales will be split 50/50 with the authors. Second, we plan to have some features of each book available for subscription only (e.g., solutions to exercises, some multimedia content, etc.). Again, the subscription fees will be split 50/50 with the authors.
Ajay- Suppose a person who used to use forecasting software from another company decides to switch to R. How easy and lucid do you think the current documentation on R website for business analytics practitioners such as these – in the corporate world.
 
Rob- The documentation on the R website is not very good for newcomers, but there are a lot of other R resources now available. One of the best introductions is Matloff’s “The Art of R Programming”. Provided someone has done some programming before (e.g., VBA, python or java), learning R is a breeze. The people who have trouble are those who have only ever used menu interfaces such as Excel. Then they are not only learning R, but learning to think about computing in a different way from what they are used to, and that can be tricky. However, it is well worth it. Once you know how to code, you can do so much more.  I wish some basic programming was part of every business and statistics degree.
If you are working in a particular area, then it is often best to find a book that uses R in that discipline. For example, if you want to do forecasting, you can use my book (otexts.com/fpp/). Or if you are using R for data visualization, get hold of Hadley Wickham’s ggplot2 book.
Ajay- In a long and storied career- What is the best forecast you ever made ? and the worst?
 
 Rob- Actually, my best work is not so much in making forecasts as in developing new forecasting methodology. I’m very proud of my forecasting models for electricity demand which are now used for all long-term planning of electricity capacity in Australia (see  http://robjhyndman.com/papers/peak-electricity-demand/  for the details). Also, my methods for population forecasting (http://robjhyndman.com/papers/stochastic-population-forecasts/ ) are pretty good (in my opinion!). These methods are now used by some national governments (but not Australia!) for their official population forecasts.
Of course, I’ve made some bad forecasts, but usually when I’ve tried to do more than is reasonable given the available data. One of my earliest consulting jobs involved forecasting the sales for a large car manufacturer. They wanted forecasts for the next fifteen years using less than ten years of historical data. I should have refused as it is unreasonable to forecast that far ahead using so little data. But I was young and naive and wanted the work. So I did the forecasts, and they were clearly outside the company’s (reasonable) expectations, and they then refused to pay me. Lesson learned. It’s better to refuse work than do it poorly.

Probably the biggest impact I’ve had is in helping the Australian government forecast the national health budget. In 2001 and 2002, they had underestimated health expenditure by nearly $1 billion in each year which is a lot of money to have to find, even for a national government. I was invited to assist them in developing a new forecasting method, which I did. The new method has forecast errors of the order of plus or minus $50 million which is much more manageable. The method I developed for them was the basis of the ETS models discussed in my 2008 book on exponential smoothing (www.exponentialsmoothing.net)

. And now anyone can use the method with the ets() function in the forecast package for R.
About-
Rob J Hyndman is Pro­fessor of Stat­ist­ics in the Depart­ment of Eco­no­met­rics and Busi­ness Stat­ist­ics at Mon­ash Uni­ver­sity and Dir­ector of the Mon­ash Uni­ver­sity Busi­ness & Eco­nomic Fore­cast­ing Unit. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Inter­na­tional Journal of Fore­cast­ing and a Dir­ector of the Inter­na­tional Insti­tute of Fore­casters. Rob is the author of over 100 research papers in stat­ist­ical sci­ence. In 2007, he received the Moran medal from the Aus­tralian Academy of Sci­ence for his con­tri­bu­tions to stat­ist­ical research, espe­cially in the area of stat­ist­ical fore­cast­ing. For 25 years, Rob has main­tained an act­ive con­sult­ing prac­tice, assist­ing hun­dreds of com­pan­ies and organ­iz­a­tions. His recent con­sult­ing work has involved fore­cast­ing elec­tri­city demand, tour­ism demand, the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment health budget and case volume at a US call centre.

Making Big Data Analytics an API call away

I have compared some of Amazon’s database in the cloud offerings with Google’s and especially the Google BigQuery API in my latest article. With more than 2 years under its belt for development, Google BigQuery API is a good service to test out if you want to reduce dependencies on database vendors.
Read it at
Google BigQuery API Makes Big Data Analytics Easy

http://blog.programmableweb.com/2012/08/07/google-bigquery-api-makes-big-data-analytics-easy/

New Free Online Book by Rob Hyndman on Forecasting using #Rstats

From the creator of some of the most widely used packages for time series in the R programming language comes a brand new book, and its online!

This time the book is free, will be updated and 7 chapters are ready (to read!)

. If you do forecasting professionally, now is the time to suggest your own use cases to be featured as the book gets ready by end- 2012. The book is intended as a replace­ment for Makri­dakis, Wheel­wright and Hyn­d­man (Wiley 1998).

http://otexts.com/fpp/

The book is writ­ten for three audi­ences:

(1) people find­ing them­selves doing fore­cast­ing in busi­ness when they may not have had any for­mal train­ing in the area;

(2) undergraduate stu­dents study­ing busi­ness;

(3) MBA stu­dents doing a fore­cast­ing elec­tive.

The book is dif­fer­ent from other fore­cast­ing text­books in sev­eral ways.

  • It is free and online, mak­ing it acces­si­ble to a wide audience.
  • It is con­tin­u­ously updated. You don’t have to wait until the next edi­tion for errors to be removed or new meth­ods to be dis­cussed. We will update the book frequently.
  • There are dozens of real data exam­ples taken from our own con­sult­ing prac­tice. We have worked with hun­dreds of busi­nesses and orga­ni­za­tions help­ing them with fore­cast­ing issues, and this expe­ri­ence has con­tributed directly to many of the exam­ples given here, as well as guid­ing our gen­eral phi­los­o­phy of forecasting.
  • We empha­sise graph­i­cal meth­ods more than most fore­cast­ers. We use graphs to explore the data, analyse the valid­ity of the mod­els fit­ted and present the fore­cast­ing results.

A print ver­sion and a down­load­able e-version of the book will be avail­able to pur­chase on Ama­zon, but not until a few more chap­ters are written.

Contents

(Ajay-Support the open textbook movement!)

If you’ve found this book helpful, please consider helping to fund free, open and online textbooks. (Donations via PayPal.)

Look for yourself at http://otexts.com/fpp/

 

Data Scientists are awesome nerds?

From the Internet,

I have an engineering degree, done many post grad courses in stats, one in comp sci at university (and many off univ), and sometimes hack for a living.I am awesome at being mediocre at all this ;)

Where are you on this Venn Diagram?

Update!

I have been busy-

1) Finally my divorce came through. My advice – dont do it without a pre-nup ! Alimony means all the money.

2) Spending time on Quora after getting bored from LinkedIn, Twitter,Facebook,Google Plus,Tumblr, WordPress

See this answer to-

 What are common misconceptions about startups?

1) we will change the world
2) if we get 1% of a billion people market, we will be rich
3) if we have got funding, most of the job is done
4) lets pay ourselves high salaries since we got funded
5) our idea is awesome and cant be copied, improvised, stolen, replicated
6) startups are painless
7) it is a better life than a corporate career
8) long term vision is important than short term cash burn
9) we will never sell out or exit. never
10) its a great idea to make startups with friend

Say hello to me – http://www.quora.com/Ajay-Ohri/answers

3) Writing freelance articles on APIs for Programmable Web

Why write pro? See point 1)

Recent Articles-

http://blog.programmableweb.com/2012/07/30/predict-the-future-with-google-prediction-api/

http://blog.programmableweb.com/2012/08/01/your-store-in-the-cloud-google-cloud-storage-api/

http://blog.programmableweb.com/2012/07/27/the-romney-vs-obama-api/

4) Writing poetry on http://poemsforkush.com/. It now gets 23000 views a month. I wish I could say my poems were great, but the readers are kind (364 subscribers!) and also Google Image Search is very very kind.

5) Kicking tires with next book ” R for Cloud Computing” and be tuned for another writing announcement

6) Waiting for Paul Kent, VP, SAS Big Data to reply to my emails for interview after HE promised me!! You dont get to 105 interviews without being a bit stubborn!

7) Sighing on politics engulfing my American friends especially with regards to Chic-fil-A and Romney’s gaffes. Now thats what I call a first world problem! Protesting by eating or boycotting chicken sandwiches! In India we had the world’s biggest blackout two days in a row- and no one is attending the Hunger Fast against corruption protests!

8) Watching Olympics! Our glorious nation of 1.2 billion very smart people has managed to win 1 Bronze till today!! Michael Phelps has won more medals and more gold than the whole of  India has since the Olympics Games began!!

9) Consulting to pay the bills. includes writing R code, making presentations. Why consult when I have writing to do? See point 1)

10) Reading New York Times to get insights on Big Data and Analytics. Trust them- they know what they are doing!

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