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.

Predictive Analytics Conferences-Four PAWs Coming – PAW Boston Super Early Ends Friday

  • Message from PAW Conferences

Friday, July 13th is your final opportunity to take advantage of the super early bird pricing for Predictive Analytics World Boston, Sept 30 – Oct 4.


Register now and realize savings of up to $600 over onsite registration:

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


PAW Government: Sept 17-18, 2012 –
PAW Boston: Sept 30-Oct 4, 2012 –
Text Analytics World Boston: Oct 3-4, 2012 –
PAW Düsseldorf: Nov 6-7, 2012 –
PAW London: Nov 27-28, 2012 –
PAW Videos: Available on-demand –

Machine Learning to Translate Code from different programming languages

Google Translate has been a pioneer in using machine learning for translating various languages (and so is the awesome Google Transliterate)

I wonder if they can expand it to programming languages and not just human languages.


Issues in converting  translating programming language code

1) Paths referred for stored objects

2) Object Names should remain the same and not translated

3) Multiple Functions have multiple uses , sometimes function translate is not straightforward

I think all these issues are doable, solveable and more importantly profitable.


I look forward to the day a iOS developer can convert his code to Android app code by simple upload and download.

Interview Prof Benjamin Alamar , Sports Analytics

Here is an interview with Prof Benjamin Alamar, founding editor of the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sport, a professor of sports management at Menlo College and the Director of Basketball Analytics and Research for the Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA.

Ajay – The movie Moneyball recently sparked out mainstream interest in analytics in sports.Describe the role of analytics in sports management

Benjamin- Analytics is impacting sports organizations on both the sport and business side.
On the Sport side, teams are using analytics, including advanced data management, predictive anlaytics, and information systems to gain a competitive edge. The use of analytics results in more accurate player valuations and projections, as well as determining effective strategies against specific opponents.
On the business side, teams are using the tools of analytics to increase revenue in a variety of ways including dynamic ticket pricing and optimizing of the placement of concession stands.
Ajay-  What are the ways analytics is used in specific sports that you have been part of?

Benjamin- A very typical first step for a team is to utilize the tools of predictive analytics to help inform their draft decisions.

Ajay- What are some of the tools, techniques and software that analytics in sports uses?
Benjamin- The tools of sports analytics do not differ much from the tools of business analytics. Regression analysis is fairly common as are other forms of data mining. In terms of software, R is a popular tool as is Excel and many of the other standard analysis tools.
Ajay- Describe your career journey and how you became involved in sports management. What are some of the tips you want to tell young students who wish to enter this field?

Benjamin- I got involved in sports through a company called Protrade Sports. Protrade initially was a fantasy sports company that was looking to develop a fantasy game based on advanced sports statistics and utilize a stock market concept instead of traditional drafting. I was hired due to my background in economics to develop the market aspect of the game.

There I met Roland Beech (who now works for the Mavericks) and Aaron Schatz (owner of and learned about the developing field of sports statistics. I then changed my research focus from economics to sports statistics and founded the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports. Through the journal and my published research, I was able to establish a reputation of doing quality, useable work.

For students, I recommend developing very strong data management skills (sql and the like) and thinking carefully about what sort of questions a general manager or coach would care about. Being able to demonstrate analytic skills around actionable research will generally attract the attention of pro teams.


Benjamin Alamar, Professor of Sport Management, Menlo College

Benjamin Alamar

Professor Benjamin Alamar is the founding editor of the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sport, a professor of sports management at Menlo College and the Director of Basketball Analytics and Research for the Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA. He has published academic research in football, basketball and baseball, has presented at numerous conferences on sports analytics. He is also a co-creator of ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating and a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal. He has consulted for teams in the NBA and NFL, provided statistical analysis for author Michael Lewis for his recent book The Blind Side, and worked with numerous startup companies in the field of sports analytics. Professor Alamar is also an award winning economist who has worked academically and professionally in intellectual property valuation, public finance and public health. He received his PhD in economics from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2001.

Prof Alamar is a speaker at Predictive Analytics World, San Fransisco and is doing a workshop there


All level tracks Track 1: Sports Analytics
Case Study: NFL, MLB, & NBA
Competing & Winning with Sports Analytics

The field of sports analytics ties together the tools of data management, predictive modeling and information systems to provide sports organization a competitive advantage. The field is rapidly developing based on new and expanded data sources, greater recognition of the value, and past success of a variety of sports organizations. Teams in the NFL, MLB, NBA, as well as other organizations have found a competitive edge with the application of sports analytics. The future of sports analytics can be seen through drawing on these past successes and the developments of new tools.

You can know more about Prof Alamar at his blog or journal at His detailed background can be seen at

Does Facebook deserve a 100 billion Valuation

some  questions in my Mind as I struggle to bet my money and pension savings on Facebook IPO

1) Revenue Mix- What percentage of revenues for Facebook come from Banner ads versus gaming partners like Zynga. How dependent is Facebook on Gaming partners. (Zynga has Google as an investor). What mix of revenue is dependent on privacy regulation countries like Europe vs countries like USA.

2) Do 800 million users of Facebook mean 100 billion valuation ? Thats a valuation of $125 in customer life time in terms of NPV . Since ad revenue is itself a percentage of actual good and services sold- how much worth of goods and services do consumers have to buy per capita , to give $125 worth of ads to FB. Eg . companies spend 5% of product cost on Facebook ads, so does that mean each FB account will hope to buy 2500$ worth of Goods from the Internet and from Facebook (assuming they also buy from Amazon etc)

3) Corporate Governance- Unlike Google, Facebook has faced troubling questions of ethics from the day it has started. This includes charges of intellectual property theft, but also non transparent FB stock option pricing in secondary markets before IPO, private placement by Wall Street Bankers like GoldMan Saachs, major investments by Russian Internet media corporations. (read-

4) Retention of key employees post IPO- Key Employees at Google are actually ex- Microsofties. Key FB staff are ex-Google people. Where will the key -FB people go when bored and rich after IPO.

5) Does the macro Economic Condition justify the premium and Private Equity multiple of Facebook?

Will FB be the next Google (in terms of investor retruns) or will it be like Groupon. I suspect the answer  is- it depends on market discounting these assumptions while factoring in sentiment (as well as unloading of stock from large number of FB stock holders on week1).

Baby You Are a Rich Man. but not 100 billion rich. yet. Maybe 80 billion isnt that bad.

Oracle adds R to Big Data Appliance -Use #Rstats

From the press release, Oracle gets on R and me too- NoSQL

The Oracle Big Data Appliance is a new engineered system that includes an open source distribution of Apache™ Hadoop™, Oracle NoSQL Database, Oracle Data Integrator Application Adapter for Hadoop, Oracle Loader for Hadoop, and an open source distribution of R.


the Big Data Appliance also includes the R programming language, a popular open source statistical-analysis tool. This R engine will integrate with 11g R2, so presumably if you want to do statistical analysis on unstructured data stored in and chewed by Hadoop, you will have to move it to Oracle after the chewing has subsided.

This approach to R-Hadoop integration is different from that announced last week between Revolution Analytics, the so-called Red Hat for stats that is extending and commercializing the R language and its engine, and Cloudera, which sells a commercial Hadoop setup called CDH3 and which was one of the early companies to offer support for Hadoop. Both Revolution Analytics and Cloudera now have Oracle as their competitor, which was no doubt no surprise to either.

In any event, the way they do it, the R engine is put on each node in the Hadoop cluster, and those R engines just see the Hadoop data as a native format that they can do analysis on individually. As statisticians do analyses on data sets, the summary data from all the nodes in the Hadoop cluster is sent back to their R workstations; they have no idea that they are using MapReduce on unstructured data.

Oracle did not supply configuration and pricing information for the Big Data Appliance, and also did not say when it would be for sale or shipping to customers


A Horizontally Scaled, Key-Value Database for the Enterprise
Oracle NoSQL Database is a commercial grade, general-purpose NoSQL database using a key/value paradigm. It allows you to manage massive quantities of data, cope with changing data formats, and submit simple queries. Complex queries are supported using Hadoop or Oracle Database operating upon Oracle NoSQL Database data.

Oracle NoSQL Database delivers scalable throughput with bounded latency, easy administration, and a simple programming model. It scales horizontally to hundreds of nodes with high availability and transparent load balancing. Customers might choose Oracle NoSQL Database to support Web applications, acquire sensor data, scale authentication services, or support online serves and social media.



Oracle says it will integrate R with its Oracle Database. Other signs from Oracle show the deeper interest in using the statistical framework for integration with Hadoop to potentially speed statistical analysis. This has particular value with analyzing vast amounts of unstructured data, which has overwhelmed organizations, especially over the past year.



Oracle R Enterprise

Integrates the Open-Source Statistical Environment R with Oracle Database 11g
Oracle R Enterprise allows analysts and statisticians to run existing R applications and use the R client directly against data stored in Oracle Database 11g—vastly increasing scalability, performance and security. The combination of Oracle Database 11g and R delivers an enterprise-ready, deeply integrated environment for advanced analytics. Users can also use analytical sandboxes, where they can analyze data and develop R scripts for deployment while results stay managed inside Oracle Database.

Early Bird Discount- Conferences

Message from PAW and TAW conferences


The PAW and TAW New York City Early Bird discounts end this Friday.


– NEXT WEEK: PAW for Government, Sept 12-13, in Washington DC. An amazing line-up of keynotes including Congressman Darrell Issa. Coverage of predictive analytics deployment by over a dozen government agencies. See

– Predictive Analytics World NYC – Oct 16-21 – Early Bird Pricing ends this Friday, Sept 9 – register now to save $400 over the full price. Three tracks, over 40 sessions, keynotes from Davenport and from IBM Research on their Jeopardy-Winning Watson – plus much more.

– Text Analytics World NYC (Oct 16-21) also ends Early Bird Pricing this Friday, Sept 9 – register now to save $400 over the full price. Over 25 sessions with case studies from Accident Fund, Amdocs,, Citibank, Google, Intuit, MetLife, PayPal, and much more. See

– PAW London: Nov 30 – Dec 1. Case studies from BBC, GSK, HP, ING, Lloyds TSB, Paychex, US Bank, Yahoo!, and more. See

– PAW and TAW San Francisco: Mar 4-10 2012 – Save-the-date and call-for-speakers. and

* For informative event updates: