Interview Gregory Piatetsky

Here is an interviw with Gregory Piatetsky, founder and editor of KDNuggets ( ) ,the oldest and biggest independent industry websites in terms of data mining and analytics-


Ajay- Please describe your career in science, many challenges and rewards that came with it. Name any scientific research, degrees teaching etc.

I was born in Moscow, Russia and went to a top math high-school in Moscow. A unique  challenge for me was that my father was one of leading mathematicians in Soviet Union.  While I liked math (and still do), I quickly realized while still in high school that  I will never be as good as my father, and math career was not for me.

Fortunately, I discovered computers and really liked the process of programming and solving applied problems.  At that time (late 1970s) computers were not very popular and it was not clear that one can make a career in computers.  However I was very lucky that I was able to pursue what I liked and find demand for my skills.

I got my MS in 1979 and PhD in 1984 in Computer Science from New York University.
I was interested in AI (perhaps thanks to a lot of science fiction I read as a kid), but found a job in databases, so I was looking for ways to combine them.

In 1984 I joined GTE Labs where I worked on research in databases and AI, and in 1989 started the first project on Knowledge Discovery in data. To help convince my management that there will be a demand for this thing
called “data mining” (GTE management did not see much future for it), I also organized a AAAI workshop on the topic.

I thought “data mining” is not sexy enough name, and so I called it “Knowledge Discovery in Data”, or KDD.  Since 1989, I was working on KDD and data mining in all aspects – more on my page

Ajay-  How would you encourage a young science entrepreneur in this recession.

Gregory- Many great companies were started or grew in a recession, e.g.

Recession may be compared to a brush fire which removes dead wood and allows new trees to grow.

Ajay- What prompted you to set up KD Nuggets? Any reasons for the name (kNowledge Discovery Nuggets). Describe some key milestones in this iconic website for data mining people.

Gregory- After a third KDD workshop in 1993 I started a newsletter to connect about 50 people who attended the workshop and possibly others who were interested in data mining and KDD.  The idea was that it will have short items or “nuggets” of information. Also, at that time a popular metaphor for data miner was gold miners who were looking for gold “nuggets”.  So, I wanted a newsletter with “nuggets” – short, valuable items about Knowledge Discovery.  Thus, the name KDnuggets.

In 1994 I created a website on data mining at GTE and in 1997, after I left  GTE , I moved it to the current domain name .

In 1999, I was working for startup which provided data mining services to financial industry.  However, because of Y2K issues, all banks etc froze their systems in the second half of 1999, and we had very little work (and our salaries were reduced as well).  I decided that I will try to get some ads and was able to get companies like SPSS and Megaputer to advertise.

Since 2001, I am an independent consultant and KDnuggets is only part of what I am doing.  I also do data mining consulting, and actively participate in SIGKDD (Director 1998-2005, Chair 2005-2009).

Some people think that KDnuggets is a large company, with publisher, webmaster, editor, ad salesperson, billing dept, etc.  KDnuggets indeed has all this functions, but it is all me and my two cats.

Ajay- I am impressed by the fact KD nuggets is almost a dictionary or encyclopedia for data mining. But apart from advertising you have not been totally commercial- many features of your newsletter remain ad free – you still maintain a minimalistic look and do not take sponsership aligned with one big vendor. What is your vision for KD Nuggets for the years to come to keep it truly independent.

Gregory- My vision for KDnuggets is to be a comprehensive resource for data mining community, and I really enjoyed maintaining such resource for the first 7-8 years completely non-commercially. However, when I became self -employed, I could not do KDnuggets without any income, so I selectively introduced ads, and only those which are relevant to data mining.

I like to think of KDnuggets as a Craiglist for data mining community.

I certainly realize the importance of social media and Web 2.0 (and interested people can follow my tweets at  and plan to add more social features to KDnuggets.

Still, just like Wikipedia and Facebook do not make New York Times obsolete, I think there is room and need for an edited website, especially for such a nerdy and not very social group like data miners.

Ajay- What is the worst mistake/error in writing publishing that you did. What is the biggest triumph or high moment in the Nuggets history.

Gregory- My biggest mistake is probably in choosing the name kdnuggets – in retrospect,  I could have used a shorter and easier to spell domain name, but in 1997 I never expected that I will still be publishing 12 years later.

Ajay- Who are your favourite data mining students ( having known so many people). What qualities do you think set a data mining person apart from other sceinces.

Gregory- I was only an adjunct professor for a short time, so I did not really have data mining students, but I was privileged enough to know many current data mining leaders when they were students.  Among more recent students, I am very impressed with Jure Leskovec, who just finished his PhD and got the best KDD dissertation award.

Ajay- What does Gregory Piatetsky do for fun when he is not informing the world on analytics and knowledge discovery.

Gregory- I enjoy travelling with my family, and in the summer I like biking and windsurfing.
I also read a lot, and currently in the middle of reading Proust (which I periodically dilute by other, lighter books).

Ajay- What is your favourite reading blog and website ? Any India plans to visit.
– I visit many blogs on

and I like especially
– Matthew Hurst blog: Data Mining: Text Mining, Visualization, and Social Media
– Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik, examining web analytics.
– Juice Analytics, blogging about analytics and visualization
– Geeking with Greg, exploring the future of personalized information.

I also like your website and plan to visit it more frequently

I visited many countries, but not yet India – waiting for the right occasion !



Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro, Ph.D. is the President of KDnuggets, which provides research and consulting services in the areas of data mining, web mining, and business analytics. Gregory is considered to be one of the founders of the data mining and knowledge discovery field.Gregory edited or co-edited many collections on data mining and knowledge discovery, including two best-selling books: Knowledge Discovery in Databases (AAAI/MIT Press, 1991) and Advances in Knowledge Discovery in Databases (AAAI/MIT Press, 1996), and has over 60 publications in the areas of data mining, artificial intelligence and database research.

Gregory is the founder of Knowledge Discovery in Database (KDD) conference series. He organized and chaired the first three Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD) workshops in 1989, 1991, and 1993. He then served as the Chair of KDD Steering committee and guided the conversion of KDD workshops into leading international conferences on data mining. He also was the General Chair of the KDD-98 conference.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s