Software Review- BigML.com – Machine Learning meets the Cloud

I had a chance to dekko the new startup BigML https://bigml.com/ and was suitably impressed by the briefing and my own puttering around the site. Here is my review-

1) The website is very intutively designed- You can create a dataset from an uploaded file in one click and you can create a Decision Tree model in one click as well. I wish other cloud computing websites like  Google Prediction API make design so intutive and easy to understand. Also unlike Google Prediction API, the models are not black box models, but have a description which can be understood.

2) It includes some well known data sources for people trying it out. They were kind enough to offer 5 invite codes for readers of Decisionstats ( if you want to check it yourself, use the codes below the post, note they are one time only , so the first five get the invites.

BigML is still invite only but plan to get into open release soon.

3) Data Sources can only be by uploading files (csv) but they plan to change this hopefully to get data from buckets (s3? or Google?) and from URLs.

4) The one click operation to convert data source into a dataset shows a histogram (distribution) of individual variables.The back end is clojure , because the team explained it made the easiest sense and fit with Java. The good news (?) is you would never see the clojure code at the back end. You can read about it from http://clojure.org/

As cloud computing takes off (someday) I expect clojure popularity to take off as well.

Clojure is a dynamic programming language that targets the Java Virtual Machine (and the CLR, and JavaScript). It is designed to be a general-purpose language, combining the approachability and interactive development of a scripting language with an efficient and robust infrastructure for multithreaded programming. Clojure is a compiled language – it compiles directly to JVM bytecode, yet remains completely dynamic. Every feature supported by Clojure is supported at runtime. Clojure provides easy access to the Java frameworks, with optional type hints and type inference, to ensure that calls to Java can avoid reflection.

Clojure is a dialect of Lisp

 

5) As of now decision trees is the only distributed algol, but they expect to roll out other machine learning stuff soon. Hopefully this includes regression (as logit and linear) and k means clustering. The trees are created and pruned in real time which gives a slightly animated (and impressive effect). and yes model building is an one click operation.

The real time -live pruning is really impressive and I wonder why /how it can ever be replicated in other software based on desktop, because of the sheer interactive nature.

 

Making the model is just half the work. Creating predictions and scoring the model is what is really the money-earner. It is one click and customization is quite intuitive. It is not quite PMML compliant yet so I hope some Zemanta like functionality can be added so huge amounts of models can be applied to predictions or score data in real time.

 

If you are a developer/data hacker, you should check out this section too- it is quite impressive that the designers of BigML have planned for API access so early.

https://bigml.com/developers

BigML.io gives you:

  • Secure programmatic access to all your BigML resources.
  • Fully white-box access to your datasets and models.
  • Asynchronous creation of datasets and models.
  • Near real-time predictions.

 

Note: For your convenience, some of the snippets below include your real username and API key.

Please keep them secret.

REST API

BigML.io conforms to the design principles of Representational State Transfer (REST)BigML.io is enterely HTTP-based.

BigML.io gives you access to four basic resources: SourceDatasetModel and Prediction. You cancreatereadupdate, and delete resources using the respective standard HTTP methods: POSTGET,PUT and DELETE.

All communication with BigML.io is JSON formatted except for source creation. Source creation is handled with a HTTP PUT using the “multipart/form-data” content-type

HTTPS

All access to BigML.io must be performed over HTTPS

and https://bigml.com/developers/quick_start ( In think an R package which uses JSON ,RCurl  would further help in enhancing ease of usage).

 

Summary-

Overall a welcome addition to make software in the real of cloud computing and statistical computation/business analytics both easy to use and easy to deploy with fail safe mechanisms built in.

Check out https://bigml.com/ for yourself to see.

The invite codes are here -one time use only- first five get the invites- so click and try your luck, machine learning on the cloud.

If you dont get an invite (or it is already used, just leave your email there and wait a couple of days to get approval)

  1. https://bigml.com/accounts/register/?code=E1FE7
  2. https://bigml.com/accounts/register/?code=09991
  3. https://bigml.com/accounts/register/?code=5367D
  4. https://bigml.com/accounts/register/?code=76EEF
  5. https://bigml.com/accounts/register/?code=742FD

New Plotters in Rapid Miner 5.2

I almost missed this because of my vacation and traveling

Rapid Miner has a tonne of new stuff (Statuary Ethics Declaration- Rapid Miner has been an advertising partner for Decisionstats – see the right margin)

see

http://rapid-i.com/component/option,com_myblog/Itemid,172/lang,en/

Great New Graphical Plotters

and some flashy work

and a great series of educational lectures

A Simple Explanation of Decision Tree Modeling based on Entropies

Link: http://www.simafore.com/blog/bid/94454/A-simple-explanation-of-how-entropy-fuels-a-decision-tree-model

Description of some of the basics of decision trees. Simple and hardly any math, I like the plots explaining the basic idea of the entropy as splitting criterion (although we actually calculate gain ratio differently than explained…)

Logistic Regression for Business Analytics using RapidMiner

Link: http://www.simafore.com/blog/bid/57924/Logistic-regression-for-business-analytics-using-RapidMiner-Part-2

Same as above, but this time for modeling with logistic regression.
Easy to read and covering all basic ideas together with some examples. If you are not familiar with the topic yet, part 1 (see below) might help.

Part 1 (Basics): http://www.simafore.com/blog/bid/57801/Logistic-regression-for-business-analytics-using-RapidMiner-Part-1

Deploy Model: http://www.simafore.com/blog/bid/82024/How-to-deploy-a-logistic-regression-model-using-RapidMiner

Advanced Information: http://www.simafore.com/blog/bid/99443/Understand-3-critical-steps-in-developing-logistic-regression-models

and lastly a new research project for collaborative data mining

http://www.e-lico.eu/

e-LICO Architecture and Components

The goal of the e-LICO project is to build a virtual laboratory for interdisciplinary collaborative research in data mining and data-intensive sciences. The proposed e-lab will comprise three layers: the e-science and data mining layers will form a generic research environment that can be adapted to different scientific domains by customizing the application layer.

  1. Drag a data set into one of the slots. It will be automatically detected as training data, test data or apply data, depending on whether it has a label or not.
  2. Select a goal. The most frequent one is probably “Predictive Modelling”. All goals have comments, so you see what they can be used for.
  3. Select “Fetch plans” and wait a bit to get a list of processes that solve your problem. Once the planning completes, select one of the processes (you can see a preview at the right) and run it. Alternatively, select multiple (selecting none means selecting all) and evaluate them on your data in a batch.

The assistant strives to generate processes that are compatible with your data. To do so, it performs a lot of clever operations, e.g., it automatically replaces missing values if missing values exist and this is required by the learning algorithm or performs a normalization when using a distance-based learner.

You can install the extension directly by using the Rapid-I Marketplace instead of the old update server. Just go to the preferences and enter http://rapidupdate.de:8180/UpdateServer as the update URL

Of course Rapid Miner has been of the most professional open source analytics company and they have been doing it for a long time now. I am particularly impressed by the product map (see below) and the graphical user interface.

http://rapid-i.com/content/view/186/191/lang,en/

Product Map

Just click on the products in the overview below in order to get more information about Rapid-I products.

 

Rapid-I Product Overview 

 

Interview Eberhard Miethke and Dr. Mamdouh Refaat, Angoss Software

Here is an interview with Eberhard Miethke and Dr. Mamdouh Refaat, of Angoss Software. Angoss is a global leader in delivering business intelligence software and predictive analytics solutions that help businesses capitalize on their data by uncovering new opportunities to increase sales and profitability and to reduce risk.

Ajay-  Describe your personal journey in software. How can we guide young students to pursue more useful software development than just gaming applications.

 Mamdouh- I started using computers long time ago when they were programmed using punched cards! First in Fortran, then C, later C++, and then the rest. Computers and software were viewed as technical/engineering tools, and that’s why we can still see the heavy technical orientation of command languages such as Unix shells and even in the windows Command shell. However, with the introduction of database systems and Microsoft office apps, it was clear that business will be the primary user and field of application for software. My personal trip in software started with scientific applications, then business and database systems, and finally statistical software – which you can think of it as returning to the more scientific orientation. However, with the wide acceptance of businesses of the application of statistical methods in different fields such as marketing and risk management, it is a fast growing field that in need of a lot of innovation.

Ajay – Angoss makes multiple data mining and analytics products. could you please introduce us to your product portfolio and what specific data analytics need they serve.

a- Attached please find our main product flyers for KnowledgeSTUDIO and KnowledgeSEEKER. We have a 3rd product called “strategy builder” which is an add-on to the decision tree modules. This is also described in the flyer.

(see- Angoss Knowledge Studio Product Guide April2011  and http://www.scribd.com/doc/63176430/Angoss-Knowledge-Seeker-Product-Guide-April2011  )

Ajay-  The trend in analytics is for big data and cloud computing- with hadoop enabling processing of massive data sets on scalable infrastructure. What are your plans for cloud computing, tablet based as well as mobile based computing.

a- This is an area where the plan is still being figured out in all organizations. The current explosion of data collected from mobile phones, text messages, and social websites will need radically new applications that can utilize the data from these sources. Current applications are based on the relational database paradigm designed in the 70’s through the 90’s of the 20th century.

But data sources are generating data in volumes and formats that are challenging this paradigm and will need a set of new tools and possibly programming languages to fit these needs. The cloud computing, tablet based and mobile computing (which are the same thing in my opinion, just different sizes of the device) are also two technologies that have not been explored in analytics yet.

The approach taken so far by most companies, including Angoss, is to rely on new xml-based standards to represent data structures for the particular models. In this case, it is the PMML (predictive modelling mark-up language) standard, in order to allow the interoperability between analytics applications. Standardizing on the representation of models is viewed as the first step in order to allow the implementation of these models to emerging platforms, being that the cloud or mobile, or social networking websites.

The second challenge cited above is the rapidly increasing size of the data to be analyzed. Angoss has already identified this challenge early on and is currently offering in-database analytics drivers for several database engines: Netezza, Teradata and SQL Server.

These drivers allow our analytics products to translate their routines into efficient SQL-based scripts that run in the database engine to exploit its performance as well as the powerful hardware on which it runs. Thus, instead of copying the data to a staging format for analytics, these drivers allow the data to be analyzed “in-place” within the database without moving it.

Thus offering performance, security and integrity. The performance is improved because of the use of the well tuned database engines running on powerful hardware.

Extra security is achieved by not copying the data to other platforms, which could be less secure. And finally, the integrity of the results are vastly improved by making sure that the results are always obtained by analyzing the up-to-date data residing in the database rather than an older copy of the data which could be obsolete by the time the analysis is concluded.

Ajay- What are the principal competing products to your offerings, and what makes your products special or differentiated in value to them (for each customer segment).

a- There are two major players in today’s market that we usually encounter as competitors, they are: SAS and IBM.

SAS offers a data mining workbench in the form of SAS Enterprise Miner, which is closely tied to SAS data mining methodology known as SEMMA.

On the other hand, IBM has recently acquired SPSS, which offered its Clementine data mining software. IBM has now rebranded Clementine as IBM SPSS Modeller.

In comparison to these products, our KnowledgeSTUDIO and KnowledgeSEEKER offer three main advantages: ease of use; affordability; and ease of integration into existing BI environments.

Angoss products were designed to look-and-feel-like popular Microsoft office applications. This makes the learning curve indeed very steep. Typically, an intermediate level analyst needs only 2-3 days of training to become proficient in the use of the software with all its advanced features.

Another important feature of Angoss software products is their integration with SAS/base product, and SQL-based database engines. All predictive models generated by Angoss can be automatically translated to SAS and SQL scripts. This allows the generation of scoring code for these common platforms. While the software interface simplifies all the tasks to allow business users to take advantage of the value added by predictive models, the software includes advanced options to allow experienced statisticians to fine-tune their models by adjusting all model parameters as needed.

In addition, Angoss offers a unique product called StrategyBuilder, which allows the analyst to add key performance indicators (KPI’s) to predictive models. KPI’s such as profitability, market share, and loyalty are usually required to be calculated in conjunction with any sales and marketing campaign. Therefore, StrategyBuilder was designed to integrate such KPI’s with the results of a predictive model in order to render the appropriate treatment for each customer segment. These results are all integrated into a deployment strategy that can also be translated into an execution code in SQL or SAS.

The above competitive features offered by the software products of Angoss is behind its success in serving over 4000 users from over 500 clients worldwide.

Ajay -Describe a major case study where using Angoss software helped save a big amount of revenue/costs by innovative data mining.

a-Rogers Telecommunications Inc. is one of the largest Canadian telecommunications providers, serving over 8.5 million customers and a revenue of 11.1 Billion Canadian Dollars (2009). In 2008, Rogers engaged Angoss in order to help with the problem of ballooning accounts receivable for a period of 18 months.

The problem was approached by improving the efficiency of the call centre serving the collections process by a set of predictive models. The first set of models were designed to find accounts likely to default ahead of time in order to take preventative measures. A second set of models were designed to optimize the call centre resources to focus on delinquent accounts likely to pay back most of the outstanding balance. Accounts that were identified as not likely to pack quickly were good candidates for “Early-out” treatment, by forwarding them directly to collection agencies. Angoss hosted Rogers’ data and provided on a regular interval the lists of accounts for each treatment to be deployed by the call centre dialler. As a result of this Rogers estimated an improvement of 10% of the collected sums.

Biography-

Mamdouh has been active in consulting, research, and training in various areas of information technology and software development for the last 20 years. He has worked on numerous projects with major organizations in North America and Europe in the areas of data mining, business analytics, business analysis, and engineering analysis. He has held several consulting positions for solution providers including Predict AG in Basel, Switzerland, and as ANGOSS Corp. Mamdouh is the Director of Professional services for EMEA region of ANGOSS Software. Mamdouh received his PhD in engineering from the University of Toronto and his MBA from the University of Leeds, UK.

Mamdouh is the author of:

"Credit Risk Scorecards: Development and Implmentation using SAS"
 "Data Preparation for Data Mining Using SAS",
 (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Data Management Systems) (Paperback)
 and co-author of
 "Data Mining: Know it all",Morgan Kaufmann



Eberhard Miethke  works as a senior sales executive for Angoss

 

About Angoss-

Angoss is a global leader in delivering business intelligence software and predictive analytics to businesses looking to improve performance across sales, marketing and risk. With a suite of desktop, client-server and in-database software products and Software-as-a-Service solutions, Angoss delivers powerful approaches to turn information into actionable business decisions and competitive advantage.

Angoss software products and solutions are user-friendly and agile, making predictive analytics accessible and easy to use.

I need more data to make a decision

Paper money, extreme macro
Image by kevindooley via Flickr

I need more data

To take a decision

Keep your panties on

We need more precision

It is the owners money

That pays for your bills

You can go elsewhere

If you want primal egoistic thrills

 

People are precious

Money comes and goes

The Older you get

The lesser greed shows

 

Is this too much information

To overload your comprehension

Analysis led to paralysis

But time wont wait for your permission

 

We need better models

We need them now

The cost of delayed decisions

can hurt us and how

 

We will pay thousands

of dollars in annual fees

To earn or save millions of dollars

Now, If you please

 

Still here, but slightly offended

By coming straight to the truth

Every body swings and misses

From Barry Bonds to Babe Ruth

 

Data is all around you

and so is all the money

You keep ignoring decision management

and you will lose your shirt, honey.

 

Interview- Top Data Mining Blogger on Earth , Sandro Saitta

Surajustement Modèle 2
Image via Wikipedia

If you do a Google search for Data Mining Blog- for the past several years one Blog will come on top. data mining blog – Google Search http://bit.ly/kEdPlE

To honor 5 years of Sandro Saitta’s blog (yes thats 5 years!) , we cover an exclusive interview with him where he reveals his unique sauce for cool techie blogging.

Ajay- Describe your journey as a scientist and data miner, from early experiences, to schooling to your work/research/blogging.

Sandro- My first experience with data mining was my master project. I used decision tree to predict pollen concentration for the following week using input data such as wind, temperature and rain. The fact that an algorithm can make a computer learn from experience was really amazing to me. I found it so interesting that I started a PhD in data mining. This time, the field of application was civil engineering. Civil engineers put a lot of sensors on their structure in order to understand how they behave. With all these sensors they generate a lot of data. To interpret these data, I used data mining techniques such as feature selection and clustering. I started my blog, Data Mining Research, during my PhD, to share with other researchers.

I then started applying data mining in the stock market as my first job in industry. I realized the difference between image recognition, where 99% correct classification rate is state of the art, and stock market, where you’re happy with 55%. However, the company ambiance was not as good as I thought, so I moved to consulting. There, I applied data mining in behavioral targeting to increase click-through rates. When you compare the number of customers who click with the ones who don’t, then you really understand what class imbalance mean. A few months ago, I accepted a very good opportunity at SICPA. I’m looking forward to resolving new challenges there.

Ajay- Your blog is the top ranked blog for “data mining blog”. Could you share some tips on better blogging for analytics and technical people

Sandro- It’s always difficult to start a blog, since at the beginning you have no reader. Writing for nobody may seem stupid, but it is not. By writing my first posts during my PhD I was reorganizing my ideas. I was expressing concepts which were not always clear to me. I thus learned a lot and also improved my English level. Of course, it’s still not perfect, but I hope most people can understand me.

Next come the readers. A few dozen each week first. To increase this number, I then started to learn SEO (Search Engine Optimization) by reading books and blogs. I tested many techniques that increased Data Mining Research visibility in the blogosphere. I think SEO is interesting when you already have some content published (which means not at the very beginning of your blog). After a while, once your blog is nicely ranked, the main task is to work on the content of the blog. To be of interest, your content must be particular: original, informative or provocative for example. I also had the chance to have a good visibility thanks to well-known people in the field like Kevin Hillstrom, Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro, Will Dwinnell / Dean Abbott, Vincent Granville, Matthew Hurst and many others.

Ajay- Whats your favorite statistical software and what are the various softwares that you have worked with.
Could you compare and contrast these software as well.

Sandro- My favorite software at this point is SAS. I worked with it for two years. Once you know the language, you can perform ETL and data mining so easily. It’s also very fast compared to others. There are a lot of tools for data mining, but I cannot think of a tool that is as powerful as SAS and, in the same time, has a high-level programming language behind it.

I also worked with R and Matlab. R is very nice since you have all the up-to-date data mining algorithms implemented. However, working in the memory is not always a good choice, especially for ETL. Matlab is an excellent tool for prototyping. It’s not so fast and certainly not done for ETL, but the price is low regarding all the possibilities for data mining. According to me, SAS is the best choice for ETL and a good choice for data mining. Of course, there is the price.

Ajay- What are your favorite techniques and training resources for learning basics of data mining to say statisticians or business management graduates.

Sandro- I’m the kind of guy who likes to read books. I read data mining books one after the other. The fact that the same concepts are explained differently (and by different people) helps a lot in learning a topic like data mining. Of course, nothing replaces experience in the field. You can read hundreds of books, you will still not be a good practitioner until you really apply data mining in specific fields. My second choice after books is blogs. By reading data mining blogs, you will really see the issues and challenges in the field. It’s still not experience, but we are closer. Finally, web resources and networks such as KDnuggets of course, but also AnalyticBridge and LinkedIn.

Ajay- Describe your hobbies and how they help you ,if at all in your professional life.

Sandro- One of my hobbies is reading. I read a lot of books about data mining, SEO, Google as well as Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I’m a big fan of Asimov by the way. My other hobby is playing tennis. I think I simply use my hobbies as a way to find equilibrium in my life. I always try to find the best balance between work, family, friends and sport.

Ajay- What are your plans for your website for 2011-2012.

Sandro- I will continue to publish guest posts and interviews. I think it is important to let other people express themselves about data mining topics. I will not write about my current applications due to the policies of my current employer. But don’t worry, I still have a lot to write, whether it is technical or not. I will also emphasis more on my experience with data mining, advices for data miners, tips and tricks, and of course book reviews!

Standard Disclosure of Blogging- Sandro awarded me the Peoples Choice award for his blog for 2010 and carried out my interview. There is a lot of love between our respective wordpress blogs, but to reassure our puritan American readers- it is platonic and intellectual.

About Sandro S-



Sandro Saitta is a Data Mining Research Engineer at SICPA Security Solutions. He is also a blogger at Data Mining Research (www.dataminingblog.com). His interests include data mining, machine learning, search engine optimization and website marketing.

You can contact Mr Saitta at his Twitter address- 

https://twitter.com/#!/dataminingblog