Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Apache Authors: Elizabeth White, AppDynamics Blog, Roger Strukhoff, Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez

Blog Feed Post

Book review: "Doing Data Science" by Rachel Schutt and Cathy O'Neil

by Joseph Rickert Every once in a while a single book comes to crystallize a new discipline. If books still have this power in the era of electronic media, "Doing Data Science, Straight Talk from the Frontline" by Rachel Schutt and Cathy O’Neil: O'Reilly, 2013 might just be the book that defines data science. "Doing Data Science", which is based on a course that Rachel taught at Columbia University and to which Cathy contributed, is ambitious and multidimensional. It presents data science in all of its messiness as an open-ended practice that is coalescing around an expanding class of problems; problems which are yielding to an interdisciplinary approach that includes ideas and techniques from statistics, computer science, machine learning, social science and other disciplines. The book is neither a statistics nor a machine learning text, but there are plenty of examples of statistical models and machine learning algorithms. There is enough R code in the text to get a beginner started on real problems with tools that are immediately useful. There is Python code, a bash shell script, mention of JSON and a down to earth discussion of Hadoop and MapReduce that many should find valuable. My favorite code example is the bash script (p 105) that fetches an Enron spam file and performs some basic word count calculations. Its almost casual insertion into the text, without fanfare and little explanation, provides a low key example of the kinds of baseline IT/ programmer skills that a newly minted statistician must acquire in order to work effectively as a data scientist. "Doing Data Science" is fairly well balanced in its fusion of the statistics and machine learning world views, but Rachel’s underlying bias as a PhD statistician comes through when it counts. The grounding in linear models and the inclusion of time series models establish the required inferential skills. The discussion of causality shows how statistical inference is essential to obtaining a deep understanding of how things really work, and the chapter on epidemiology provides a glimpse into just how deep and difficult are the problems that statisticians have been wrestling with for generations. (I found the inclusion of this chapter in a data science book to be a delightful surprise.) It is not only the selection of material, however, that betrays the book's statistical bias. When the authors take on the big questions their language indicates a statistical mindset. For example, in the discussion following "In what sense does data science deserve the word “science” in its name?" (p114) the authors write: “Every design choice you make can be formulated as an hypothesis, against which you will use rigorous testing and experimentation to validate or refute”. This is the language of a Neyman/Pearson trained statistician trying to pin down the truth. It stands in stark contrast with the machine learning viewpoint espoused in a quote by Kaggle’s Jeremy Howard who, when asked “Can you see any downside to the data-driven, black-box approach that dominates on Kaggle?”, replies: Some people take the view that you don’t end up with a richer understanding of the problem. But that’s just not true: The algorithms tell you what’s important and what’s not. You might ask why those things are important, but I think that’s less interesting. You end up with a predictive model that works. There is not too much to argue about there. So, whether you are doing science or not might just be in your intentions and point of view. Schutt and O’Neil do a marvelous job of exploring the tension between the quest for understanding and and the blunt success of just getting something that works. An unusual aspect of the book is its attempt to understand data science as a cultural phenomenon and to place the technology in a historical and social context. Most textbooks in mathematics, statistics and science make no mention of how things came to be. Their authors are just under too much pressure to get on with presenting the material to stop and and discuss “just what were those guys thinking?”. But Schutt and O’Neill take the time, and the book is richer for it. Mike Driscoll and Drew Conway, two practitioners who early on recognized that data science is something new, are quoted along with other contemporary data scientists who are shaping the discipline both through their work and how they talk about it. A great strength of the book is its collection of the real-world, big-league examples contributed by the guest lecturers to Rachel’s course.  Doug Perlson of Real Direct, Jake Hofman of Microsoft Research, Brian Dalessandro and Claudia Perlich both of Media6Degrees, Kyle Teague of GetGlue, William Cukierski of Kaggle, David Huffaker of Google, Matt Gattis of Hutch.com, Mark Hansen of Columbia University, Ian Wong of Square, John Kelley of Morningside Analytics and David Madigan, Chair of the Columbia’s Statistics Department, all bring thoughtful presentations of difficult problems with which they have struggled. The perspective and insight of these practicing data scientists and statisticians is invaluable. Claudia Perlich’s discussion of data leakage alone is probably worth the price of the book. A minor fault of the book is the occasional lapse into the hip vulgar. Someone being “pissed off” and talking about a model “that would totally suck” are probably innocuous enough phrases, but describing a vector as “huge ass” doesn’t really contribute to clarity. In a book that stresses communication, language counts. Nevertheless, "Doing Data Science" is a really “good read”. The authors have done a remarkable job of integrating class notes, their respective blogs, and the presentations of the guest speakers into a single, engaging voice that mostly speaks clearly to the reader. I think this book will appeal to a wide audience. Beginners asking the question “How do I get into data science?” will find the book to be a guide that will take them a long way. Accomplished data scientists will find a perspective on their profession that they should appreciate as being both provocative and valuable. "Doing Data Science" argues eloquently for a technology that respects humanist ideals and ethical considerations. We should all be asking "What problems should I be working on?", "Am I doing science or not?", and "What are the social and ethical implications of my work?". Finally, technical managers charged with assembling a data science team, and other interested outsiders, should find the book helpful in getting beyond the hype and and having a look at what it really takes to squeeze insight from data.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By David Smith

David Smith is Vice President of Marketing and Community at Revolution Analytics. He has a long history with the R and statistics communities. After graduating with a degree in Statistics from the University of Adelaide, South Australia, he spent four years researching statistical methodology at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, where he also developed a number of packages for the S-PLUS statistical modeling environment. He continued his association with S-PLUS at Insightful (now TIBCO Spotfire) overseeing the product management of S-PLUS and other statistical and data mining products.<

David smith is the co-author (with Bill Venables) of the popular tutorial manual, An Introduction to R, and one of the originating developers of the ESS: Emacs Speaks Statistics project. Today, he leads marketing for REvolution R, supports R communities worldwide, and is responsible for the Revolutions blog. Prior to joining Revolution Analytics, he served as vice president of product management at Zynchros, Inc. Follow him on twitter at @RevoDavid

@ThingsExpo Stories
The 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 17th International Cloud Expo - to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - announces that its Call for Papers is open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
The enterprise market will drive IoT device adoption over the next five years. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Greenough, an analyst at BI Intelligence, division of Business Insider, will analyze how companies will adopt IoT products and the associated cost of adopting those products. John Greenough is the lead analyst covering the Internet of Things for BI Intelligence- Business Insider’s paid research service. Numerous IoT companies have cited his analysis of the IoT. Prior to joining BI Intelligence, he worked analyzing bank technology for Corporate Insight and The Clearing House Pay...
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group, discussed how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, sensors, social, and ...
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BMC delivers software solutions that help IT transform digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive business advantage. BMC has worked with thousands of leading companies to create and deliver powerful IT management services. From mainframe to cloud to mobile, BMC pairs high-speed digital innovation with robust IT industrialization – allowing customers to provide amazing user experiences with optimized IT per...
The world is at a tipping point where the technology, the device and global adoption are converging to such a point that we will see an explosion of a world where smartphone devices not only allow us to talk to each other, but allow for communication between everything – serving as a central hub from which we control our world – MediaTek is at the heart of both driving this and allowing the markets to drive this reality forward themselves. The next wave of consumer gadgets is here – smart, connected, and small. If your ambitions are big, so are ours. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jack Hu, D...
The multi-trillion economic opportunity around the "Internet of Things" (IoT) is emerging as the hottest topic for investors in 2015. As we connect the physical world with information technology, data from actions, processes and the environment can increase sales, improve efficiencies, automate daily activities and minimize risk. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ed Maguire, Senior Analyst at CLSA Americas, will describe what is new and different about IoT, explore financial, technological and real-world impact across consumer and business use cases. Why now? Significant corporate and venture...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MetraTech, now part of Ericsson, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Ericsson is the driving force behind the Networked Society- a world leader in communications infrastructure, software and services. Some 40% of the world’s mobile traffic runs through networks Ericsson has supplied, serving more than 2.5 billion subscribers.
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will addresses this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
SYS-CON Events announced today that O'Reilly Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participa...
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, discussed how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.
There will be 150 billion connected devices by 2020. New digital businesses have already disrupted value chains across every industry. APIs are at the center of the digital business. You need to understand what assets you have that can be exposed digitally, what their digital value chain is, and how to create an effective business model around that value chain to compete in this economy. No enterprise can be complacent and not engage in the digital economy. Learn how to be the disruptor and not the disruptee.
2015 predictions circa 1970: houses anticipate our needs and adapt, city infrastructure is citizen and situation aware, office buildings identify and preprocess you. Today smart buildings have no such collective conscience, no shared set of fundamental services to identify, predict and synchronize around us. LiveSpace and M2Mi are changing that. LiveSpace Smart Environment devices deliver over the M2Mi IoT Platform real time presence, awareness and intent analytics as a service to local connected devices. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Sarah Cooper, VP Business of Development at M2Mi, will d...
Thanks to widespread Internet adoption and more than 10 billion connected devices around the world, companies became more excited than ever about the Internet of Things in 2014. Add in the hype around Google Glass and the Nest Thermostat, and nearly every business, including those from traditionally low-tech industries, wanted in. But despite the buzz, some very real business questions emerged – mainly, not if a device can be connected, or even when, but why? Why does connecting to the cloud create greater value for the user? Why do connected features improve the overall experience? And why do...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
Imagine a world where targeting, attribution, and analytics are just as intrinsic to the physical world as they currently are to display advertising. Advances in technologies and changes in consumer behavior have opened the door to a whole new category of personalized marketing experience based on direct interactions with products. The products themselves now have a voice. What will they say? Who will control it? And what does it take for brands to win in this new world? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Zack Bennett, Vice President of Customer Success at EVRYTHNG, will answer these questions a...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal an...
We’re entering a new era of computing technology that many are calling the Internet of Things (IoT). Machine to machine, machine to infrastructure, machine to environment, the Internet of Everything, the Internet of Intelligent Things, intelligent systems – call it what you want, but it’s happening, and its potential is huge. IoT is comprised of smart machines interacting and communicating with other machines, objects, environments and infrastructures. As a result, huge volumes of data are being generated, and that data is being processed into useful actions that can “command and control” thi...