Welcome!

Apache Authors: William Schmarzo, Christopher Harrold, Elizabeth White, Talend Inc., Adrian Bridgwater

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
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobile software company with over 200 develope...
SoftLayer operates a global cloud infrastructure platform built for Internet scale. With a global footprint of data centers and network points of presence, SoftLayer provides infrastructure as a service to leading-edge customers ranging from Web startups to global enterprises. SoftLayer's modular architecture, full-featured API, and sophisticated automation provide unparalleled performance and control. Its flexible unified platform seamlessly spans physical and virtual devices linked via a world...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
As cloud and storage projections continue to rise, the number of organizations moving to the cloud is escalating and it is clear cloud storage is here to stay. However, is it secure? Data is the lifeblood for government entities, countries, cloud service providers and enterprises alike and losing or exposing that data can have disastrous results. There are new concepts for data storage on the horizon that will deliver secure solutions for storing and moving sensitive data around the world. ...
SYS-CON Events announced today TechTarget has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TechTarget is the Web’s leading destination for serious technology buyers researching and making enterprise technology decisions. Its extensive global networ...
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device. For more information, please visit https://www.mangoapps.com/.
The essence of data analysis involves setting up data pipelines that consist of several operations that are chained together – starting from data collection, data quality checks, data integration, data analysis and data visualization (including the setting up of interaction paths in that visualization). In our opinion, the challenges stem from the technology diversity at each stage of the data pipeline as well as the lack of process around the analysis.
Designing IoT applications is complex, but deploying them in a scalable fashion is even more complex. A scalable, API first IaaS cloud is a good start, but in order to understand the various components specific to deploying IoT applications, one needs to understand the architecture of these applications and figure out how to scale these components independently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nara Rajagopalan is CEO of Accelerite, will discuss the fundamental architecture of IoT applications, ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Tintri Inc., a leading producer of VM-aware storage (VAS) for virtualization and cloud environments, will exhibit at the 18th International CloudExpo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects). Bruce Swann has more than 15 years of experience working with digital marketing disciplines like web analytics, social med...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
SYS-CON Events announced today that EastBanc Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. EastBanc Technologies has been working at the frontier of technology since 1999. Today, the firm provides full-lifecycle software development delivering flexible technology solutions that seamlessly integrate with existing systems – whether on premise or cloud. EastBanc Technologies partners with p...
SYS-CON Events announced today BZ Media LLC has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. BZ Media LLC is a high-tech media company that produces technical conferences and expositions, and publishes a magazine, newsletters and websites in the software development, SharePoint, mobile development and Commercial Drone markets.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ContentMX, the marketing technology and services company with a singular mission to increase engagement and drive more conversations for enterprise, channel and SMB technology marketers, has been named “Sponsor & Exhibitor Lounge Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. “CloudExpo is a great opportunity to start a conversation with new prospects, but what happens after the...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, will discuss the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to fo...
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discuss how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. We'll cite examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He'll also highlight how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable...
IoT generates lots of temporal data. But how do you unlock its value? How do you coordinate the diverse moving parts that must come together when developing your IoT product? What are the key challenges addressed by Data as a Service? How does cloud computing underlie and connect the notions of Digital and DevOps What is the impact of the API economy? What is the business imperative for Cognitive Computing? Get all these questions and hundreds more like them answered at the 18th Cloud Expo...