"machine" entries

Interface Languages and Feature Discovery

It's easier to "discover" features with tools that have broad coverage of the data science workflow

Here are a few more observations based on conversations I had during the just concluded Strata Santa Clara conference.

Interface languages: Python, R, SQL (and Scala)
This is a great time to be a data scientist or data engineer who relies on Python or R. For starters there are developer tools that simplify setup, package installation, and provide user interfaces designed to boost productivity (RStudio, Continuum, Enthought, Sense).

Increasingly, Python and R users can write the same code and run it against many different execution1 engines. Over time the interface languages will remain constant but the execution engines will evolve or even get replaced. Specifically there are now many tools that target Python and R users interested in implementations of algorithms that scale to large data sets (e.g., GraphLab, wise.io, Adatao, H20, Skytree, Revolution R). Interfaces for popular engines like Hadoop and Apache Spark are also available – PySpark users can access algorithms in MLlib, SparkR users can use existing R packages.

In addition many of these new frameworks go out of their way to ease the transition for Python and R users. wise.io “… bindings follow the Scikit-Learn conventions”, and as I noted in a recent post, with SFrames and Notebooks GraphLab, Inc. built components2 that are easy for Python users to learn.

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Improving options for unlocking your graph data

Graph data is an area that has attracted many enthusiastic entrepreneurs and developers

The popular open source project GraphLab received a major boost early this week when a new company comprised of its founding developers, raised funding to develop analytic tools for graph data sets. GraphLab Inc. will continue to use the open source GraphLab to “push the limits of graph computation and develop new ideas”, but having a commercial company will accelerate development, and allow the hiring of resources dedicated to improving usability and documentation.

While social media placed graph data on the radar of many companies, similar data sets can be found in many domains including the life and health sciences, security, and financial services. Graph data is different enough that it necessitates special tools and techniques. Because tools were a bit too complex for casual users, in the past this meant graph data analytics was the province of specialists. Fortunately graph data is an area that has attracted many enthusiastic entrepreneurs and developers. The tools have improved and I expect things to get much easier for users in the future. A great place to learn more about tools for graph data, is at the upcoming GraphLab Workshop (on July 1st in SF).

Data wrangling: creating graphs
Before you can take advantage of the other tools mentioned in this post, you’ll need to turn your data (e.g., web pages) into graphs. GraphBuilder is an open source project from Intel, that uses Hadoop MapReduce1 to build graphs out of large data sets. Another option is the combination of GraphX/Spark described below. (A startup called Trifacta is building a general-purpose, data wrangling tool, that could help as well. )

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