Tag Archives: statistics

OpenIntro (Free online Stats Book) is getting a new version. The updates sound good. If you are looking to learn statistics, this is an excellent and cost effective solution.

Get Started With Kaggle – Description

Yesterday, I posted about the popularity of data hackathons. Well, today let’s get started with Kaggle. This is the first of a few simple posts about making your first submission to a Kaggle competition. I also promise you won’t be last place. You won’t be first either. This is an excellent way to start developing your data science skills.

The Problem

The Biological response competition seems to be a good starting point. The data is fairly straight forward. The data consists of rows and columns. Each row represents a molecule. The first column represents a biological response, and the remaining 1776 columns are features of the molecule (technically, calculated molecular descriptors). Unfortunately, the data does not specifically state what each column represents. Thus, domain knowledge of biology is not really helpful.

The Data

For this problem, Kaggle provides 2 sets of data. The first file is a training set. It includes data with responses and features. Obviously it is used for training your algorithm. The actual responses are either the value 0 or the value 1. The second file is very similar except it does not contain the responses. It is called the test file.

How To Submit A Solution

Your goal as a participant is to run your algorithm against the test file and predict the response. Each predicted response should be a value between 0 and 1. After your algorithm runs it should produce an output file with the predicted response for each row on a separate line. Your submission file is just a single column.

The Ranking

To submit a solution, you just upload your submission file. Kaggle then compares your predicted responses with the actual responses for the test set. Kaggle knows those values, but they do not share them with participants. The comparison method used for this competition is called Log Loss. For a description of Log Loss, see the Kaggle Wiki Page about scoring metrics. The goal of this competition is to get the lowest score.
Note: only 2 submissions are allowed per day.

You Can Do It

That is my brief description of a Kaggle Competition. It doesn’t sound too hard does it? Tomorrow, we can step through making our first submission. Go register for an account, so you are ready to submit a solution tomorrow. Be careful, once you start Kaggling (I think I just invented that word), you might not want to stop.

A Data Science Curriculum

This is not intended to be mapped to a set of college courses. It is intended to be a listing of necessary skills for a data scientist. For a definition of data scientist, see this previous post.


  • Calculus – not directly important to data science, but the knowledge is important to understand the statistics and machine learning
  • Matrix Operations


  • Regression – Linear and Logistic
  • Bayesian Statistics


  • Hadoop
  • R – stats
  • Octave – machine learning


  • Basic Programming – Java, C/C++, and Python seem to be good language choices
  • Machine Learning
  • Database Knowledge – not limited to just relational databases


  • Data Visualization – how to make data look good: maps, graphs, etc
  • Presentation – story telling, be comfortable explaining data to others
  • Writing

Do you have anything to add/remove from the list?

Open Source Online Statistics Book (OpenIntro)

OpenIntro is an organisation that was started to create a free and open source introductory statistics textbook.  The book is available as a free PDF download, or it can be purchased in paperback from Amazon for less than $10.  If you want to learn statistics or need a little refresher, check it out.

Think Stats – An Online Statistics Book For Programmers

Previously I mentioned that online statistics learning resources are not abundant.

Well, here is a new online book for learning statistics. It is geared towards programmers, and it looks to be a great fit for people wanting to learn data science.  Here is a small excerpt from the Preface:

It emphasizes the use of statistics to explore large datasets.

I have only had time to quickly browse the book, but it looks quite good.

Think Stats: Probability and Statistics for Programmers

(The book has a Creative Commons license, so it is free and OK to download)

Kaggle Makes Data Science Fun

The tag line for Kaggle is “We’re making data science a sport.”  They have successfully created a way to turn data science into a competition.  It is both fun, and it yields excellent results.  There is also a portion of the site dedicated for classroom use.  It is called Kaggle in Class.

Here is how it works.  A company that needs some data analyzed can contact Kaggle and host a competition.  Then data scientists all over the world can compete to find the best solution. The company benefits from having many algorithms and techniques applied to the same data set.  Many more algorithms are applied than what the company could run without Kaggle.  The contestants benefit from networking, pre-cleaned data, and learning from others.  It is a win/win situation. Plus, the winner gets prize money.

Currently, the large featured competition is the Heritage Health Prize. It is a $3,000,000 competition to identify individuals that will be admitted to the hospital in the next year.  The contest lasts until April 2013.

This is definitely a site I want to be involved with in the future.  I just wish they could make it a spectator sport as well.

Learning Statistics for Data Science

Statistics – This is a topic that could use some more attention from the online community.
I would love to see Stanford (or Coursera) offer a free statistics course online much like the other free courses online.

I did find a series of Youtube videos by Daniel Judge, a Professor in the East Los Angeles College Mathematics Department. The videos start at the very beginning of statistics. I have watched a couple of the videos, and they seem quite good. Daniel does a nice job of explaining the information. Here is the first video in the series.

Stay tuned to the blog in case other stats options appear online. Also, please leave a comment if you know of some good online statistics resources.