Links for February 22, 2012

Elizabeth Gilbert on What the Porcupine Dilemma Can Teach Us About the Secret of Happiness [Maria Popova/Brain Pickings]. Elizabeth Gilbert on Schopenhauer’s porcupines. Staying warm without impaling yourself on someone else’s spines.

Target, Pregnancy, and Predictive Analytics, Part II [Dean Abbott/Data Mining and Predictive Analytics. The Target story was interesting for what it says about the possibilities and perils of analytics. This was my favorite writeup, for its overview of to succeed with data analysis:

1) understand the data,
2) understand why the models are focusing on particular input patterns,
3) ask lots of questions (why does the model like these fields best? why not these other fields?)
4) be forensic (now that's interesting or that's odd...I wonder...),
5) be prepared to iterate, (how can we predict better for those customers we don't characterize well)
6) be prepared to learn during the modeling process

We have to "notice" patterns in the data and connect them to behavior. This is one reason I like to build multiple models: different algorithms can find different kinds of patterns. Regression is a global predictor (one continuous equation for all data), whereas decision trees and kNN are local estimators.

You Are Responsible for Getting Your Ideas to Spread [Tim Kastelle/Innovation Leadership Network]. Don’t blame the customer if your idea isn’t compelling; that’s a failure of your idea or your communication of it.

Machine Learning for Hackers [Review from David Smith/Revolution Analytics blog]. Sounds like a book I need to order.

Rather than merely providing a “cookbook” approach to say, building a “who to follow” recommendation system for Twitter, it takes the time to explain the methodology behing the algorithms and give the reader a better basis for understanding why these methods work (and, equally importantly, how they can go wrong).

What’s new? Exuberance for novelty has benefits [John Tierney/The New York Times]. In a longitudinal study, people who combined novelty-seeking with persistence and “self-transcendence” showed the most success over the years (good health, lots of friends, few emotional problems, greatest satisfaction with life).

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