LASSO stands for Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator. It was first introduced 21 years ago by Robert Tibshirani (Regression shrinkage and selection via the lasso. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series B). In 2004 the four statistical masters: Efron, Hastie, Johnstone and Tibshirani joined together to write the paper Least angle regression published in the Annals of statistics. It is that paper that sent the LASSO to the podium. The reason? they removed a computational barrier. Armed with a new ingenious geometric interpretation, they presented an algorithm for solving the LASSO problem. The algorithm is as simple as solving an OLS problem, and with computer code to accompany their paper, the LASSO was set for its liftoff*.

The LASSO overall reduces model complexity. It does this by completely excluding some variables, using only a subset of the original potential explanatory variables. Since this can add to the story of the model, the reduction in complexity is a desired property. Clarity of authors’ exposition and well rehashed computer code are further reasons for the fully justified, full fledged LASSO flareup.

This is not a LASSO tutorial. Google-search results, undoubtedly refined over years of increased popularity, are clear enough by now. Also, if you are still reading this I imagine you already know what is the LASSO and how it works. To continue from this point, what follows is a selective list of milestones from the academic literature- some theoretical and practical extensions.


The annual useR! conference

This year on 4th of July I will be attending the annual usrR! conference. While it is often in the US, this year the UseR! conference takes place in the nearby Brussels. Sweet.

The website is state-of-the-art “don’t make me think” style. The program looks amazing. Belgian beers with the R community, exciting. Registration still open.

Watch this space for highlights and afterthoughts.

Density Estimation Using Regression

Density estimation using regression? Yes we can!

I like regression. It is one of those simple yet powerful statistical methods. You always know exactly what you are doing. This post is about density estimation, and how to get an estimate of the density using (Poisson) regression.


Computer Age Statistical Inference – now free

If you consider yourself Econometrician\Statistician or one of those numerous buzz word synonyms that are floating around these days, Computer Age Statistical Inference: Algorithms, Evidence and Data Science by Bradley Efron and Trevor Hastie is a book you can’t miss, and now nor should you. You can download the book for free.

My first inclination is to deliver an unequivocal recommendation. But in truth, my praises would probably fall short of what was already written.

So what can I give you? I can say that there are currently 6 amazon reviews, with a 4.5 average. One of the reviewers writes that there is some overlap with previous work. I agree. But it doesn’t matter. It reads so well, call it a refresher. Let’s face it, it is not as if you always have it so clear in your head such that you can afford to skip sections because you read something similar before.

I can also tell you why I think it is a special book.


Random Books

It seems like a very long while since my bachelor. Checking my bookshelf the other day I was thinking to flag some of those books which helped or inspired me along the way. Here they are in no particular order.


Statistical Shrinkage

Machine estimated reading time:

Shrinkage in statistics has increased in popularity over the decades. Now statistical shrinkage is commonplace, explicitly or implicitly.

But when is it that we need to make use of shrinkage? At least partly it depends on signal-to-noise ratio.


Understanding False Discovery Rate

False Discovery Rate is an unintuitive name for a very intuitive statistical concept. The math involved is as elegant as possible. Still, it is not an easy concept to actually understand. Hence i thought it would be a good idea to write this short tutorial.

We reviewed this important topic in the past, here as one of three Present-day great statistical discoveries, here in the context of backtesting trading strategies, and here in the context of scientific publishing. This post target the casual reader, explaining the concept of False Discovery Rate in plain words.


Understanding K-Means Clustering


Google “K-means clustering”, and you usually you find ugly explanations and math-heavy sensational formulas*. It is my opinion that you can only understand those explanations if you don’t need them; meaning you are already familiar with the topic. Therefore, this is a more gentle introduction to K-means clustering. Here you will find out what K-Means Clustering, an algorithm, actually does. You will get only the basics, but in this particular topic, the extensions are not wildely different.


R tips and tricks – the locator function

How many times have you placed the legend in R plot to discover it is being overrun by some points or lines in the chart? Usually what comes next is a trial-and-error phase where you adjust the location, changing the arguments of the x and y coordinates, and re-drawing the plot again to check if the legend or text are now positioned such that they are fully readable.


Outliers and Loss Functions

A few words about outliers

In statistics, outliers are as thorny topic as it gets. Is it legitimate to treat the observations seen during global financial crisis as outliers? or are those simply a feature of the system, and as such are integral part of a very fat tail distribution?


Density Confidence Interval

Density estimation belongs with the literature of non-parametric statistics. Using simple bootstrapping techniques we can obtain confidence intervals (CI) for the whole density curve. Here is a quick and easy way to obtain CI’s for different risk measures (VaR, expected shortfall) and using what follows, you can answer all kind of relevant questions.


Most popular posts – 2016

Another year. Looking at my google analytics reports I can’t help but wonder how is it that I am so bad in predicting which posts would catch audience attention. Anyhow, top three for 2016 are:

On the 60/40 portfolio mix
The case for Regime-Switching GARCH
Most popular machine learning R packages

And my personal favorites:
ASA statement on p-values
Why bad trading strategies may perform well? Mathematical explanation

It is also an opportunity to say thank you, and to wish you a happy and productive 2017.