Asking Good Questions

Recently, I was lucky enough to speak at the 7th International conference on Time Series and Forecasting (ITISE). The conference itself had excellent collection of talks with a applications in completely different fields. Energy, neuroscience and, how can we not, a great deal of COVID19-related forecasting papers. It was a mix of online and in-person presentations, and with a slew of technical hiccups consuming a lot of valuable minutes time was of the essence. Very few minutes, if any, for questions. I attended my first conference well over a decade ago, and my strong feeling is that things have not changed much since. There is simply not enough training when it comes to the way slides should (and should not) look like, how to deliver a 20 minutes talk about a paper which took a year to draft, and indeed, which questions are good and which are just expensive folly.

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R tips and tricks – shell.exec

When you startup your machine, the first thing you do is to open the various programs you work with. Examples: your note-taking program, the pdf file that you need to read, the ppt file you were last working on, and of course your strongest link with the outside world nowadays; your email box. This post shows how to automate this process. Windows machines notoriously need restarting for every little (un)install. I trust you will find this startup automation advice handy.

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R tips and tricks – Timing and profiling code

Modern statistical methods use simulations; generating different scenarios and repeating those thousands of times over. Therefore, even trivial operations burden computational speed.

In the words of my favorite statistician Bradley Efron:

“There is some sort of law working here, whereby statistical methodology always expands to strain the current limits of computation.”

In addition to the need for faster computation, the richness of open-source ecosystem means that you often encounter different functions doing the same thing, sometimes even under the same name. This post explains how to measure the computational efficacy of a function so you know which one to use, with a couple of actual examples for reducing computational time.

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R + Python = Rython

Enough! Enough with that pointless R versus Python debate. I find it almost as pointless as the Bayesian vs Frequentist “dispute”. I advocate here what I advocated there (“..don’t be a Bayesian, nor be a Frequenist, be opportunist“).

Nowadays even marginally tedious computation is being sent to faster, minimum-overhead languages like C++. So it’s mainly syntax administration we insist to insist on. What does it matter if we have this:

Or that

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R tips and tricks, on-screen colors

I like using Rlogo for many reasons. Two of those are (1) easy integration with almost whichever software you can think of, and (2) for its graphical powers. Color-wise, I dare to assume you probably plotted, re-specified your colors, plotted again, and iterated until you found what works for your specific chart. Here you can find modern visualization so you are able to quickly find the colors you look for, and to quickly see how it looks on screen. See below for quick demo.

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The Distribution of the Sample Maximum

Where I work we are now hiring. We took few time-consuming actions to make sure we have a large pool of candidates to choose from. But what is the value in having a large pool of candidates? Intuitively, the more candidates you have the better the chance that you will end up with a strong prospective candidate in terms of experience, talent and skill set (call this one candidate “the maximum”). But what are we talking about? is this meaningful? If there is a big difference between 10 candidates versus 1500 candidates, but very little difference between 10 candidates versus 80 candidates it means that our publicity and screening efforts are not very fruitful\efficient. Perhaps it would be better running quickly over a small pool, few dozens candidates, and choose the best fit. Below I try to cast this question in terms of the distribution of the sample maximum (think: how much better is the best candidate as the number of candidates grow).

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Visualizing Time series Data

This post has two goals. I hope to make you think about your graphics, and think about the future of data-visualization. An example is given using some simulated time series data. A very quick read.

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Kaggle Experience

At least in part, a typical data-scientist is busy with forecasting and prediction. Kaggle is a platform which hosts a slew of competitions. Those who have the time, energy and know-how to combat real-life problems, are huddling together to test their talent. I highly recommend this experience. A side effect of tackling actual problems (rather than those which appear in textbooks), is that most of the time you are not at all enjoying new wonderful insights or exploring fascinating unfamiliar, ground-breaking algos. Rather, you are handling\wrangling\manipulating data, which is.. ugly and boring, but necessary and useful.

I tried my powers few years ago, and again about 6 months ago in one of those competitions called Toxic Comment Classification Challenge. Here are my thoughts on that short experience and some insight from scraping the results of that competition.

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R tips and tricks – the assign() function

The R language has some quirks compared to other languages. One thing which you need to constantly watch for when moving to- or from R, is that R starts its indexing at one, while almost all other languages start indexing at zero, which takes some getting used to. Another quirk is the explicit need for clarity when modifying a variable, compared with other languages.

Take python for example, but I think it looks the same in most common languages:

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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.

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.

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