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From the Author:
“WHERE WE ARE GOING WITH THIS BOOK
“Is this book any different from other books about Python and machine learning?”—there are quite a few out there by now. I believe so! When the publisher asked me for the first time, I politely declined the offer since there were already a couple of books out there that cover these topics. Well, after I declined, I reconsidered after I got the chance to read through some of those. I don’t want to say that other books are better or worse, however, what I’ve seen was a little bit different from what I’d have in mind for a machine learning book with practical Python examples.

There are great books out there that focus on the machine learning theory. Some of my favorite books among them are C. Bishop’s Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning and Pattern Classification by Duda, Hart, and Stork. These books are great, really great. I think there is no need to write something similar. However, although they are considered as “intro” books, they can be pretty hard on beginners in this field. Although I would really recommend them to everyone who is serious about machine learning, I would rather tend to recommend it as part of the “further reading” section rather than a first machine learning book. Anyway, I think that implementing and tinkering with machine learning algorithms along with reading the theory is probably the way to get the best bang for your buck (=time) in this field.

Then, there are books that very practical and read like a * documentation (* insert scikit-learn, Vowpal Wabbit, caret or any other ML library/API here). I think that these are good books too, but I also think that detailed discussions about libraries should be left to the (online) library documentation itself where it can be kept up to date and serve as a reliable, interactive reference.

My goals for a book were the three essentials building blocks: (1) explaining the big picture concepts (2) augmenting these with the necessary math intuition, and (3) providing examples and applications. The big picture helps us to connect all the different pieces, and the math is required to understand what is going on under the hood and helps us to outmaneuver the common pitfalls. The practical examples definitely help benefit the learning experience. Lastly, it’s really important that we get our hands “dirty,” that is, writing code that puts the learned material into action. We want to understand the concepts, but eventually, we also want to use them for real-world problem solving.

Throughout this book, we will make use of various libraries such as scikit-learn and Theano among others, which are efficient and well-tested tools that we would want to use in our “real-world” applications. However, we will also implement several algorithms from scratch. This helps us to understand these algorithms, to learn how the libraries work, and to practice implementing our own algorithms—some of them are not part of scikit-learn, yet.

WHAT THIS BOOK IS ABOUT AND WHAT IT IS NOT

This book is not a “data science” book. It is not about formulating hypotheses, collecting data, and drawing conclusions from the analysis of novel and exotic data sets; the focus is on the machine learning. However, besides talking about different learning algorithms, I think that it is very important to discuss the other aspects of a typical machine learning and model building pipeline starting with the preprocessing of a data set. We will cover topics such as dealing with missing values, transforming categorical variables into machine-learning suitable formats, selecting informative features, and compressing data onto lower dimensional subspaces. There is a full chapter on model evaluation discussing hold-out cross-validation, k-fold cross-validation, nested cross-validation, hyperparameter tuning, and different performance metrics. As a little refresher, I also added a chapter about embedding machine learning models into a web application to share it with the world.

This is not yet just another “this is how scikit-learn works” book. I aim to explain how Machine Learning works, tell you everything you need to know in terms of best practices and caveats, and then we will learn how to put those concepts into action using NumPy, scikit-learn, Theano, and so on. Sure, this book will also contain a decent amount of “math & equations,” and in my opinion, there is no way around it if we want to get away from the “black box thinking.” However, I hope I managed to make it really easy to follow so that it can be read by a person who doesn’t have a strong math background. Many parts of this book will provide examples in scikit-learn, in my opinion, the most beautiful and practical machine learning library.

Here’s a quick chapter overview:

01 – Machine Learning – Giving Computers the Ability to Learn from Data
02 – Training Machine Learning Algorithms for Classification
03 – A Tour of Machine Learning Classifiers Using Scikit-Learn
04 – Building Good Training Sets – Data Pre-Processing
05 – Compressing Data via Dimensionality Reduction
06 – Learning Best Practices for Model Evaluation and Hyperparameter Optimization
07 – Combining Different Models for Ensemble Learning
08 – Applying Machine Learning to Sentiment Analysis
09 – Embedding a Machine Learning Model into a Web Application
10 – Predicting Continuous Target Variables with Regression Analysis
11 – Working with Unlabeled Data – Clustering Analysis
12 – Training Artificial Neural Networks for Image Recognition
13 – Parallelizing Neural Network Training via Theano”

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