Archive for June, 2009

June 28th 2009

A Netflix Prize win is nigh: How they did it

Breaking news: On Friday, Netflix Prize team “BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos” passed the mark, qualifying for the $1,000,000 prize. The team includes last February’s PAW speaker Andreas Töscher.

But they haven’t won yet. Their qualification triggers a 30-day count-down during which all teams have a final chance to improve their efforts.

The Netflix Prize is an open contest in product recommendations. The competition has provided an incentive to teams worldwide to improve the state-of-the-art, and, in a sense, work as an extended R&D effort for Netflix to improve their movie recommendation accuracy.

How they did it: Joining forces. Only by an international collaboration, and the combining of methodologies, did the current leading team hit the mark. The team is composed of four teams that have also competed independently, located in the U.S., Canada, Austria and Israel.

Combined methodology made simple. Each team has developed an intricate approach. Once they agreed to collaborate, how hard did they have to work to integrate their systems? Actually, not hard at all. Rather than dig in, think hard, and assess where one system’s weaknesses may be compensated for by another team’s strengths, they let predictive modeling do it – at least, that’s how Mr. Töscher indicated they did it when 2 of these sub-teams combined to form “BellKor in BigChaos” and become the leader several months ago (we don’t yet officially know how they did it this time).

In this approach, each system may conveniently be treated as a “black box,” training a new “meta-system” to combine the respective outputs into one better output. This is called “meta-learning” or “ensemble methods”, which elicits the concept of collective intelligence.

So stay tuned – we should know more soon!

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June 5th 2009

Keynotes at October’s PAW: Stephen Baker and Usama Fayyad

Predictive Analytics World, coming October 20-21 to Washington DC, has a great line-up of keynote speakers: Stephen Baker, author of The Numerati and senior writer at BusinessWeek, where he's been since 1987. Steve's book has received a tremendous amount of attention this year. It is a revealing and insightful exploration of the opportunities and pitfalls of applied analytics, and consumer perception thereof. Usama Fayyad, Ph.D. — CEO, Open Insights and formerly Yahoo!'s Chief Data Officer and Executive Vice President of Research & Strategic Data Solutions. Dr. Fayyad will return as an acclaimed keynote speaker. His keynote at February's PAW (San Francisco) received extremely strong ratings from conference attendees. Finally, this blogger, Eric Siegel, Ph.D., will be kicking off PAW with a reprise of my keynote, "Five Ways to Lower Costs with Predictive Analytics."

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