Getting Started with Machine Learning – Result Analysis

Recently I’ve started working with Azure Machine Learning and looking at what I consider the most challenging part, picking the right analysis. For those people who haven’t ventured into Azure Machine Learning, it looks a lot like a data flow in SSIS. After that you need to train or more to the point evaluate which model works best. The answer to that question takes a while. What kind of data do you have? Are you looking to find errors? Determine whether data classified in a certain way can predict a result? Perform a regression analysis of data over time? Group data together to identify trends?

Is your Model better than a Monkey throwing Darts?

While you can analyze your variables and rank them to determine the chance that the variables indicate a result, there is another method that is also used to determine an outcome, the coin toss. This lowly method of analysis is right half the time. If you have more than two outcomes, or to speak the language of Machine Learning, the outcome is not binary, there is another method used to determine the accuracy of predictions, monkeys. I have read about the various skills of monkeys in both literature and financial analysis. Think about it for a minute and you may remember reading or hearing about monkeys typing on a keyboard who have been able to write Shakespeare, or a blog post.  This is known as the Infinite monkey theorem. Another thing monkeys have been known to do is throw darts. Various financial publications have been measuring the success of mutual funds to monkeys throwing darts at stocks since the last century. The goal is of course to create a model that has the better success as a monkey or a quarter. The question is how?

Probability of Picking the Right Model

ROC [Receiver Operating Characteristic] Curves are used to ensure the machine learning model generated is better than a monkey throwing darts. Your goal is a perfect game of golf. Chances are your ROC curve will be somewhere between the two. In looking at the ROC curve generated here, you can see 3 lines, a light grey, a red and a blue one.


The diagonal line represents a coin toss. If you were able to get one of your scored datasets to be a 1, meaning that you got a true positive rate every time, you would have played a perfect game of golf. Chances are you will have two lines like I do here and one, in this example the blue line, has a higher number of true positive rates than does the red line, so the results generated by that model are more accurate.

More ML More of the Time

I find myself spending more time with Azure ML, meaning that I will be devoting a lot more future blog posts on this topic. I am also speaking on Azure ML both as part of a Pre-Convention Event on the Modern Data Warehouse and at SQL Saturday in Phoenix. If you happen to be in Phoenix, I would love to meet you. SQL Saturdays are great learning events and I am happy that I was selected to participate in this one.


Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

Leave a Reply