Data science makes an impact on Wall Street

[A version of this article appears on the O’Reilly Radar.]

Having started my career in industry, working on problems in finance, I’ve always appreciated how challenging it is to build consistently profitable systems in this extremely competitive domain. When I served as quant at a hedge fund in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I worked primarily with price data (time-series). I quickly found that it was difficult to find and sustain profitable trading strategies that leveraged data sources that everyone else in the industry examined exhaustively. In the early-to-mid 2000s the hedge fund industry began incorporating many more data sources, and today you’re likely to find many finance industry professionals at big data and data science events like Strata + Hadoop World.

During the latest episode of the O’Reilly Data Show Podcast, I had a great conversation with one of the leading data scientists in finance: Gary Kazantsev runs the R&D Machine Learning group at Bloomberg LP. As a former quant, I wanted to know the types of problems Kazantsev and his group work on, and the tools and techniques they’ve found useful. We also talked about data science, data engineering, and recruiting data professionals for Wall Street. Continue reading “Data science makes an impact on Wall Street”

Israel conference on Big Data, Analytics and Machine Learning

The first Big Data, Analytics and Machine Learning (Israel Innovation) conference was a resounding success. Kudos to the organizers Danny Bickson, Assaf Araki, and Avner Algom. I was happy to help them invite speakers, publicize the event, and give the opening keynote. The conference was sold out and I heard a lot of ethusiastic feedback from the attendees I spoke with. I think next year’s edition will be even better and I can’t wait to take part. A tweet summary can be found below.

SparkBeyondOne side benefit of speaking and attending the conference was I got to meet with a few members of the SparkBeyond team (full disclosure: I’m an advisor), and an update and product walk-through from co-founder Ron Karidi. I really like what they’re doing and I expect many companies will benefit from the tools that they’ll start unveiling in short order. Continue reading “Israel conference on Big Data, Analytics and Machine Learning”

The tensor renaissance in data science

[A version of this post appears on the O’Reilly Radar.]

The O’Reilly Data Show Podcast: Anima Anandkumar on tensor decomposition techniques for machine learning.

After sitting in on UC Irvine Professor Anima Anandkumar’s Strata + Hadoop World 2015 in San Jose presentationI wrote a post urging the data community to build tensor decomposition libraries for data science. The feedback I’ve gotten from readers has been extremely positive. During the latest episode of the O’Reilly Data Show Podcast, I sat down with Anandkumar to talk about tensor decomposition, machine learning, and the data science program at UC Irvine.

Modeling higher-order relationships

The natural question is: why use tensors when (large) matrices can already be challenging to work with? Proponents are quick to point out that tensors can model more complex relationships. Anandkumar explains:

Tensors are higher order generalizations of matrices. While matrices are two-dimensional arrays consisting of rows and columns, tensors are now multi-dimensional arrays. … For instance, you can picture tensors as a three-dimensional cube. In fact, I have here on my desk a Rubik’s Cube, and sometimes I use it to get a better understanding when I think about tensors.  … One of the biggest use of tensors is for representing higher order relationships. … If you want to only represent pair-wise relationships, say co-occurrence of every pair of words in a set of documents, then a matrix suffices. On the other hand, if you want to learn the probability of a range of triplets of words, then we need a tensor to record such relationships. These kinds of higher order relationships are not only important for text, but also, say, for social network analysis. You want to learn not only about who is immediate friends with whom, but, say, who is friends of friends of friends of someone, and so on. Tensors, as a whole, can represent much richer data structures than matrices.

Continue reading “The tensor renaissance in data science”