In the first posts, I introduced different type of Machine Learning concepts. On of them is classification. Basically, classification is about identifying to which set of categories a certain observation belongs. Classifications are normally of supervised learning techniques. A typical classification is Spam detection in e-mails – the two possible classifications in this case are either “spam” or “no spam”. The two most common classification algorithms are the naive bayes classification and the random forest classification.

What classification algorithms are there?

Basically, there are a lot of classification algorithms available and when working in the field of Machine Learning, you will discover a large number of algorithms every time. In this tutorial, we will only focus on the two most important ones (Random Forest, Naive Bayes) and the basic one (Decision Tree)

The Decision Tree classifier

The basic classifier is the Decision tree classifier. It basically builds classification models in the form of a tree structure. The dataset is broken down into smaller subsets and gets detailed by each leave. It could be compared to a survey, where each question has an effect on the next question. Let’s assume the following case: Tom was captured by the police and is a suspect in robing a bank. The questions could represent the following tree structure:

Basic sample of a Decision Tree
Basic sample of a Decision Tree

Basically, by going from one leave to another, you get closer to the result of either “guilty” or “not guilty”. Also, each leaf has a weight.

The Random Forest classification

Random forest is a really great classifier, often used and also often very efficient. It is an ensemble classifier made using many decision tree models. There are ensemble models that combine the different results. The random forest model can both run regression and classification models.

Basically, it divides the data set into subsets and then runs on the data. Random forest models run efficient on large datasets, since all compute can be split and thus it is easier to run the model in parallel. It can handle thousands of input variables without variable deletion. It computes proximities between pairs of cases that can be used in clustering, locating outliers or (by scaling) give interesting views of the data.

There are also some disadvantages with the random forest classifier: the main problem is its complexity. Working with random forest is more challenging than classic decision trees and thus needs skilled people. Also, the complexity creates large demands for compute power.

Random Forest is often used by financial institutions. A typical use-case is credit risk prediction. If you have ever applied for a credit, you might know the questions being asked by banks. They are often fed into random forest models.

The Naive Bayes classifier

The Naive Bayes classifier is based on prior knowledge of conditions that might relate to an event. It is based on the Bayes Theorem. There is a strong independence between features assumed. It uses categorial data to calculate ratios between events.

The benefit of Naive Bayes are different. It can easily and fast predict classes of data sets. Also, it can predict multiple classes. Naive Bayes performs better compared to models such as logistic regression and there is a lot less training data needed.

A key challenge is that if a categorical variable has a category which was not checked in the training data set, then model will assign a 0 (zero) probability, which makes it unable for prediction. Also, it is known to be a rather bad estimator. Also, it is rather complex to use.

As stated, there are many more algorithms available. In the next tutorial, we will have a look at Deep Learning.

This tutorial is part of the Machine Learning Tutorial. You can learn more about Machine Learning by going through this tutorial. On Cloudvane, there are many more tutorials about (Big) Data, Data Science and alike, read about them in the Big Data Tutorials here. If you look for great datasets to play with, I would recommend you Kaggle.

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