Data Mining
Practical Machine Learning Tools and Techniques

The convergence of computing and communication has produced a society that feeds on information. Yet most of the information is in its raw form: data. If data is characterized as recorded facts, then information is the set of patterns, or expectations, that underlie the data. There is a huge amount of information locked up in databases information that is potentially important but has not yet been discovered or articulated. Our mission is to bring it forth.

Data mining is the extraction of implicit, previously unknown, and potentially useful information from data. The idea is to build computer programs that sift through databases automatically, seeking regularities or patterns. Strong patterns, if found, will likely generalize to make accurate predictions on future data. Of course, there will be problems. Many patterns will be banal and uninteresting. Others will be spurious, contingent on accidental coincidences in the particular dataset used. And real data is imperfect: Some parts will be garbled, some missing. Anything that is discovered will be inexact: There will be exceptions to every rule and cases not covered by any rule. Algorithms need to be robust enough to cope with imperfect data and to extract regularities that are inexact but useful.

Machine learning provides the technical basis of data mining. It is used to extract information from the raw data in database information that is expressed in a comprehensible form and can be used for a variety of purposes. The process is one of abstraction: taking the data, warts and all, and inferring whatever structure underlies it. This book is about the tools and techniques of machine learning that are used in practical data mining for finding, and describing, structural patterns in data.

As with any burgeoning new technology that enjoys intense commercial attention, the use of data mining is surrounded by a great deal of hype in the technical and sometimes the popular press. Exaggerated reports appear of the secrets that can be uncovered by setting learning algorithms loose on oceans of data. But there is no magic in machine learning, no hidden power, no alchemy. Instead, there is an identifiable body of simple and practical techniques that can often extract useful information from raw data. This book describes these techniques and shows how they work.

We interpret machine learning as the acquisition of structural descriptions from examples. The kind of descriptions that are found can be used for prediction, explanation, and understanding. Some data mining applications focus on prediction: They forecast what will happen in new situations from data that describe what happened in the past, often by guessing the classification of new examples. But we are equally perhaps more interested in applications where the result of “learning” is an actual description of a structure that can be used to classify examples. This structural description supports explanation and understanding as well as prediction. In our experience, insights gained by the user are of most interest in the majority of practical data mining applications; indeed, this is one of machine learning’s major advantages over classical statistical modeling.

The book explains a wide variety of machine learning methods. Some are pedagogically motivated: simple schemes that are designed to explain clearly how the basic ideas work. Others are practical: real systems that are used in applications today. Many are contemporary and have been developed only in the last few years. A comprehensive software resource has been created to illustrate the ideas in this book. Called the Waikato Environment for Knowledge Analysis, or Weka1 for short, it is available as Java source code at It is a full, industrial-strength implementation of essentially all the techniques that are covered in this book. It includes illustrative code and working implementations of machine learning methods. It offers clean, spare implementations of the simplest techniques, designed to aid understanding of the mechanisms involved. It also provides a workbench that includes full, working, state-of-the-art implementations of many popular learning schemes that can be used for practical data mining or for research. Finally, it contains a framework, in the form of a Java class library, that supports applications that use embedded machine learning and even the implementation of new learning schemes.

Table of Content:

  • CHAPTER 1 What’s It All About?
  • CHAPTER 2 Input: Concepts, Instances, and Attributes
  • CHAPTER 3 Output: Knowledge Representation
  • CHAPTER 4 Algorithms: The Basic Methods
  • CHAPTER 5 Credibility: Evaluating What’s Been Learned
  • CHAPTER 6 Implementations: Real ML Schemes
  • CHAPTER 7 Data Transformations
  • CHAPTER 8 Ensemble Learning
  • CHAPTER 9 Moving on: Applications and Beyond
  • CHAPTER 10 Introduction to Weka
  • CHAPTER 11 The Explorer
  • CHAPTER 12 The Knowledge Flow Interface
  • CHAPTER 13 The Experimenter
  • CHAPTER 14 The Command-Line Interface
  • CHAPTER 15 Embedded Machine Learning
  • CHAPTER 16 Writing New Learning Schemes
  • CHAPTER 17 Tutorial Exercises for the Weka Explorer

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