Blog Archives

New open data sets from Microsoft Research

July 12, 2018
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Microsoft has released a number of data sets produced by Microsoft Research and made them available for download at Microsoft Research Open Data. The Datasets in Microsoft Research Open Data are categorized by their primary research area, such as Physics, Social Science, Environmental Science, and Information Science. Many of the data sets have not been previously available to the...

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In case you missed it: June 2018 roundup

July 10, 2018
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In case you missed them, here are some articles from June of particular interest to R users. An animated visualization of global migration, created in R by Guy Abel. My take on the question, Should you learn R or Python for data science? The BBC and Financial Times use R — without post-processing — for publication graphics. "Handling Strings...

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R 3.5.1 update now available

July 9, 2018
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Last week the R Core Team released the latest update to the R statistical data analysis environment, R version 3.5.1. This update (codenamed "Feather Spray" — a Peanuts reference) makes no user-visible changes and fixes a few bugs. It is backwards-compatible with R 3.5.0, and users can find updates for Windows, Linux and Mac systems at their local CRAN...

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Global Migration, animated with R

June 29, 2018
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Global Migration, animated with R

The animation below, by Shanghai University professor Guy Abel, shows migration within and between regions of the world from 1960 to 2015. The data and the methodology behind the chart is described in this paper. The curved bars around the outside represent the peak migrant flows for each region; globally, migration peaked during the 2005-2010 period and the declined...

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The Financial Times and BBC use R for publication graphics

June 27, 2018
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The Financial Times and BBC use R for publication graphics

While graphics guru Edward Tufte recently claimed that "R coders and users just can't do words on graphics and typography" and need additonal tools to make graphics that aren't "clunky", data journalists at major publications beg to differ. The BBC has been creating graphics "purely in R" for some time, with a typography style matching that of the BBC...

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A guide to working with character data in R

June 22, 2018
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A guide to working with character data in R

R is primarily a language for working with numbers, but we often need to work with text as well. Whether it's formatting text for reports, or analyzing natural language data, R provides a number of facilities for working with character data. Handling Strings with R, a free (CC-BY-NC-SA) e-book by UC Berkeley's Gaston Sanchez, provides an overview of the...

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PYPL Language Rankings: Python ranks #1, R at #7 in popularity

June 20, 2018
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PYPL Language Rankings: Python ranks #1, R at #7 in popularity

The new PYPL Popularity of Programming Languages (June 2018) index ranks Python at #1 and R at #7. Like the similar TIOBE language index, the PYPL index uses Google search activity to rank language popularity. PYPL, however, fcouses on people searching for tutorials in the respective languages as a proxy for popularity. By that measure, Python has always been...

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Interpreting machine learning models with the lime package for R

June 15, 2018
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Interpreting machine learning models with the lime package for R

Many types of machine learning classifiers, not least commonly-used techniques like ensemble models and neural networks, are notoriously difficult to interpret. If the model produces a surprising label for any given case, it's difficult to answer the question, "why that label, and not one of the others?". One approach to this dilemma is the technique known as LIME (Local...

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Detecting unconscious bias in models, with R

June 14, 2018
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Detecting unconscious bias in models, with R

There's growing awareness that the data we collect, and in particular the variables we include as factors in our predictive models, can lead to unwanted bias in outcomes: from loan applications, to law enforcement, and in many other areas. In some instances, such bias is even directly regulated by laws like the Fair Housing Act in the US. But...

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Hotfix for Microsoft R Open 3.5.0 on Linux

June 13, 2018
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On Monday, we learned about a serious issue with the installer for Microsoft R Open on Linux-based systems. (Thanks to Norbert Preining for reporting the problem.) The issue was that the installation and de-installation scripts would modify the system shell, and did not use the standard practices to create and restore symlinks for system applications. The Microsoft R team...

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