Biggest Mistake I Made When Starting Machine Learning, And How To Avoid It

When I first got started in machine learning I implemented algorithms by hand. It was really slow going.

I was a terrible programmer at the time. I was trying to figure out the algorithms from books, how to use them on problems and how to write code – all at the same time. This was the biggest mistake I made when getting started. It made everything 3-times harder and killed my motivation.

A friend of mine suggested I look at Weka. I resisted. I was a student and a C-programmer and I didn’t want to get into Java.

Later, I was looking into decision tree algorithms and I learned that Weka had an implementation of C4.5 (a really powerful method).

I downloaded Weka and discovered that in addition to the Java API, Weka had a fully interactive graphical interface for loading data, running algorithms and reviewing results. Basically, all of the things I was trying to figure out how to do and implement myself, but in a GUI.

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Weka Explorer Interface with the Iris dataset loaded

Weka Explorer Interface with the Iris dataset loaded

I was hooked. I started using it for class work and for my own experiments. Later in grad school, I started my own research by writing 3rd-party plugins for Weka (LVQ algorithm and others).

I now recommend it to programmers just getting started because it’s so quick to get meaningful results on a dataset. It also instills best practices like repeatable experiments and statistical methods for comparing results.

If you haven’t already, take a look at Weka.

I have a short tutorial in which you discover how to run a classifier in 5 minutes.

Good luck machine learning!

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10 Responses to Biggest Mistake I Made When Starting Machine Learning, And How To Avoid It

  1. Avatar
    Padam Sethia August 15, 2016 at 12:10 am #

    But , Isn’t writing the code from scratch better ?

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee August 15, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

      Better for what?

      It really depends on your goals.

      If you are a beginner want to get results, using a tool like Weka will get you there fastest.

  2. Avatar
    Jesús Martínez March 12, 2018 at 11:51 am #

    I agree. Sometimes we make things more difficult than necessary by our programmer’s pride. In the end, what really matters is how fast we get results and how good we are at using machine learning as a tool. More often than not, potential clients, employers or coworkers really don’t care about the programming language or library that we use, as long as we deliver!

  3. Avatar
    Yusuf Abdurrahman November 16, 2018 at 4:09 pm #

    Thank u sir, your is very understandable and excited I really support you about this. wish u all the best.

  4. Avatar
    Yusuf Abdurrahman November 16, 2018 at 4:17 pm #

    please by using weka can I do everything just like with Python or r……….thanks a lot

  5. Avatar
    Nigel June 7, 2023 at 1:29 pm #

    Hey Jason! If Weka is so powerful, in what cases would it be beneficial then to learn R or Python for data analysis / ML tasks?

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