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Programming Collective Intelligence – Toby Segaran

Posted in Book, Business Intelligence, Data Mining, Recommendation Engine by Pankaj Gudimella on April 18, 2008

Among the chief ideological mandates of the Church of Web 2.0 is that users need not click around to locate information when that information can be brought to the users. This is achieved by leveraging ‘collective intelligence,’ that is, in terms of recommendations systems, by computationally analyzing statistical patterns of past users to make as-accurate-as-possible guesses about the desires of present users. Amazon, Google and certainly many other organizations, in addition to Netflix, have successfully edged out more traditional competitors on this basis, the latter failing to pay attention to the shopping patterns of users and forcing customers to locate products in a trial and error manner as they would in, say, a Costco. As a further illustration, if I go to the movie shelf at Best Buy, and look under ‘R’ for Rambo, no one’s going to come up to me and say that the Die Hard Trilogy now has a special-edition release on DVD and is on sale. I’d have to accidentally pass the ‘D’ section and be looking in that direction in order to notice it. Amazon would immediately tell me, without bothering to mention that Gone With The Wind has a new special edition.

Programming Collective Intelligence is far more than a guide to building recommendation systems. Author Toby Segaran is not a commercial product vendor, but a director of software development for a computational biology firm, doing data-mining and algorithm design (so apparently there is more to these ‘algorithms’ than just their usefulness in recommending movies?). Segaran takes us on a friendly and detailed tour through the field’s toolchest, covering the following topics in some depth:
Recommendation Systems
Discovering Groups
Searching and Ranking
Document Filtering
Decision Trees
Price Models
Genetic Programming
… and a lot more

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