What do we mean by pruning?

Sometime in the computer business, we have to make metaphors to help explain to people how something works.  You may remember the “desktop metaphor” that Apple and later Windows adopted to help explain operating systems.  Sometimes we just run those metaphors into the ground, such as the trash can to delete files, or “Clippy”, the paper clip assistant. 

You may feel that I’ve gone off the metaphorical deep end when I discuss pruning your decision trees.  What’s next, fertilizer and tree spikes?  Actually, pruning is a critical concept in decision tree type systems.  Each branch in your tree can lead to hundreds or thousands of sub-branches.  If you can decide early that that branch is not useful, you can cut it ...

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