Introduction

Extracting actionable information from data is changing the fabric of modern business in ways that directly affect programmers. One way is the demand for new programming skills. Market analysts predict demand for people with advanced statistics and machine learning skills will exceed supply by 140,000 to 190,000 by 2018. That means good salaries and a wide choice of interesting projects for those who have the requisite skills. Another development that affects programmers is progress in developing core tools for statistics and machine learning. This relieves programmers of the need to program intricate algorithms for themselves each time they want to try a new one. Among general-purpose programming languages, Python developers have been in the forefront, building state-of-the-art machine learning tools, but there is a gap between having the tools and being able to use them efficiently.

Programmers can gain general knowledge about machine learning in a number of ways: online courses, a number of well-written books, and so on. Many of these give excellent surveys of machine learning algorithms and examples of their use, but because of the availability of so many different algorithms, it’s difficult to cover the details of their usage in a survey.

This leaves a gap for the practitioner. The number of algorithms available requires making choices that a programmer new to machine learning might not be equipped to make until trying several, and it leaves the programmer ...

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