161 of 167 people found the following review helpful
Putting Theory into Practice,
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This review is from: Programming Collective Intelligence: Building Smart Web 2.0 Applications (Paperback)
This book is probably best for those of you who have read the theory, but are not quite sure how to turn that theory into something useful. Or for those who simply hunger for a survey of how machine learning can be applied to the web, and need a non-mathematical introduction.
My area of strength happens to be neural networks (my MS thesis topic was in the subject), so I will focus on that. In a few pages of the book, the author describes how the most popular of all neural networks, backpropagation, can be used to map a set of search terms to a URL. One might do this, for example, to try and find the page best matching the search terms. Instead of doing what nearly all other authors will do, prove the math behind the backprop training algorithm, he instead mentions what it does, and goes on to present python code that implements the stated goal.
The upside of the approach is clear -- if you know the theory of neural networks, and are not sure how to apply it (or want to see an example of how it can be applied), then this book is great for that. His example of adaptively training a backprop net using only a subset of the nodes in the network was interesting, and I learned from it. Given all the reading I have done over the years on the subject, that was a bit of a surprise for me.
However, don't take this book as being the "end all, be all" for understanding neural networks and their applications. If you need that, you will want to augment this book with writings that cover some of the other network architectures (SOM, hopfield, etc) that are out there. The same goes for the other topics that it covers.
In the end, this book is a great introduction to what is available for those new to machine learning, and shows better than any other book how it applies to Web 2.0. Major strengths of this book are its broad coverage, and the practicality of its contents. It is a great book for those who are struggling with the theory, and/or those who need to see an example of how the theory can be applied in a concise, practical way.
To the author: I expect this book will get a second edition, as the premise behind the book is such a good one. If that happens, perhaps beef up the equations a bit in the appendix, and cite some references or a bibliography for those readers interested in some more in depth reading about the theory behind all these wonderful techniques. (The lack of a bibliography is why I gave it 4 stars out of 5, I really think that those who are new to the subject would benefit greatly from knowing what sits on your bookshelf.)
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 5, 2009 11:28:19 AM PST
Kevin Benton says:
Posted on Nov 24, 2011 6:33:06 AM PST
Great post! It would have been better if you had mentioned some specific examples of other sources that you know about.
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