Mastering Your Data Mining Toolkit - dummies

Mastering Your Data Mining Toolkit

By Meta S. Brown

An awful lot of data miners rely exclusively on a little bag of data mining tricks they learned years ago and don’t regularly invest time in adding new skills to the mix. The reasoning is usually simple and understandable. They are getting the job done, but they’re busy. They don’t have time for exploring new things, especially new things they aren’t sure they need.

The problem with this logic is that it prevents you from learning faster, easier, or more effective ways of getting your job done. You could miss out on benefits like these:

  • Saving time, not just once, but again and again, by automating repetitive tasks.

  • Avoiding errors by eliminating unnecessary steps that increase your chance of making a mistake.

  • Missing out on valuable information that you could get if you only knew about a technique that’s the right fit for a particular situation.

Live training is a great thing if you can get it, but there are other ways to master your data mining toolkit, including the following (which are all free):

  • Take the tutorials that are included with your data mining tools.

  • Look over the list of procedures in your data mining tool, and the options for each. If you don’t know what something does, read the product’s help files and find out.

  • Join online user groups to learn what others are doing and get answers to some of your questions.

  • Investigate competing tools and the capabilities that they offer. Your tool may have the same capability. (And it’s worth your while to knowing available on the market, even if there’s no pressing reason to switch. Your needs may change.)

  • Make a point of meeting data miners and other data analyst who do things differently, whether they work in a different industry, use different tools or have had training different from your own. Ask about their work and how they do it, and listen for ideas that could be applied to your own work. You will learn new tricks that improve your productivity and add depth to the information that you can obtain from your data.