Data Skeptic

More features are not always better! With an increasing number of features to consider, machine learning algorithms suffer from the curse of dimensionality, as they have a wider set and often sparser coverage of examples to consider. This episode explores a real life example of this as Kyle and Linhda discuss their thoughts on purchasing a home.

The curse of dimensionality was defined by Richard Bellman, and applies in several slightly nuanced cases. This mini-episode discusses how it applies on machine learning.

This episode does not, however, discuss a slightly different version of the curse of dimensionality which appears in decision theoretic situations. Consider the game of chess. One must think ahead several moves in order to execute a successful strategy. However, thinking ahead another move requires a consideration of every possible move of every piece controlled, and every possible response one's opponent may take. The space of possible future states of the board grows exponentially with the horizon one wants to look ahead to. This is present in the notably useful Bellman equation.

Direct download: MINI_The_Curse_of_Dimensionality.mp3
Category:miniepisode -- posted at: 12:01am PDT

This episode discusses video game analytics with guest Anders Drachen. The way in which people get access to games and the opportunity for game designers to ask interesting questions with data has changed quite a bit in the last two decades. Anders shares his insights about the past, present, and future of game analytics. We explore not only some of the innovations and interesting ways of examining user experience in the gaming industry, but also touch on some of the exciting opportunities for innovation that are right on the horizon.

You can find more from Anders online at, and follow him on twitter @andersdrachen

Direct download: Game_Analytics_with_Anders_Dracken.mp3
Category:gaming -- posted at: 4:51am PDT

[MINI] Anscombe's Quartet

This mini-episode discusses Anscombe's Quartet, a series of four datasets which are clearly very different but share some similar statistical properties with one another. For example, each of the four plots has the same mean and variance on both axis, as well as the same correlation coefficient, and same linear regression.


The episode tries to add some context by imagining each of these datasets as data about a sports team, and why it can be important to look beyond basic summary statistics when exploring your dataset.

Direct download: MINI_Anscombes_Quartet.mp3
Category:miniepisode -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

A recent episode of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe included a slight rant by Dr. Novella and the rouges about a shortcoming in operating systems.  This episode explores why such a (seemingly obvious) flaw might make sense from an engineering perspective, and how data science might be the solution.

In this solo episode, Kyle proposes the concept of "annoyance mining" - the idea that with proper logging and enough feedback, data scientists could be provided the right dataset from which they can detect flaws and annoyances in software and other systems and automatically detect potential bugs, flaws, and improvements which could make those systems better.

As system complexity grows, it seems that an abstraction like this might be required in order to keep maintaining an effective development cycle.  This episode is a bit of a soap box for Kyle as he explores why and how we might track an appropriate amount of data to be able to make better software and systems more suited for the users.

Direct download: annoyance_mining.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:18pm PDT

Elizabeth Lee from CyArk joins us in this episode to share stories of the work done capturing important historical sites digitally. CyArk is a non-profit focused on using technology to preserve the world's important historic and cultural locations digitally. CyArk's founder Ben Kacyra, a pioneer in 3D capture technology, and his wife, founded CyArk after seeing the need to preserve important artifacts and locations digitally before they are lost to natural disasters, human destruction, or the passage of time. We discuss their technology, data, and site selection including the upcoming themes of locations and the CyArk 500.

Elizabeth puts out the call to all listeners to share their opinions on what important sites should be included in The Cyark 500 Challenge - an effort to digitally preserve 500 of the most culturally important heritage sites within the next five years. You can Nominate a site by submitting a short form at

Visit to view an immersive, interactive experience of many of the sites preserved.

Direct download: Cyark.mp3
Category:measurement -- posted at: 12:30am PDT