Data Skeptic

Co-host Linh Da was in a biking accident after hitting a pothole. She sustained an injury that required stitches. This is the story of our quest to file a 311 complaint and track it through the City of Los Angeles's open data portal.

My guests this episode are Chelsea Ursaner (LA City Open Data Team), Ben Berkowitz (CEO and founder of SeeClickFix), and Russ Klettke (Editor of

Direct download: potholes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:24am PDT

Certain data mining algorithms (including k-means clustering and k-nearest neighbors) require a user defined parameter k. A user of these algorithms is required to select this value, which raises the questions: what is the "best" value of k that one should select to solve their problem?

This mini-episode explores the appropriate value of k to use when trying to estimate the cost of a house in Los Angeles based on the closests sales in it's area.

Direct download: the-elbow-method.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PDT

Today on Data Skeptic, Lachlan Gunn joins us to discuss his recent paper Too Good to be True. This paper highlights a somewhat paradoxical / counterintuitive fact about how unanimity is unexpected in cases where perfect measurements cannot be taken. With large enough data, some amount of error is expected.

The "Too Good to be True" paper highlights three interesting examples which we discuss in the podcast. You can also watch a lecture from Lachlan on this topic via youtube here.

Direct download: too_good_to_be_true.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PDT

How well does your model explain your data? R-squared is a useful statistic for answering this question. In this episode we explore how it applies to the problem of valuing a house. Aspects like the number of bedrooms go a long way in explaining why different houses have different prices. There's some amount of variance that can be explained by a model, and some amount that cannot be directly measured. R-squared is the ratio of the explained variance to the total variance. It's not a measure of accuracy, it's a measure of the power of one's model.

Direct download: r-squared.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PDT