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Survival guide for the IBM Insight at World of Watson 2016 bookstore

Independent Consultant

I spent some time in the IBM Insight at World of Watson 2016 bookstore and found myself a little overwhelmed. We are all handling a flood of technical reading and professional reading these days, and keeping up is a challenge. I’ve read two dozen or more of the books in the bookstore, and I’ve written two of them. I’m probably not alone finding it hard to keep up, especially if today’s technology is a whole new world for you. As a result, I’m offering a brief survival guide on the subjects that I know a little about. I spotted each of these titles in the bookstore on the Cognitive Concourse at the conference.

Distilling predictive analytics

If you are interested in predictive analytics, but the topic is new to you, you have to start somewhere. Here two recommendations.

Data Mining for Dummies by Meta S. Brown (For Dummies, September 2014)

Many related books in the For Dummies series exist. I’ve read most of them, and they address different aspects of the space from big data to data science to predictive analytics. The reason that Meta Brown’s For Dummies book is my favorite is because it is just so readable. The book is succinct and clear, and it invites you into the thought process of the modeler. It is also nontechnical and software neutral. Frankly, if you worry about technology too soon, you can miss the big picture. This book is a good read on your flight home from the conference.

Data Science for Business by Foster Provost and Tom Fawcett (O’Reilly Media, August 2013)

This book has been the number-one best seller on numerous lists for years. And it deserves it. Data Science for Business is much more technical than Data Mining for Dummies and will take a bit longer to work your way through. But it was originally developed for MBA students, so you don’t have to worry about the mysterious prerequisite material that is hiding away in other books.

Understanding the importance of good visualization

Stephen Few has created a cottage industry around his advice for good visualization. I spotted at least two of his large-format titles. With visualization, getting general advice first can be helpful, and then moving on to software and technology. These books are big—think coffee-table book size. Of course, that large format pays off given the subject matter. Show Me The Numbers is the title most associated with Few, but the conference book store offers multiple titles.

http://www.ibmbigdatahub.com/sites/default/files/wow_bookstore_embed.jpgBrushing up on analytics software

Analytics is a big topic, but I will stick to what I know well. If you look at the conference program you will see repeated references to IBM Watson Analytics and IBM SPSS. SPSS is actually two—at least two—major product lines.

Learning IBM Watson Analytics by James D. Miller (Packt Publishing, March 2016)

My exposure to the IBM Watson Analytics title is limited to what I’ve seen at the bookstore, but this book appears to be the first one available on the subject. It takes a truly step-by-step approach and is clear. The author, an IBM partner, is a long-term member of the IBM community.

SPSS Statistics For Dummies by Keith McCormick and Jesus Salcedo

Many people have been exposed to SPSS statistics in university settings. It is frequently used in statistics education, and as a result dozens and dozens of books on the subject are available. My coauthor and I were approached by Wiley to write the third edition. It is designed to be a step-by-step introduction to the efficient use of the software. Although statistics theory is mentioned, it is not a substitute for a statistics text. Rather, the book focuses on graphing, SPSS programming, proper setup and so on.

IBM SPSS Modeler Cookbook by Keith McCormick, Dean Abbott, Meta S. Brown, Tom Khabaza, and Scott R. Mutchler (Packt Publishing, October 2013)

If you include all five authors and several technical reviewers, and take into account 15–25 or more years of experience each, a wealth of good advice on SPSS Modeler is available in this book. This book is not an introduction to Modeler and assumes some basic knowledge of it. When you encounter SPSS in an IBM Insight at World of Watson 2016 session, it is probably SPSS Modeler being discussed. SPSS Modeler is a predictive analytics workbench that includes dozens of modeling algorithms and data preparation features. It has a lot of moving parts and covers what is typically behind the scenes for numerous analytical solutions presented at the conference. Very few books are available on the subject, but you are in good hands with this title.

Learning Python programming

A ton of options exist for the python programming language, and many are available in the bookstore. Two are worth mention here. Python has been adopted as the scripting language in IBM SPSS Modeler, and it is very commonly associated with predictive analytics.

Programming Python by Mark Lutz (O’Reilly Media, January 2011)

This book is big. It has been considered the standard option for encyclopedic treatments of the subject. And I’ve taken training with Mark Lutz. However, if you are attending IBM Insight at World of Watson 2016 and want to know how Python will be helpful to you, it is probably not where you want to start. But it is well suited for learning the language as a general-purpose programming language.

Python Data Analysis Cookbook by Ivan Idris (Packt Publishing, July 2016)

When I spotted this one in the bookstore, I wondered how I could have missed it. It seems like a useful book. Turns out that the book is brand new, having been released just a few months ago. Many books on the subject are designed to teach you the language. This one focuses solely on predictive analytics topics. Its cookbook format allows you to read it out of order, so I would argue that as long as you spot a half dozen recipes or more that look useful, you can probably take a chance on it. A few minutes at the bookstore was enough for me to want to revisit it.

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