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Data Preparation and Cleaning : The secret ingredient to baking a successful ML cake!

- 3 minutes read | By Harshit Singh

Machine Learning (ML) is a powerful field that allows computers to learn from data and make predictions or decisions without explicit programming. It has applications in various domains, from healthcare to finance to self-driving cars. But before we dive into the world of complex algorithms and predictive models, there's a crucial step that often gets overlooked: data preparation and cleaning.

Why is Data Preparation and Cleaning Essential? Imagine trying to bake a delicious cake with spoiled ingredients. No matter how skilled you are in baking, the end result is bound to be disappointing. In the world of ML, data is your ingredient, and data preparation and cleaning are akin to ensuring your ingredients are fresh and suitable for the recipe.

One common saying in ML is, "Garbage in... Garbage Out!" It means that if your data is messy or incomplete, even the most advanced algorithms and models will struggle to produce meaningful results. In fact, clean data can significantly boost the performance and accuracy of your ML models. Let's explore this further by delving into an 8-step checklist for data preparation and cleaning.

The 8-Step Checklist for Data Preparation & Cleaning

  1. Missing Values

    Missing data can be a stumbling block for ML models. They often don't know how to handle it, leading to errors. You should either remove rows or columns with missing values or use imputation techniques to fill in the gaps with reasonable estimates.

  2. Duplicate & Low Variation Data

    Duplicate rows offer no new information but consume resources. Remove them. Low-variation columns (with almost constant values) don't contribute much and can be dropped as well.

  3. Incorrect & Irrelevant Data

    Irrelevant data doesn't pertain to your problem and should be removed. Incorrect data might be tricky to spot but needs attention. For categorical or text data, analyze unique values to ensure consistency.

  4. Categorical Data

    ML models prefer numerical data. Convert categorical data into numerical form using techniques like One Hot Encoding, Label Encoding, or others depending on your specific use case.

  5. Outliers

    Outliers are data points significantly different from the rest. Depending on your problem and model, decide whether to remove, replace, or keep them.

  6. Feature Scaling

    Scaling ensures that all features are on the same scale, helping certain models perform better. Common scaling techniques include Standardization and Normalization.

  7. Feature Engineering & Selection

    Feature engineering involves creating or refining features to improve model understanding. Feature selection helps reduce noise and computational cost by keeping only informative variables.

  8. Validation Split

    To assess your model's performance accurately, split your data into training and validation sets (and possibly a test set). Consider using k-fold cross-validation for robust evaluations.

In conclusion, data preparation and cleaning are foundational steps in the Machine Learning journey. Neglecting these steps can lead to inaccurate models and unreliable predictions. By following this 8-step checklist and adapting it to your specific data and problem, you can ensure that you're providing your ML model with the best possible ingredients for success. Remember, a well-prepared dataset is the secret ingredient to baking a successful ML cake!

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Work done byHarshanz for iamdata