Python vs. R for Data Science

In Data Science there are two languages that compete for users. On one side there is R, on the other Python. Both have a huge userbase, but there is some discussion, which is better to use in a Data Science context. Lets explore both a bit:

R
R is a language and programming environment especially developed for statistical computing and grahics. It has been around some time and several thousand packages to tackle statistical problems. With RStudio it also provides an interactive programming environment, that makes analysing data pretty easy.

Python
Python is a full range programming language, that makes it easy to integrate into a company wide system. With the packages Numpy, Pandas and Scikit-learn, Mathplotlib in combination with IPython, it also provides a full range suite for statistical computing and interactive programming environment.

R was developed solely for the purpose of statistical computing, so it has some advantages there, since it is specialized and has been around some years. Python is coming from a programming language and moves now into the data analysis field. In combination with all the other stuff it can do, websites and easy integrations into Hadoop Streaming or Apache Spark.
And for people who want to use the best of both sides can always use the R Python integration Rpy2.

I personally am recently working with Python for my ETL processes, including MapReduce, and anlysing data, which works awesome in combination with IPython as interactive development tool.

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How to visualize data?

Data visualization is something like an art. How to make results from your research in data easy to understand by management, business users or just everyone out there? A list of data, like an Excel sheet ist not what catches the eye. The art in visualization is shown perfectly on the site of Martin Wattenberg.
Now the questions is, what tools are easy to use in a company environment to visualize your data?

There are several classes of tools you can use:

  • Beginner: These are tools with a wide knowlegde throughout the company, mainly MS Excel. You can explore data easily and make diagramms without too much hazzle. It provides Barcharts, Lines, Pies and a combination of those. It is also very easy to use for adhoc analysis and making the data and graphs available to business users, if necessary.
  • Online Libraries: If you don’t want to be limited to Excel and use a Web-based reporting / analysis tool, you maybe can integrate one of the libraries available. There are several for all purpose you can imagine:
      Google Charts: For dynamic charts it has everything you need, as long as you are not bother by the Google look. They are running in every browser that supports SVG, canvas and VML. But there are JavaScript based, so there is a problem, if they should be used offline or in browsers without JS.
      Circos is a great tool, if you want to use circles to visualize your data. It is written in Perl and produces PNG output.
      panel-general
      Visual.ly focusses more on the infographics side of graph. It is mainly a marketplace, but you can make your own cartoon like graph with it.
      Kartograph is a tool for creating interactive vector maps. It is available as JavaScript or Python library. This is a great tool, especially since most people totally love maps and to use them.
  • Professional tools: The opposite of Excel in manners of manipulating and analysing data. These tools are sometimes pretty expensive, such as SAS and SPSS. But there are also open source and free to use tools, that sometimes are more flexible and easier to use, since they have a strong user base.
      R: Besides its nearly unlimited supply of libraries for all manners of analysis, R also has lots of packages concerning visualizing data and makes good use of them. It is one of the complexest tools I mentioned here.
      hpgraphic
      Gephi is a graph-based tool for data exploration. It is most useful for relations of notes of all kinds.

These are some examples and I evaluated even more tools. So there are many ways to visualize data and what you use, is depending on your environment and skills. I mostly use R for generating complex graphs, but only because I use that tool for the analysis. I will be integrating more Circos into our autmated scripts soon, since they are all based on Perl anyways.

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Data Science Tools

What tools are used for Data Science? There are a lot of them out there and in this post I want to tell you about the ones I currently use or used before.

  • KNIME is a graphical tool to analyse data. It uses an interface to build process flows that contain everything, from data transformation, initial analysis, predictive analysis, vizualisation and reporting. One of it’s advantages is the huge community and it being an open source tool, that encourages the community to contribute.
  • Rapid Miner from Rapid-I is also a graphical tool to analyse data. Processes are built using predifined steps. It provides data transformation, initial analysis, predictive analysis, vizualisation and reporting. Since it is based on Java it is plattform independent. There is a community too, that helps to improve the programm and expands the available resources.
  • SAShas a whole suite of tools for data manipulation and analysis. They provide Olap tool, predictive analytics, reporting and vizualisation. Being in the market for a long time, they have a huge customer base and lots of experience. There is also a system of trainings with exams to provide certified qualifications in using there tools.
  • R is a free tool, developed for scientists in biology first, but it is spread through all kinds of industries now, due to its wide range of packages. There is no graphical interface but the language is easy to learn. R provides data manipulation, visualization, predictive analysis, reporting and initial analysis. Also there is an integration into Hadoop for better interaction with Big Data.
  • Splunk is a tool primarily for analysing unstructured data, like logfiles. It provides real time statistics and a outstanding visualization for reports. Its language is related to SQL, so it is pretty easy to learn, if you used SQL queries before.
  • Jedox provides an Olap server with an interface that looks like MS Excel on the web and they have a plugin into MS Excel too. It caters mainly to controlling need, but has some advantages regarding self-service BI. Based on PHP and Java it is available in a community version and a professional version.
  • FastStats from Apteco uses a easy to understand graphical interface and some basic predictive methods. It enables business users to analyse their data themselves and even build small models. It also provides visualization tools. This is also a tool catering to self-service BI.

If you have other tools you use and like, please feel free to share them with me. I am always interessted in learning about new tools.

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