A Closer Look into the Stages That Machine Learning Models Go Through

In the fast-paced world of technology today, machine learning (ML) is a hot topic that’s on everyone’s lips.

ML algorithms are everywhere, from making your Facebook experience more enjoyable to enabling cars to drive themselves, and even simplifying our daily lives.

However, the inner workings of these algorithms can seem like a bit of a puzzle, especially for students who are just starting to explore this exciting field.

To truly grasp how ML algorithms are created and assessed, let’s dive into the essential stages of their development.

The process of developing and evaluating these machine learning models is vital for students to understand as it plays a crucial role in developing new and improved ways for computers to perform tasks.

Think of it like learning a new game: first, you learn the rules and practice diligently. Then, you assess your progress to see if you’re improving.

This same principle applies to ML algorithms.

Scientists and experts need to thoroughly assess their performance to ensure they effectively serve their intended purposes.

They carry out numerous tests, similar to experimenting with various gameplay strategies to find the one that yields the highest scores.

So, in this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the entire process of creating and testing machine learning models.

It’s a bit like uncovering the secret recipe for baking your favorite cookies: you follow each step and ingredient carefully to ensure they come out just right.

Key Stages of Machine Learning Model Development

The process of creating a machine model usually involves several stages, including:

  1. Data Collection and Preparation.
  2. Feature Selection and Engineering.
  3. Hyperparameter Tuning and Optimization.
  4. Deploying Machine Learning Models.
  5. Evaluating Your Model.

Data Collection and Preparation

The first stage of machine learning model development is collecting the data.

This step can be time consuming, as you need enough data to build a usable model—but not so much that your model becomes overloaded with irrelevant information.

The type of data you use depends on what kind of problem you’re trying to solve.

For example, if you want to build a model that can predict whether or not someone will buy your product based on their browsing history, then you need to collect data about people’s browsing history (e.g., what they’ve viewed) and how they responded (i.e., whether or not they bought it).

Feature Selection and Engineering

In machine learning, feature selection is used to choose the most relevant features from a dataset. Feature engineering is the process of generating new features from existing data.

Feature engineering becomes exceptionally critical when specific features are absent or not readily accessible within the dataset. For instance, if you’re predicting product purchases and the dataset lacks a direct indicator of disposable income, you might engineer a feature based on other available data that could correlate with income.

Now, in the context of machine learning, a feature can refer to anything that is relevant to the problem you’re trying to solve.

For example, if you want to build a model that can predict whether or not someone will buy your product based on their browsing history, then features could be things like where they live (because people from California are more likely than other states), how old they are (because older people tend to have more disposable income), and what kind of content they like reading (because this may affect how much money advertisers pay them).

Hyperparameter Tuning and Optimization

Imagine you have a cool remote control car, and it can go super fast.

But there are some buttons on the remote that you can adjust to make it go even faster. These buttons are like the settings in a machine learning model called “hyperparameters.”

Just like tweaking the remote control settings can make your car perform better, adjusting hyperparameters can make your model work better too.

Hyperparameter tuning and optimization resemble identifying the optimal amalgamation of settings for your car to achieve its maximum speed. In machine learning, it means figuring out the best hyperparameter settings to make your model perform at its best.

Additionally, just as you would fine-tune your car’s performance to different tracks, hyperparameter tuning ensures your model is well-suited for the unique challenges of your data and problem.

For example, common hyperparameters that are often adjusted include the learning rate (controlling the step size in optimization) and batch size (number of training examples used in each iteration). These adjustments impact how quickly your model learns and generalizes from the data.

Deploying Machine Learning Models

The final pivotal stage in the machine learning cycle is deployment. This is when you apply your model to a real-world problem and use it in practice .

Deploying a model means training it on datasets and getting the results you want. Subsequently, you can employ this model for making predictions, automating tasks, or even conceiving new products.

Moreover, this doesn’t mark the culmination of your efforts; in fact, it signifies the inception. You need to monitor your model’s performance and make adjustments as needed so that it accurately reflects reality in all its complexity.

For example, if you had trained your model using data from past races to predict the winner of future ones—and it turned out to be right every time—then you would have successfully deployed your model into production and it would be ready to help you make predictions. But if, on the other hand, your model was only able to predict who would win but not by how much, then you probably need to go back and improve its accuracy.

Evaluating Your Model

Now as your models start to make predictions, you also need to evaluate how well they’re doing at predicting the outcomes of future events. You can do this by creating a new test set of data from which you want to make predictions and comparing it against the original training set that your model learned from. 

For example, if you wanted to predict who would win a race based on previous winners’ times, then you could use past races as your training set and new ones as your test set.

Importance of Evaluation

Evaluating your model is a critical part of the process, much like checking if your new cake recipe turns out delicious. To illustrate, imagine you’ve developed a model capable of accurately predicting race winners.

At this point, you might feel accomplished and eager to utilize the model for various applications.

However, what if the model’s predictions weren’t consistently accurate?

Suppose the model boasts a seemingly impressive 95% accuracy rate in its predictions. Does that automatically translate to effective predictions in real-world scenarios?

In parallel, an ML model’s evaluation holds immense significance for several key reasons:

  • Accuracy Assessment: Evaluating a model reveals how accurate its predictions are. Just like you want your cake to taste exquisite, you desire precise predictions from your model.
  • Performance Enhancement: Evaluation helps pinpoint weaknesses that need improvement. It’s akin to recognizing a slightly undercooked portion of your cake and deciding to bake it a bit longer next time.
  • Real-world Applicability: An ML model’s real worth lies in its practical performance. Just as your cake should delight every palate, a model must consistently perform well in real-life scenarios.

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It’s a Wrap

So, that’s a wrap on this post.

I hope it helped clarify some of the basic concepts behind machine learning model development and evaluation, and that you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing! 

If you have any questions or comments—leave them below.

And if you’re now much eager to start building your own models, be sure to check out YHills course on “Machine Learning with Python” – it’ll make you a pro and you’ll be able to create your own models and get the most out of them.

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