Association Rule Mining – Not Your Typical Data Science Algorithm by Dr. Kirk Borne.

From the post:

Many machine learning algorithms that are used for data mining and data science work with numeric data. And many algorithms tend to be very mathematical (such as Support Vector Machines, which we previously discussed). But, association rule mining is perfect for categorical (non-numeric) data and it involves little more than simple counting! That’s the kind of algorithm that MapReduce is really good at, and it can also lead to some really interesting discoveries.

Association rule mining is primarily focused on finding frequent co-occurring associations among a collection of items. It is sometimes referred to as “Market Basket Analysis”, since that was the original application area of association mining. The goal is to find associations of items that occur together more often than you would expect from a random sampling of all possibilities. The classic example of this is the famous Beer and Diapers association that is often mentioned in data mining books. The story goes like this: men who go to the store to buy diapers will also tend to buy beer at the same time. Let us illustrate this with a simple example. Suppose that a store’s retail transactions database includes the following information:

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If you aren’t familiar with association rule mining, I think you will find Dr. Borne’s post an entertaining introduction.

I would not go quite as far as Dr. Borne with “explanations” for the pop-tart purchases before hurricanes. For retail purposes, so long as we spot the pattern, they could be building dikes out of them. The same is the case for other purchases. Take advantage of the patterns and try to avoid second guessing consumers. You can read more about testing patterns Selling Blue Elephants.

Enjoy!