Intro to Data Science (UCB)

A hour ago someone posted on hacker news about this course at UC Berkeley.
You can find the slides and the videos from last year or slides only from this year. The material looks pretty basic but covers data preparation over two weeks which is quite rare but really important.
Coming from a university that basically ignored everything which wasn’t academic, two things stand out.
Firstly, there are guest lectures from people from Google, Optimizely, Yahoo, etc and their lectures are generally quite interesting.
Secondly, the freedom in choosing the final projects is awesome. You can choose freely some data sets which interests you and play with it. There was a wide variety of data from Youtube,, basketball to Yelp.

Generally, I think that this is a pretty good intro course into this topic. Most universities try to over-theorize such basic courses and talk in my opinion too much about maths and too little about data gathering and EDA.

Also there was a particularly good comment in the hn thread:

Someone (can’t recall the source, sorry) recently defined “data scientist” as “a data analyst who lives in California.” —baconner

#104/111: Why don’t Students like School?

The next title that talks about schooling. Daniel Willingham, cognitive scientist, took the interesting topic of students and school and asks Why don’t Students like School?

If you haven’t read the post of Dumbing Us Down this is probably a good time because Willingham talks about a lot of statements which were made by Gatto.

Do we have to force kids to learn? No. People are naturally curious, it rather happens that school is destroying this natural curiosity. He talks about the differences in people. Why are some kids good at maths and other aren’t? Some part is genetically but not everything. A theory is that e.g. maths feels easier for you, that leads that you want to learn more about maths, maybe join a math club, etc. which in the end leads to extraordinary abilities. The process of deliberate practice was discussed in Talent Is Overrated.

Which brings us to the next point. Deep knowledge is better than shallow knowledge. Firstly, we will need some factual knowledge before going to more difficult tasks. This has to do with working memory. You can only hold up a specific amount of information at a time. However, you can compress this knowledge. For example, it’s hard to remember this letters: O, D, E, L, E, W, N, K, G but if you scramble them it becomes knowledge which is quite easy to remember. The same holds for mathematical formulas, design principles and other things. The second important thing is that deep knowledge leads to long term knowledge. Willingham cites a study which tested the ability to do calculus after 5, 10, 15 and 20 years. People how took more than one class and got C remembered substantially more than people how just took one class and got an A.

This aren’t the positive things about deep knowledge, furthermore it helps you to connect to new ideas more easily which is named context learning. In conclusion, deep knowledge rocks. Learning in Depth talked about more soft criteria of deep knowledge and is a nice complement to this book for this aspect.

The last chapters talk about some misconceptions like learning styles. Research shows that they aren’t existent. There are no auditory or visual learning. Some things stimulate auditory regions and other visual regions.

Why don’t Students like School? is my opinion are really great book which shows what’s important and why we should recheck our theories after some years. If you are interested in learning and want a nice introduction, this is the book for you. Recommendation.

#6/111: Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur

What is it about?

Stuart Skorman tells about his business and private life. He started several companies in his life, worked as a band manager and played high stakes poker for two years. All in all a pretty adventures life.

Key points?

Choose your business idea/model on logic and profitability. He tried to make an educational business to give something back to the world but forget to make it profitable. Result: The business failed and he and his investors (family, friends) lost a lot of money.


This is one of the few books where people wrote a lot about the failures. This makes is very valuable. He excelled on his first company (video renting) because he loved movies, had enough information about the customer and the retail business. This example shows greatly that you should rather go for boring ideas than for clever, new, exciting ones, which will probably fail.

connecting neutrons

learning to ride a bike - _MG_2933 by sean dreilinger

What have lions, birds and apes in common? Beside of being creatures they are able to learn. They have to learn otherwise they won’t survive.
For students it’s often an exhausting task. “Studying is hard, let’s go shopping“. If you just read your text books over and over then it is hard. You should acquire some knowledge about learning.

The key is summary. You have to understand your topic to shorten it to its essence. In addition you should have at least once read through your notices and books.
There are various approaches for displaying your shortened stuff. One famous approach is mind maps. Sometimes I find it very useful. Other times I prefer simple drawings or tables. I think everyone should choose its own ways depending on the specific information.

Now the information that you need to learn is shortened. You can begin to “learn” it. I prefer explaining it to someone. Otherwise I repeat it as long as I know it and try to apply it.