Tips to Make the Most of Pandas Groupby Function

Boost your exploratory data analysis process

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Pandas is a highly popular data analysis and manipulation library. It provides numerous functions to perform efficient data analysis. Furthermore, its syntax is simple and easy-to-understand.

In this article, we focus on a particular function of Pandas, the groupby. It is used to group the data points (i.e. rows) based on the categories or distinct values in a column. We can then calculate a statistic or apply a function on a numerical column with regards to the grouped categories.

The process will be clear as we go through the examples. Let’s start by importing the libraries.

import numpy as np
import pandas as pd

We also need a dataset for the examples. We will use a small sample from the Melbourne housing dataset available on Kaggle.

df = pd.read_csv("/content/melb_data.csv", usecols = ['Price','Landsize','Distance','Type', 'Regionname'])df = df[(df.Price < 3_000_000) & (df.Landsize < 1200)].sample(n=1000).reset_index(drop=True)df.head()
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I have only read a small part of the original dataset. The usecols parameter of the read_csv function allows for reading only the given columns of the csv file. I have also filtered out the outliers with regards to the price and land size. Finally, a random sample of 1000 observations (i.e. rows) is selected using the sample function.

Before starting on the tips, let’s implement a simple groupby function to perform average distance for each category in the type column.

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The houses (h) are further away from the central business district than the other two types on average.

We can now start with the tips to use the groupby function more effectively.

1. Customize the column names

The groupby function does not change or customize the column names so we do not really know what the aggregated values represent. For instance, in the previous example, it would be more informative to change the column name from “distance” to “avg_distance”.

One way to accomplish this is to use the agg function instead of the mean function.

avg_distance = ('Distance', 'mean')
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We can always change the column name afterwards but this method is more practical.

Customizing the column names becomes more important if we aggregate multiple columns or apply different functions to one column. The agg function accepts multiple aggregations. We just need to specify the column name and the function.

For instance, we can calculate the average and median distance values for each category in the type column as below.

avg_distance = ('Distance', 'mean'),
median_distance = ('Distance', 'median')
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2. Lambda expressions

Lambda expression is a special form of functions in Python. In general, lambda expressions are used without a name so we do not define them with the def keyword like normal functions.

The main motivations behind the lambda expressions are simplicity and practicality. They are one-liners and usually only used at once.

The agg function accepts lambda expressions. Thus, we can perform more complex calculations and transformations along with the groupby function.

For instance, we can calculate the average price for each type and convert it to millions with one lambda expression.

avg_price_million = ('Price', lambda x: x.mean() / 1_000_000)
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3. As_index parameter

The groupby functions assigns the groups to the index of the returned dataframe. In case of nested groups, it does not look nice.

df[['Type','Regionname', 'Distance']]\
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If we want to perform analysis on this dataframe later on, it is not practical to have the type and region name columns as index. We can always use the reset_index function but there is a more optimal way.

If the as_index parameter of the groupby function is set to false, the grouped columns are represented as columns instead of index.

df[['Type','Regionname', 'Distance']]\
.groupby(['Type','Regionname'], as_index=False).mean().head()
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4. Missing values

The groupby function ignores the missing values by default. Let’s first update some of the values in the type column as missing.

df.iloc[100:150, 0] = np.nan

The iloc function selects row-column combinations by using indices. The code above updates the rows between 100 and 150 of the first column (0 index) as missing value (np.nan).

If we try to calculate the average distance for each category in the type column, we will not get any information about the missing values.

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In some case, we also need to get an overview of the missing values. It may affect how we aim to handle the them. The dropna parameter of the groupby function is used to also calculate the aggregations on the missing values.

df[['Type','Distance']].groupby('Type', dropna=False).mean()
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The groupby functions is one of the most frequently used functions in the exploratory data analysis process. It provides valuable insight into the relationships between variables.

It is important to use the groupby function efficiently to boost the data analysis process with Pandas. The 4 tips we have covered in this article will help you make the most of the groupby function.

Hyperplane in SVM Algorithm

In this post, we are going to introduce you to the Support Vector Machine (SVM) machine learning algorithm. We will follow a similar process to our recent post Naive Bayes for Dummies; A Simple Explanation by keeping it short and not overly-technical. The aim is to give those of you who are new to machine learning a basic understanding of the key concepts of this algorithm.

Support Vector Machines – What are they?

A Support Vector Machine (SVM) is a supervised machine learning algorithm that can be employed for both classification and regression purposes. SVMs are more commonly used in classification problems and as such, this is what we will focus on in this post.

SVMs are based on the idea of finding a hyperplane that best divides a dataset into two classes, as shown in the image below.


Support Vectors

Support vectors are the data points nearest to the hyperplane, the points of a data set that, if removed, would alter the position of the dividing hyperplane. Because of this, they can be considered the critical elements of a data set.

What is a hyperplane?

As a simple example, for a classification task with only two features (like the image above), you can think of a hyperplane as a line that linearly separates and classifies a set of data.

Intuitively, the further from the hyperplane our data points lie, the more confident we are that they have been correctly classified. We therefore want our data points to be as far away from the hyperplane as possible, while still being on the correct side of it.

So when new testing data is added, whatever side of the hyperplane it lands will decide the class that we assign to it.

How do we find the right hyperplane?

Or, in other words, how do we best segregate the two classes within the data?

The distance between the hyperplane and the nearest data point from either set is known as the margin. The goal is to choose a hyperplane with the greatest possible margin between the hyperplane and any point within the training set, giving a greater chance of new data being classified correctly.


But what happens when there is no clear hyperplane?

This is where it can get tricky. Data is rarely ever as clean as our simple example above. A dataset will often look more like the jumbled balls below which represent a linearly non separable dataset.

SVM< In order to classify a dataset like the one above it’s necessary to move away from a 2d view of the data to a 3d view. Explaining this is easiest with another simplified example. Imagine that our two sets of colored balls above are sitting on a sheet and this sheet is lifted suddenly, launching the balls into the air. While the balls are up in the air, you use the sheet to separate them. This ‘lifting’ of the balls represents the mapping of data into a higher dimension. This is known as kernelling. You can read more on Kerneling here.


Because we are now in three dimensions, our hyperplane can no longer be a line. It must now be a plane as shown in the example above. The idea is that the data will continue to be mapped into higher and higher dimensions until a hyperplane can be formed to segregate it.

Pros & Cons of Support Vector Machines


  • Accuracy
  • Works well on smaller cleaner datasets
  • It can be more efficient because it uses a subset of training points


  • Isn’t suited to larger datasets as the training time with SVMs can be high
  • Less effective on noisier datasets with overlapping classes

SVM Uses

SVM is used for text classification tasks such as category assignment, detecting spam and sentiment analysis. It is also commonly used for image recognition challenges, performing particularly well in aspect-based recognition and color-based classification. SVM also plays a vital role in many areas of handwritten digit recognition, such as postal automation services.

There you have it, a very high level introduction to Support Vector Machines.

Improve Your ML Model Accuracy

6 Ways to Improve Your ML Model Accuracy

Simple steps for much better results

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One of the most frustrating things that happen — more often than data scientists like to admit — after they spend hours upon hours gathering data, cleaning it, labeling it, and using it to train and develop a machine learning model is ending up with a model with low accuracy or large error range.

In machine learning, the term model accuracy refers to the measurements made to decide whether or not a certain model is the best to describe the relationship between the different problem variables. We often use training data (sample data) to train a model for new, unused data.

If our model has good accuracy, it will perform well on both the training data and the new one. Having a model with high accuracy is essential to the overall project’s success, and if you’re building it for a client, it’s important for your paycheck!

From a business perspective, performance equals money; if a model’s accuracy is low, it will result in more errors, which can be very costly. And I am not just talking about the financial aspect; imagine a model used to diagnose cancer or any other terminal diseases; a wrong diagnosis will not only cost the hospital money but will cost the patient and their family unnecessary emotional trauma.5 Types of Machine Learning Algorithms You Need to KnowIf you’re new to data science, here’s a good place to

So, have can we avoid all of that and improve the accuracy of our machine learning model? There are different ways a data scientist can use to improve their model’s accuracy; in this article, we will go through 6 of such ways. Let’s jump right in…

Most ML engineers are familiar with the quote, “Garbage in, garbage out”. Your model can perform only so much when the data it is trained upon is poorly representative of the actual scenario. What do I mean by ‘representative’? It refers to how well the training data population mimics the target population; the proportions of the different classes, or the point estimates (like mean, or median), and the variability (like variance, standard deviation, or interquartile range) of the training and target populations.

Generally, the larger the data, the more likely it is to be representative of the target population to which you want to generalize. if you want to generalize the population of students in Grade 1 to 12 of a school you cannot just use 80% of Grade 8 population because the data you want to predict will be faulty because of your dataset. It is crucial to have a good understanding of the distribution of your target population in order to devise the right data collection techniques. Once you have the data, study the data (the exploratory data analysis phase) in order to determine its distribution and representativeness.

Outliers, missing values, and outright wrong or false data are some of the other considerations that you might have. Should you cap outliers at a certain value? Or remove them entirely? How about normalizing the values? Should you include data with some missing values? Or use the mean or median values instead to replace the missing values? Does the data collection method support the integrity of the data? These are some of the questions that you must evaluate before thinking about the model. Data cleaning is probably the most important step after data collection.

Method 1: Add more data samples

Data tells a story only if you have enough of it. Every data sample provides some input and perspective to your data’s overall story is trying to tell you. Perhaps the easiest and most straightforward way to improve your model’s performance and increase its accuracy is to add more data samples to the training data.

Doing so will add more details to your data and finetune your model resulting in a more accurate performance. Rember after all, the more information you give your model, the more it will learn and the more cases it will be able to identify correctly.

Method 2: Look at the problem differently

Sometimes adding more data couldn’t be the answer to your model inaccuracy problem. You’re providing your model with a good technique and the correct dataset. But you’re not getting the results you hope for; why?

Maybe you’re just asking the wrong questions or trying to hear the wrong story. Looking at the problem from a new perspective can add valuable information to your model and help you uncover hidden relationships between the story variables. Asking different questions may lead to better results and, eventually, better accuracy.Data Science Lingo 101: 10 Terms You Need to Know as a Data ScientistYour guide to understanding basic data science

Method 3: Add some context to your data.

Context is important in any situation, and training a machine learning model is no different. Sometimes, one point of data can’t tell a story, so you need to add more context for any algorithm we intend to apply to this data to have a good performance.

More context can always lead to a better understanding of the problem and, eventually, better performance of the model. Imagine I tell you I am selling a car, a BMW. That alone doesn’t give you much information about the car. But, if I add the color, model and distance traveled, then you’ll start to have a better picture of the car and its possible value.

Method 4: Finetune your hyperparameter

Training a machine learning model is a skill that you can only hone with practice. Yes, there are rules you can follow to train your model, but these rules don’t give you the answer your seeking, only the way to reach that answer.

However, to get the answer, you will need to do some trial and error until you reach your answer. When I first started learning the different machine learning algorithms, such as the K-means, I was lost on choosing the best number of clusters to reach the optimal results. The way to optimize the results is to tune its hyper-parameters. So, tuning the parameters of the algorithm will always lead to better accuracy.

Method 5: Train your model using cross-validation

In machine learning, cross-validation is a technique used to enhance the model training process by dividing the overall training set into smaller chunks and then use each chunk to train the model.

Using this approach, we can enhance the algorithm’s training process but train it using the different chunks and averaging over the result. Cross-validation is used to optimize the model’s performance. This approach is very popular because it’s so simple and easy to implement.7 Tips For Data Science NewbiesTo help make your learning journey

Method 6: Experiment with a different algorithm.

What if you tried all the approaches we talked about so far and your model still results in a low or average accuracy? What then?

Sometimes we choose an algorithm to implement that doesn’t really apply to the data we have, and so we don’t get the results we expect. Changing the algorithm, you’re using to implement your solution. Trying out different algorithms will lead you to uncover more details about your data and the story it’s trying to tell.


One of the most difficult things to learn as a new data scientist and to master as a professional one is improving your machine learning model’s accuracy. If you’re a freelance developer, own your own company, or have a role as a data scientist, having a high accuracy model can make or break your entire project.

A machine learning model with low accuracy can cause more than just financial loss. If the model is used in a sensitive scope, such as any medical application, an error in that model can lead to trauma and emotional loss for people involved with that model’s results.5 Reasons Why Every Data Scientist Should BlogExplaining something gives you a deeper understanding of

Luckily, there are various simple yet efficient ways one can make to increase the accuracy of their model and save them much time, money, and effort that can be wasted on error mitigating if the model’s accuracy is low.

Improving the accuracy of a machine learning model is a skill that can only improve with practice. The more projects you build, the better your intuition will get about which approach you should use next time to improve your model’s accuracy. With time, your models will become more accurate and your projects more concrete.