This note addresses the typical applied problem of estimating from data how a target “conversion rate” function varies with some available scalar score function — e.g., estimating conversion rates from some marketing campaign as a function of a targeting model score. The idea centers around estimating the integral of the rate function; differentiating this gives the rate function. The method is a variation on a standard technique for estimating pdfs via fits to empirical cdfs.

# Author: Jonathan Landy

## Gaussian Processes

We review the math and code needed to fit a Gaussian Process (GP) regressor to data. We conclude with a demo of a popular application, fast function minimization through GP-guided search. The gif below illustrates this approach in action — the red points are samples from the hidden red curve. Using these samples, we attempt to leverage GPs to find the curve’s minimum as fast as possible.

Appendices contain quick reviews on (i) the GP regressor posterior derivation, (ii) SKLearn’s GP implementation, and (iii) GP classifiers.

## Martingales

Here, I give a quick review of the concept of a Martingale. A Martingale is a sequence of random variables satisfying a specific expectation conservation law. If one can identify a Martingale relating to some other sequence of random variables, its use can sometimes make quick work of certain expectation value evaluations.

This note is adapted from Chapter 2 of Stochastic Calculus and Financial Applications, by Steele.

## Logistic Regression

We review binary logistic regression. In particular, we derive a) the equations needed to fit the algorithm via gradient descent, b) the maximum likelihood fit’s asymptotic coefficient covariance matrix, and c) expressions for model test point class membership probability confidence intervals. We also provide python code implementing a minimal “LogisticRegressionWithError” class whose “predict_proba” method returns prediction confidence intervals alongside its point estimates.

Our python code can be downloaded from our github page, here. Its use requires the jupyter, numpy, sklearn, and matplotlib packages.

## Model AUC depends on test set difficulty

The AUC score is a popular summary statistic that is often used to communicate the performance of a classifier. However, we illustrate here that this score depends not only on the quality of the model in question, but also on the difficulty of the test set considered: If samples are added to a test set that are easily classified, the AUC will go up — even if the model studied has not improved. In general, this behavior implies that isolated, single AUC scores cannot be used to meaningfully qualify a model’s performance. Instead, the AUC should be considered a score that is primarily useful for comparing and ranking multiple models — each at a common test set difficulty.

## Deep reinforcement learning, battleship

Here, we provide a brief introduction to reinforcement learning (RL) — a general technique for training programs to play games efficiently. Our aim is to explain its practical implementation: We cover some basic theory and then walk through a minimal python program that trains a neural network to play the game battleship.

## Hyperparameter sample-size dependence

Here, we briefly review a subtlety associated with machine-learning model selection: the fact that the optimal hyperparameters for a model can vary with training set size, $N.$ To illustrate this point, we derive expressions for the optimal strength for both $L_1$ and $L_2$ regularization in single-variable models. We find that the optimal $L_2$ approaches a finite constant as $N$ increases, but that the optimal $L_1$ decays exponentially fast with $N.$ Sensitive dependence on $N$ such as this should be carefully extrapolated out when optimizing mission-critical models.