I'm a data guy, not a basketball fan!

I get several requests and recommendations for analyzing sports data. I'm not a big sports fan ... but when did I ever let that stop me! When I find interesting data, I like to graph it!

Before we get into the nitty-gritty data analysis, here is a picture of my friend Jennifer's daughter playing basketball. Perhaps a future NBA star?!? Aww!!!...


I recently found an interesting article on FiveThirtyEight.com that analyzed all the NBA (basketball) games going back for several decades. They calculated each team's Elo rating after each game, and then plotted the scores as a time series. Below is an example of their graph for the Warriors: Read More »

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Beyond the Credential: Humans Behind the Exams

What is your first reaction to this question: “How would you like to take an exam today?”

If you are like most people, you probably responded in a not so positive way. Maybe your brow furrowed, you physically leaned away from your computer (and this article), or your stomach knotted up. Throughout our lives we are tested in various ways to demonstrate what we can do or what we know. It might be an informal interview or a full blown, closed book examination. And for some reason no matter how much we know, there is a tendency to feel that perhaps we are being tricked by a series of questions intentionally designed to sabotage us.

There is a very human component to the technical exams that make up the SAS Certification program -- specifically exam development project managers and subject matter experts (SMEs). How are exams built? Who builds them? What does it mean to be SAS Certified? Beyond the Credential, a new blog from The SAS Learning Post, goes beyond the impersonal and sometime sterile world of technical exams and shines the light on the more human side of testing.

Exams typically do not create themselves -- with the exception of some marginally performing computer-based test question generators. SAS exams are built from the skills and knowledge of SMEs who come from all types of backgrounds, have a wide variety of experience and certainly their own opinions on what should be tested. The job of the exam development project manager is to pull content out of the SMEs brains in a consistent, structured manner that ultimately produces an exam that is valid, reliable, successfully measures what it’s supposed to measure, and is legally defensible. I have been on both sides of this spectrum -- SME and project manager -- and the SMEs carry the lion’s share of the work. Read More »

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Forecasting more than just your odds in Las Vegas

LasVegasIn October I will be at the Analytics 2015 conference in Las Vegas.  I’ve never been to Las Vegas before.  People tell me that if you are better than average in forecasting where a small ball will end up after it’s been spinning for a while in a dish with 38 numbers, then you can earn lots of money there.

I’ll be flying to Las Vegas from Raleigh-Durham International Airport.  Of course, I hate to be delayed, so I would really like to know what the weather would be like on my traveling days.  I sure hope that there won’t be too many hurricanes along the way.  That can ruin a whole trip.

Coincidentally, my rooftop solar photovoltaic system will have its first birthday in October.  I’d really like to know how I can squeeze more electricity out of those solar cells.  I wonder why I seem to be getting so much more production on some days than on other days.

My manager here at SAS is named Chip.  Chip is really into forecasting things, so he said he could help me with all of my time series decisions.  Of course, nothing in this life is free, and so in exchange for his help, I was tagged to help develop a foundations course in time series analysis and forecasting.  Chip assembled a ragtag team composed of himself, Danny Modlin, Jay Laramore, and me, in producing a course for people just like us – well, hopefully not as ragtag as us – who want to understand the fundamentals of time series analysis and hope to do a little bit of forecasting. The new course is called Time Series Modeling Essentials.

Until now, anyone who wanted to learn about time series analysis and forecasting needed to start with our course Forecasting Using SAS Software: A Programming Approach.  That course is great, but it does require some background knowledge in time series to grasp the techniques used.  We all agreed that it was not the best introduction for someone who has a good grasp of statistical and analytical concepts, such as regression and ANOVA, but no familiarity with how to use time as a factor in their models. Read More »

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Are you a geography expert? Try this quick quiz!

My blog posts focus on visual data analysis, and many of them use geographical maps. Therefore I hope you will have fun with a quick geography quiz, which I created using SAS/Graph ...



















And what, you might ask, is the purpose of this little exercise?... Well, aside from having a little fun, I hope it warns you of the dangers of jumping to conclusions based on your initial visual perception of data. Also, be sure to plot your data in context, to help lead your readers to the correct conclusions!

Now, see how many of your friends can pass this quiz! :)

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Administering on-campus SAS Certification exams

cert2013_89x89At California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo the Statistics Department offers two courses on preparation for the Base SAS Certification and Advanced SAS Certification exams, respectively.  Each of these courses is 10 weeks long and the topics covered follow the content offered in the certification guides offered by SAS.  Students in these courses take weekly quizzes and they have weekly programming assignments, many of which have been translated into content in the new book I co-authored with Lora Delwiche and Susan Slaughter, Exercises and Projects for The Little SAS Book Fifth Edition.

This year I was able to allow the students to take the actual certification exam offered by SAS as their final exam.  This was an added bonus because the students walked away from the quarter as certified SAS programmers and administering this exam was a very simple process.

Getting started

As an instructor at Cal Poly, I was able to proctor a testing event for my students.  At the beginning of the quarter I sent an email to SAS and they helped me schedule the exam.

Read More »

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How to plot your GPS tracking data on a SAS map

These days many devices (such as smart phone apps, Fitbits, Apple watches, dog tracking collars, car gps, hiking gps, teen/car trackers, etc) can track your location, and provide you with standard/canned ways to analyze the data. This blog post shows how I created a custom SAS map of the tracking data for my recent trip to Cuba. Hopefully this will inspire and help teach you to create your own custom maps!

Before we get into the nitty gritty data analysis, here are a few pictures I took in Cuba...


And now, back to the data analysis!... Read More »

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Q&A with data mining instructor Jeff Thompson


Jeff Thompson

Do you want to know what will happen in the future? To gain true predictive insight, skip the tea leaves and look toward your data. SAS instructor Jeff Thompson is a high-energy data mining expert who will be demonstrating how to gain predictive insight from your data in his new course, Mass-Scale Predictive Modeling using SAS Factory Miner, which will make its debut after the Analytics 2015 conference in Las Vegas.

I recently caught-up with Jeff to ask him a few questions about his new course.

  1. Why should people get excited about this course?

People should be excited about the course because it is brand new! The product students will learn is brand new! And there really is nothing else in the market today that has all the capabilities that SAS Factory Miner has when it comes to automated, segmented modeling.

  1. Who would get the most out of attending this course?

Certainly customers who have recently acquired SAS Factory Miner.  That product was just released this past July. But even modelers without the product could benefit. Segments exist in many data sets and the course focuses on predictive modeling based on segments in data. Read More »

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Talk Like a Pirate day ... and paddling from Cuba to the US

I just returned home from an expedition/adventure boat trip to Cuba, and Talk Like a Pirate day is coming up this Saturday - what a combination for an interesting blog! I hope you enjoy a few pictures, and a bit of data analysis on these topics!

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in Cotopaxi's Challenge 113 adventure trip to Cuba. We sailed to Cuba on two boats, toured the country & mentored business owners. Then 10 of the group members attempted to paddle non-stop back from Cuba to Key West (approximately 113 miles) in kayaks, with the rest of us being their support crew. Here's a SAS map I created, showing the basic area and route:


Here are pictures of the two support ships - the first one is an awesome & unique outrigger ship called the Mirage (we used it to haul all the kayaks to Cuba), and the second one is a large catamaran called the Sunluver. I was assigned to the Sunluver, and the night trip over to Cuba on it was like something out of a story book with the oceans as smooth as glass. I slept out on the deck, waking up a few times to keep the captains company while admiring the milky way and spotting shooting stars. I especially liked when we were able to hoist the sail for part of the trip. Read More »

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Boost your big data skills at Analytics 2015

Among the tightly held cards, piles of chips and bright lights, there have been stories that have unfolded in Las Vegas that have been forever preserved in time, never seeing the light of day.  But what if what happened in Vegas…could be shared with excitement with your friends and family?  Even shared on your resume?

Starting Oct. 24 at the Analytics 2015 conference in Las Vegas there will be an opportunity to take SAS training and SAS certification exams at a discount.  Several of the courses, including Big Data, Data Mining and Machine Learning will be taught for the very first time at Analytics 2015.

Watch this interview with instructor Jared Dean to learn the benefits of attending his new course:


Arrive Early

Training will be available both before and after the conference.  Arrive the weekend before the conference and choose from a variety of half-day and full-day courses offered on Sunday, October 25th.

Half-day sessions include:

  • Contextual Analysis: Hands-On Workshop
  • Digital Analytics: The Science of Analyzing Customer Experience
  • The Flexibility of SAS® Enterprise Miner™
  • SAS® In-Memory Statistics

Read More »

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Random Sampling: What's Efficient?

random_samplingSuppose you wish to select a random sample from a large SAS dataset.  No problem. The PROC SURVEYSELECT step below randomly selects a 2 percent sample:

proc surveyselect data=large out=sample
	 method=srs   /* simple random sample */
	 n=1000000;	 /* sample size */

Do you have a SAS/STAT license?   If not, or if you seek maximum efficiency, keep reading.

I benchmarked the above program against a SAS dataset with 50 million rows and 3 columns, running SAS 9.4 on my 64-bit Windows 7 machine.

Time: 2.8 seconds

Is the DATA step more efficient?  It might be, if you know some tricks.  Let's look at a few.

The DATA step below selects a random sample of approximately 1 million rows.

899  data sample;
900     set large;
901     if rand('uniform') < .02;
902  run;
NOTE: There were 50000000 observations read from the data set WORK.LARGE.
NOTE: The data set WORK.SAMPLE has 1001125 observations and 3 variables.
NOTE: DATA statement used (Total process time):
      real time           3.31 seconds
      cpu time            3.29 seconds

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