Recipes for several model fitting techniques in R

As I recently tried several modeling techniques in R, I would like to share some of these, with a focus on linear regression.

Disclaimer: the code lines below work, but I would not suggest that they are the most efficient way to deal with this kind of data (as a matter of fact, all of them score slightly below 80% accuracy on the Kaggle datasets). Moreover, there are not always the most efficient way to implement a given model.

I see it as a way to quickly test several frameworks without going into details.

The column names used in the examples are from the Titanic track on Kaggle.

Generalized linear models

titanic.glm <- glm (survived ~ pclass + sex + age + sibsp, data = titanic, family = binomial(link=logit))
glm.pred <- predict.glm(titanic.glm, newdata = titanicnew, na.action = na.pass, type = "response")
  • cat’ actually prints the output
  • One might want to use the na.action switch to be able to deal with incomplete data (as in the Titanic dataset) : na.action=na.pass

Link to glm in R manual.

Mixed GAM (Generalized Additive Models) Computation Vehicle

The commands are a little less obvious:

titanic.gam <- gam (survived ~ pclass …
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Data analysis and modeling in R: a crash course

Let’s pretend you recently installed R (a software to do statistical computing), you have a text collection you would like to analyze or classify and some time to lose. Here are a few quick commands that could get you a little further. I also write this kind of cheat sheet in order to remember a set of useful tricks and packages I recently gathered and from which I thought they could help others too.

Letter frequencies

In this example I will use a series of characteristics (or features) extracted from a text collection, more precisely the frequency of each letter from a to z (all lowercase). By the way, it goes as simple as that using Perl and regular expressions (provided you have a $text variable):

my @letters = ("a" .. "z");
foreach my $letter (@letters) {
    my $letter_count = () = $text =~ /$letter/gi;
    printf "%.3f", (($letter_count/length($text))*100);

First tests in R

After having started R (‘R’ command), one usually wants to import data. In this case, my file type is TSV (Tab-Separated Values) and the first row contains only describers (from ‘a’ to ‘z’), which comes at hand later. This is done using the read.table command.

alpha <- read.table("letters_frequency …
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Completing web pages on the fly with JavaScript

As I am working on a new release of the German Political Speeches Corpus, I looked for a way to make web pages lighter. I have lots of repetitive information, so that a little JavaScript is helpful when it comes to save on file size. Provided that the DOM structure is available, there are elements that may be completed on load.

For example, there are span elements which include specific text. By catching them and testing them against a regular expression the script is able to add attributes (like a class) to the right ones. Without activating JavaScript one still sees the contents of the page, and with it the page appears as I intended. In fact, the attributes match properties defined in a separate CSS file.

I had to look for several JavaScript commands across many websites, that’s why I decided to summarize what I found in a post.

First example : append text and a target to a link

These lines of code match all the links that don’t already have a href attribute, and append to them a modified destination as well as a target attribute.

function modLink(txt){ 
    // Get all the links

var list = document …

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Display long texts with CSS, tutorial and example

Last week, I improved the CSS file that displays the (mostly long) texts of the German Political Speeches Corpus, which I introduced in my last post (“Introducing the German Political Speeches Corpus and Visualization Tool”). The texts should be easier to read now (though I do not study this kind of readability), you can see an example here (BP text 536).

I looked for ideas to design a clean and simple layout, but I did not find what I needed. So I will outline in this post the main features of my new CSS file:

  • First of all, margins, font-size and eventually font-family are set for the whole page :

    html {
        margin-left: 10%;
        margin-right: 10%;
        font-family: sans-serif;
        font-size: 10pt;
  • Two frames, one for the main content and one for the footer, denoted as div in the XHTML file.

    div.framed {
        padding-top: 1em;
        padding-bottom: 1em;
        padding-left: 7%;
        padding-right: 7%; 
        border: 1px solid #736F6E;
        margin-bottom: 10px;

    NB: I know there is a faster way to set the padding but I like to keep things clear. - I chose to use the good old separation rule, hr in XHTML with custom (adaptable) spacing in the CSS : :::css hr { margin-top: 2 …

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Crawling a newspaper website to build a corpus

Basing on my previous post about specialized crawlers, I will show how I to crawl a French sports newspaper named L’Equipe using scripts written in Perl, which I did lately. For educational purpose, it works by now but it is bound to stop being efficient as soon as the design of the website changes.

Gathering links

First of all, you have to make a list of links so that you have something to start from. Here is the beginning of the script:

#!/usr/bin/perl #assuming you're using a UNIX-based system...
use strict; #because it gets messy without, and because Perl is faster that way
use Encode; #you have to get the correct encoding settings of the pages
use LWP::Simple; #to get the webpages
use Digest::MD5 qw(md5_hex);

Just an explanation on the last line : we are going to use a hash function to shorten the links and make sure we fetch a single page just once.

my $url = ""; #the starting point

$page = get $url; #the variables ought to be defined somewhere before $page = encode(“iso-8859-1”, $page); #because the pages are not in Unicode format push (@done_md5, substr(md5_hex($url), 0, 8 …

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Building a basic specialized crawler

As I went on crawling again in the last few days I thought it could be helpful to describe the way I do.

Note that it is for educational purpose only (I am not assuming that I built the fastest and most reliable crawling engine ever) and that the aim is to crawl specific pages of interest. That implies I know which links I want to follow just by regular expressions, because I observe how a given website is organized.

I see two (or eventually three) steps in the process, which I will go through giving a few hints in pseudocode.

A shell script

You might want to write a shell script to fire the two main phases automatically and/or to save your results on a regular basis (if something goes wrong after a reasonable amount of explored pages you don’t want to lose all the work, even if it’s mainly CPU time and electricity).

A list of links

If the website has an archive, a sitemap or a general list of its contents you can spare time by picking the interesting links once and for all.

going through a shortlist of archives DO {      fetch page      find …

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Binary search to find words in a list: Perl tutorial

Given a dictionary, say one of the frequent words lists of the University of Leipzig, given a series of words: How can you check which ones belong to the list ?

Another option would be to use the operator available since Perl 5.10: :::perl if ($word ~~ @list) {…} But this gets very slow if the size of the list increases. I wrote a naive implementation of the binary search algorithm in Perl that I would like to share. It is not that fast though. Basic but it works.

First of all the wordlist gets read:

my $dict = 'leipzig10000';
open (DICTIONARY, $dict) or die "Error...: $!\n";
my @list = ;
close (DICTIONARY) or die "Error...: $!\n";
my $number = scalar @list;

Then you have to initialize the values (given a list @words) and the upper bound:

my $start= scalar @words;
my $log2 = 0;
my $n = $number;
my ($begin, $end, $middle, $i, $word);
my $a = 0;
while ($n > 1){
    $n = $n / 2;
    $log2 = $log2 + 1;

Then the binary search can start:

foreach $mot (@mots) {
    $begin = 0;
    $end = $number - 1;
    $middle = int($number/2);
    $word =~ tr/A-Z/a-z/;
    $i = 0;
    while($i < $log2 + 1){
        if ($word eq lc($list[$middle])){
        elsif ($word …
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