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How to learn a machine learning algorithm

The issue of how to learn an ML algorithm has propped up a few times when beginners start their machine learning journey. 

In this blog post, we’ll share with you the technique we have been leveraging for a long time to learn and develop a structured description of an algorithm in a step-wise fashion that we can add to, refine, and refer back to over the passage of time.  

This was just a technique that was leveraged and several machine learning specialists have furnished positive feedback on it. 

Algorithm descriptions are broken 

Learning an ML algorithm can be overwhelming. There are several papers, literature and websites detailing how the algorithm functions mathematically and textually. If you are really fortunate you might identify a pseudocode description of the algorithm. 

If you are extreme fortunate you might identify some suggested methods to configure the method for differing scenarios. These descriptions are uncommon and usually buried deep in the original publication or in technical notes by the original authors. 

A truth that you learn earlier on is when you wish to implement a strategy from research papers is that algorithms are nearly never detailed in adequate detail for you to reproduce them. The reasons are variable, from the micro-decisions that are left out from the research paper, to entire procedures that are summed up ambiguously in a textual format, to symbols that are leveraged inconsistently.  

Piece it together 

To comprehend an algorithm you have to piece together an understanding yourself from disparate descriptions. This is the sole strategy that has been found to be effective. 

Disparate descriptions means resources like the original descriptions of the strategy in the primary sources in addition to authoritative secondary interpretations composed of original descriptions in review papers and books.  

It is typical for there to be prototype implementations of a strategy released with the primary sources and reading this code (usually C, FORTRAN, R or Matlab) can be really illuminating for the details you require to reproduce an algorithm. 

Algorithms Descriptions 

An algorithm is an island of research and in all reality it can be tough to pin down the canonical definition. For instance, is the version detailed in the primary source or is the variant that consists of all the fixes and enhancements that are “best practice”. 

A solution is to take up a provided algorithm from several perspectives, each of which can serve a differing purpose. For instance, the abstract data processing description of the algorithm could be realized by an array of differing particular computational implementations. 

This strategy should be favoured as it defends the requirement to telescope in on a particular case of the algorithm from several possible cases at every step of the description while also leaving the option open for the description of variations.  

There are several descriptions you could leverage of varying specificity dependent on your needs. A few that are commonly leverage consist of: inspiration for the algorithm, metaphor or analogy for the technique, information processing goals, pseudocode and code. 

Algorithm Prescriptions 

When beginning your own research projects, it is typical to think the answer to this problem was to absorb all of the data on an algorithm and develop the definitive implementation in code. Nice notion in all probability, but code is merely one way to communicate an algorithm, and it is restricted. 

There is a lot more to algorithm descriptions than the computation. There is meta information around on algorithms that can be priceless for specific use cases. 

For instance, usage heuristics for an algorithm are embedded in papers. Possessing a summary of usage heuristics gathered together in one spot can mean the difference of obtaining an adequate outcome swiftly and running sensitivity analysis on the algorithm for days or weeks. 

Other instances consist of the standard experimental datasets leveraged to evaluate the algorithm, the general categories of problems to which the algorithm is apt, and known restrictions that have been detected and detailed for the algorithm. 

Develop an Algorithm Description Template 

An algorithm description template furnishes a structured way for you to learn about a machine learning algorithm. 

You can begin with a blank doc and detail the section headings for the variants of descriptions you require of the algorithm, for instance, applied, implementation, or your own personal reference cheat sheet. 

To find out what sections to integrate into your template, list out questions you would wish to answer with regards to the algorithm, or algorithms you are seeking to build up a reference. Some questions you could leverage consist of: 

  • What is the standard and abbreviations leveraged for the algorithm? 
  • What is the data processing technique of the algorithm? 
  • What is the objective or goal for the algorithm? 
  • What metaphors or analogies are typically leveraged to detail the behaviour of the algorithm? 
  • What is the pseudocode or flowchart description of the algorithm? 
  • What are the heuristics or rules of thumb for leveraging the algorithm? 
  • What classes of problem is the algorithm well suited for? 
  • What are typical benchmark or instance datasets leveraged to depict the algorithm? 
  • What are useful resources for learning more with regards to the algorithm? 
  • What are the primary references or resources in which the algorithm was first detailed? 

After you have settled on a few questions, convert them into section headings. 

For every section heading clearly define the requirements of the section and the form that the description in that particular section will take up. It is a good notion to integrate motivating questions for every section that upon answering will fulfil the section at the minimum level of detail. 

Begin small and go from there 

The beauty of this strategy is that you don’t require to be a specialist in the algorithm or in research. As long as you can identify some resources that specify the algorithm, you can begin to capture notes with regards to an algorithm in the template. 

You can begin real simple and gather high-level descriptions of the algorithm, its names and abbreviations and the assets you have identified and what they speak about. From here on in you can decide to expand the description even more, or not. 

You will wind up with a one or two page description of the algorithm very swiftly. 

Machine learning specialists have been leveraging algorithm templates for a very long time. Some instances where this technique has proven to be practically useful consist of: 

  • Implementing ML algorithms leveraging a descriptive-focused template. 
  • Application of a machine learning algorithm leveraging an applied-focused template.  
  • Developing a catalogue of algorithms to leverage and refer to leveraging a general purpose template. 


In this blog post by AICoreSpot, you came to know about leveraging an algorithm description template as a technique for learning a machine learning algorithm. 

You came to know that algorithm descriptions are broken and the solution to learning an algorithm efficiently is to develop an algorithm template that fulfils your requirements and to fill in the template as you read and learn about the algorithm. 

You also came to know that the template is a effective and structured fashion to handle an overwhelming problem. 

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