Classifiers are very handy generalpurpose tools for computing
"the degree of connectedness" in relations between observed variables
(see this application
in marketing).
An example where a classifier is handy to apply, is in datamining of weblinks.
Suppose in this small example that you have the following questions:
Classifiers are probability models. So instead of yielding
the ‘how often’, they compute the
fraction of occurrences, the fraction of positively
Referred pages among all pages in the collection.
In probability terms, we say that we compute the
probability
P(Referral)
or in short P(R).
If 20 out of 100 webpages we visited have
referral to one of our products, we say that
P(R) = 20/100 = 0.2

Until now, we have not used a classifier.
We only computed a probability of referral
among a set of webpages which have been screened by
a colleague who worked intensively with a webbrowser.
I will now show how to build a small classifier.
Classifier with two input variables, and one probability outcome.

Practical computation  answer to your questions
In practice the web is so huge that everybody counts
actual number of occurrences of for instance a keyword,
and not the fraction of all webpages on our mother earth
that refer to the keyword associated with your product
line. Wellknown browsers yield these numbers.
What you are interested in from a marketing point of
view is whether the referral to one of the products
is positive (boosting your sales!), or negative.
We begin with a naive perspective on product marketing:
every neutral referral to our product is considered
a positive referral. So we divide the world of
referralwebpages into two groups[1],
the ‘positives’ and the ‘negatives’. And you will need to know the
number of pages that refer to one of your products.
You are interested in the probabilities:
P(Positive_Referral
 Referral)
and
P(Negative_Referral
 Referral )
Oops, something happened. The way of writing the probability
became more complex, introducing the ‘’. This is simply a
conditional sign, indicating that given the fact that a
webpage makes referral to one of your products, what are
the probabilities that the referral is positive or negative?
Let's assume that the number of positive referrals is
65 out of 100,
and the number of negative referral
pages is 35 out of the 100
that we visited with our browser.
And because all ‘neutral’ pages were considered positive
advertising, the probabilities
sum up till 1:
P(Positive_Referral
 Referral) +
P(Negative_Referral
 Referral ) =
65/100 + 35/100 = 1
A small classifier
Let’s now focus on only the pages that refer to your product line, and let us leave out the
conditional ‘‘ indicating that we compute only on pages that somehow refer to our
product line (still keeping in mind that we compute only with webpages that do refer).
The probabilities are then written as P(Positive_Referral) and P(Negative_Referral), which sum up till 1.
Now the webmarketing question is whether characterizing positively
one of our products is associated with a brandname, an imagelink to one of our products,
or both.
In probability terms, we want to compute the probabilities:
P(Positive_Referral  image_link_present & brand_name_present)
P(Positive_Referral  image_link_present & brand_name_absent)
P(Positive_Referral  image_link_absent & brand_name_present)
P(Positive_Referral  image_link_absent & brand_name_absent)

and their four opposite probabilities,
P(Negative_Referral  image_link_present & brand_name_present),
etc.
because
P(Positive_Referral  image_link_present & brand_name_present) +
P(Negative_Referral  image_link_present & brand_name_present) = 1.
What does a high probability say?
P(Positive_Referral  image_link_present & brand_name_present)=0.9
P(Positive_Referral  image_link_present & brand_name_absent)=0.6
Well, that people when referring to our product with both a link to an
image of our product and its brand name with great certainty have a
positive opinion about the product. Consumers active on the
web don’t make the effort to include both links when they
want to talk negatively about our product.
What can we do with this knowledge?
Well, our marketing assistant took the effort to manually visit and view 100 webpages
somehow referring to our product. In the future, the combined
occurrence of an image link and the presence of the brand name is a
confident indicator for the amount of positive reputation to
our product.
This saves our marketing assistant from visiting thousands of
webpages manually, to keep track of how the market reacts to, for example a
new online marketing campaign.
Here comes statistics – how to generalize
Why do we use a probability model to compute relations between variables?
Well, of course you can easily just count numbers of page referrals in a worksheet
65
positive referrals

35
negative referrals

Image present

Brand name present

30

Image present

Brand name present

5

Image present

Brand name absent

20

Image present

Brand name absent

2

Image absent

Brand name present

10

Image absent

Brand name present

23

Image absent

Brand name absent

5

Image absent

Brand name absent

5

The table above has a hierarchical structure. You can easily enter
our findings from visiting say 100 webpages in such a table.
P(Postive_Referral  Image_present & brand_name_present) =
(65/ 100 *
30/65) /
((65/100 *
30/65) +
(35/100 *
5/35) )
=0.86
We have now built a classifier!
The probability
P(Postive_Referral  Image_present & brand_name_present)
is the actual classification probability,
the chance that if we
say 'Postive_Referral' for a website where a link to our product image is
present and our brand name is mentioned, we are right for 86% of those webpages.

What you do want is that the entries in the table generalize
to all referrals to your product on the whole web – or to other
markets as well. That’s were statistics offers some handy results
and formulas.
Statistics can be seen as a framework that enables us to
say – in general – whether some cooccurrence of events – the
joint presence of a positive referral, the presence of a
specified imagelink and a product brand name on a website – is
a genuine relation that holds on the large web.

Does this strong relation,
P(Postive_Referral  Image_present & brand_name_present) = 0.86
hold for all pages? Then you have discovered a ‘golden indicator’
for positive referrals to your products.
Statistics uses difficult words to specify (in mathematics) how to
draw “certain” [2] conclusions from
statistical data as we collected and displayed in the table above.
Keyterms are: distribution, probability, estimate, confidence
interval, mean/average, standarddeviation/variance, sample.

The histogram above shows the distribution
of the probability P(Postive_Referral  Image_present & brand_name_present)
over 10.000 runs where all numbers (probabilities) in the table above are computed
from randomly drawn samples (with the same probability distribution),
each with the size 300.
The highest peak is concentrated around the mean 0.86 (the rightinterval
boundaries are shown on the axis). The distribution is not symmetric
over the mean: the leftpart below the mean is squeezed
compared to the rightpart above the mean which is stretched.
This distribution is not Gaussian,
it's multivariate binomial.

You might think, why this graphic?
Can't we just compute the probabilities from the entries
in the table, which we collected from the marketing survey?
One of the many things statistics is good for, is that you can say that the
probability
P(Postive_Referral  Image_present & brand_name_present)
in any survey of size 300 will not be below 0.7,
even though your manual survey from 300 websites yielded the probability of 0.86.
Here the tailprobability comes into play:
in less than 0.01 of the samples of size 300, the probability can actually be
below 0.7. This is the number of occurrences in the leftmost bar in the
histogramgraphic.
Distribution
We actually don’t need computer simulations to compute the height of the bins
in the histogram – or to compute the number of times a probability will be below for example 0.7 or
0.8.
The most simple case is the probability of a positive referral, 0.65. This probability
P(Postive_Referral) is computed as the number of occurrences of a positive referral
divided by the number of visited websites: 65/100 = 0.65.
In our simulation, this probability also varies among each sample.
We know how to draw the graphic for the probability P(Postive_Referral),
from the distribution function of the
binomial
distribution.


So the probability that we observe 0, 0.01, 0.02,…,1 can be computed directly.
P(67/100) = 100!/(67! (10067)!) 0.65^{67} (10.65) ^{10067} = 0.077.
For the value i=55 further away from the mean 0.65, we get
P(55/100) = 100!/(55! (10055)!) 0.65^{55} (10.65) ^{10055} = 0.01.
Let us draw the graphic then, from the formula above, for each i:


Also this distribution is not symmetric around its mean i=65
(P(Positive Referral=0.65)), it's
Binomial,
not Gaussian.

Why this knowledge is so useful:
Before you present your
3D barchart in the meeting room showing the counts in the table
above to your colleagues
“Look, positively referral is highly associated with a link to
one of our product images and mentioning our brand name.”


The 3D chart showing the data from the table above. The label
Ima_PR_Bra_PR indicates that an imagelink is present and
that a brand name is mentioned.

it’s so good to know whether the relations you summarize in your
conclusions are just random fluctuations,
or really indicate some important underlying relations in the marked.
Usage of the classifier  predictions
Now we have built a classifier (mostly the term ‘trained’ is used),
and the classifier can be applied to categorize thousands of webpages
without manual inspection by the marketing assistant from our example
above.
Program a webcrawler (for example in Java) that traverses selected
webpages, and the pages that are linked to. Each standard programming
book includes sourcecode for this purpose. The downloaded HTMLdocument
is then scanned for the ‘findings’:

Our brand name

A weblink to an image of our product(s)
For each webpage, the webrobot looks for the presence of 1) and 2) and
calls the classifier routine, with the findings. If our brand name is
present in the document and the image link is also included, we compute
the probability:
P(Positive_Referral
 Image_present &
brand_name_present)
and similarly for another webpage without the image link but with our brand
name present, the relevant probability:
P(Positive_Referral
 Image_absent &
brand_name_present).
Classification rule:
Choose each time the label with the highest
probability, given the presence/absence of the two findings. If
P(Positive_Referral
 Image_present &
brand_name_present)
>
P(Negative_Referral
 Image_present &
brand_name_present)
then ‘Positive referral’ is assumed, otherwise ‘Negative referral’.

Performance of the classifier
The performance of a classifier can be measured in a number of
different ways. The most used performance indicator is the
correctness, the fraction of
observations (100 in total in the table above), for
which the 'positive referral' and 'negative referral'
are predicted correctly.
The correctness is defined as.


For the classifier in the table above, the most likely class is 'Positive_Referral'
in the two first table rows, and 'Negative_Referral' for the third row. For the
fourth row, both probabilities are equally likely.
The correctness is computed as follows:
Correctness =
P(Positive_Referral  Image_present & Brand_name_present)
*
P(Image_present & Brand_name_present) +
P(Positive_Referral  Image_present & Brand_name_absent)
*
P(Image_present & Brand_name_absent) +
P(Negative_Referral  Image_absent & Brand_name_present)
*
P(Image_absent & Brand_name_present) +
P(Negative_Referral  Image_absent & Brand_name_ absent)
*
P(Image_absent & Brand_name_ absent)

=
0.86 * ( (30+5) / 100 ) +
0.91 * ( (20+2) / 100 ) +
0.70 * ( (10+23) / 100 ) +
0.50 * ( (5+5) / 100 ) +
= 0.78
with for example
P(Negative_Referral  Image_absent & Brand_name_ absent) =
(65/ 100 *
5/65) /
((65/100 *
5/65) +
(35/100 *
5/35) )
=0.50 (the first number in the fourth row).
So for our classifier, we can compute its performance directly.
Variance of correctness – classifier uncertainty
The correctness of the classifier is computed from a set of
websites that were analyzed by hand. This limited size of this
training set means that the correctness computed from the
classifier in the table above is an estimate. This
is indicated with a circumflex ‘^’ above the correctness.
The standard deviation of the correctness ρ=0.78 (=1error rate) of this classifier is
directly computable, for a given training set. The variance is σ^{2}=0.016
for a training set of size 100. This direct computation is complex,
but really useful (Based on the 4 possible training cases).
An introduction to statistical classifiers
A classifier is a mathematicalstatistical model that assigns
class labels to vectors of variables – patterns – under statistical
uncertainty.
This means that if you can define an algorithmic decision
table – nested ifstatements – that categorizes
each vector correctly with 100% certainty, this is not a statistical
classifier.

The classifier model begins with a prelabeled training set and a
prelabeled test set:
X=Trainingset = {
Case_1[Feature1, Feature2,…,Featuren;Labelj];
Case_2[Feature1, Feature2,…,Featuren;Labeli];
…
Case_N[Feature1, Feature2,…,Featuren;Labelk];
}
with an example case consisting of 5 features being [2,1,1,4,3;2].
This case belongs to class 2. So the training set is a matrix X
with the dimension: (N,n+1), with N the number of
training cases and n the number of features, plus ‘1’ for the
class label.
The test set V is defined similarly.
Note the general convention in statistical classification
that the test set is never used to compute model parameters
(probabilities) or influence design choices of the classifier.
The test set is reserved till final assessment,
computing the correctness/error rate of the classifiers constructed.
The class probability for class j is:
P(class=j  x_{1}=i ^ x_{2}=k ^...^
x_{n}=h) =
P(x_{1}=i ^ x_{2}=k ^...^
x_{n}=h  class=j)
P(class=j) /
(
P(x_{1}=i ^ x_{2}=k ^...^
x_{n}=h  class=1)
P(class=1) +
P(x_{1}=i ^ x_{2}=k ^...^
x_{n}=h  class=2)
P(class=2) +
...
P(x_{1}=i ^ x_{2}=k ^...^
x_{n}=h  class=c)
P(class=c)
)

The apparent problem that appears is that when m
features are added to the classifier, is that the possible number of
probabilities increases with the product of the dimensions of the m
additional features.
Take as example n=4 binary features which equals
2*2*2*2 = 16 possible outcome vectors. Now, add 2 features each with 4 outcomes,
and the number of combinations becomes 16*4*4=256 outcomes, an increase with
a factor 16!
What is the problem here?
The most rare featurevalue combinations may in a mediumsized training
set have the probabability 0, because they don't occur. Hence, our classifier
does for these cases not yield a probability, but a 0/1 answer, which is unreliable!
This holds especially for the most rare feature combinations.
Another problem with this exponential increase in the number of dimensions is
the amount of computer memory needed. Imagine to represent for example 40
binary features, with in total 2^40=1,09951E+12 possible outcomes. Reserving one byte per
possible feature outcome (not accounting for each doublevalued probability),
entails 1024 Gb of memory.
It's not the problem to declare a 40dimensional array, neigther to use the
40dimimensional index vector to retrieve the probabilities. The real problem
is that the probabilities are highly uncertain  and often zero  unless the
size of the training set becomes really large.
To counterweigh this problem, the socalled naïve classifier
is introduced.
Write
P(x_{1}=i ^ x_{2}=k ^...^
x_{n}=h  class=j)
as
P(x_{1}=i ^ x_{2}=k ^...^
x_{n}=h  class=j) =
P(x_{1}=i  class=j) *
P(x_{2}=k  class=j) *
… *
P(x_{n}=h  class=j)
The assumption made is that all the n features are independent, within each
class. This assumption in most cases does not hold, but naïve classifiers often yield
surprisingly good performance (correctness) when the number of features n is large.
The performance criterion that counts, is the correctness on the test set V.

The uncertainty of the probabilities P(x_{1}=i  class=j)
is very much smaller than for the fullprobability classifier. But, the
classprobabilities are generally
biased
(unless the independence assumption is valid).
It is by the way easy to test whether the assumption of independence is
valid for the features.
Notes:
[1] Classifiers can distinguish between as many groups (classes) as you like.
[2] All conclusions yield uncertain answers, but a sustained conclusion with
a probability>0.999, may in practical everyday reasoning be considered certain,
given that the underlying modelassumptions are fulfilled,
(0.999999 gives even more certainty).
