Desktop Survival Guide
by Graham Williams

A Framework for Modelling

Architects build models. Why? To see how things fit together, to make sure they do fit together, to see how things will work in the real world, and even to sell the idea behind the model they build! Data mining is about building models that give us insights into the world and how the world works. But even more than that, our models are often useful to give us guidance in how to deal with and interact with the real world!

Building models is fundamental to understanding our world. When we build a model, whether it be with lego bricks or computer software, we get a new perspective of how things fit together or interact. Once we have some basic models we can start to get ideas about more complex models, building on what has come before.

In understanding new complex ideas we often begin by trying to map the idea into concepts or constructs that we already know, by bringing those constructs together in different ways that reflect how we understand the new complex idea. As we learn more about the new complex idea we change our model to better reflect the idea, until eventually we have a model that matches the idea enough for us to make good effect of our understanding of the idea.

And so it is with model building in computer science. Indeed, writing a computer program is essentially about building a model.

There are three components to building a model: how do we represent the knowledge (the language for building models); how do we search through all the possible ways of building the model (sentences in the language); and how do we know when we have a good model (measurement). In all of the model building that we are going to talk about in this book, we will use this framework to present the approach and to contrast the approach to alternatives.

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