Beyond the Model: Operationalizing 4,586 Bigfoot Sightings with Guy Royse

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Bigfoot has been a staple of American folklore since the 19th century. Many people are convinced that Bigfoot is real. Others suggest that he is a cultural phenomenon. Some just want to believe. There is even a group, the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, that tracks Bigfoot sightings. And they have thousands of reports available online that date back to the late 19th century.

The Internet, it seems, has everything.

So, I took this data, all 4,586 records of it, and used it to build a classifier. It was a good model with pleasing metrics. I liked it. But then what? For some folks, the model is where the work ends. But I'm a developer and that's only half the solution. I've got a model but how do I use it? How do I put it in an application so that a user can, well, use it?

I'm going to answer that question in this talk, and a bit more. I'll show you how I exposed my Bigfoot classifier to the Internet as a REST-based API written in Python. And we'll tour a couple of applications I wrote to use that API: a web-based application written in JavaScript and an iOS application written in Swift. For the model itself, I'll use DataRobot since it's quick and easy. And, I work there!

When we're done, you'll know how to incorporate a model into an API of your own and how to use that API from your application. And, since all my code is on GitHub, you'll have some examples you can use for your own projects. As a bonus, you'll have 4,586 Bigfoot sightings to play with. And who doesn't want that?

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Guy started his career as gasp a COBOL programmer. But don’t hold that against him, it just gives him perspective. He has spent much of his time programming in the most popular of the semi-colon delimited languages including C++, Java, and JavaScript. More recently he has been working with Python and machine learning.

In addition to programming computers, Guy had a background in electronics and enjoys building circuits, burning himself with a soldering iron, and programming small hardware devices such as the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi. No one has actually paid him to do this sort of work… yet.

Guy loves to speak and teach and will go to any conference that will give him an audience and teach anyone who wants to learn. He normally speaks about technology but has been known to wander into other topics.

Currently, Guy works for Nexosis, a machine learning company in Columbus, where they pay him to do what he loves. He is also the chief organizer for the Columbus JavaScript User Group and is active in the local development community in Columbus.

In his personal life, Guy is a hard-boiled geek interested in role-playing games, science fiction, and technology. He also has a slightly less geeky interest in history and linguistics. In his spare time he volunteers for his local Cub Scout Pack and studies language history.
An avid gamer for decades, Guy bemoans the glut of fantasy in role-playing and yearns for more science fiction in gaming. His favorite games include BattleTech, Dungeons & Dragons 1, Illuminati, In Nomine, Munchkin, Paranoia, and most recent Savage Worlds.

On the fiction front, Guy prefers to read Science Fiction although he has been known to rant prolifically that Science Fiction and Fantasy differ only in their flavor, not their substance (I’m looking at you, Doctor). Some of his favorite authors include Douglas Adams, Greg Bear, Larry Niven, Fredrick Pohl, Scott Sigler, and Dan Simmons.

Guy lives in Ohio with his wife, his three sons, and an entire wall of games. He attends church every Sunday—and actually pays attention—but he’s not a prude about it.