The Beauty of Random Forest

It is the time of the year when we adore Christmas trees. But these are not the only trees we, at Orange team, think about. In fact, through almost life-long professional deformation of being a data scientist, when I think about trees I would often think about classification and regression trees. And they can be beautiful as well. Not only for their elegance in explaining the hidden patterns, but aesthetically, when rendered in Orange. And even more beautiful then a single tree is Orange’s rendering of a forest, that is, a random forest.

Related: Pythagorean Trees and Forests

Here are six trees in the random forest constructed on the housing data set:

The random forest for annealing data set includes a set of smaller-sized trees:

A Christmas-lit random forest inferred from pen digits data set looks somehow messy in trying to categorize to ten different classes:

The power of beauty! No wonder random forests are one of the best machine learning tools. Orange renders them according to the idea of Fabian Beck and colleagues who proposed Pythagoras trees for visualizations of hierarchies. The actual implementation for classification and regression trees for Orange was created by Pavlin Policar.

BDTN 2016 Workshop: Introduction to Data Science

Every year BEST Ljubljana organizes BEST Days of Technology and Sciences, an event hosting a broad variety of workshops, hackathons and lectures for the students of natural sciences and technology. Introduction to Data Science, organized by our own Laboratory for Bioinformatics, was this year one of them.

Related: Intro to Data Mining for Life Scientists

The task was to teach and explain basic data mining concepts and techniques in four hours. To complete beginners. Not daunting at all…

Luckily, we had Orange at hand. First, we showed how the program works and how to easily import data into the software. We created a poll using Google Forms on the fly and imported the results from Google Sheets into Orange.

To get the first impression of our data, we used Distributions and Scatter Plot. This was just to show how to approach the construction and simple visual exploration on any new data set. Then we delved deep into the workings of classification with Classification Tree and Tree Viewer and showed how easy it is to fall into the trap of overfitting (and how to avoid it). Another topic was clustering and how to relate similar data instances to one another. Finally, we had some fun with ImageAnalytics add-on and observed whether we can detect wrongly labelled microscopy images with machine learning.

Related: Data Mining Course in Houston #2

These workshops are not only fun, but an amazing learning opportunity for us as well, as they show how our users think and how to even further improve Orange.

Dimensionality Reduction by Manifold Learning

The new Orange release (v. 3.3.9) welcomed a few wonderful additions to its widget family, including Manifold Learning widget. The widget reduces the dimensionality of the high-dimensional data and is thus wonderful in combination with visualization widgets.

Manifold Learning widget has a simple interface with powerful features.


Manifold Learning widget offers five embedding techniques based on scikit-learn library: t-SNE, MDS, Isomap, Locally Linear Embedding and Spectral Embedding. They each handle the mapping differently and also have a specific set of parameters.

Related: Principal Component Analysis (video)

For example, a popular t-SNE requires only a metric (e.g. cosine distance). In the demonstration of this widget, we output 2 components, since they are the easiest to visualize and make sense of.

First, let’s load the data and open it in Scatter Plot. Not a very informative visualization, right? The dots from an unrecognizable square in 2D.

S-curve data in Scatter Plot. Data points form an uninformative square.


Let’s use embeddings to make things a bit more informative. This is how the data looks like with a t-SNE embedding. The data is starting to have a shape and the data points colored according to regression class reveal a beautiful gradient.

t-SNE embedding shows an S shape of the data.


Ok, how about MDS? This is beyond our expectations!



There’s a plethora of options with embeddings. You can play around with ImageNet embeddings and plot them in 2D or use any of your own high-dimensional data and discover interesting visualizations! Although t-SNE is nowadays probably the most popular dimensionality reduction technique used in combination with scatterplot visualization, do not underestimate the value of other manifold learning techniques. For one, we often find that MDS works fine as well.


Go, experiment!