Gradient Boosted Regression Trees

The Gradient Boosted Regression Trees (GBRT) model (also called Gradient Boosted Machine or GBM), is one of the most effective machine learning models for predictive analytics, making it the industrial workhorse for machine learning. Refer to the chapter on boosted tree regression for background on boosted decision trees.

Introductory Example

In this example, we will use the Mushrooms dataset.1

import turicreate as tc

# Load the data
data =  tc.SFrame.read_csv('')

# Label 'c' is edible
data['label'] = data['label'] == 'c'

# Make a train-test split
train_data, test_data = data.random_split(0.8)

# Create a model.
model = tc.boosted_trees_classifier.create(train_data, target='label',
                                           max_depth = 3)

# Save predictions to an SFrame (class and corresponding class-probabilities)
predictions = model.classify(test_data)

# Evaluate the model and save the results into a dictionary
results = model.evaluate(test_data)
Tuning hyperparameters

The Gradient Boosted Trees model has many tuning parameters. Here we provide a simple guideline for tuning the model.

  • max_iterations Controls the number of trees in the final model. Usually the more trees, the higher accuracy. However, both the training and prediction time also grows linearly in the number of trees.

  • max_depth Restricts the depth of each individual tree to prevent overfitting.

  • step_size Also called shrinkage, appeared as the in the equations in the Background section. It works similar to the learning rate of the gradient descent procedure: smaller value will take more iterations to reach the same level of training error of a larger step size. So there is a trade off between step_size and number of iterations.

  • min_child_weight One of the pruning criteria for decision tree construction. In classification problem, this corresponds to the minimum observations required at a leaf node. Larger value produces simpler trees.

  • min_loss_reduction Another pruning criteria for decision tree construction. This restricts the reduction of loss function for a node split. Larger value produces simpler trees.

  • row_subsample Use only a fraction of data at each iteration. This is similar to the mini-batch stochastic gradient descent which not only reduce the computation cost of each iteration, but may also produce more robust model.

  • column_subsample Use only a subset of the columns to use at each iteration.

See the chapter on boosted trees regression for additional tips and tricks of using the boosted trees classifier model.

Advanced Features

Refer to the earlier chapters for the following features:

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