Using Bolt (API)

Date:October 13, 2010

This section shows how to use Bolt via its Python API. We will discuss the use of Bolt for a) binary and for b) multi-class classification.

Binary classification

To use Bolt for binary classification we first need some data. Bolt is aimed primarily at high-dimensional and sparse machine learning problems. Thus, instances are represented as sparse vectors. Bolt uses numpy record arrays to represent sparse vectors. The following example shows an instance x with features 0 and 4 set to 1 and 0.2, respectively. All other features are assumed to be zero.

x = np.array([(0,1),(4,0.2)], dtype = bolt.sparsedtype)

For binary classification, Bolt assumes that the class labels, either positive or negative, are coded as y = 1 or y = -1.

Lets create some synthetic dataset to show how to use Bolt for binary classification...

For convenience, Bolt offers routines to load datasets in binary or svm^light format via the module.

dtrain ="train.dat.gz")

Now we’ve to crate a linear model

lm = bolt.LinearModel(dtrain.dim, biasterm = False)

The first parameter is mandatory and indicates the number of features in the training data. The second parameter specifies whether or not a biasterm should be included. That is, if biasterm = True the model computes y = w*x + b else y = w*x. Thus, biasterm = False forces the hyperplane to go through the origin. In general, this limitation does not harm the classificaton performance but makes the numerical operations more stable.

To train the model we first have to instantiate a model trainer - in this example we will use bolt.trainer.sgd.SGD

sgd = bolt.SGD(bolt.ModifiedHuber(), reg = 0.0001, epochs = 20)

The trainer receives a number of parameters, see bolt.trainer.sgd.SGD for more information on the parameterization of stochastic gradient descent. Currently, only two trainers for binary classification are provided, bolt.trainer.sgd.SGD and bolt.trainer.sgd.PEGASOS.

To train the model on dtrain you can simply use the bolt.trainer.sgd.SGD.train() method:

sgd.train(lm, dtrain)

Now the model lm is trained; You can evaluate the model on some test data via the bolt.eval module.

dtest ="test.dat.gz")

To inspect the model parameters, simply access the models attributes

print lm.w # gives the weight vector
print lm.b # gives the bias term

Multi-class classification

Bolt supports multi-class classification via generalized linear models (GLM). Currently, there exists the following multi-class trainers:

In the following example we will use the bolt.trainer.OVA trainer which trains k binary classifiers, where k is the number of different classes. At test time it predicts the class with the highest confidence.

First, lets get some data (e.g., the 20-newsgroups dataset):

import bolt
dtrain =, verbose = 0)
dtest =, verbose = 0)

Next, we create a bolt.model.GeneralizedLinearModel

glm = bolt.GeneralizedLinearModel(dtrain.dim,k, biasterm = False)

The GLM receives two parameters: the dimensionality of the input data and the number of classes k. The third parameters indicates that a class specific bias term is used.

In order to train the glm with the bolt.trainer.OVA trainer we need instantiate the base trainer which is used by bolt.trainer.OVA to train the binary classifiers. In the following example, we will use a bolt.trainer.sgd.SGD trainer.

sgd = bolt.SGD(bolt.ModifiedHuber(), reg = 0.0001, epochs = 20)

Now, we can create a bolt.trainer.OVA trainer and train the glm on the training data:

ova = bolt.OVA(sgd)

To get the predictions on the test data use bolt.model.GeneralizedLinearModel.predict() which gives you the index of the predicted class in dtrain.classes:

pred = [drain.classes[z] for z in model.predict(dtest.iterinstances())]

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