Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Creating a Whiskey Recommender: The Classification Tree

The whiskey poster I found in an issue of Fast Company (see my last post) showed a complex network of specific whiskey brands and types, but on closer inspection it's clear that it is a single classification tree bound together by class/subclass relationships. There are four major classes of whiskey in this chart: American, Canadian, Irish and Scotch. These classes then break down into sub-classes in a variety of ways, based on the ingredients and process used.

I needed to capture the knowledge from the Whiskey poster in an actionable form, so I used KnowtShare to create a classification tree. This is the American Whiskey branch:

The window in the lower right hand corner is a navigation pane that shows the complete tree.

The KnowtShare app lets me create notes and group them quickly and easily into a hierarchical structure.

The American Whiskey sub-classes are a mix of grain used (wheat, rye, corn) and process (single malt and blended). Bourbon is a unique designation based on both grain requirements (at least 51% corn) and process (charred barrels).

Some of these sub-classes are further broken down based on region and company. The whiskey poster goes on to name specific brands in each of these categories, but with 450 brands listed I opted to stop the KnowtShare tree at this level and handle the brands in another knowtifact: the options data table.

Here are the Canadian and Irish branches of the tree:

The Irish whiskey branch has two new sub-classes: single grain and single pot.

And finally, here is the Scotch whiskey branch:

Scotch is unique because it calls out six different regions for single malt. Each is considered to have its own special taste based on process, but all are made from malted barley.

In KnowtShare, when working with a very large tree such as this, you can use the page itself as the top node of the tree (here it equals "whiskey"). This allows you to arrange the next group of classes in any way that works best visually. The text view will show everything as one comprehensive outline and the .knt file that is saved will combine the four groups into a single hierarchical file.

The next task will be to create the options data table.

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