Beginner’s Python

After getting a very basic working knowledge of R, I realized that I didn’t really like it. I just didn’t know enough to make good visualizations, good charts, and for whatever reason I had a harder time using it than I liked.

Datacamp was a great way to start to learn R, and it turns out it was a great place to start learning Python too. A few weeks into that, I discovered Dataquest (more text, no video, with projects).

I thought at this point that if I just kept doing the lessons until I finished them that I would know everything there was to know about using Python for data science.

Except every once in a while, I’d take a few days off from learning and when I came back to it had a hard time remembering what I had learned the days prior. I especially had a hard time with list comprehensions, certain types of functions, and really understanding data structures. Classes? Pffft. Forget it.

Here is my secret to learning: I got a general Python tutorial on StackSkills (you can as easily use Udemy or EdX, they are all similar) and practiced making non-analytical things with Python and learned the basics that way. I didn’t spend a ton of time doing this, a few days (which helped with my #100DaysofCode challenge!!) Without the context of analytics, it was easier to understand why we use certain tools and why they work (like import). It also nurtures good programming habits like looking at documentation, asking questions well, debugging, etc.

Using programming languages for analytics is actually on the more complex end of programming, even though we like to make it seem easy. It requires that you understand some fundamentals of the language you are using, which IMHO is more than what a DS tutorial can give you.

If you’ve been struggling, no worries! It might mean that you should take a step back and look for very basic Python lessons (like Python the Hard Way, CodeAcademy, etc) to supplement your learning. It may make flying through those analytics exercises MUCH easier.

Good luck!

PS: I’m definitely going to get back to R in a few months. I think I just needed something to kickstart my learning (which is also very OK). Let me know on Twitter what things helped you.