Extracting association rules from a market-basket dataset using the A-Priori counting strategy. This is a university project coded in Java for Hadoop's MapReduce.
Switch branches/tags
Nothing to show
Clone or download
Fetching latest commit…
Cannot retrieve the latest commit at this time.
Type Name Latest commit message Commit time
Failed to load latest commit information.



Big Data project for university. This is a university project coded in Java for Hadoop's MapReduce. The goal is to extract association rules from a market-basket dataset using the A-Priori counting strategy.


The goal of this project is to implement the A-Priori counting algorithm to be able to efficiently compute Association Rules in a market-basket dataset. As one usually finds out when implementing anything in code, challenges arose during implementation:

  • How to efficiently generate candidate itemsets from the bottom­up, and reliably?
  • How to compute the Association Rules with the implementation of Anti­Monotone property?

Below is a macro picture of our MapReduce design, composed by three map-reducers hereby named after the packages that are the folders above:

  • baseCreator
  • frequentItemsetsFinder
  • ruleExtractor

Furthermore, there are two extra user parameters: booleans MONO and ANTI_MONO. When set to true, they make the program use the mappers and reducers that respect the properties they are named after - thus being the mappers and reducers of our final solution. They are built upon the mappers and reducers that do not follow such properties - which are accessed when the booleans are set to false - but provided the basis for the final mappers and reducers to be built. They remain in this respository anyway so as to provide easy performance comparisons if necessary or just out of curiosity.


The best way to carry information throughout the map-reducers is by the lines, as each line represents a basket that is coded as an integer basket-key. Thus the baseCreator mapper collects as value the line number as it scans the document and outputs as key any item that was included in that line. The baseCreator reducer then proceeds to gather all of the basketkeys belonging to a single key (i.e. item) and only allows those items with a sufficient number of basketkeys (i.e. above minimum support) to be written in the context.

It is also at this stage that one gathers and stores information necessary for the iterative map-reducer that follows and they are all related to this solution for building itemsets:

  • TreeMap indexToSinglet: a sorted map with the singlets corresponding to an index key
  • TreeMap singletToIndex: another sorted map with the index key corresponding to the singlets that are supported in the dataset. The reverse of the one above, made for convenience.
  • HashMap singletIndexToLines: for a key (index representing a supported singlet), it stores the sorted set of the basketkeys, containing therefore information about which baskets a singlet is included in.


In short, this Map-Reducer follows the exact same fashion of the baseCreator, with the difference being the input file being in the convenient format of <single item, basket-keys>. The following iterations will output <itemset, basket-keys> and increase the size of the itemset until no itemset has a sufficient number of basket-keys (i.e. support) - technically, until no line is written to the Context.

Here lies the core of this implementation of the A­Priori algorithm. It works under the requirement of a sorted set of items - which is why TreeMaps are kept right at the beginning. Before describing the algorithm, let us define a few terms - that follow the naming choice in the code.

  • Current-itemset: the key the mapper is reading.
  • Current-lines: the basket-keys of the key (i.e. itemset) the mapper is reading.
  • Last-item: the last item of the Current-itemset - not only due to appearing on the right-hand-side of the current-itemset, but also and strictly because it takes the last position of the alphabetical sorting order.
  • Next-to-last: the name is self-explanatory, but note that this item is not in the current-itemset.

Let us consider that the Current-itemset is {A} - where order of an item in an itemset follows alphabetical order. The Last-item is A and the Next­to­last is B. Remind that we stored information about B in singletIndexToLines at the baseCreator stage. To construct the itemset {AB} of size 2 and filter it correctly, we map any basket-key that A and B have in common and then, in the reducer, we collect all of the basket-keys for the key {AB} - if this itemset has a sufficient number of basket-keys, then it is supported and written to the Context.

The next Next-to-last is C - outputting the key {AC}. This itemset building process goes on until the last supported single-item standing “after” the Last-item is reached. So let us say that there are items A through E that are supported - refer to Iteration 0 - noting that the program is at the first iteration of this Map-Reducer, meaning we are building pairs from single items - these single items are given by the first file generated by the baseCreator. All the pairs that are being built and considered are in the lower part of the table on the left. In the next iteration, not all pairs are supported and the candidate triples are built by the same mechanism.

Iteration 0

Current Itemset (reading in) A B C D E
Candidate Itemsets AB BC CD DE (na)

Description: Iterative process of building candidate itemsets. On the first line, the Last­items (i.e. the last letters) are highlighted in bold. On the lines below, only the letters coming next to the Last­items are highlighted. The first line of a table is the current-itemset the mapper is reading. On the lower section of each table, a frequent single item is being appended, which after the Last-item in terms of sorting order, to the Current-itemset, resulting in a candidate itemset.

Iteration 1

Current Itemset (reading in) AB AC AD AE BC BD BE CE
Candidate Itemsets ABC ACD ADE (na) BCD BDE (na) CDE

It does however have a defect. In the example above, {CE} did not make the cut. This algorithm generates a candidate itemset {CDE}, where {CE} is not a frequent subset. This map-reducer design will count to check if an impossible itemset makes the cut.

Order of the items does not matter in the definition of a Candidate-itemset, but when it comes to analysing this implementation, it does. For example, let us consider that {ABE} turned out to be a frequent itemset and that {ABC} did not turn out to be a frequent itemset. If a quadruplet is to be built from {ABE}, then, according to this design, C cannot be added to it because:

  • It would be the "job" of {ABC} to create the quadruplet by appending E, following the Next-to-last rule - or simply put, following alphabetical order - resulting in {ABCE}
  • But if {ABC} was not a frequent itemset then {ABCE} could never be either - no itemsets would be built from {ABC} since this itemset would not even be present at the next iteration. This rule thus obeys “a little” to the monotone property (on the basis of sorting order only): it never considers such non-frequent candidate itemsets because it would forbid building {ABEC} (due to non-alphabetical order), even before counting the basket-keys such an itemset appears in.

The last bullet point describes a situation that compensates for the previously mentioned defect. Moreover, it adds to the efficiency, however is yet an “incomplete” monotone property. To effectively implement this property, a global blacklist - declared in the AssociationRules class - stores all itemsets that were found not to be frequent in the MONO_ItemsetsReducer - where the count is evaluated against the specified minimum support - and checks in the MONO_ItemsetsMapper if there is any subset of a candidate set that is blacklisted - if so, the mapper does not allow the candidate set to be sent to the reducer. The referred mapper and reducer are activated when MONO = true. This addresses the first challenge pointed out.

One note that ought to be made is that the basket keys - integer numbers - corresponding to an itemset are sorted - for instance, check one of the generated “itemsetSize” files. We planned since the beginning to take advantage of sorting order. The first attempt to do this was by applying binary search, which was not efficient as there are lots of operations that have to be performed. It was even worse than our first basic mapper. So we took advantage of the sorted lines in a different way: as soon as it found an intersecting line, the loop would break and start from the last intersecting line - as opposed to starting the loop all over again.


The mapper collects the counts. The reducer collects the itemsets (as keys) and respective counts to a HashMap ­ itemsetsAndCounts ­ that will be used in the cleanup, which in its turn, computes the association rules.

The baseline strategy (i.e. when ANTI_MONO = false) is to iterate once through frequent itemsets, build the powerset (if applicable) and, iterate the subsets of the itemset, lookup the subset in itemsetsAndCounts and compute the confidence. The problem is with the last loop: it iterates through the subsets in a way that puts as many items on the right-hand side (RHS) of a rule first, hence going completely against the anti-monotone property.

To implement a smarter reducer cleanup() - accessed when ANTI_MONO = true - the baseline strategy was adapted to iterate through the subsets in a way that puts as few items on the RHS first. To this end, the set of “RHS itemsets“ is collected into a SortedMap, where the key is the size of the RHS-itemsets. The next step is to iterate through the keySet() of this map and iterate through the RHS-itemsets that have size = key.

Similarly to the process of finding frequent itemsets, a Set blacklistedRHS is kept, comprised of RHS-itemsets that do not satisfy minimum confidence. When iterating through RHS-itemsets and finding one that produces a low confidence rule, this RHS-itemset will be stored in the in blacklistedRHS. At the next size of RHS-itemsets, it will check if each new RHS-itemset has a subset present in this blacklist. This way, respect to the anti-monotone property is granted. This addresses the approach to the second challenge pointed out.