Beginners' introduction to Pandas - Pycon APAC 2018
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Beginners' introduction to Pandas - Pycon APAC 2018

Recommended installation

The Anaconda distribution package is one of the most popular packages for data science and contains all of the packages you will need for this workshop and for further experimentation and usage.
The distribution package can be downloaded here (600~mb):
(You can also get the distribution package from me as the file is rather big)

Advanced installation

For advanced users who wish to install only the necessary modules, these are the modules needed for this workshop.

  • Python 3.6
  • Jupyter notebook pip3 install jupyter
  • Pandas >= 0.20.3 pip3 install pandas
  • Numpy >= 1.13.3 pip3 install numpy

What is Pandas

Pandas is a Python package that provides fast, expressive, data structures that makes working with relational data intuitive. It can be used along with other packages such as Numpy and scikit-learn to further extend the uses of the package.


Start up jupyter notebook in a clean folder:
$ jupyter notebook

Create a new 'Python 3' notebook:
jupyter notebook instruction

Import the libraries you will use for this workshop in your current notebook environment:

import pandas as pd
import numpy as np

(Tip: You can press shift + enter to execute the cell)

Let's begin

Basic Pandas Data-structures(Series, DataFrame)


A Series is a one-demensional ndarray with axis labels
Values within a Series object can be accessed by index: a[0]
You can pass in index to create your own index

Ways to create Series objects:

# Array
s1 = pd.Series([0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0])

s1[0] # Returns 0.5

# Array and index
s2 = pd.Series([0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0], index=['a', 'd', 'b', 'c'])

s2['d'] # returns 1.0 (You can still access by numerical index: s2[1])

# Dictionary
s3 = pd.Series({'a': 15, 'd': 18, 'c': 20, 'b': 9})

s3 # Returns created series sorted by key

You can apply multiple different functions to Series

# Filtering
s3[s3 < 16] # Returns filtered Series with values of s3 less than 16

# Multiplication
s3 * 2 # Returns Series with all values multiplied by 2

# Apply
s3.apply(lambda x: True if x < 16 else False)

# Absolute
s3.abs() # Returns Series with all values transformed to absolute

# Check if index exists in Series
'a' in s3 # True
'e' in s3 # False

# Get values in Series
s3[['a', 'c']] # Returns Series with only 'a' and 'c'

# Other examples:
s3.std() # Standard deviation
# And more...


A DataFrame is a 2-dimensional table with labeled axes.
Acts like a dict-like container for Series objects.

Creating DataFrame:

 data = {
    "city": ["Paris", "London", "Berlin"],
    "density": [3550, 5100, 3750],
    "area": [2723, 1623, 984],
    "population": [9645000, 8278000, 3675000],
  df = pd.DataFrame(data)

You get a Series if you access a DataFrame's index

# Returns Series object of the 'area' column

Working with datasets (Pt. 1)

Place the folders data and movie in the same folder as your jupyter notebook, they contain the datasets needed for the workshop.

For the first part you will learn to merge datasets and make some basic manipulations and calculations. read_csv(with proper labels)
With a properly defined csv file, importing csv files is as simple as calling read_csv(<filename>)
You can also output csv files from DataFrames by simply calling DataFrame.to_csv(<filename>)

df1 = pd.read_csv('data/users_with_age_data.csv')
df2 = pd.read_csv('data/users_with_gender_data.csv')

Merging DataFrames
Having multiple different DataFrames isn't very helpful for data comparison or calculations. Here, you will merge the DataFrames together to start making sense of the datasets.

# Left merge using the 'user_id' column as keys (this only retains rows which exist in df1)
df1.merge(df2, on='user_id', how='left')

# Outer merge using the 'user_id' column as keys (all rows are kept, empty values are filled with 'null's)
users = df1.merge(df2, on="user_id", how="outer")

Manipulating DataFrames
You will sometimes encounter datasets with gaps in the data. In this case, some users do not have 'gender' or 'age' filled in.
In certain cases you will choose to leave them as None. But here, you will fill them with default values using the fillna() function.

# Fills the empty values in 'gender' with 'F'
users['gender'] = users['gender'].fillna("'F'")

# Fills the empty values in 'age' with the available mean age
users['age'] = users['age'].fillna(users['age'].mean())

Grouping and calculations
A common thing to do when evaluating datasets is to group the data by certain criteria and making calculations based off that. This is possible by using the groupby() function to group the data by certain columns and then evaluating the grouped data.

# Groups rows by 'gender' column
grouped = users.groupby('gender')

# Aggregates number of rows after grouping

# Access grouped columns and apply mean function

Adding Columns
You will often run into cases where certain derived values are used multiple times. It is easy to add new columns to DataFrames.

# Adds a new column based on function applied to another column
users['minor'] = users['age'].apply(lambda x: True if x < 18 else False)

Working with datasets (Pt. 2)

Now that you know how to work with DataFrames let's move to a bigger dataset.

For this example, you will work on the given dataset of movie ratings to determine a few things:

  • What are the favorite movies of males vs females
  • What are the most controversial movies

read_csv(without proper labels)
The given datasets do not come with labels. In such cases, you should determine the labels through the source if possible, or make assumptions if not.
users.dat: dataset containing info of users who added 1 or more ratings
movies.dat: dataset containing name and id of movies
ratings.dat: dataset containing all ratings given (linked by user_id and movie_id)

# delimiter(character used to separate data), names(array of names to use as label order-specific)
users = pd.read_csv('movie/users.dat', delimiter='::', names=['user_id','gender','age','occupation_code','zip'], engine='python')
ratings = pd.read_csv('movie/ratings.dat', delimiter='::', names=['user_id','movie_id','rating','timestamp'], engine='python')
movies = pd.read_csv('movie/movies.dat', delimiter='::', names=['movie_id','title','genre'], engine='python')

Merging DataFrames
As the merge() function returns a DataFrame you are able to chain merges together as long as you can merge on a key.

# joins the all the dataframes
merged = users.merge(ratings, on="user_id").merge(movies, on="movie_id")

Sort by number of ratings
There are times where the amount of data is too low to be meaningful. In such cases, it is better to set a threshold and remove data that you would deem inconsequential.
Here, you will group the movie ratings together by title and make some judgements on the threshold.

# Group ratings by title and aggregate the values, then sort the values in descending order
sorted_movies = merged.groupby("title").count().sort_values(by='rating', ascending=False)

# Gets top 5 rated movies

Applying query to DataFrame
We will deem movies with less than 250 ratings to be inactive and would therefore not give good results.
You can easily filter DataFrames with the query() function or make use of the [] filter functionality of Series to filter out offending data.

# list moviess with >= 250 ratings
active_titles = sorted_movies.query('rating >= 250')
# active_titles = top_movies[top_movies['rating'] >= 250]

Ungrouping DataFrames
Grouped DataFrames are useful for determining values from groups but not so for evaluating other information.
It is useful to ungroup the data again for further evaluation.
(You can also ungroup with the reset_index() function, but it will not be covered here.

# Filter original DataFrame with index of filtered DataFrame 
ungrouped_sorted_movies = merged[merged['title'].isin(active_titles.index)]

Grouping by multiple columns and calculating mean values
To calculate the mean of the ratings separated by gender and title, we will group the DataFrame by more than one columns.
Once the DataFrame is grouped, you can call agg() to make aggregated values of the columns.

# Groups ratings by 'gender' and title'
separated_rating = ungrouped_sorted_movies.groupby(['gender','title'], as_index=False)

# Aggregates mean value of 'rating' using np.mean()
separated_rating = separated_rating.agg({'rating': np.mean})

Getting sorted, grouped data
To get the favorite movies of both genders, we can either filter the genders and get the top movies of the filtered DataFrames, or we can make use of a feature of grouped DataFrames to get the top movies of each gender.

# If you do not group the data, it will only return the 1st 3 items

# Grouped DataFrames will give result of head split by groupings

Pivoting tables
Sometimes, you would need to use the rows of a DataFrame as columns to calculate some values.
In order to calculate the difference in rating between genders of a movie, you would need to be able to access the 'M' and 'F' rows of data as columns.
The pivot() functions allows you to use all the values of a column as the columns of a new pivoted DataFrame.

# Pivots ratings table to use values of 'title' as index and values of 'gender' as columns
pivoted_ratings = separated_rating.pivot('title', 'gender')

Applying function to all rows of a DataFrame
apply() allows you to apply a function to each row or column of a DataFrame.
Whether the function is applied to the row or column of the DataFrame is determined by the axis parameter. (0 for col, 1 for row)

# Applies 'F' - 'M' to each row and sorts the result
pivoted_ratings['rating'].apply(lambda x: x['F'] - x['M'], axis=1).sort_values()

Calculating standard deviation
Standard deviation is a common value to look for to see how controversial a thing is.
This higher the deviation, the more controversial it is.
std() is a helper aggregator functions available in Pandas that calculates and returns the standard deviation value of a Series

# Regroups movies and calculates the standard deviation of each title
ratings_std = ungrouped_sorted_movies.groupby('title')['rating'].std()

# Using nlargest instead of sorting the values and calling head(n) to get top n values


This marks the end of the workshop.
I hope this gave you a good beginner's tour of Pandas and manipulation of DataFrames to arrive at meaningful values.

Feel free to reach out to me at

Pandas is also able to handle reading of many more file types and from sql tables.
Here is an example of creating DataFrame from a sqlite database (database contains 'airports', 'airlines', routes'):

# Create the connection for the sqlite database
import sqlite3
con = sqlite3.connect('flights/flights.db')

# read_sql function requires a SQL query to tell pandas table and rows to read from and the connection to the database
df = pd.read_sql('SELECT * from airlines', con)