KNIME is an excellent platform I wanted to learn
I started filming tutorials on how to do things in KNIME because it was something that I wanted to learn how to use. I’ve use several other platforms for work and school over the years, and was interested in learning KNIME, so you know what they say…if you really want to learn a subject, teach.
So here are my thoughts as an experienced nerd who is new to the platform
Strengths of KNIME
KNIME is legit in terms of machine learning capabilities. KNIME is not a beginner platform where you can learn the ropes but you’ll need to switch to something more powerful to do real work. You can do just about anything in KNIME from simple GLMs to extremely complex algorithms like Neural Networks. KNIME is not a scooter you get in order to learn how to ride before you get a motorcycle.
KNIME is still beginner friendly enough that someone with no experience but the willingness to learn and able to watch a few Youtube videos or read some forums can get up and running very quickly. I wanted to explore this platform because despite being a capable coder, even if I am rusty and mediocre, the way to reach more people was to get them over the block of being intimidated by coding. KNIME can be effectively used in most instances with nothing more than the type of stuff you’d see in an Excel formula.
KNIME has some cool stuff I have not seen elsewhere. The AI powered workflow coach is a useful innovation. I did not pay any attention to it at first until I glanced over and realized that the top of the list was the very node I was thinking of using. In another instance it was trying to tell me I needed to use a domain calculator, but me being new to the platform did not yet understand why that was necessary. Later when I tried to run it and got an error I was like “ohhhh, that’s why it was up there at the top.” Its like KNIME knew I was a kook and tried to stop me from doing something stupid. (put in note about what a kook is)
Now for the downsides of KNIME
KNIME is not as easy to use as another platform that I am quite fond of, Alteryx. It might have been a little easier for me if I had not already used Alteryx and expected it to do some of the things in a similar manner. That being said, I have no problem standing here saying that KNIME’s rule engine is clunkier and more confusing than Alteryx’s formula node. To perform a simple calculation in row, or create a new variable, the formula node in Alteryx is pretty much perfect. KNIME’s rule engine on the other hand takes some getting used to, and I am still not sure what the difference is between the row manipulation rule engine and the workflow control rule variable rule engine is.
KNIME’s visual workflow itself is also a little tougher to scroll around than I’d like. It doesn’t want me to explore any space beyond where I already have nodes and so that makes planning out new additions to my workflow harder than I’d like. It still works fine, just a little less intuitive than I’d like. One the other hand, the zoom in / zoom out function objectively sucks.
KNIME is a pretty awesome platform, and an exceptional value considering it is free. It is a legitimately powerful and professional tool for machine learning, and easy enough to use that beginners should be able to handle it.
I am not sure if it is going to be a smashing commercial success. KNIME seems set on providing a quality product but not providing the form and polish of some commercial solutions. Alteryx is crushing things in the self service analytics market. While Alteryx does not quite have the machine learning capabilities of KNIME, it is doing great due to its integration with Tableau and how it is so easy to use it almost feels like cheating. Alteryx is also the perfect tool for consultants because of how easily it can handle almost any data type imaginable.
I am glad I downloaded KNIME and will continue to work with it. I will also use Alteryx with clients and in work where appropriate because of how easy to use it is and how fast it is growing.
Disclaimer: I purchased stock in Alteryx because of how much I believe in the platform. I only wish I had been paying attention and knew they IPO’d sooner. I am not trying to push Alteryx because of my financial interest, I genuinely believe it is an amazing platform.