`tensorflow`

is a fast-evolving machine learning library. Often, I want to have access to the latest features but want to avoid the pain of compiling tensorflow from source or waiting for the next release.

Numpy is a great python package for scientific computing. Although it comes with many performant functions and the ability to vectorise your own functions, it is sometimes necessary to distribute your code across multiple cores.

Cython’s typed memoryviews provide a great interface for rectangular arrays. But I often need to represent jagged arrays such as the neighbours of nodes in a network. The standard python `dict`

can represent such data nicely but is not statically typed. It can thus be quite slow compared with the templated containers in the C++ standard library. In this post, we’ll have a look at how to use the power of the STL via cython.

We discussed some of the problems with the variational mean-field optimisation algorithms in a previous post, and showed that the optimisation problem can be solved using the machine learning library `theano`

. Let’s try to do the same using `tensorflow`

, which provides a nice optimisation interface.

Variational Bayesian methods are a great way to get around the computational challenges often associated with Bayesian inference. Because the posterior distribution is often difficult to evaluate, variational methods approximate the true posterior by a parametric distribution with known functional form. The inference algorithm is thus reduced to an optimisation problem whose objective is to tune the parameters of the approximate distribution to match the posterior. Using the popular mean-field approximation, guarantees that the EM-like updates increase the evidence lower bound (ELBO) with every iteration. However, the values of the variational parameters can oscillate if they are strongly coupled by the posterior distribution. The resulting slow convergence is often not obvious from monitoring the ELBO. In this post, we illustrate the problem using a simple linear regression model, and consider alternatives that can help to fit Bayesian models using variational approximations.