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Quickstart guide to using Triage#

1. Install Triage#

Triage can be installed using pip or through python It requires Python 3+ and access to a postgresql database. Ideally you have full access to a databse so triage can create additional schemas inside that it needs to store metadata, predictions, and evaluation metrics.

We also recommend installing triage inside a python virtual environment for your project so you don't have any conflicts with other packages installed on the machine. You can use virutalenv or pyenv to do that.

If you use pyenv (be sure your default python is 3+):

$ pyenv virtualenv triage-env
$ pyenv activate triage-env
(triage-env) $ pip install triage

If you use virtualenv (be sure your default python is 3+):

$ virtualenv triage-env
$ . triage-env/bin/activate
(triage-env) $ pip install triage


2. Structure your data#

The simplest way to start is to structure your data as a series of events connected to your entity of interest (people, organization, business, etc.) that take place at a certain time. Each row of the data will be an event. Each event will have some event_id, and an entity_id to link it to the entity it happened to, a date, as well as additional attributes about the event (type for example) and the entity (age, gender, race, etc.). A sample row might look like:

event_id, entity_id, date, event_attribute (type), entity_attribute (age), entity_attribute (gender), ...
121, 19334, 1/1/2013, Placement, 12, Male, ...

Triage needs a field named entity_id (that needs to be of type integer) to refer to the primary entities of interest in our project.

3. Set up Triage configuration files#

The configuration file sets up the modeling process to mirror the operational scenario the models will be used in. This involved defining the cohort to train/predict on, the outcome we're predicting, how far out we're predicting, how often will the model be updated, how often will the predicted list be used for interventions, what are the resources available to intervene to define the evaluation metric, etc.

A lot of details about each section of the configration file can be found here, but for the moment we'll start with the much simplier configuration file below:

config_version: 'v7'

model_comment: 'quickstart_test_run'

    label_timespans: ['<< YOUR_VALUE_HERE >>']

  query: |
  name: 'quickstart_label'

    prefix: 'qstest'
    from_obj: '<< YOUR_VALUE_HERE >>'
    knowledge_date_column: '<< YOUR_VALUE_HERE >>'

        type: 'zero_noflag'

          total: "*"
          - 'count'

    intervals: ['all']

      - 'entity_id'

model_grid_preset:  'quickstart'

          metrics: [precision@]
            percentiles: [1]

          metrics: [precision@]
            percentiles: [1]

Copy that code block into your text editor of choice and save it as something like quickstart-config.yaml in your working directory for your project. You'll need to fill out the sections marked << YOUR_VALUE_HERE >> with values appropriate to your project.

The configuration file has a lot of sections. As a first pass, we will infer a lot of the parameters that are needed in there and use defaults for others. The primary parameters to specify (for now) are:

  1. TIMECHOP config: This sets up temporal parameters for training and testing models. The key things to set up here are your prediction horizon/timespan (how far out in the future do you want to predict?). For example, if you want to predict an outcome within one year, you would set label_timespans = '12month'. See our guide to Temporal Validation

  2. LABEL config: This is a sql query that defines the outcome of interest.

The query should return a relation containing the columns - entity_id: each entity_id affected by an event within the amount of time specified by label_timespan after a given as_of_date - outcome: a binary variable representing the events that happened to each entity, within the period specified by that as_of_date and label_timespan

The query is parameterized over as_of_date, and label_timespan. These parameters are passed to your query as named keywords using the Python's str.format() method. You can use them in your query by surrounding their keywords with curly braces (as in the example below).

See our guide to Labels for a more in-depth discussion of this topic.

Example Query

Given a source table called, with the following structure:

entity_id event_date label
135 2014-06-04 1
246 2013-11-05 0
135 2013-04-19 0

Assuming an early-warning problem, where a client wants to predict the likelihood that each entity experiences at least one positive event (such as a failed inspection) within some period of time, we could use the following label query:

select entity_id, max(label) as outcome
where '{as_of_date}'::timestamp <= event_date
      and event_date < '{as_of_date}'::timestamp + interval '{label_timespan}'

For each as_of_date, this query returns: - all entity_ids that experienced at least one event (such as an inspection) within the amount of time specified by label_timespan - a binary variable that equals 1 if an entity experienced at least one positive event (failed inspection), or 0 if all events experienced by the entity had negative results.

  1. FEATURE config: This is where we define different aggregate features/attributes/variables to be created and used in our machine learning models. We need at least one feature specified here. For the purposes of the quickstart, let's just take the count of all events before the modeling date. In the template, you can simply fill in from_obj with the schema.table_name where your data can be found (but this can also be a more complex query in general) and knowledge_date_column with that table's date column.

  2. MODEL_GRID_PRESET config: Which models and hyperparameters we want to try in this run. We can start with quickstart that will run a quick model grid to test if everything works.

Additionally, we will need a database credential file that contains the name of the database, server, username, and password to use to connect to it:

# Connecting to the database requires a configuration file like this one but
# named database.yaml

host: address.of.database.server
user: user_name
db: database_name
pass: user_password
port: connection_port (often 5432)

Copy this into a separate text file, fill in your values and save it as database.yaml in the working directory where you'll be running triage. Note, however, that if you have a DATABASE_URL environment variable set, triage will use this by default as well.

4. Run Triage#

An overview of different steps that take place when you run Triage is here

For this quickstart, you shouldn't need much free disk space, but note that in general your project path will contain both data matrices and trained model objects, so will need to have ample free space (you can also specify a location in S3 if you don't want to store the files locally).

If you want a bit more detail or documentation, a good overview of running an experiment in triage is here

Using Triage CLI:#

  1. Validate the configuration files by running:

    triage experiment config.yaml --project-path '/project_directory' --validate-only

  2. Run Triage

    triage experiment config.yaml --project-path '/project_directory'

Using the Triage python interface:#

  1. Import packages and load config files:

    import yaml
    from triage.experiments import SingleThreadedExperiment
    from sqlalchemy.engine.url import URL
    from triage.util.db import create_engine
    with open('config.yaml', 'r') as fin:
        experiment_config = yaml.load(fin)
    with open('database.yaml', 'r') as fin:
        db_config = yaml.load(fin)

  2. Create a database engine and Triage experiment

    # create postgres database url
    db_url = URL(
    experiment = SingleThreadedExperiment(

  3. Validate your config

  1. Run Triage

5. Look at results generated by Triage#

Once the feature/cohort/label/matrix building is done and the experiment has moved onto modeling, check out the triage_metadata.models and test_results.evaluations tables as data starts to come in.

Here are a couple of quick queries to help get you started:

Tables in the triage_metadata schema have some general information about experiments that you've run and the models they created. The quickstart model grid preset should have built 3 models. You can check that with:

  model_id, model_group_id, model_type 

This should give you a result that looks something like:

model_id model_group_id model_type
1 1 triage.component.catwalk.estimators.classifiers.ScaledLogisticRegression
2 2 sklearn.tree.DecisionTreeClassifier
3 3 sklearn.dummy.DummyClassifier

If you want to see predictions for individual entities, you can check out test_results.predictions, for instance:

  model_id, entity_id, as_of_date, score, label_value
  limit 5;

This will give you something like:

model_id entity_id as_of_date score label_value
1 15596 2017-09-29 00:00:00 0.21884 0
2 15596 2017-09-29 00:00:00 0.22831 0
3 15596 2017-09-29 00:00:00 0.25195 0

Finally, test_results.evaluations holds some aggregate information on model performance:

  model_id, metric, parameter, stochastic_value
  order by model_id, metric, parameter;

Feel free to explore some of the other tables in these schemas (note that there's also a train_results schema with performance on the training set as well as feature importances, where defined).

In a more complete modeling run, you could audition with jupyter notebooks to help you select the best-performing model specifications from a wide variety of options (see the overview of model selection and tutorial audition notebook) and postmodeling to delve deeper into understanding these models (see the README and tutorial postmodeling notebook).

6. Iterate and Explore#

Now that you have triage running, continue onto the suggested project workflow for some tips about how to iterate and tune the pipeline for your project.

Alternatively, if you'd like more of a guided tour with sample data, check out our dirty duck tutorial.