Variable definitions

Core Variables

A variable definition describes the records that you want to match. It is a dictionary where the keys are the fields and the values are the field specification

variables = [
             {'field' : 'Site name', 'type': 'String'},
             {'field' : 'Address', 'type': 'String'},
             {'field' : 'Zip', 'type': 'String', 'has missing':True},
             {'field' : 'Phone', 'type': 'String', 'has missing':True}

String Types

A ‘String’ type variable must declare the name of the record field to compare a ‘String’ type declaration ex. {'field' : 'Address', type:'String'} The string type expects fields to be of class string.

String types are compared using affine gap string distance.

ShortString Types

Short strings are just like String types except that dedupe will not try to learn a canopy blocking rule for these fields, which can speed up the training phase considerably. Zip codes and city names are good candidates for this type. If in doubt, just use ‘String.’

{'field': 'Zipcode', type: 'ShortString'}

Text Types

If you want to compare fields comparing long blocks of text, like product descriptions or article abstracts you should use this type. Text types fields are compared using the cosine similarity metric.

Basically, this is a measurement of the amount of words that two documents have in common. This measure can be made more useful the overlap of rare words counts more than the overlap of common words. If provide a sequence of example fields than (a corpus), dedupe will learn these weights for you.

{'field': 'Product description', 'type' : 'Text',
 'corpus' : ['this product is great',
             'this product is great and blue']}

If you don’t want to adjust the measure to your data, just leave ‘corpus’ out of the variable definition.

{'field' : 'Product description', 'type' : 'Text'}

Custom Types

A ‘Custom’ type field must have specify the field it wants to compare, a ‘type’ declaration of ‘Custom’, and a ‘comparator’ declaration. The comparator must be a function that can take in two field values and return a number.

Example custom comparator:

def sameOrNotComparator(field_1, field_2) :
  if field_1 and field_2 :
      if field_1 == field_2 :
          return 0
          return 1

variable definition:

{'field' : 'Zip', 'type': 'Custom',
 'comparator' : sameOrNotComparator}


A ‘LatLong’ type field must have as the name of a field and a ‘type’ declaration of custom. LatLong fields are compared using the Haversine Formula. A ‘LatLong’ type field must consist of tuples of floats corresponding to a latitude and a longitude.

{'field' : 'Location', 'type': 'LatLong'}}


A ‘Set’ type field is for comparing lists of elements, like keywords or client names. Set types are very similar to Text Types. They use the same comparison function and you can also let dedupe learn which terms are common or rare by providing a corpus. Within a record, a Set types field have to be hashable sequences like tuples or frozensets.

{'field' : 'Co-authors', 'type': 'Set',
 'corpus' : [('steve edwards'),
             ('steve edwards', 'steve jobs')]}


{'field' : 'Co-authors', 'type': 'Set'}


An interaction field multiplies the values of the multiple variables. An interaction variable is created with ‘type’ declaration of ‘Interaction’ and an ‘interaction variables’ declaration.

The ‘interaction variables’ must be a sequence of ‘variable names’ of other fields you have defined in your variable definition.

Interactions are good when the effect of two predictors is not simply additive.

[{'field': 'Name', 'variable name': 'name', 'type': 'String'},
 {'field': 'Zip', 'variable name': 'zip', 'type': 'Custom',
  'comparator' : sameOrNotComparator},
 {'type': 'Interaction',
  'interaction variables': ['name', 'zip']}]


‘Exact’ variables measure whether two fields are exactly the same or not.

{'field' : 'city', 'type': 'Exact'}}


‘Exists’ variables measure whether both, one, or neither of the fields are defined. This can be useful if the presence or absence of a field tells you something about meaningful about the record.

{'field' : 'first_name', 'type': 'Exists'}


Categorical variables are useful when you are dealing with qualitatively different types of things. For example, you may have data on businesses and you find that taxi cab businesses tend to have very similar names but law firms don’t. Categorical variables would let you indicate whether two records are both taxi companies, both law firms, or one of each.

Dedupe would represent these three possibilities using two dummy variables:

taxi-taxi      0 0
lawyer-lawyer  1 0
taxi-lawyer    0 1

A categorical field declaration must include a list of all the different strings that you want to treat as different categories.

So if you data looks like this

'Name'          'Business Type'
AAA Taxi        taxi
AA1 Taxi        taxi
Hindelbert Esq  lawyer

You would create a definition like:

{'field' : 'Business Type', 'type': 'Categorical',
'categories' : ['taxi', 'lawyer']}


Price variables are useful for comparing positive, nonzero numbers like prices. The values of ‘Price’ field must be a positive float. If the value is 0 or negative, then an exception will be raised.

{'field' : 'cost', 'type': 'Price'}


DateTime variables are useful for comparing dates and timestamps. This variable can accept strings or Python datetime objects as inputs.

The DateTime variable definition accepts a few optional arguments that can help improve behavior if you know your field follows an unusual format:

  • fuzzy - Use fuzzy parsing to automatically extract dates from strings like “It happened on June 2nd, 2017” (default True)
  • dayfirst - Ambiguous dates should be parsed as dd/mm/yy (default False)
  • yearfirst- Ambiguous dates should be parsed as yy/mm/dd (default False)

Note that the DateTime variable defaults to mm/dd/yy for ambiguous dates. If both dayfirst and yearfirst are set to True, then dayfirst will take precedence.

Sample DateTime variable definition, using the defaults:

{'field' : 'time_of_sale', 'type': 'DateTime',
'fuzzy': True, 'dayfirst': False, 'yearfirst': False}

If you’re happy with the defaults, you can simply define the field and type:

{'field' : 'time_of_sale', 'type': 'DateTime'}

Optional Variables

Address Type

An ‘Address’ variable should be used for United States addresses. It uses the usaddress package to split apart an address string into components like address number, street name, and street type and compares component to component.

{'field' : 'address', 'type' : 'Address'}

Install the dedupe-variable-address package for Address Type.

Name Type

A ‘Name’ variable should be used for a field that contains American names, corporations and households. It uses the probablepeople package to split apart an name string into components like give name, surname, generational suffix, for people names, and abbreviation, company type, and legal form for corporations.

{'field' : 'name', 'type' : 'Name'}

Install the dedupe-variable-name package for Name Type.

Fuzzy Category

A ‘FuzzyCategorical’ variable should be used for when you for categorical data that has variations. Occupations are example, where the you may have Attorney, Counsel, and Lawyer. For this variable type, you need to supply a corpus of records that contain your focal record and other field types. This corpus should either be all the data you are trying to link or a representative sample.

{'field' : 'occupation', 'type' : 'FuzzyCategorical',
 'corpus' : [{'name' : 'Jim Doe', 'occupation' : 'Attorney'},
             {'name' : 'Jim Doe', 'occupation' : 'Lawyer'}]}

Install the dedupe-variable-fuzzycategory package for the FuzzyCategorical Type.

Missing Data

If the value of field is missing, that missing value should be represented as a None

data = [{'Name' : 'AA Taxi', 'Phone' : '773.555.1124'},
        {'Name' : 'AA Taxi', 'Phone' : None},
        {'Name' : None, 'Phone' : '773-555-1123'}]

If you want to model this missing data for a field, you can set 'has missing' : True in the variable definition. This creates a new, additional field representing whether the data was present or not and zeros out the missing data.

If there is missing data, but you did not declare 'has missing' : True then the missing data will simply be zeroed out and no field will be created to account for missing data.

This approach is called ‘response augmented data’ and is described in Benjamin Marlin’s thesis “Missing Data Problems in Machine Learning”. Basically, this approach says that, even without looking at the value of the field comparisons, the pattern of observed and missing responses will affect the probability that a pair of records are a match.

This approach makes a few assumptions that are usually not completely true:

  • Whether a field is missing data is not associated with any other field missing data
  • That the weighting of the observed differences in field A should be the same regardless of whether field B is missing.

If you define an an interaction with a field that you declared to have missing data, then has missing : True will also be set for the Interaction field.

Longer example of a variable definition:

variables = [{'field' : 'name', 'variable name' : 'name', 'type' : 'String'},
             {'field' : 'address', 'type' : 'String'},
             {'field' : 'city', variable name' : 'city', 'type' : 'String'},
             {'field' : 'zip', 'type' : 'Custom', 'comparator' : sameOrNotComparator},
             {field' : 'cuisine', 'type' : 'String', 'has missing': True}
             {'type' : 'Interaction', 'interaction variables' : ['name', 'city']}

Multiple Variables comparing same field

It is possible to define multiple variables that all compare the same variable.

For example

variables = [{'field' : 'name', 'type' : 'String'},
             {'field' : 'name', 'type' : 'Text'}]

Will create two variables that both compare the ‘name’ field but in different ways.

Optional Edit Distance

For String, ShortString, Address, and Name fields, you can choose to use the a conditional random field distance measure for strings. This measure can give you more accurate results but is much slower than the default edit distance.

{'field' : 'name', 'type' : 'String', 'crf' : True}