For my class project, I am working on the Kaggle competition - Don't get kicked

The project is to classify test data as good/bad buy for cars. There are 34 features and the data is highly skewed. I made the following choices:

  1. Since the data is highly skewed, out of 73,000 instances, 64,000 instances are bad buy and only 9,000 instances are good buy. Since building a decision tree would overfit the data, I chose to use kNN - K nearest neighbors.
    After trying out kNN, I plan to try out Perceptron and SVM techniques, if kNN doesn't yield good results. Is my understanding about overfitting correct?
  2. Since some features are numeric, I can directly use the Euclid distance as a measure, but there are other attributes which are categorical. To aptly use these features, I need to come up with my own distance measure. I read about Hamming distance, but I am still unclear on how to merge 2 distance measures so that each feature gets equal weight.
  3. Is there a way to find a good approximate for value of k? I understand that this depends a lot on the use-case and varies per problem. But, if I am taking a simple vote from each neighbor, how much should I set the value of k? I'm currently trying out various values, such as 2,3,10 etc.

I researched around and found these links, but these are not specifically helpful -
a) Metric for nearest neighbor, which says that finding out your own distance measure is equivalent to 'kernelizing', but couldn't make much sense from it.
b) Distance independent approximation of kNN talks about R-trees, M-trees etc. which I believe don't apply to my case.
c) Finding nearest neighbors using Jaccard coeff


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