carter swartout

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Huggingface Tutorial

This is a tutorial I wrote for my club, I2. I figured it might be able to help some people out! Thanks for reading! (You can download the original .ipynb notebook here.)

- Carter Swartout, I2

What is this notebook about?

Hugging Face is a popular library and resouce for training and using AI models. While it has many valuable resources, it can be extremely difficult to use. This notebook aims to serve as an introduction to Hugging Face and all the tools it provides.


You’re going to need to have a Hugging Face account. If you don’t have one already, sign up here!

# install the necessary libraries!
!pip install transformers
!pip install datasets

Basics of HuggingFace

(IMO) Hugging Face serves two tasks: storage of AI resouces (models, tokenizers, datasets) and a library of tools for training/using AI models. These resources take the form of a Github-like repository service (the HF Hub) in addition to libraries.

Hugging Face’s prominent library is transformers, a library containing powerful foundation (pretrained) models and tools to use them. Hugging Face also has a tokenizers library for tokenizers, a datasets library for datasets, and a diffusers library for, you guessed it, diffusion models. (They have a lot of stuff. Too much stuff IMO. It is a bit overwhelming.)

Hugging Face has the Hub, a Github-like service for storing models, datasets, and more. You can use this to store trained models or datasets or access others pre-trained models!

The good of Hugging Face:

The bad of Hugging Face: - The documentation can be poor at times - The APIs can be a lot to learn

Let’s use a pretrained model!

Alright, enough talking. Let’s get to something fun!

The first way to use a model is with a pipeline. A pipeline is a crazy abstraction that reduces a bunch of “scary AI stuff” into a simple object for inference. We simply need to give the pipeline a task or model at instantiation and it is ready for inference. Take a look:

from transformers import pipeline

pipe = pipeline("text-classification") # text-classification is the task
pipe(['Wow, this notebook is amazing!', 'I hate self-referential jokes!']) # inference

There’s a couple things to take note of:

First, we gave it a task, “text-classification”. There are many different tasks such as text generation, text classification, and visual tasks. When pipeline is instantiated with a task it actually creates a specific pipeline for the task - in this case a TextClassificationPipeline.

Pipelines for different tasks require different arguments when being called. Text-classification pipelines require either a single string or a list of strings when being called. Make sure to check the docs for the specific type of pipeline.

When we give it a task without specifying a model it defaults to one. For “text-classification” it defaults to “distilbert”, a type of BERT model. If we want something other than the default, we can pass a model name at instantiation: pipe = pipeline(model=model_name)

Let’s look at another example: If I’m speaking with my German friends, I might like to use sentiment classification what they’re saying in German. Fortunately, there’s a pretrained model for that!

pipe = pipeline(model='oliverguhr/german-sentiment-bert') # instantiate with model name
pipe('Carter, ich hasse deinen Humor!') # we can run inference with just a string!

Yikes, looks bad…

Let’s turn to a different task, generating text! If we want to generate from the following prompt:

AP News: The University of Washington recently announced

We can create a new type of pipeline!

# create a text generation pipeline!
pipe = pipeline('text-generation')
pipe('AP News: The University of Washington recently announced')

Our first step under the hood: transformers and tokenizers

Good work! Let’s dive a bit deeper into what actually happens inside the pipeline!

from transformers import AutoModelForCausalLM, AutoTokenizer

# example pipeline using AutoModel and AutoTokenizer
class TextPipe:
    def __init__(self, model):
        # download models and tokenizers
        self.model = AutoModelForCausalLM.from_pretrained(model)
        self.tokenizer = AutoTokenizer.from_pretrained(model)
    def __call__(self, prompt):
        # make sure it is a list
        if type(prompt) is str:
            prompt = [prompt]
        # generate 
        outputs = []
        for p in prompt:
            # tokenize the prompt
            tokenized_prompt = self.tokenizer(p, return_tensors='pt')
            # forward pass through the model
            gen_tensor = self.model.generate(tokenized_prompt['input_ids'])
            # decode the model outputs
            gen_text = self.tokenizer.decode(gen_tensor[0])
            # note that we could pass everything in a batch, but i want to be explicit
        return outputs
# let's try it out!

pipe = TextPipe(model='gpt2')
pipe([' is the', 'AI will eventually'])

There are two stored fields: model and tokenizer. model comes from: AutoModelForCausalLM, a HF class for loading AI models. In this case it loads a pretrained GPT2. AutoTokenizer does something similar, loading a tokenizer for GPT2. These AutoThings basically instantiate a class, loading weights or configurations from for them. There are multiple types of AutoThings, but I’ll mainly focus on lanugage generation for the rest of this notebook.

Let’s first look at AutoTokenizer. This is an object that can encode and decode plaintext into tensors which can be used by models. You need to instanitate it with AutoTokenizer.from_pretrained(name), loading name’s associated tokenizer from the HF Hub. Often these will be some form of a GPT2 tokenizer (it is exactly that in this case).

There’s two important methods you should know: First, simply calling tokenizer(input) encodes a string or list of strings. One must specify the flag return_tensors='pt' to return PyTorch tensors THIS IS IMPORTANT. The output will be a dict containing keys input_ids and attention_mask. These keys point to PyTorch tensors which can be passed into a model later.

tokenizer = AutoTokenizer.from_pretrained('gpt2') # load gpt2 tokenizer
out = tokenizer('This is an example text', return_tensors='pt') # one example (string)
out # returns a dict with input_ids and attention_mask pointing to tensors

If we pass in multiple strings in a list, we need to make sure they’re the same length. If they aren’t, we’ll get an error:

# they must be the same length
tokenizer(['This is example one', 'I am example two!'], return_tensors='pt')

To tokenize texts which are different lengths, we need to tell the model how to deal with that. There’s two main options - truncate to a certain length, or pad (with special tokens) to a certain length (docs). For now, I’ll pad to the longest sequence in the batch. To do so, I’ll need to pass the argument padding=True.

# again, but with padding!
tokenizer(['This is example one', 'I am example two!'], return_tensors='pt', padding=True)

Shoot, we need to tell the model what token to pad with. A typical choice is the tokenizer’s end of sentence or eos token. We can set it like this:

tokenizer.pad_token = tokenizer.eos_token # set pad token to eos token
# we try again!
out = tokenizer(['This is example one', 'I am example two!'], return_tensors='pt', padding=True)

It works! Note that the returned tensors now have first dimension of two, because we passed in two inputs.


Now for the second important method: tokenizer.decode(input) (and tokenizer.batch_decode). We want to be able to decode outputs from the model - this is the method for that!

The input for tokenizer.decode(input) should be a PyTorch tensor of encoded text with one dimension. We can first encode text to get a tensor, then decode it and it should be the same!

# encode text
tokenized_text = tokenizer('This is example text', return_tensors='pt')

# decode text

Shoot, I forgot that tokenizer(input) outputs a batch dimension always, even if it is one. Let’s index into the first dimension and try again.

# encode text
tokenized_text = tokenizer('This is example text', return_tensors='pt')


# decode text
tokenizer.decode(tokenized_text['input_ids'][0]) # index into first dim this time

Sweet! What if we want to decode using a batch? Well, you guessed it, use: tokenizer.batch_decode(input). This expects a batch dimension - let’s give it one!

# encode text
tokenized_text = tokenizer(
    ['I am example one!', 'Do not forget about example two!'],


# decode text
tokenizer.batch_decode(tokenized_text['input_ids']) # no need to index

Perfect! We can even see the eos tokens that were used to pad!

AutoModelForCausalLM is pretty similar to AutoTokenizer. Again, it loads a type of model from HF Hub that you pass in when you instantiate with AutoModelForCausalLM.from_pretrained(model_name). There’s also two methods that I’ll highlight here as well!

The first is simply calling model(), running a forward pass of the model. It often requires several parameters: - input_ids is a tokenized PyTorch tensor (we saw this from the tokenizer)! - attention_mask is another PyTorch tensor, again created with the tokenizer. - labels is not always required, but allows the model to output a loss as well. For language generation, labels typically is the same as input_ids.

For GPT-2, this will output a data structure containing logits and sometimes a loss.

Let’s take a look at this in action!

# load GPT-2 model
model = AutoModelForCausalLM.from_pretrained('gpt2')

# tokenize text
x = tokenizer('What a great input string!', return_tensors='pt')

# forward pass
out = model(input_ids=x['input_ids'], attention_mask=x['attention_mask'])

Try to ignore the wall of text that just appeared and just focus on the first line. For me it is:

CausalLMOutputWithCrossAttentions(loss=None, logits=tensor([[[ -37.2172, -36.8864, -40.3563, ...

The model outputs some sort of weird CausalLMOutputWithCrossAttentions. IMO this is a bit confusing, but we roll with it. Let’s look inside this data structure.

First, we have loss=None No loss was calculated because we didn’t pass it labels when it was called. We’ll see more about that in a moment.

Second, we have the raw logits, the next token probabilities for each token in input_ids. This is huge because for each input token in input_ids, each of the 50,000+ output tokens was given a score.

Let’s take a look at how we can get loss in out output. To do so, we need to pass labels in as well. As mentioned before, labels will be the same as input_ids.

# tokenize text
x = tokenizer('What a great input string!', return_tensors='pt')

# forward pass
out = model(

Sweet! If we were training, we could now call out.loss.backward() and run backpropagation.

The second method that is important is model.generate(). This allows us to generate text using our model. We can call it without any input, allowing it to ramble on its own!

# generate text

Right, it outputs a tensor with so we need to decode it using the tokenizer. There’s a batch dim, so we should index in!

# generate text
out = model.generate()

# decode output

Nice! If we want to prompt it, we can encode text then pass the tensor into the model when generating.

# encode prompt
prompt = tokenizer('The UW is the best', return_tensors='pt')

# generate text
out = model.generate(**prompt)

# decode output

Perfect. As we can see, we’ve been getting warnings about not setting a max_length or max_new_tokens. We can control text generation via a variety of flags (docs)! For this example, we can focus on how many new tokens to generate.

To do so, we can use the max_new_tokens and min_new_tokens flags.

# encode prompt
prompt = tokenizer('The UW is the best', return_tensors='pt')

# generate text with 50 new tokens
out = model.generate(**prompt, min_new_tokens=50, max_new_tokens=50)

# decode output

Now that we have a grasp on this, let’s take a look at what it would take to fine-tune our own models!

Training a model - loading a dataset

To train a model, we need data to train on. Fortunately HF has a bunch of datasets on their Hub. (I reread this and it sounded like an ad read. Sorry.) To download a dataset, we can use the load_dataset function from the datasets library. Lets do so for a dataset on financial news.

from datasets import load_dataset

ds = load_dataset('zeroshot/twitter-financial-news-topic')

Let’s train our model to generate tweets that are similar to the dataset. We won’t need any of the label’s, so we can remove them.

rem_ds = ds.remove_columns('label')

Now we need to tokenize the dataset. To do so, we can use to run a function over each example in the dataset. I’m forcing every tokent o

# tokenization function
def token_func(example):
    return tokenizer(example['text'])
# run over entire dataset
tokenized_ds =

We no longer need the text column, so we can remove it.

rem_tokenized_ds = tokenized_ds.remove_columns('text')

Now we batch texts to be a consistant size (don’t worry much about this part). This will reduce our texts down to a small amount of examples because each one was quite short

from itertools import chain

# group texts into blocks of block_size
block_size = 1024

def group_texts(examples):
    # Concatenate all texts.
    concatenated_examples = {k: list(chain(*examples[k])) for k in examples.keys()}
    total_length = len(concatenated_examples[list(examples.keys())[0]])
    # We drop the small remainder, we could add padding if the model supported it instead of this drop, you can
    # customize this part to your needs.
    if total_length >= block_size:
        total_length = (total_length // block_size) * block_size
    # Split by chunks of max_len.
    result = {
        k: [t[i : i + block_size] for i in range(0, total_length, block_size)]
        for k, t in concatenated_examples.items()
    return result

batched_ds =, batched=True)

We’re going to want a loss, so we will copy the input_ids column to the labels column as well.

batched_ds['train'] = batched_ds['train'].add_column('labels', batched_ds['train']['input_ids'])

Next, we can create a standard PyTorch dataloader from these datasets. I’ll use HF’s default_data_collator. We won’t do a validation run so we only create train_dl.

from import DataLoader
from transformers import default_data_collator

train_dl = DataLoader(
    batch_size=2, # small batch size bc i want to ensure it runs

Finally, we can create a standard training loop and train the model for 100 batches!

import torch

device = 'cuda' if torch.cuda.is_available() else 'cpu'

model =
optimizer = torch.optim.AdamW(model.parameters(), lr=5e-5)
dl_iter = iter(train_dl)

#for batch in train_dl: # uncomment to run full epoch
for i in range(100):
    batch = next(dl_iter)
    # push all to device
    batch = {k: batch[k].to(device) for k in batch.keys()}
    # forward pass
    out = model(**batch)

Let’s see what our model now produces!

# generate text
out = model.generate(min_new_tokens=30, max_new_tokens=30)

It needs more training, but you can see that it is starting to learn!

To upload the model, we can use model.push_to_hub(). We first need to login to HF using the cli command huggingface-cli login.

!huggingface-cli login


Thank you for your time! Let me know if you have any feedback!