Maarten de Rijke

Information retrieval

Now on arXiv: Finding influential training samples for gradient boosted decision trees

Boris Sharchilev, Yury Ustinovsky, Pavel Serdyukov, and I have released a new pre-print on “finding influential training samples for gradient boosted decision trees” on arXiv. In the paper we address the problem of finding influential training samples for a particular case of tree ensemble-based models, e.g., Random Forest (RF) or Gradient Boosted Decision Trees (GBDT). A natural way of formalizing this problem is studying how the model’s predictions change upon leave-one-out retraining, leaving out each individual training sample. Recent work has shown that, for parametric models, this analysis can be conducted in a computationally efficient way. We propose several ways of extending this framework to non-parametric GBDT ensembles under the assumption that tree structures remain fixed. Furthermore, we introduce a general scheme of obtaining further approximations to our method that balance the trade-off between performance and computational complexity. We evaluate our approaches on various experimental setups and use-case scenarios and demonstrate both the quality of our approach to finding influential training samples in comparison to the baselines and its computational efficiency. You can find the paper here.

Now on arXiv: Optimizing interactive systems with data-driven objectives

Ziming Li, Artem Grotov, Julia Kiseleva, Harrie Oosterhuis and I have just released a new preprint on “optimizing interactive systems with data-driven objectives” on arXiv. Effective optimization is essential for interactive systems to provide a satisfactory user experience. However, it is often challenging to find an objective to optimize for. Generally, such objectives are manually crafted and rarely capture complex user needs accurately. Conversely, we propose an approach that infers the objective directly from observed user interactions. These inferences can be made regardless of prior knowledge and across different types of user behavior. Then we introduce: Interactive System Optimizer (ISO), a novel algorithm that uses these inferred objectives for optimization. Our main contribution is a new general principled approach to optimizing interactive systems using data-driven objectives. We demonstrate the high effectiveness of ISO over several GridWorld simulations. Rush over to arXiv to download the paper.

ICLR 2018 paper on Deep Learning with Logged Bandit Feedback online now

“Deep Learning with Logged Bandit Feedback” by Thorsten Joachims, Adith Swaminathan and Maarten de Rijke, to be published at ICLR 2018, is available online.

In the paper we propose a new output layer for deep neural networks that permits the use of logged contextual bandit feedback for training. Such contextual bandit feedback can be available in huge quantities (e.g., logs of search engines, recommender systems) at little cost, opening up a path for training deep networks on orders of magnitude more data. To this effect, we propose a counterfactual risk minimization approach for training deep networks using an equivariant empirical risk estimator with variance regularization, BanditNet, and show how the resulting objective can be decomposed in a way that allows stochastic gradient descent training. We empirically demonstrate the effectiveness of the method by showing how deep networks – ResNets in particular – can be trained for object recognition without conventionally labeled images.

WWW 2018 paper on Manifold Learning for Rank Aggregation online

“Manifold Learning for Rank Aggregation” by Shangsong Liang, Ilya Markov, Zhaochun Ren, and Maarten de Rijke, which will be published at WWW 2018, is available online now.

In the paper we address the task of fusing ranked lists of documents that are retrieved in response to a query. Past work on this task of rank aggregation often assumes that documents in the lists being fused are independent and that only the documents that are ranked high in many lists are likely to be relevant to a given topic. We propose manifold learning aggregation approaches, ManX and v-ManX, that build on the cluster hypothesis and exploit inter-document similarity information. ManX regularizes document fusion scores, so that documents that appear to be similar within a manifold, receive similar scores, whereas v-ManX first generates virtual adversarial documents and then regularizes the fusion scores of both original and virtual adversarial documents. Since aggregation methods built on the cluster hypothesis are computationally expensive, we adopt an optimization method that uses the top-k documents as anchors and considerably reduces the computational complexity of manifold-based methods, resulting in two efficient aggregation approaches, a-ManX and a-v-ManX. We assess the proposed approaches experimentally and show that they signi cantly outperform the state-of-the-art aggregation approaches, while a-ManX and a-v-ManX run faster than ManX, v-ManX, respectively.

JASIST paper “The birth of collective memories: Analyzing emerging entities in text streams” online

“The birth of collective memories: Analyzing emerging entities in text streams” by David Graus, Daan Odijk and Maarten de Rijke, to be published in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology is online now at this location.

In the paper we study how collective memories are formed online. We do so by tracking entities that emerge in public discourse, that is, in online text streams such as social media and news streams, before they are incorporated into Wikipedia, which, we argue, can be viewed as an online place for collective memory. By tracking how entities emerge in public discourse, that is, the temporal patterns between their first mention in online text streams and subsequent incorporation into collective memory, we gain insights into how the collective remembrance process happens online. Specifically, we analyze nearly 80,000 entities as they emerge in online text streams before they are incorporated into Wikipedia. The online text streams we use for our analysis comprise of social media and news streams, and span over 579 million documents in a time span of 18 months. We discover two main emergence patterns: entities that emerge in a “bursty” fashion, that is, that appear in public discourse without a precedent, blast into activity and transition into collective memory. Other entities display a “delayed” pattern, where they appear in public discourse, experience a period of inactivity, and then resurface before transitioning into our cultural collective memory.

WSDM 2018 paper on Why People Search for Images using Web Search Engines online

“Why People Search for Images using Web Search Engines” by Xiaohui Xie, Yiqun Liu, Maarten de Rijke, Jiyin He, Min Zhang and Shaoping Ma is online now at this location. It will be published at WSDM 2018.

What are the intents or goals behind human interactions with image search engines? Knowing why people search for images is of major concern to Web image search engines because user satisfaction may vary as intent varies. Previous analyses of image search behavior have mostly been query-based, focusing on what images people search for, rather than intent-based, that is, why people search for images. To date, there is no thorough investigation of how different image search intents affect users’ search behavior.

In this paper, we address the following questions: (1) Why do people search for images in text-based Web image search systems? (2) How does image search behavior change with user intent? (3) Can we predict user intent effectively from interactions during the early stages of a search session? To this end, we conduct both a lab-based user study and a commercial search log analysis.

We show that user intents in image search can be grouped into three classes: Explore/Learn, Entertain, and Locate/Acquire. Our lab-based user study reveals different user behavior patterns under these three intents, such as rst click time, query reformulation, dwell time and mouse movement on the result page. Based on user interaction features during the early stages of an image search session, that is, before mouse scroll, we develop an intent classi er that is able to achieve promising results for classifying intents into our three intent classes. Given that all features can be obtained online and unobtrusively, the predicted intents can provide guidance for choosing ranking methods immediately after scrolling.

IRJ paper “Neural information retrieval: at the end of the early years” online

Our Information Retrieval Journal paper “Neural information retrieval: at the end of the early years” by Kezban Dilek Onal, Ye Zhang, Ismail Sengor Altingovde, Md Mustafizur Rahman, Pinar Karagoz, Alex Braylan, Brandon Dang, Heng-Lu Chang, Henna Kim, Quinten McNamara, Aaron Angert, Edward Banner, Vivek Khetan, Tyler McDonnell, An Thanh Nguyen, Dan Xu, Byron C. Wallace, Maarten de Rijke, and Matthew Lease is available online now at this location.

A recent “third wave” of neural network (NN) approaches now delivers state-of-the-art performance in many machine learning tasks, spanning speech recognition, computer vision, and natural language processing. Because these modern NNs often comprise multiple interconnected layers, work in this area is often referred to as deep learning. Recent years have witnessed an explosive growth of research into NN-based approaches to information retrieval (IR). A significant body of work has now been created. In this paper, we survey the current landscape of Neural IR research, paying special attention to the use of learned distributed representations of textual units. We highlight the successes of neural IR thus far, catalog obstacles to its wider adoption, and suggest potentially promising directions for future research.

CIKM 2018 papers online

Our CIKM 2017 papers are online now:

  • “Online expectation-maximization for click models” by Ilya Markov, Alexey Borisov, and Maarten de Rijke. Click models allow us to interpret user click behavior in search interactions and to remove various types of bias from user clicks. Existing studies on click models consider a static scenario where user click behavior does not change over time. We show empirically that click models deteriorate over time if retraining is avoided. We then adapt online expectation-maximization (EM) techniques to efficiently incorporate new click/skip observations into a trained click model. Our instantiation of Online EM for click models is orders of magnitude more e cient than retraining the model from scratch using standard EM, while loosing li le in quality. To deal with outdated click information, we propose a variant of online EM called EM with Forge ing, which surpasses the performance of complete retraining while being as e cient as Online EM. The paper is available here.
  • “Balancing speed and quality in online learning to rank for information retrieval” by Harrie Oosterhuis and Maarten de Rijke. In Online Learning to Rank (OLTR) the aim is to find an optimal ranking model by interacting with users. When learning from user behavior, systems must interact with users while simultaneously learning from those interactions. Unlike other Learning to Rank (LTR) settings, existing research in this field has been limited to linear models. This is due to the speed-quality tradeoff that arises when selecting models: complex models are more expressive and can find the best rankings but need more user interactions to do so, a requirement that risks frustrating users during training. Conversely, simpler models can be optimized on fewer interactions and thus provide a better user experience, but they will converge towards suboptimal rankings. This tradeoff creates a deadlock, since novel models will not be able to improve either the user experience or the final convergence point, without sacrificing the other.

    Our contribution is twofold. First, we introduce a fast OLTR model called Sim-MGD that addresses the speed aspect of the speed-quality tradeoff. Sim-MGD ranks documents based on similarities with reference documents. It converges rapidly and, hence, gives a be er user experience but it does not converge towards the optimal rankings. Second, we contribute Cascading Multileave Gradient Descent (C-MGD) for OLTR that directly addresses the speed-quality tradeoff by using a cascade that enables combinations of the best of two worlds: fast learning and high quality final convergence. C-MGD can provide the better user experience of Sim-MGD while maintaining the same convergence as the state-of-the-art MGD model. This opens the door for future work to design new models for OLTR without having to deal with the speed-quality tradeoff. The paper is available here.

  • “Sensitive and scalable online evaluation with theoretical guarantees” by Harrie Oosterhuis and Maarten de Rijke. Multileaved comparison methods generalize interleaved comparison methods to provide a scalable approach for comparing ranking systems based on regular user interactions. Such methods enable the increasingly rapid research and development of search engines. However, existing multileaved comparison methods that provide reliable outcomes do so by degrading the user experience during evaluation. Conversely, current multileaved comparison methods that maintain the user experience cannot guarantee correctness. Our contribution is two-fold. First, we propose a theoretical framework for systematically comparing multileaved comparison methods using the notions of considerateness, which concerns maintaining the user experience, and fidelity, which concerns reliable correct outcomes. Second, we introduce a novel multileaved comparison method, Pairwise Preference Multileaving (PPM), that performs comparisons based on document-pair preferences, and prove that it is considerate and has delity. We show empirically that, compared to previous multileaved comparison methods, PPM is more sensitive to user preferences and scalable with the number of rankers being compared. The paper is available here.

FAT* Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency

FAT* is a multi-disciplinary conference that brings together researchers and practitioners interested in fairness, accountability, and transparency in socio-technical systems.

Artificial intelligence, automation, and machine learning are being adopted in a growing number of contexts. Fueled by big data, these systems filter, sort, score, recommend, personalize, and otherwise shape human experiences of socio-technical systems. Although these systems bring myriad benefits, they also contain inherent risks, such as codifying and entrenching biases; reducing accountability and hindering due process; and increasing the information assymmetry between data producers and data holders.

FAT* is an annual conference dedicating to bringing together a diverse community to investigate and tackle issues in this emerging area. FAT* builds upon several years of successful workshops on the topics of fairness, accountability, transparency, ethics, and interpretability in machine learning, recommender systems, the web, and other technical disciplines.

The inaugural 2018 FAT* Conference will be held February 23 and 24th, 2018 at New York University, NYC. Details will be announced at

Material from NN4IR tutorial online

The material from our highly popular tutorial on Neural Networks for Information Retrieval (NN4IR), presented during SIGIR 2017 in Tokyo is available online at

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