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Quick Question: Interrupting Users for Microtasks with Reinforcement Learning

by   Bo-Jhang Ho, et al.

Human attention is a scarce resource in modern computing. A multitude of microtasks vie for user attention to crowdsource information, perform momentary assessments, personalize services, and execute actions with a single touch. A lot gets done when these tasks take up the invisible free moments of the day. However, an interruption at an inappropriate time degrades productivity and causes annoyance. Prior works have exploited contextual cues and behavioral data to identify interruptibility for microtasks with much success. With Quick Question, we explore use of reinforcement learning (RL) to schedule microtasks while minimizing user annoyance and compare its performance with supervised learning. We model the problem as a Markov decision process and use Advantage Actor Critic algorithm to identify interruptible moments based on context and history of user interactions. In our 5-week, 30-participant study, we compare the proposed RL algorithm against supervised learning methods. While the mean number of responses between both methods is commensurate, RL is more effective at avoiding dismissal of notifications and improves user experience over time.


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