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Towards Non-Parametric Learning to Rank

by   Ao Liu, et al.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
William & Mary

This paper studies a stylized, yet natural, learning-to-rank problem and points out the critical incorrectness of a widely used nearest neighbor algorithm. We consider a model with n agents (users) {x_i}_i ∈ [n] and m alternatives (items) {y_j}_j ∈ [m], each of which is associated with a latent feature vector. Agents rank items nondeterministically according to the Plackett-Luce model, where the higher the utility of an item to the agent, the more likely this item will be ranked high by the agent. Our goal is to find neighbors of an arbitrary agent or alternative in the latent space. We first show that the Kendall-tau distance based kNN produces incorrect results in our model. Next, we fix the problem by introducing a new algorithm with features constructed from "global information" of the data matrix. Our approach is in sharp contrast to most existing feature engineering methods. Finally, we design another new algorithm identifying similar alternatives. The construction of alternative features can be done using "local information," highlighting the algorithmic difference between finding similar agents and similar alternatives.


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