Session 2b: Cold Start and Hybrid Recommender Systems

Date: Thursday, Sept 17, 2015, 09:00-10:30
Location: HS 5
Chair: George Karypis

  • ExcUseMe: Asking Users to Help in Item Cold-Start Recommendations
    by Michal Aharon, Oren Anava, Noa Avigdor-Elgrabli, Dana Drachsler-Cohen, Shahar Golan, and Oren Somekh

    The item cold-start problem is of a great importance in collaborative filtering (CF) recommendation systems. It arises when new items are added to the inventory and the system cannot model them properly since it relies solely on historical users’ interactions (e.g., ratings). Much work has been devoted to mitigate this problem mostly by employing hybrid approaches that combine content-based recommendation techniques or by devoting a portion of the user traffic for exploration to gather interactions from random users.

    We focus on pure CF recommender systems (i.e., without content or context information) in a realistic online setting, where random exploration is inefficient and smart exploration that carefully selects users is crucial due to the huge flux of new items with short lifespan. We further assume that users arrive randomly one after the other and that the system has to immediately decide whether the arriving user will participate in the exploration of the new items.

    For this setting we present ExcUseMe, a smart exploration algorithm that selects a predefined number of users for exploring new items. ExcUseMe gradually excavates the users that are more likely to be interested in the new items and models the new items based on the users’ interactions. We evaluated ExcUseMe on several datasets and scenarios and compared it to state-of-the-art algorithms. Experimental results indicate that ExcUseMe is an efficient algorithm that outperforms all other algorithms in all tested scenarios.

  • Cold-Start Item and User Recommendation with Decoupled Completion and Transduction
    by Iman Barjasteh, Rana Forsati, Farzan Masrour, Abdol-Hossein Esfahanian and Hayder Radha

    A major challenge in collaborative filtering based recommender systems is how to provide recommendations when rating data is sparse or entirely missing for a subset of users or items, commonly known as the cold-start problem. In recent years, there has been considerable interest in developing new solutions that address the cold-start problem. These solutions are mainly based on the idea of exploiting other sources of information to compensate for the lack of rating data. In this paper, we propose a novel algorithmic framework based on matrix factorization that simultaneously exploits the similarity information among users and items to alleviate the cold-start problem. In contrast to existing methods, the proposed algorithm decouples the following two aspects of the cold-start problem: (a) the completion of a rating sub-matrix, which is generated by excluding cold-start users and items from the original rating matrix; and (b) the transduction of knowledge from existing ratings to cold-start items/users using side information. This crucial difference significantly boosts the performance when appropriate side information is incorporated. We provide theoretical guarantees on the estimation error of the proposed two-stage algorithm based on the richness of similarity information in capturing the rating data. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first algorithm that addresses the cold-start problem with provable guarantees. We also conduct thorough experiments on synthetic and real datasets that demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed algorithm and highlights the usefulness of auxiliary information in dealing with both cold-start users and items.

  • HyPER: A Flexible and Extensible Probabilistic Framework for Hybrid Recommender Systems
    by Pigi Kouki, Shobeir Fakhraei, James Foulds, Magdalini Eirinaki and Lise Getoor

    As the amount of recorded digital information increases, there is a growing need for flexible recommender systems which can incorporate richly structured data sources to improve recommendations. In this paper, we show how a recently introduced statistical relational learning framework can be used to develop a generic and extensible hybrid recommender system. Our hybrid approach, HyPER (HYbrid Probabilistic Extensible Recommender), incorporates and reasons over a wide range of information sources. Such sources include multiple user-user and item-item similarity measures, content, and social information. HyPER automatically learns to balance these different information signals when making predictions. We build our system using a powerful and intuitive probabilistic programming language called probabilistic soft logic, which enables efficient and accurate prediction by formulating our custom recommender systems with a scalable class of graphical models known as hinge-loss Markov random fields. We experimentally evaluate our approach on two popular recommendation datasets, showing that HyPER can effectively combine multiple information types for improved performance, and can outperform existing state-of-the-art approaches.

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