Recommender Systems

Adams, Roy J., Rajani S. Sadasivam, Kavitha Balakrishnan, Rebecca L. Kinney, Thomas K. Houston, and Benjamin M. Marlin. "PERSPeCT: Collaborative Filtering for Tailored Health Communications." Proceedings of the 8th ACM Conference on Recommender Systems. RecSys '14. New York, NY, USA: ACM, 2014. 329-332. Abstractperspect-recsys14.pdf


The goal of computer tailored health communications (CTHC) is to elicit healthy behavior changes by sending motivational messages personalized to individual patients. One prominent weakness of many existing CTHC systems is that they are based on expert-written rules and thus have no ability to learn from their users over time. One solution to this problem is to develop CTHC systems based on the principles of collaborative filtering, but this approach has not been widely studied. In this paper, we present a case study evaluating nine rating prediction methods for use in the Patient Experience Recommender System for Persuasive Communication Tailoring, a system developed for use in a clinical trial of CTHC-based smoking cessation support interventions.

Marlin, Benjamin M., Roy J. Adams, Rajani Sadasivam, and Thomas K. Houston Towards Collaborative Filtering Recommender Systems for Tailored Health Communications. AMIA 2013 Annual Symposium., 2013. Abstractcthc_recsys13_paper.pdf

The goal of computer tailored health communications (CTHC) is to promote healthy behaviors by sending messages tailored to individual patients. Current CTHC systems collect baseline patient “profiles” and then use expert-written, rule-based systems to target messages to subsets of patients. Our main interest in this work is the study of collaborative filtering-based CTHC systems that can learn to tailor future message selections to individual patients based explicit feedback about past message selections. This paper reports the results of a study designed to collect explicit feedback (ratings) regarding four aspects of messages from 100 subjects in the smoking cessation support domain. Our results show that most users have positive opinions of most messages and that the ratings for all four aspects of the messages are highly correlated with each other. Finally, we conduct a range of rating prediction experiments comparing several different model variations. Our results show that predicting future ratings based on each user’s past ratings contributes the most to predictive accuracy.

Marlin, Benjamin M., Richard S. Zemel, Sam T. Roweis, and Malcolm Slaney. "Recommender Systems, Missing Data and Statistical Model Estimation." IJCAI. 2011. 2686-2691. Abstractmissing_data_ijcai11_paper.pdf

The goal of rating-based recommender systems is to make personalized predictions and recommendations for individual users by leveraging the preferences of a community of users with respect to a collection of items like songs or movies. Recommender systems are often based on intricate statistical models that are estimated from data sets containing a very high proportion of missing ratings. This work describes evidence of a basic incompatibility between the properties of recommender system data sets and the assumptions required for valid estimation and evaluation of statistical models in the presence of missing data. We discuss the implications of this problem and describe extended modelling and evaluation frameworks that attempt to circumvent it. We present prediction and ranking results showing that models developed and tested under these extended frameworks can significantly outperform standard models.

Marlin, Benjamin M., and Richard S. Zemel. "Collaborative prediction and ranking with non-random missing data." RecSys. 2009. 5-12. Abstract

A fundamental aspect of rating-based recommender systems is the observation process, the process by which users choose the items they rate. Nearly all research on collaborative filtering and recommender systems is founded on the assumption that missing ratings are missing at random. The statistical theory of missing data shows that incorrect assumptions about missing data can lead to biased parameter estimation and prediction. In a recent study, we demonstrated strong evidence for violations of the missing at random condition in a real recommender system. In this paper we present the first study of the effect of non-random missing data on collaborative ranking, and extend our previous results regarding the impact of non-random missing data on collaborative prediction.

Marlin, Benjamin M., Richard S. Zemel, Sam T. Roweis, and Malcolm Slaney. "Collaborative Filtering and the Missing at Random Assumption." UAI. 2007. 267-275. Abstract

Rating prediction is an important application, and a popular research topic in collaborative filtering. However, both the validity of learning algorithms, and the validity of standard testing procedures rest on the assumption that missing ratings are missing at random (MAR). In this paper we present the results of a user study in which we collect a random sample of ratings from current users of an online radio service. An analysis of the rating data collected in the study shows that the sample of random ratings has markedly different properties than ratings of user-selected songs. When asked to report on their own rating behaviour, a large number of users indicate they believe their opinion of a song does affect whether they choose to rate that song, a violation of the MAR condition. Finally, we present experimental results showing that incorporating an explicit model of the missing data mechanism can lead to significant improvements in prediction performance on the random sample of ratings.

Marlin, Benjamin M., and Richard S. Zemel. "The multiple multiplicative factor model for collaborative filtering." ICML. 2004. Abstract

We describe a class of causal, discrete latent variable models called Multiple Multiplicative Factor models (MMFs). A data vector is represented in the latent space as a vector of factors that have discrete, non-negative expression levels. Each factor proposes a distribution over the data vector. The distinguishing feature of MMFs is that they combine the factors' proposed distributions multiplicatively, taking into account factor expression levels. The product formulation of MMFs allow factors to specialize to a subset of the items, while the causal generative semantics mean MMFs can readily accommodate missing data. This makes MMFs distinct from both directed models with mixture semantics and undirected product models. In this paper we present empirical results from the collaborative filtering domain showing that a binary/multinomial MMF model matches the performance of the best existing models while learning an interesting latent space description of the users.

Marlin, Benjamin M. "Modeling User Rating Profiles For Collaborative Filtering." NIPS. 2003. Abstract

In this paper we present a generative latent variable model for rating-based collaborative filtering called the User Rating Profile model (URP). The generative process which underlies URP is designed to produce complete user rating profiles, an assignment of one rating to each item for each user. Our model represents each user as a mixture of user attitudes, and the mixing proportions are distributed according to a Dirichlet random variable. The rating for each item is generated by selecting a user attitude for the item, and then selecting a rating according to the preference pattern associated with that attitude. URP is related to several models including a multinomial mixture model, the aspect model, and LDA, but has clear advantages over each.

Boutilier, Craig, Richard S. Zemel, and Benjamin M. Marlin. "Active Collaborative Filtering." UAI. 2003. 98-106. Abstract

Collaborative filtering (CF) allows the preferences of multiple users to be pooled to make recommendations regarding unseen products. We consider in this paper the problem of online and interactive CF: given the current ratings associated with a user, what queries (new ratings) would most improve the quality of the recommendations made? We cast this terms of expected value of information (EVOI); but the online computational cost of computing optimal queries is prohibitive. We show how offline prototyping and computation of bounds on EVOI can be used to dramatically reduce the required online computation. The framework we develop is general, but we focus on derivations and empirical study in the specific case of the multiple-cause vector quantization model.