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  1. The applicability of agglomerative clustering, for inferring both hierarchical and flat clustering, is limited by its scalability. Existing scalable hierarchical clustering methods sacrifice quality for speed and often lead to over-merging of clusters. In this paper, we present a scalable, agglomerative method for hierarchical clustering that does not sacrifice quality and scales to billions of data points. We perform a detailed theoretical analysis, showing that under mild separability conditions our algorithm can not only recover the optimal flat partition but also provide a two-approximation to non-parametric DP-Means objective. This introduces a novel application of hierarchical clustering as an approximation algorithm for the non-parametric clustering objective. We additionally relate our algorithm to the classic hierarchical agglomerative clustering method. We perform extensive empirical experiments in both hierarchical and flat clustering settings and show that our proposed approach achieves state-of-the-art results on publicly available clustering benchmarks. Finally, we demonstrate our method's scalability by applying it to a dataset of 30 billion queries. Human evaluation of the discovered clusters show that our method finds better quality of clusters than the current state-of-the-art.
  2. Hierarchical clusterings compactly encode multiple granularities of clusters within a tree structure. Hierarchies, by definition, fail to capture different flat partitions that are not subsumed in one another. In this paper, we advocate for an alternative structure for representing multiple clusterings, a directed acyclic graph (DAG). By allowing nodes to have multiple parents, DAG structures are not only more flexible than trees, but also allow for points to be members of multiple clusters. We describe a scalable algorithm, Llama, which simply merges nearest neighbor substructures to form a DAG structure. Llama discovers structures that are more accurate than state-of-the-art tree-based techniques while remaining scalable to large-scale clustering benchmarks. Additionally, we support the proposed algorithm with theoretical guarantees on separated data, including types of data that cannot be correctly clustered by tree-based algorithms.
  3. Hierarchical clustering is a critical task in numerous domains. Many approaches are based on heuristics and the properties of the resulting clusterings are studied post hoc. However, in several applications, there is a natural cost function that can be used to characterize the quality of the clustering. In those cases, hierarchical clustering can be seen as a combinatorial optimization problem. To that end, we introduce a new approach based on A* search. We overcome the prohibitively large search space by combining A* with a novel \emph{trellis} data structure. This combination results in an exact algorithm that scales beyond previous state of the art, from a search space with 10^12 trees to 10^15 trees, and an approximate algorithm that improves over baselines, even in enormous search spaces that contain more than 10^1000 trees. We empirically demonstrate that our method achieves substantially higher quality results than baselines for a particle physics use case and other clustering benchmarks. We describe how our method provides significantly improved theoretical bounds on the time and space complexity of A* for clustering.