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Creators/Authors contains: "Ekstrand, Michael D"

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  1. Offline evaluation protocols for recommender systems are intended to estimate users' satisfaction with recommendations using static data from prior user interactions. These evaluations allow researchers and production developers to carry out first-pass estimates of the likely performance of a new system and weed out bad ideas before presenting them to users. However, offline evaluations cannot accurately assess novel, relevant recommendations, because the most novel recommendations items that were previously unknown to the user; such items are missing from the historical data, so they cannot be judged as relevant. A breakthrough that reliably produces novel, relevant recommendations would score poorly withmore »current offline evaluation techniques. While the existence of this problem is noted in the literature, its extent is not well-understood. We present a simulation study to estimate the error that such missing data causes in commonly-used evaluation metrics in order to assess its prevalence and impact. We find that missing data in the rating or observation process causes the evaluation protocol to systematically mis-estimate metric values, and in some cases erroneously determine that a popularity-based recommender outperforms even a perfect personalized recommender. Substantial breakthroughs in recommendation quality, therefore, will be difficult to assess with existing offline techniques.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 14, 2021
  2. We present StoryTime, a book recommender for children. Our web-based recommender is co-designed with children and uses images to elicit their preferences. By building on existing solutions related to both visual interfaces and book recommendation strategies for children, StoryTime can generate suggestions without historical data or adult guidance. We discuss the benefits of StoryTime as a starting point for further research exploring the cold start problem, incorporating historical data, and needs related to children as a complex audience to enhance the recommendation process.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 16, 2020
  3. Traditional offline evaluations of recommender systems apply metrics from machine learning and information retrieval in settings where their underlying assumptions no longer hold. This results in significant error and bias in measures of top-N recommendation performance, such as precision, recall, and nDCG. Several of the specific causes of these errors, including popularity bias and misclassified decoy items, are well-explored in the existing literature. In this paper we survey a range of work on identifying and addressing these problems, and report on our work in progress to simulate the recommender data generation and evaluation processes to quantify the extent of evaluationmore »metric errors and assess their sensitivity to various assumptions.« less