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  1. Conversational recommender systems (CRS) dynamically obtain the users' preferences via multi-turn questions and answers. The existing CRS solutions are widely dominated by deep reinforcement learning algorithms. However, deep reinforcement learning methods are often criticized for lacking interpretability and requiring a large amount of training data to perform.In this paper, we explore a simpler alternative and propose a decision tree based solution to CRS. The underlying challenge in CRS is that the same item can be described differently by different users. We show that decision trees are sufficient to characterize the interactions between users and items, and solve the key challenges in multi-turn CRS: namely which questions to ask, how to rank the candidate items, when to recommend, and how to handle user's negative feedback on the recommendations. Firstly, the training of decision trees enables us to find questions which effectively narrow down the search space. Secondly, by learning embeddings for each item and tree nodes, the candidate items can be ranked based on their similarity to the conversation context encoded by the tree nodes. Thirdly, the diversity of items associated with each tree node allows us to develop an early stopping strategy to decide when to make recommendations. Fourthly, when the user rejects a recommendation, we adaptively choose the next decision tree to improve subsequent questions and recommendations. Extensive experiments on three publicly available benchmark CRS datasets show that our approach provides significant improvement to the state of the art CRS methods. 
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  2. We propose a differentially private linear contextual bandit algorithm, via a tree-based mechanism to add Laplace or Gaussian noise to model parameters. Our key insight is that as the model converges during online update, the global sensitivity of its parameters shrinks over time (thus named dynamic global sensitivity). Compared with existing solutions, our dynamic global sensitivity analysis allows us to inject less noise to obtain $(\epsilon, \delta)$-differential privacy with added regret caused by noise injection in $\tilde O(\log{T}\sqrt{T}/\epsilon)$. We provide a rigorous theoretical analysis over the amount of noise added via dynamic global sensitivity and the corresponding upper regret bound of our proposed algorithm. Experimental results on both synthetic and real-world datasets confirmed the algorithm's advantage against existing solutions. 
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  3. Chaudhuri, Kamalika ; Jegelka, Stefanie ; Song, Le ; Szepesvari, Csaba ; Niu, Gang ; Sabato, Sivan (Ed.)
    We study adversarial attacks on linear stochastic bandits: by manipulating the rewards, an adversary aims to control the behaviour of the bandit algorithm. Perhaps surprisingly, we first show that some attack goals can never be achieved. This is in a sharp contrast to context-free stochastic bandits, and is intrinsically due to the correlation among arms in linear stochastic bandits. Motivated by this finding, this paper studies the attackability of a $k$-armed linear bandit environment. We first provide a complete necessity and sufficiency characterization of attackability based on the geometry of the arms’ context vectors. We then propose a two-stage attack method against LinUCB and Robust Phase Elimination. The method first asserts whether the given environment is attackable; and if yes, it poisons the rewards to force the algorithm to pull a target arm linear times using only a sublinear cost. Numerical experiments further validate the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of the proposed attack method. 
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  4. Deep neural networks (DNNs) demonstrates significant advantages in improving ranking performance in retrieval tasks. Driven by the recent developments in optimization and generalization of DNNs, learning a neural ranking model online from its interactions with users becomes possible. However, the required exploration for model learning has to be performed in the entire neural network parameter space, which is prohibitively expensive and limits the application of such online solutions in practice. In this work, we propose an efficient exploration strategy for online interactive neural ranker learning based on bootstrapping. Our solution is based on an ensemble of ranking models trained with perturbed user click feedback. The proposed method eliminates explicit confidence set construction and the associated computational overhead, which enables the online neural rankers training to be efficiently executed in practice with theoretical guarantees. Extensive comparisons with an array of state-of-the-art OL2R algorithms on two public learning to rank benchmark datasets demonstrate the effectiveness and computational efficiency of our proposed neural OL2R solution. 
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  5. Most real-world optimization problems have multiple objectives. A system designer needs to find a policy that trades off these objectives to reach a desired operating point. This problem has been studied extensively in the setting of known objective functions. However, we consider a more practical but challenging setting of unknown objective functions. In industry, optimization under this setting is mostly approached with online A/B testing, which is often costly and inefficient. As an alternative, we propose Interactive Multi-Objective Off-policy Optimization (IMO^3). The key idea of IMO^3 is to interact with a system designer using policies evaluated in an off-policy fashion to uncover which policy maximizes her unknown utility function. We theoretically show that IMO^3 identifies a near-optimal policy with high probability, depending on the amount of designer's feedback and training data for off-policy estimation. We demonstrate its effectiveness empirically on several multi-objective optimization problems. 
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  6. Existing online learning to rank (OL2R) solutions are limited to linear models, which are incompetent to capture possible non-linear relations between queries and documents. In this work, to unleash the power of representation learning in OL2R, we propose to directly learn a neural ranking model from users’ implicit feedback (e.g., clicks) collected on the fly. We focus on RankNet and LambdaRank, due to their great empirical success and wide adoption in offline settings, and control the notorious explore-exploit trade-off based on the convergence analysis of neural networks using neural tangent kernel. Specifically, in each round of result serving, exploration is only performed on document pairs where the predicted rank order between the two documents is uncertain; otherwise, the ranker’s predicted order will be followed in result ranking. We prove that under standard assumptions our OL2R solution achieves a gap-dependent upper regret bound of O(log 2(T)), in which the regret is defined on the total number of mis-ordered pairs over T rounds. Comparisons against an extensive set of state-of-the-art OL2R baselines on two public learning to rank benchmark datasets demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed solution. 
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  7. Thanks to the power of representation learning, neural contextual bandit algorithms demonstrate remarkable performance improvement against their classical counterparts. But because their exploration has to be performed in the entire neural network parameter space to obtain nearly optimal regret, the resulting computational cost is prohibitively high. We perturb the rewards when updating the neural network to eliminate the need of explicit exploration and the corresponding computational overhead. We prove that a O(d\sqrt{T}) regret upper bound is still achievable under standard regularity conditions, where $T$ is the number of rounds of interactions and $\tilde{d}$ is the effective dimension of a neural tangent kernel matrix. Extensive comparisons with several benchmark contextual bandit algorithms, including two recent neural contextual bandit models, demonstrate the effectiveness and computational efficiency of our proposed neural bandit algorithm. 
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