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A General Boosting Method and its Application to Learning Ranking Functions for Web Search

Neural Information Processing Systems

We present a general boosting method extending functional gradient boosting to optimize complex loss functions that are encountered in many machine learning problems. Our approach is based on optimization of quadratic upper bounds of the loss functions which allows us to present a rigorous convergence analysis of the algorithm. More importantly, this general framework enables us to use a standard regression base learner such as decision trees for fitting any loss function. We illustrate an application of the proposed method in learning ranking functions for Web search by combining both preference data and labeled data for training. We present experimental results for Web search using data from a commercial search engine that show significant improvements of our proposed methods over some existing methods.


Sparse Estimation Using General Likelihoods and Non-Factorial Priors

Neural Information Processing Systems

Finding maximally sparse representations from overcomplete feature dictionaries frequently involves minimizing a cost function composed of a likelihood (or data fit) term and a prior (or penalty function) that favors sparsity. The first method under consideration arises from the sparse Bayesian learning (SBL) framework. Although based on a highly non-convex underlying cost function, in the context of canonical sparse estimation problems, we prove uniform superiority of this method over the Lasso in that, (i) it can never do worse, and (ii) for any dictionary and sparsity profile, there will always exist cases where it does better. These results challenge the prevailing reliance on strictly convex penalty functions for finding sparse solutions. We then derive a new non-factorial variant with similar properties that exhibits further performance improvements in empirical tests.



7 Types of Activation Functions in Neural Networks: How to Choose?

#artificialintelligence

It takes the inputs, multiplied by the weights for each neuron, and creates an output signal proportional to the input. In one sense, a linear function is better than a step function because it allows multiple outputs, not just yes and no. Not possible to use backpropagation (gradient descent) to train the model--the derivative of the function is a constant, and has no relation to the input, X. So it's not possible to go back and understand which weights in the input neurons can provide a better prediction. So a linear activation function turns the neural network into just one layer.


A Representation Theory for Ranking Functions

Neural Information Processing Systems

This paper presents a representation theory for permutation-valued functions, which in their general form can also be called listwise ranking functions. Pointwise ranking functions assign a score to each object independently, without taking into account the other objects under consideration; whereas listwise loss functions evaluate the set of scores assigned to all objects as a whole. In many supervised learning to rank tasks, it might be of interest to use listwise ranking functions instead; in particular, the Bayes Optimal ranking functions might themselves be listwise, especially if the loss function is listwise. A key caveat to using listwise ranking functions has been the lack of an appropriate representation theory for such functions. We show that a natural symmetricity assumption that we call exchangeability allows us to explicitly characterize the set of such exchangeable listwise ranking functions.