[1] Nicola Barbieri, Francesco Bonchi, and Giuseppe Manco. Who to follow and why: Link prediction with explanations. In Proceedings of the 20th ACM SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, KDD '14, pages 1266-1275, 2014. [ bib | DOI | .pdf ] .code ]
User recommender systems are a key component in any on-line social networking platform: they help the users growing their network faster, thus driving engagement and loyalty. In this paper we study link prediction with explanations for user recommendation in social networks. For this problem we propose WTFW ("Who to Follow and Why"), a stochastic topic model for link prediction over directed and nodes-attributed graphs. Our model not only predicts links, but for each predicted link it decides whether it is a "topical" or a "social" link, and depending on this decision it produces a different type of explanation. A topical link is recommended between a user interested in a topic and a user authoritative in that topic: the explanation in this case is a set of binary features describing the topic responsible of the link creation. A social link is recommended between users which share a large social neighborhood: in this case the explanation is the set of neighbors which are more likely to be responsible for the link creation. Our experimental assessment on real-world data confirms the accuracy of WTFW in the link prediction and the quality of the associated explanations.

Keywords: link prediction, social networks
[2] Gianni Costa, Giuseppe Manco, and Riccardo Ortale. A generative bayesian model for item and user recommendation in social rating networks with trust relationships. In Machine Learning and Knowledge Discovery in Databases - European Conference, ECML PKDD 2014, Nancy, France, September 15-19, 2014. Proceedings, Part I, pages 258-273, 2014. [ bib | DOI | http ]
A Bayesian generative model is presented for recommending interesting items and trustworthy users to the targeted users in social rating networks with asymmetric and directed trust relationships. The proposed model is the first unified approach to the combination of the two recommendation tasks. Within the devised model, each user is associated with two latent-factor vectors, i.e., her susceptibility and expertise. Items are also associated with corresponding latent-factor vector representations. The probabilistic factorization of the rating data and trust relationships is exploited to infer user susceptibility and expertise. Statistical social-network modeling is instead used to constrain the trust relationships from a user to another to be governed by their respective susceptibility and expertise. The inherently ambiguous meaning of unobserved trust relationships between users is suitably disambiguated. An intensive comparative experimentation on real-world social rating networks with trust relationships demonstrates the superior predictive performance of the presented model in terms of RMSE and AUC.

[1] Nicola Barbieri, Francesco Bonchi, and Giuseppe Manco. Influence-based Network-oblivious Community Detection. In 13th IEEE International Conference on Data Mining, ICDM 2013, Dallas TX, December 7-10, 2013, pages 955-960, 2013. [ bib | .pdf |
How can we detect communities when the social graphs is not available? We tackle this problem by modeling social contagion from a log of user activity, that is a dataset of tuples (u, i, t) recording the fact that user u "adopted" item i at time t. This is the only input to our problem. We propose a stochastic framework which assumes that item adoptions are governed by un underlying diffusion process over the unobserved social network, and that such diffusion model is based on community-level influence. By fitting the model parameters to the user activity log, we learn the community membership and the level of influence of each user in each community. This allows to identify for each community the "key" users, i.e., the leaders which are most likely to influence the rest of the community to adopt a certain item. The general framework can be instantiated with different diffusion models. In this paper we define two models: the extension to the community level of the classic (discrete time) Independent Cascade model, and a model that focuses on the time delay between adoptions. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work studying community detection without the network.

[2] Nicola Barbieri, Francesco Bonchi, and Giuseppe Manco. Cascade-based community detection. In Sixth ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining, WSDM 2013, Rome, Italy, February 4-8, 2013, pages 33-42. ACM, 2013. [ bib | .pdf ] .code ]
Given a directed social graph and a set of past informa- tion cascades observed over the graph, we study the novel problem of detecting modules of the graph (communities of nodes), that also explain the cascades. Our key observation is that both information propagation and social ties forma- tion in a social network can be explained according to the same latent factor, which ultimately guide a user behavior within the network. Based on this observation, we propose the Community-Cascade Network (CCN) model, a stochas- tic mixture membership generative model that can fit, at the same time, the social graph and the observed set of cas- cades. Our model produces overlapping communities and for each node, its level of authority and passive interest in each community it belongs. For learning the parameters of the CCN model, we devise a Generalized Expectation Maximization procedure. We then apply our model to real-world social networks and in- formation cascades: the results witness the validity of the proposed CCN model, providing useful insights on its signif- icance for analyzing social behavior.

[3] Nicola Barbieri, Antonio Bevacqua, Marco Carnuccio, Giuseppe Manco, and Ettore Ritacco. Probabilistic sequence modeling for recommender systems. In KDIR 2012 - Proceedings of the International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Information Retrieval, Barcelona, Spain, 4 - 7 October, 2012, pages 75-84, 2012. [ bib | .pdf ]
Probabilistic topic models are widely used in different contexts to uncover the hidden structure in large text corpora. One of the main features of these models is that generative process follows a bag-of-words assump- tion, i.e each token is independent from the previous one. We extend the popular Latent Dirichlet Allocation model by exploiting a conditional Markovian assumptions, where the token generation depends on the cur- rent topic and on the previous token. The resulting model is capable of accommodating temporal correlations among tokens, which better model user behavior. This is particularly significant in a collaborative filtering context, where the choice of a user can be exploited for recommendation purposes, and hence a more re- alistic and accurate modeling enables better recommendations. For the mentioned model we present a fast Gibbs Sampling procedure for the parameters estimation. A thorough experimental evaluation over real-word data shows the performance advantages, in terms of recall and precision, of the proposed sequence-modeling approach.

[4] Nicola Barbieri, Francesco Bonchi, and Giuseppe Manco. Topic-aware social influence propagation models. In 12th IEEE International Conference on Data Mining, ICDM 2012, Brussels, Belgium, December 10-13, 2012, pages 81-90, 2012. [ bib | .pdf ]
We study social influence from a topic modeling perspective. We introduce novel topic-aware influence-driven propagation models that experimentally result to be more ac- curate in describing real-world cascades than the standard propagation models studied in the literature. In particular, we first propose simple topic-aware extensions of the well-known Independent Cascade and Linear Threshold models. Next, we propose a different approach explicitly modeling authoritative- ness, influence and relevance under a topic-aware perspective. We devise methods to learn the parameters of the models from a dataset of past propagations. Our experimentation confirms the high accuracy of the proposed models and learning schemes.

[5] Nicola Barbieri, Giuseppe Manco, Riccardo Ortale, and Ettore Ritacco. Balancing prediction and recommendation accuracy: Hierarchical latent factors for preference data. In Proceedings of the Twelfth SIAM International Conference on Data Mining, Anaheim, California, USA, April 26-28, 2012, pages 1035-1046. SIAM / Omnipress, 2012. [ bib | .pdf ]
Recent works in Recommender Systems (RS) have investigated the relationships between the prediction accuracy, i.e. the ability of a RS to minimize a cost function (for instance the RMSE measure) in estimating users' preferences, and the accuracy of the recommendation list provided to users. State-of-the-art recommendation algorithms, which focus on the minimization of RMSE, have shown to achieve weak results from the recommendation accuracy perspective, and vice versa. In this work we present a novel Bayesian probabilistic hierarchical approach for users' preference data, which is designed to overcome the limitation of current method- ologies and thus to meet both prediction and recommendation accuracy. According to the generative semantics of this technique, each user is modeled as a random mixture over latent factors, which identify users community interests. Each individual user community is then modeled as a mixture of topics, which capture the preferences of the members on a set of items. We provide two different formalization of the basic hierarchical model: BH-Forced focuses on rating prediction, while BH-Free models both the popularity of items and the distribution over item ratings. The combined modeling of item popularity and rating provides a powerful framework for the generation of highly accurate recommendations. An extensive evaluation over two popular benchmark datasets reveals the effectiveness and the quality of the proposed algorithms, showing that BH-Free realizes the most satisfactory compromise between prediction and recommendation accuracy with respect to several state- of-the-art competitors.

[6] Nicola Barbieri and Giuseppe Manco. An analysis of probabilistic methods for top-n recommendation in collaborative filtering. In Machine Learning and Knowledge Discovery in Databases - European Conference, ECML PKDD 2011, Athens, Greece, September 5-9, 2011, volume 6911 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science, pages 172-187. Springer, 2011. [ bib | .pdf ]
In this work we perform an analysis of probabilistic approaches to recommendation upon a different validation perspective, which focuses on accuracy metrics such as recall and precision of the recommendation list. Traditionally, state-of-art approches to recommen- dations consider the recommendation process from a “missing value pre- diction” perspective. This approach simplifies the model validation phase that is based on the minimization of standard error metrics such as RMSE. However, recent studies have pointed several limitations of this approach, showing that a lower RMSE does not necessarily imply im- provements in terms of specific recommendations. We demonstrate that the underlying probabilistic framework offers several advantages over tra- ditional methods, in terms of flexibility in the generation of the recom- mendation list and consequently in the accuracy of recommendation.

[7] Nicola Barbieri, Gianni Costa, Giuseppe Manco, and Ettore Ritacco. Characterizing relationships through co-clustering - a probabilistic approach. In KDIR 2011 - Proceedings of the International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Information Retrieval, Paris, France, 26-29 October, 2011, pages 64-73. SciTePress, 2011. [ bib | .pdf ]
In this paper we propose a probabilistic co-clustering approach for pattern discovery in collaborative filtering data. We extend the Block Mixture Model in order to learn about the structures and relationships within pref- erence data. The resulting model can simultaneously cluster users into communities and items into categories. Besides its predictive capabilities, the model enables the discovery of significant knowledge patterns, such as the analysis of common trends and relationships between items and users within communities/categories. We reformulate the mathematical model and implement a parameter estimation technique. Next, we show how the model parameters enable pattern discovery tasks, namely: (i) to infer topics for each items category and characteristic items for each user community; (ii) to model community interests and transitions among topics. Experiments on MovieLens data provide evidence about the effectiveness of the proposed approach.

[8] Nicola Barbieri, Gianni Costa, Giuseppe Manco, and Riccardo Ortale. Modeling item selection and relevance for accurate recommendations: a bayesian approach. In Proceedings of the 2011 ACM Conference on Recommender Systems, RecSys 2011, Chicago, IL, USA, October 23-27, 2011, pages 21-28, 2011. [ bib | .pdf ]
We propose a bayesian probabilistic model for explicit preference data. The model introduces a generative process, which takes into account both item selection and rating emission to gather into communities those users who ex- perience the same items and tend to adopt the same rating pattern. Each user is modeled as a random mixture of topics, where each topic is characterized by a distribu- tion modeling the popularity of items within the respective user-community and by a distribution over preference val- ues for those items. The proposed model can be associated with a novel item-relevance ranking criterion, which is based both on item popularity and user’s preferences. We show that the proposed model, equipped with the new ranking criterion, outperforms state-of-art approaches in terms of accuracy of the recommendation list provided to users on standard benchmark datasets.

[9] Nicola Barbieri, Giuseppe Manco, and Ettore Ritacco. A probabilistic hierarchical approach for pattern discovery in collaborative filtering data. In Proceedings of the Eleventh SIAM International Conference on Data Mining, SDM 2011, April 28-30, 2011, Mesa, Arizona, USA, pages 630-621. SIAM / Omnipress, 2011. [ bib | .pdf ]
This paper presents a hierarchical probabilistic approach to collaborative filtering which allows the discovery and analysis of both global patterns (i.e., tendency of some products of being `universally appreciated') and local patterns (tendency of users within a community to express a common preference on the same group of items). We reformulate the collaborative filtering approach as a clustering problem in a high-dimensional setting, and propose a probabilistic approach to model the data. The core of our approach is a co-clustering strategy, arranged in a hierarchical fashion: first, user communities are discovered, and then the information provided by each user community is used to discover topics, grouping items into categories. The resulting probabilistic framework can be used for detecting interesting relationships between users and items within user communities. The experimental evaluation shows that the proposed model achieves a competitive prediction accuracy with respect to the state-of-art collaborative filtering approaches.

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