Structured ranking learning using cumulative distribution networks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 21 (NIPS 2008)

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Jim Huang, Brendan J. Frey


Ranking is at the heart of many information retrieval applications. Unlike standard regression or classification, in which we predict outputs independently, in ranking, we are interested in predicting structured outputs so that misranking one object can significantly affect whether we correctly rank the other objects. In practice, the problem of ranking involves a large number of objects to be ranked and either approximate structured prediction methods are required, or assumptions of independence between object scores must be made in order to make the problem tractable. We present a probabilistic method for learning to rank using the graphical modelling framework of cumulative distribution networks (CDNs), where we can take into account the structure inherent to the problem of ranking by modelling the joint cumulative distribution functions (CDFs) over multiple pairwise preferences. We apply our framework to the problem of document retrieval in the case of the OHSUMED benchmark dataset. We will show that the RankNet, ListNet and ListMLE probabilistic models can be viewed as particular instances of CDNs and that our proposed framework allows for the exploration of a broad class of flexible structured loss functionals for ranking learning.