Look Ma, No Hands: Analyzing the Monotonic Feature Abstraction for Text Classification

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

Bibtex Metadata Paper


Doug Downey, Oren Etzioni


Is accurate classification possible in the absence of hand-labeled data? This paper introduces the Monotonic Feature (MF) abstraction--where the probability of class membership increases monotonically with the MF's value. The paper proves that when an MF is given, PAC learning is possible with no hand-labeled data under certain assumptions. We argue that MFs arise naturally in a broad range of textual classification applications. On the classic "20 Newsgroups" data set, a learner given an MF and unlabeled data achieves classification accuracy equal to that of a state-of-the-art semi-supervised learner relying on 160 hand-labeled examples. Even when MFs are not given as input, their presence or absence can be determined from a small amount of hand-labeled data, which yields a new semi-supervised learning method that reduces error by 15% on the 20 Newsgroups data.