TopRank: A practical algorithm for online stochastic ranking

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018)

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Tor Lattimore, Branislav Kveton, Shuai Li, Csaba Szepesvari


Online learning to rank is a sequential decision-making problem where in each round the learning agent chooses a list of items and receives feedback in the form of clicks from the user. Many sample-efficient algorithms have been proposed for this problem that assume a specific click model connecting rankings and user behavior. We propose a generalized click model that encompasses many existing models, including the position-based and cascade models. Our generalization motivates a novel online learning algorithm based on topological sort, which we call TopRank. TopRank is (a) more natural than existing algorithms, (b) has stronger regret guarantees than existing algorithms with comparable generality, (c) has a more insightful proof that leaves the door open to many generalizations, (d) outperforms existing algorithms empirically.