Follow-ups Also Matter: Improving Contextual Bandits via Post-serving Contexts

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper


Chaoqi Wang, Ziyu Ye, Zhe Feng, Ashwinkumar Badanidiyuru Varadaraja, Haifeng Xu


Standard contextual bandit problem assumes that all the relevant contexts are observed before the algorithm chooses an arm. This modeling paradigm, while useful, often falls short when dealing with problems in which additional valuable contexts can be observed after arm selection. For example, content recommendation platforms like Youtube, Instagram, Tiktok receive much additional features about a user's reward after the user clicks a content (e.g., how long the user stayed, what is the user's watch speed, etc.). To improve online learning efficiency in these applications, we study a novel contextual bandit problem with post-serving contexts and design a new algorithm, poLinUCB, that achieves tight regret under standard assumptions. Core to our technical proof is a robustified and generalized version of the well-known Elliptical Potential Lemma (EPL), which can accommodate noise in data. Such robustification is necessary for tackling our problem, though we believe it could also be of general interest.Extensive empirical tests on both synthetic and real-world datasets demonstrate the significant benefit of utilitzing post-serving contexts as well as the superior performance of our algorithm over the state-of-the-art approaches.