Efficient Online Learning of Optimal Rankings: Dimensionality Reduction via Gradient Descent

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Dimitris Fotakis, Thanasis Lianeas, Georgios Piliouras, Stratis Skoulakis


We consider a natural model of online preference aggregation, where sets of preferred items R1, R2, ..., Rt, ..., along with a demand for kt items in each Rt, appear online. Without prior knowledge of (Rt, kt), the learner maintains a ranking \pit aiming that at least kt items from Rt appear high in \pi_t. This is a fundamental problem in preference aggregation with applications to e.g., ordering product or news items in web pages based on user scrolling and click patterns.

The widely studied Generalized Min-Sum-Set-Cover (GMSSC) problem serves as a formal model for the setting above. GMSSC is NP-hard and the standard application of no-regret online learning algorithms is computationally inefficient, because they operate in the space of rankings. In this work, we show how to achieve low regret for GMSSC in polynomial-time. We employ dimensionality reduction from rankings to the space of doubly stochastic matrices, where we apply Online Gradient Descent. A key step is to show how subgradients can be computed efficiently, by solving the dual of a configuration LP. Using deterministic and randomized rounding schemes, we map doubly stochastic matrices back to rankings with a small loss in the GMSSC objective.