Conditional Sequential Slate Optimization

The top search results matching a user query that are displayed on the first page are critical to the effectiveness and perception of a search system. A search ranking system typically orders the results by independent query-document scores to produce a slate of search results. However, such unilateral scoring methods may fail to capture inter-document dependencies that users are sensitive to, thus producing a sub-optimal slate. Further, in practice, many real-world applications such as e-commerce search require enforcing certain distributional criteria at the slate-level, due to business objectives or long term user retention goals. Unilateral scoring of results does not explicitly support optimizing for such objectives with respect to a slate. Hence, solutions to the slate optimization problem must consider the optimal selection and order of the documents, along with adherence to slate-level distributional criteria. To that end, we propose a hybrid framework extended from traditional slate optimization to solve the conditional slate optimization problem. We introduce conditional sequential slate optimization (CSSO), which jointly learns to optimize for traditional ranking metrics as well as prescribed distribution criteria of documents within the slate. The proposed method can be applied to practical real world problems such as enforcing diversity in e-commerce search results, mitigating bias in top results and personalization of results. Experiments on public datasets and real-world data from e-commerce datasets show that CSSO outperforms popular comparable ranking methods in terms of adherence to distributional criteria while producing comparable or better relevance metrics.

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