How to Retrain Recommender System? A Sequential Meta-Learning Method

Practical recommender systems need be periodically retrained to refresh the model with new interaction data. To pursue high model fidelity, it is usually desirable to retrain the model on both historical and new data, since it can account for both long-term and short-term user preference. However, a full model retraining could be very time-consuming and memory-costly, especially when the scale of historical data is large. In this work, we study the model retraining mechanism for recommender systems, a topic of high practical values but has been relatively little explored in the research community. Our first belief is that retraining the model on historical data is unnecessary, since the model has been trained on it before. Nevertheless, normal training on new data only may easily cause overfitting and forgetting issues, since the new data is of a smaller scale and contains fewer information on long-term user preference. To address this dilemma, we propose a new training method, aiming to abandon the historical data during retraining through learning to transfer the past training experience. Specifically, we design a neural network-based transfer component, which transforms the old model to a new model that is tailored for future recommendations. To learn the transfer component well, we optimize the "future performance" -- i.e., the recommendation accuracy evaluated in the next time period. Our Sequential Meta-Learning(SML) method offers a general training paradigm that is applicable to any differentiable model. We demonstrate SML on matrix factorization and conduct experiments on two real-world datasets. Empirical results show that SML not only achieves significant speed-up, but also outperforms the full model retraining in recommendation accuracy, validating the effectiveness of our proposals. We release our codes at:

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