Imitate TheWorld: A Search Engine Simulation Platform

Recent E-commerce applications benefit from the growth of deep learning techniques. However, we notice that many works attempt to maximize business objectives by closely matching offline labels which follow the supervised learning paradigm. This results in models obtain high offline performance in terms of Area Under Curve (AUC) and Normalized Discounted Cumulative Gain (NDCG), but cannot consistently increase the revenue metrics such as purchases amount of users. Towards the issues, we build a simulated search engine AESim that can properly give feedback by a well-trained discriminator for generated pages, as a dynamic dataset. Different from previous simulation platforms which lose connection with the real world, ours depends on the real data in AliExpress Search: we use adversarial learning to generate virtual users and use Generative Adversarial Imitation Learning (GAIL) to capture behavior patterns of users. Our experiments also show AESim can better reflect the online performance of ranking models than classic ranking metrics, implying AESim can play a surrogate of AliExpress Search and evaluate models without going online.

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