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Generating Titles for Web Tables

Braden Hancock
Cong Yu
Google Scholar


Descriptive titles provide crucial context for interpreting tables that are extracted from web pages and are a key component of search features such as tabular featured snippets from Google and Bing. Prior approaches have attempted to produce titles by selecting existing text snippets associated with the table. These approaches, however, are limited by their dependence on suitable titles existing a priori. In our user study, we observe that the relevant information for the title tends to be scattered across the page, and often-more than 80% of the time-does not appear verbatim anywhere in the page. We propose instead the application of a sequence-to-sequence neural network model as a more generalizable approach for generating high-quality table titles. This is accomplished by extracting many text snippets that have potentially relevant information to the table, encoding them into an input sequence, and using both copy and generation mechanisms in the decoder to balance relevance and readability of the generated title. We validate this approach with human evaluation on sample web tables and report that while sequence models with only a copy mechanism or only a generation mechanism are easily outperformed by simple selection-based baselines, the model with both capabilities performs the best, approaching the quality of crowdsourced titles while training on fewer than ten thousand examples. To the best of our knowledge, the proposed technique is the first to consider text-generation methods for table titles, and establishes a new state of the art.

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