Google Research

Mixed Negative Sampling for Learning Two-tower Neural Networks in Recommendations

WWW '20: Companion Proceedings of the Web Conference 2020April 2020 (2020)


Learning query and item representations is important for building large scale recommendation systems. In many real applications where there is a huge catalog of items to recommend, the problem of efficiently retrieving top k items given user's query from deep corpus leads to a family of factorized modeling approaches where query and item are jointly embedded into a low-dimensional space. In this paper, we first showcase how to apply a two-tower neural network framework, which is also known as dual encoder in the natural language community, to improve a large-scale, production app recommendation system. Furthermore, we offer a novel negative sampling approach called Mixed Negative Sampling (MNS). In particular, different from commonly used batch or unigram sampling methods, MNS uses a mixture of batch and uniformly sampled negatives to tackle the selection bias of implicit user feedback. We conduct extensive offline experiments in the production dataset and show that MNS outperforms other baseline sampling methods. We also conduct online A/B testing and demonstrate that the two-tower retrieval model based on MNS significantly improves retrieval quality by encouraging more high-quality app installs.

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