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Q&R: A Two-Stage Approach toward Interactive Recommendation

Alex Beutel
Rui Li
Sagar Jain
KDD Applied Data Science (2018)


Recommendation systems, prevalent in many applications, aim to surface to users the right content at the right time. Recently, researchers have aspired to develop conversational systems that offer seamless interactions with users, more effectively eliciting user preferences and offering better recommendations. Taking a step towards this goal, this paper explores the two stages of a single round of conversation with a user: which question to ask the user, and how to use their feedback to respond with a more accurate recommendation. Following these two stages, first, we detail an RNN-based model for generating topics a user might be interested in, and then extend a state-of-the-art RNN-based video recommender to incorporate the user’s selected topic. We describe our proposed system Q&R, i.e., Question & Recommendation, and the surrogate tasks we utilize to bootstrap data for training our models. We evaluate different components of Q&R on live traffic in various applications within YouTube: User Onboarding, Homepage Recommendation, and Notifications. Our results demonstrate that our approach improves upon state-of-the-art recommendation models, including RNNs, and makes these applications more useful, such as a > 1% increase in video notifications opened. Q&R has been deployed and is used in YouTube production. Further, our design choices can be useful to practitioners wanting to transition to more conversational recommendation systems.

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