I prepared the following one-page overview of the short-time Fourier transform for a recent talk, perhaps it’ll be useful to others. For justification of e.g. the conjugate symmetry of the Fourier coefficients or a discussion of aliasing, see here.

## The mathematics of the discrete Fourier transform

We aim to identify the assumptions that are implicit in the sampling of a continuous-time signal and in the subsequent application of the discrete Fourier transform (DFT). In particular, we consider the following questions:

- When does the sampling of periodic continuous-time signal result in a periodic discrete-time signal?
- When the resulting discrete-time signal is periodic, what is its frequency in samples/second?
- Which continuous-time frequencies coincide in discrete time, and what does the “frequency spectrum” in discrete-time look like?
- To which periodic discrete-time signals can the discrete Fourier transform be applied to without losing information?

We furthermore show that the DFT interchanges point-wise and convolution products in the time- and frequency- domains, and thereby express the DFT to Pontryagin duality for finite cycle groups.

I talked about the above (skipping many details!) at a recent talk.

## Feature scaling and non-negative matrix factorisation

Non-negative matrix factorisation (NMF) is a dimension reduction technique that is commonly applied in a number of different fields, for example:

- in topic modelling, applied to the document x word matrix;
- in speech processing, applied to the matrix of magnitude spectrograms of framed audio;
- in recommendation systems, applied to the user x item interaction matrix.

Due to its non-negativity constraint, it has the wonderful property of decomposing a objects as an additive combination of (often very meaningful) parts. However, as with all unsupervised learning tasks, it is sensitive to the relative scale of different features.

The fundamental problem is that the informativeness of a feature need not be related to its scale. For example, when processing speech, the highest-energy components of a magnitude spectrogram are those of the least perceptual importance! So when NMF decides which information to discard into order to achieve a low-rank factorisation that minimises the error function, it can be the signal, not the noise, that is sacrificed. This problem is not unique to NMF, of course: PCA retains those dimensions of the sample cloud that have the greatest variance.

It is in general better to learn a feature representation jointly with the downstream task, so that the model learns to scale features according to their informativeness for the task. If NMF is for some reason still desirable, however, it is possible to better control the information loss by choosing an appropriate measure of the matrix factorisation error.

There are three common error functions used in NMF (all of which Bregman divergences): squared Euclidean, Kullback-Leibler (KL) and Itakura-Saito (IS). These are respectively quadratic, linear and invariant with respect to the feature scale. Thus, for example, NMF with the Euclidean error function gives strong preference to high-energy features, while NMF with the IS error function is agnostic to feature scale.

## Convergence rate of gradient descent

These are notes from a talk I presented at the seminar on June 22nd. All this material is drawn from Chapter 7 of Bishop’s Neural Networks for Pattern Recognition, 1995.

In these notes we study the rate of convergence of gradient descent in the neighbourhood of a local minimum. The eigenvalues of the Hessian at the local minimum determine the maximum learning rate and the rate of convergence along the axes corresponding to the orthonormal eigenvectors.

See the eigendecomposition of real, symmetric matrices for the linear algebra preliminaries.

## Skipgram isn’t Matrix Factorisation

The paper *Neural Word Embeddings as Implicit Matrix Factorization* of Levy and Goldberg was published in the proceedings of NIPS 2014 (pdf). It claims to demonstrate that Mikolov’s Skipgram model with negative sampling is implicitly factorising the matrix of pointwise mutual information (PMI) of the word/context pairs, shifted by a global constant. Although the paper is interesting and worth reading, it greatly overstates what is actually established, which can be summarised as follows:

Suppose that the dimension of the Skipgram word embedding is at least as large as the vocabulary. Then if the matrices of parameters minimise the Skipgram objective, and the rows of or the columns of are linearly independent, then the matrix product is the PMI matrix shifted by a global constant.

This is a really nice result, but it certainly doesn’t show that Skipgram is performing (even implicitly) matrix factorisation. Rather it shows that the two learning tasks have the same global optimum – and even this is only shown *when the dimension is larger than the vocabulary,* which is precisely the case where Skipgram is uninteresting.

### The linear independence assumption

The authors (perhaps unknowingly) implicitly assume that the word vectors on one of the two layers of the Skipgram model are linearly independent. This is a stronger assumption than what the authors explicitly assume, which is that the dimension of the hidden layer is at least as large as the vocabulary. It is also not a very natural assumption, since Skipgram is interesting to us precisely because it captures word analogies in word vector arithmetic, which are linear dependencies between the word vectors! This is not a deal breaker, however, since these linear dependencies are only ever approximate.

In order to see where the assumption arises, first recall some notation of the paper:

The authors consider the case where the negative samples for Skipgram are drawn from the uniform distribution over the contexts , and write

for the log likelihood. The log likelihood is then rewritten as another double summation, in which each summand (as a function of the model parameters) depends only upon the dot product of one word vector with one context vector:

The authors then suppose that the values of the parameters are such that Skipgram is at equilibrium, i.e. that the partial derivatives of with respect to each word- and content-vector component vanish. They then assume that this implies that the partial derivatives of *with respect to the dot products* vanish also. To see that this doesn’t necessarily follow, apply the chain rule to the partial derivatives:

This yields systems of linear equations relating the partial derivatives with respect to the word- and content- vector components (which are zero by supposition) to the partial derivatives with respect to the dot products, which we want to show are zero. But this only follows if one of the two systems of linear equations has a unique solution, which is precisely when its matrix of coefficients (which are just word- or context- vector components) has linearly independent rows or columns. So either the family of word vectors or the family of context vectors must be linearly independent in order for the authors to proceed to their conclusion.

Word vectors that are of dimension the size of the vocabulary and linearly independent sound to me more akin to a one-hot or bag of words representations than to Skipgram word vectors.

### Skipgram isn’t Matrix Factorisation (yet)

If Skipgram is matrix factorisation, then it isn’t shown in this paper. What has been shown is that the optima of the two methods coincide when the dimension is larger that the size of the vocabulary. Unfortunately, this tells us nothing about the lower dimensional case where Skipgram is actually interesting. In the lower dimensional case, the argument of the authors can’t be applied, since it is then impossible for the word- or context- vectors to be linearly independent. It is only in the lower dimensional case that the Skipgram and Matrix Factorisation are forced to compress the word co-occurrence information and thereby learn anything at all. This compression is necessarily lossy (since there are insufficient parameters) and there is nothing in the paper to suggest that the two methods will retain the same information (which is what it means to say that the two methods are the same).

### Appendix: Comparing the objectives

To compare Skipgram with negative sampling to MF, we might compare the two objective functions. Skipgram maximises the log likelihood (above). MF, on the other hand, typically minimises the squared error between the matrix and its reconstruction:

The partial derivatives of , needed for a gradient update, are easy to compute:

Compare these with the partial derivatives of the Skipgram log-likehood , which can be computed as follows:

## Softmax parameterisation and optimisation

The softmax function provides a convenient parameterisation of the probability distributions over a fixed number of outcomes. Using the softmax, such probability distributions can be learned parametrically using gradient methods to minimise the cross-entropy (or equivalently, the Kullback-Leibler divergence) to observed distributions. This is equivalent to maximum likelihood learning when the distributions to be learned are one-hot (i.e. we are learning for a classification task). In the notes below, the softmax parameterisation and the gradient updates with respect to the cross entropy are derived explicitly.

This material spells out section 4 of the paper of Bridle referenced below, where the softmax was first proposed as an activation function for a neural network. It was in this paper that softmax was named, moreover. The name contrasts the outputs of the function with those of the “winner-takes-all” function, whose outputs are one-hot distributions.

### References

Bridle, J.S. (1990a). Probabilistic Interpretation of Feedforward Classification Network Outputs, with Relationships to Statistical Pattern Recognition. In: F.Fogleman Soulie and J.Herault (eds.), Neurocomputing: Algorithms, Architectures and Applications, Berlin: Springer-Verlag, pp. 227-236.

## Improving Pairwise Learning for Item Recommendation from Implicit Feedback 2014

*BPR*) for implicit feedback (i.e. one class) recommendation datasets in which the negative samples are drawn according both to the models current belief and the user/context in question (“

*adaptive oversampling*“). They show that the prediction accuracy of BPR models trained with adaptive oversampling matches that of BPR models trained with uniform sampling but that convergence is 10x-20x faster.

### Negative sampling from static distributions

- Uniform sampling tends to yield uninformative samples, i.e. those for which the probability of being incorrectly labelled is very likely already low: popular items are precisely those that appear often as positive examples (and hence tend to be highly ranked by the model), while a uniformly-drawn item is likely to be from the tail of the popularity distribution (so likely lowly ranked by the model).
- Sampling according to popularity is demonstrated by the authors to converge to inferior solutions.

### Adaptive over-sampling

- sampling a latent factor according to the absolute values of the latent vector associated to (normalised, so it looks like a probability distribution);
- sampling an item that ranks highly for . More precisely, sample a rank from a geometric distribution over possible ranks, then find the item that has rank when the th coordinates of the item latent vectors are compared.

(We have ignored the sign of the latent factor. If the sign is negative, one choses the rth-to-last ranked item). The ranking of the items according to each latent factor is precomputed periodically with a period such that the extra overhead is independent of the number of items (i.e. is a constant).

### Problems with the approach

The samples yielded by the adaptive oversampling approach depend heavily upon the choice of basis for the latent space. It is easy to construct examples of where things go wrong:

Non-negativity constraints would solve this. Regularisation would also deal with this particular example – however regularisation would complicate the expression of the scoring function as a mixture (since you need to divide though by .

Despite these problems, the authors demonstrate impressive performance, as we’ll see below.

### Performance

### Implementation

### What about adaptive oversampling in word2vec?

Word2vec with negative sampling learns a word embedding via binary classification task, specifically, *“does the word appear in the same window as the context, or not?”*. As in the case of implicit feedback recommendation, the observed data for word2vec is one-class (just a sequence of words). Interestingly, word2vec samples from a modification of the observed word frequency distribution (i.e. of the “distribution according to popularity”) in which the frequencies are raised to the th power and renormalised. The exponent was chosen empirically. This raises two questions:

- Would word2vec perform better with adaptive oversampling?
- How does BPR perform when sampling from a similarly-modified item popularity distribution (i.e. raising to some exponent)?

### Corrections

Corrections and comments are most welcome. Please get in touch either via the comments below or via email.

## WARP loss for implicit-feedback recommendation

We consider the “Weighted Approximate-Rank Pairwise-” (WARP-) loss, as introduced in the WSABIE paper of Weston et. al (2011, see references), in the context of making recommendations using implicit feedback data, where it has been shown several times to perform excellently. For the sake of discussion, consider the problem of recommending items to users , where a scoring function gives the score of item for user , and the item with the highest score is recommended.

WARP considers each observed user-item interaction in turn, choses another “negative” item that the model believed was more appropriate to the user, and performs gradient updates to the model parameters associated to , and such that the models beliefs are corrected. WARP weights the gradient updates using (a function of) the estimated rank of item for user . Thus the updates are amplified if the model did not believe that the interaction could ever occur, and are dampened if, on the other hand, if the interaction is not surprising to the model. Conveniently, the rank of for can be estimated by counting the number of sample items that had to be considered before one was found that the model (erroneously) believed more appropriate for user .

### Minimising the rank?

Ideally we would like to make updates to the model parameters that minimised the rank of item for user . Previous work of Usunier (one of the authors) showed that the precision at k was best optimised when the logarithm of the rank was minimised. (to read!)

The problem with the rank is that, while it does depend on the model parameters, this dependence is not continuous (the rank being integer valued!). So it is not possible to speak of gradients. So what is to be done instead? The approach of the authors is to derive a differentiable approximation to the logarithm of the rank, and to minimise this instead.

### Derivation: approximating the (log of the) rank

WARP has been shown several times to perform very well for implicit feedback recommendation. However, the derivation of the approximation of the log of the rank used in WARP, as outlined in the WSABIE paper, is nonsense. I can only think that the authors arrived at WARP in another way. Let’s look at it more closely. In the following:

- is the score assigned by the model to item for user .
- is some function that defines the error as a function of the rank. In the WSABIE paper, is approximately the natural logarithm (for the derivation below, however, it doesn’t matter what is)

The most obvious problem with the derivation is the approximation marked with an asterix (*). At this step, the authors approximate the indication function by . While the latter is familiar as the hinge loss from SVMs, it is (begin unbounded!) a dreadful approximation for the indicator . It seems to me that the sigmoid of the difference of the scores would be a much better differentiable approximation to the indicator function.

To appreciate why the derivation is nonsense, however, you have to notice that the it has nothing to do with . That is, the derivation above would yield an approximation for , whatever happened to be, even a constant function.

### Optimisation

WARP considers each observed interaction in turn, repeatedly sampling items from the uniform distribution over all items until it finds one in , i.e. until it finds an item whose score for the user is at worst 1 less than the score of the observed interaction. For this triple , it performs gradient updates to minimise:

The naive approach to computing is to calculate all the scores for the given user in order to determine the rank of the item . WARP performs a nice trick to do much better: it estimates by counting how many candidate negative items it had to consider before finding one in . This yields

However it is still the case that is not differentiable. So when we compute the gradients, this quantity has to be treated as a constant. Thus it simply becomes a weighting applied to the gradient of the difference of the scores (hence the name WARP, I guess).

### WARP optimises for item to user recommendations

With its negative sampling technique, WARP optimises for recommending items to a user. For instance, the problem of recommending users to items (so, transposing the interaction matrix) is not trained for. I wonder if some extra uplift could be obtained by training for both problems simultaneously.

### Normalising for the total number of items

With the optimisation stated as above, the learning rate will need to be re-tuned for datasets that have different numbers of items, since the gradient weighting is ranges from to . It would make more sense to weigh the gradient updates by:

which ranges between 0 and 1.

### Implementations

There are two implementations of WARP for recommendation that I know of, both in Python:

- LightFM, written by Maciej Kula. Works well. Also implements BPR with uniform sampling and WARP k-OS (which I’ve not investigated yet).
- MREC, written by Levy and Jack at Mendeley, has a matrix factorisation recommender trained using WARP. I’ve not tried this one out yet.

### References

Jason Weston, Samy Bengio and Nicolas Usunier, *Wsabie: Scaling Up To Large Vocabulary Image Annotation*, 2011, (PDF).

## Metadata Embeddings for User and Item Cold-start Recommendations

Maciej Kula (Lyst)

CBRecSys 2015 (arxiv)

Kula presents a model for cold start recommendation, which he calls “LightFM”. Users and items are considered as sets of binary features. For example:

Each of these features (e.g. each tag, each word and each email domain) corresponds to a parameter vector and a bias term. A user vector (or item vector) is then the sum of the vectors associated to its constituent features. Similarly, a user (item) bias term is just the sum of the bias terms associated to its features.

The probability of an interaction between a user and an item is modelled as the sigmoid of the dot product of the user vector and the item vector, along with the bias terms associated with the user and the item:

The model is trained on a set of user-item pairs observed as having interacted, and on a set of user-item pairs that were not observed to have interacted (in the case of implicit feedback recommendation) or to have interacted negatively (in the case of explicit feedback recommendation). Specifically, these interactions and non-interactions are assumed independent and the likelihood

is then maximised using stochastic gradient descent and with adaptive per-parameter learning rates determined by Adagrad.

### Trivial featurisation gives matrix factorisation

Note that users (or items) can be featurised trivially using their ids. We create one user feature for each user id, so that the user-feature matrix is the identity matrix. In this case, we have a separate parameter vector for each user. If we do this for both users and items, then the model is just a (sigmoid-) factorisation of the user-item interaction matrix. This is then the case of Johnson’s logistic matrix factorization.

### Evaluation

Performance is evaluated on MovieLens for explicit feedback recommendation and on CrossValidated (one of the StackExchange websites) for implicit feedback recommendation. In both cases, warm- and cold-start scenarios are tested. Warm start is tested by holding out interactions in such a way that every item and every user is still represented in the training interaction data. Cold start is tested by holding out all interactions for some items. Model accuracy is measured by considering each user in the set of test interactions, considering the binary classification task of labelling each item as having been interacted with or not and then measuring the area under the curve of the associated ROC curve. The mean is that taken over all users in the test set.

LightFM seems to perform well in both cold and warm start scenarios.

### Engineering Notes

Kula included some interesting notes on the production use of LightFM at Lyst. Training is incremental with model state stored in the database.

### Implementation and Examples

Available on GitHub and extensively documented. Written in Cython. In addition to the logistic loss used above, Bayesian Personalised Ranking and WARP are supported.

## Parameterising the Mahalanobis distances for metric learning

Below are the notes I made to prepare for a short talk given at our seminar on learning distance metrics, and the Mahalanobis distances in particular. We show that the Mahalanobis distances can be parameterised by the positive semidefinite (PSD) matrices or alternatively (in a highly redundant way) by all matrices. The set of PSD matrices is convex, but in order to perform gradient descent to optimise the objective function, we need to perform a costly projection after each update involving the singular value decomposition.

We note along the way that a Mahalanobis distance is nothing more than the Euclidean distance after applying a linear transform to the data.

The example of the 2×2 PSD matrices is worked out in detail here.

What’s here documents my first steps. What I really discovered is that metric learning is a research domain in its own right, and that a great deal of work has been done. There is an excellent survey by Bellet et al. (2013) that covers everything I have said in the first two of its sixty pages.