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Congratulations to team "BellKor's Pragmatic Chaos" for being awarded the $1M Grand Prize on September 21, 2009. This Forum is now read-only.

#1 2008-11-22 15:43:51

vzn
Member
Registered: 2006-10-04
Posts: 109

NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

hi all, the NYT article is well written & Im thinking, "finally!!" .. a nice, thorough mainstream article on the contest that captures some of the zeitgeist & sizzle...

The Screens Issue
If You Liked This, You’re Sure to Love That
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/23/magaz … lix-t.html

however, the article makes a very subtle/glaring (in my view) "non sequitur" at a certain point, which I suspect might be the way to a major breakthru.


clive thompson remarks how one contestant has a major problem with the movie "napoleon dynamite", that it is 15% of the gap between his reaching the $1M prize. (not exactly sure how that is computed-- that alone is a tricky computation).

but, thompson *assumes* that other contestants have the same problem with the same movie.

but, at this moment, it seems likely to me that this jumps the gun somewhat and is actually an intriguing open question.

let me spell this out.

to what degree do different teams have problems with the same movies? ie is there something intrinsically difficult about certain movies as is the major theme of the article, or is this actually an assumption? I dont see the author giving much evidence for his idea about "hard" movies except that various teams agree that some movies are hard. but that is a far different assertion than that the *same* movies are hard. are we sure the teams would agree on what movies are hard?


this is easy to answer as long as teams cooperate in a way that probably would not jeopardize any individual team. I propose the following.

let teams just post on their own web sites the RMSE listed BY MOVIE. in other words, the RMSE computed only over the ratings for individual movies. (note this could be over the quiz and/or test data. I am aware that there are very few predictions for some movies.)

the size of the data is only 17770 point of data.

arguably, this gives away no sensitive information. (Im sure others will argue differently, but as long as some agree to the idea, there can be some exchange...)

moreover, seems like this would answer some very big questions about how the algorithms are working relative to each other that could help all the teams with their own algorithms but also, in particular, reveal fruitful collaborations, which seem to have been powerful and/or critical, maybe even indispensable, in increasing the top scores to date.

some good algorithms might also be able to be devised that could suggest combinations of contestant algorithms and the potential score resulting from them.

what I propose is just one idea; surely there are other useful statistics that teams might agree to share/standardize that would not jeopardize individual teams or algorithms.

sounds like a promising approach...

any takers?

Last edited by vzn (2008-11-22 15:44:44)

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#2 2008-11-23 00:53:23

chef-ele
Member
Registered: 2006-10-31
Posts: 124

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

It looks like I'm seeing the same patterns discussed in that NY Times article.    Filtering out movies  with <1000 predictions in probe.txt (to get a decent average), then sorting by per-movie RMSE, the top movies I get are:

Code:

RMSE     SqErr       NumPts   MSE    MovieID      Title
=================================================================================
1.2589    8379.240    5287    1.5849    3151      Napoleon Dynamite 
1.2385    2696.370    1758    1.5338    14890     Team America: World Police 
1.2291    2122.580    1405    1.5107    11022     Fahrenheit 9/11 
1.1565    2312.660    1729    1.3376    4266      The Passion of the Christ 
1.1493    1746.190    1322    1.3209    5695      Bad Santa 
1.1432    3259.140    2494    1.3068    7635      Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy 
1.1400    1782.990    1372    1.2996    14274     I Heart Huckabees 
1.1277    1417.880    1115    1.2716    14454     Kill Bill: Vol. 1 
1.1061    1622.160    1326    1.2234    12232     Lost in Translation 
1.0725    2483.450    2159    1.1503    361       The Phantom of the Opera: Special Edition 
1.0690    1350.620    1182    1.1427    897       Bride and Prejudice 
1.0569    2828.510    2532    1.1171    16640     Closer 
1.0540    5864.100    5279    1.1108    5991      Sin City 
1.0514    6362.060    5755    1.1055    3282      Sideways 
1.0468    3146.000    2871    1.0958    3333      The Village 
1.0402    3781.630    3495    1.0820    1719      The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

That NY Times article mentions that Bertoni's list of 25-most-difficult-to-predict movies included:  I Heart Huckabees, Lost in Translation, Farenheit 9/11, The Life Aquatic, Kill Bill, and Sideways.  All those movies are all in the list above.  So I think I'm getting the same patterns of results that are discussed in the article, despite the fact that my overall RMSE lags the leaders (0.8848, alas...).

Last edited by chef-ele (2008-11-23 14:44:55)

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#3 2008-11-23 01:39:19

Aron
Member
Registered: 2006-10-02
Posts: 186

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

This one cracks me up: http://www.netflix.com/Movie/Twister/60 … 257360_1_0

Particularly if you read the reviews and look at the total number of ratings.

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#4 2008-11-23 10:17:23

Clueless
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From: Maryland
Registered: 2007-10-09
Posts: 128
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Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

It's also interesting, for me anyway, to sort by the percentage of squared error that each movie contributes to the overall RMSE score.  For instance, a movie like "Batman Begins" has a movie-specific RMSE of 0.7704, which certainly looks great, but because there are 12056 ratings for Batman Begins, it contributes 7156 to the overall squared error of 1131783 (or 0.63%).

Below are my top 15 using this criteria.  There are some clear overlaps (Napoleon Dynamite, Sideways, etc).  But I think it's also interesting to note that small improvements in predicting What Women Want, Batman Begins, Crash, etc - movies that all have decent movie-specific RMSEs - would be very helpful.

Code:

MovieID  Scores  SqErr      RMSE    %Total
   2152    9979  8612.3465  0.9290  0.7610  What Women Want
   3151    5287  8215.4221  1.2466  0.7259  Napoleon Dynamite
   3864   12056  7156.1952  0.7704  0.6323 Batman Begins
  13255    8142  7082.5500  0.9327  0.6258 Crash
   1307    8154  6641.5898  0.9025  0.5868 S.W.A.T.
   3282    5755  6420.6328  1.0562  0.5673 Sideways
   1145    8988  6196.8724  0.8303  0.5475 The Wedding Planner
   5991    5279  6004.4476  1.0665  0.5305 Sin City
    528    5216  5394.2187  1.0169  0.4766 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
   6255    6765  5337.6030  0.8883  0.4716 Bewitched
    313    5859  5215.5594  0.9435  0.4608 Pay it Forward
   5239    7531  5048.7674  0.8188  0.4461 The Longest Yard
   2913    5759  5023.0223  0.9339  0.4438 Finding Neverland
   5317    5229  4907.2340  0.9687  0.4336 Miss Congeniality
  11812    6209  4859.4754  0.8847  0.4294 Million Dollar Baby

By the way, the overall RMSE for this particular set was 0.8964.  Anybody else want to post this sort of list?

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#5 2008-11-23 12:13:23

ch
Member
Registered: 2008-01-02
Posts: 11

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

It is an interesting experiment to evaluate, which movies contribute most to the error on the probe set. The table of the top-15 is sorted descending against the squared error. There are many overlaps to the list provided by Clueless, it seems that movie "Napoleon Dynamite" is one of the hardest nuts for many. A predictor with 0.8688 RMSE is used in order to generate this evaluation.

The curious thing is that there are 152k ratings in the training set for movie "What Women Want", nevertheless it produces the largest error on the probe. Note the average number of movie ratings on the dataset is only 5k.

Code:

MovieID #Probe  #Train  SqErr   RMSE    Title
2152    9979    152618  8112.24 0.9016  What Women Want
3151    5287    111075  7877.39 1.2206  Napoleon Dynamite
3864    12056   42866   6839.61 0.7532  Batman Begins
13255   8142    56932   6759.22 0.9111  Crash
1307    8154    113053  6308.31 0.8796  S.W.A.T.
3282    5755    111515  6054.59 1.0257  Sideways
1145    8988    131166  5636.07 0.7919  The Wedding Planner
5991    5279    50868   5511.98 1.0218  Sin City
6255    6765    16801   5173.82 0.8745  Bewitched
528     5216    23238   5109.49 0.9897  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
313     5859    93953   4853.52 0.9102  Pay It Forward
2913    5759    101684  4801.18 0.9131  Finding Neverland
5239    7531    45632   4769.6  0.7958  The Longest Yard
11812   6209    96652   4587.95 0.8596  Million Dollar Baby
1962    5878    139641  4481.51 0.8732  50 First Dates

and the table RMSE sorted

Code:

MovieID #Probe  #Train  SqErr   RMSE    Title
3151    5287    111075  7877.39 1.2206  Napoleon Dynamite
14890   1758    46354   2584.74 1.2125  Team America: World Police
11022   1405    101700  1998.33 1.1926  Fahrenheit 9/11
5695    1322    64308   1698.17 1.1334  Bad Santa
4266    1729    83321   2157.15 1.1170  The Passion of the Christ
7635    2494    104589  3088.61 1.1128  Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
14454   1115    139449  1352.93 1.1015  Kill Bill: Vol. 1
14274   1372    47666   1635    1.0916  I Heart Huckabees
12232   1326    151080  1527.44 1.0733  Lost in Translation
361     2159    33690   2395.84 1.0534  The Phantom of the Opera: Special Edition
897     1182    11174   1293.72 1.0462  Bride and Prejudice
16640   2532    79349   2685.29 1.0298  Closer
3333    2871    86843   3026.49 1.0267  The Village
3282    5755    111515  6054.59 1.0257  Sideways
5991    5279    50868   5511.98 1.0218  Sin City

BigChaos

Last edited by ch (2008-11-23 13:27:51)

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#6 2008-11-23 12:21:23

PragmaticTheory
Member
Registered: 2008-05-23
Posts: 18

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

I generated my own list using chef-ele and Cluless criteria. The lists are surprisingly similar. First the movies with the highest average error with at least 1000 ratings in the probe set (top 16):

Code:

MovieID Ratings SquaredErr    RMSE   %Total %Cumul Title
   3151    5287    7881.16  1.2209  0.7385  0.7385 Napoleon Dynamite
  14890    1758    2588.89  1.2135  0.2426  0.9811 Team America: World Police
  11022    1405    1993.89  1.1913  0.1868  1.1679 Fahrenheit 9/11
   5695    1322    1687.58  1.1298  0.1581  1.3260 Bad Santa
   4266    1729    2173.17  1.1211  0.2036  1.5297 The Passion of the Christ
   7635    2494    3089.54  1.1130  0.2895  1.8192 Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
  14454    1115    1353.40  1.1017  0.1268  1.9460 Kill Bill: Vol. 1
  14274    1372    1663.91  1.1013  0.1559  2.1019 I Heart Huckabees
  12232    1326    1529.96  1.0742  0.1434  2.2452 Lost in Translation
    361    2159    2381.09  1.0502  0.2231  2.4684 The Phantom of the Opera: Special Edition
    897    1182    1301.13  1.0492  0.1219  2.5903 Bride and Prejudice
  16640    2532    2710.60  1.0347  0.2540  2.8443 Closer
   3333    2871    3043.02  1.0295  0.2851  3.1294 The Village
   5991    5279    5551.56  1.0255  0.5202  3.6496 Sin City
   3282    5755    6048.85  1.0252  0.5668  4.2164 Sideways
   4634    1394    1439.30  1.0161  0.1349  4.3513 Me and You and Everyone We Know

Second, the list of movies contributing the most to the total error (top 15):

Code:

MovieID Ratings SquaredErr    RMSE   %Total %Cumul Title
   2152    9979    8177.99  0.9053  0.7663  0.7663 What Women Want
   3151    5287    7881.16  1.2209  0.7385  1.5048 Napoleon Dynamite
   3864   12056    6871.42  0.7550  0.6439  2.1486 Batman Begins
  13255    8142    6747.89  0.9104  0.6323  2.7809 Crash
   1307    8154    6357.27  0.8830  0.5957  3.3766 S.W.A.T.
   3282    5755    6048.85  1.0252  0.5668  3.9434 Sideways
   1145    8988    5653.13  0.7931  0.5297  4.4731 The Wedding Planner
   5991    5279    5551.56  1.0255  0.5202  4.9933 Sin City
   6255    6765    5186.35  0.8756  0.4860  5.4793 Bewitched
    528    5216    5094.97  0.9883  0.4774  5.9567 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    313    5859    4878.63  0.9125  0.4571  6.4138 Pay It Forward
   2913    5759    4809.67  0.9139  0.4507  6.8645 Finding Neverland
   5239    7531    4799.45  0.7983  0.4497  7.3142 The Longest Yard
  11812    6209    4589.02  0.8597  0.4300  7.7442 Million Dollar Baby
   1962    5878    4501.38  0.8751  0.4218  8.1660 50 First Dates

Last edited by PragmaticTheory (2008-11-23 12:27:08)

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#7 2008-11-23 12:25:10

PragmaticTheory
Member
Registered: 2008-05-23
Posts: 18

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

I haven't seen BigChaos' posting before writing mine. Wow: a perfect match!

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#8 2008-11-23 14:57:48

ADifferentName
Member
Registered: 2008-06-29
Posts: 19

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

There's obviously a lot of agreement.  My numbers come from the probe set posted at http://www.ofadifferentkind.com/probe.1 … 08.txt.zip.  The probe score is 0.8815 and the qualifying score is 0.8767.

Code:

ID      RMSE         SE     Count  Title
2152   0.9124      8307.04   9979  What Women Want
3151   1.2358      8074.00   5287  Napoleon Dynamite
3864   0.7574      6915.61  12056  Batman Begins
13255  0.9174      6853.09   8142  Crash
1307   0.8904      6464.53   8154  S.W.A.T.
3282   1.0386      6207.39   5755  Sideways
1145   0.8057      5834.46   8988  The Wedding Planner
5991   1.0356      5662.09   5279  Sin City
6255   0.8805      5244.95   6765  Bewitched
528    0.9999      5214.58   5216  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
313    0.9199      4958.22   5859  Pay It Forward
5239   0.8014      4836.13   7531  The Longest Yard
2913   0.9149      4820.56   5759  Finding Neverland
11812  0.8633      4627.76   6209  Million Dollar Baby
1962   0.8802      4553.90   5878  50 First Dates

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#9 2008-11-23 15:13:23

ChaitanyaSai
Member
Registered: 2008-06-27
Posts: 7

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

Some of those movies also tend to show up in a cluster based on similarity. For instance, here are the top 30 movies computed as being most similar to Napoleon Dynamite

http://gflix.appspot.com/netflix/3150

You can click on the individual posters to browse through to a list of similar movies for that movie.

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#10 2008-11-23 21:24:41

Aron
Member
Registered: 2006-10-02
Posts: 186

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

I think these results above seem to follow with my preliminary observation that binning on a movie-by-movie basis for blending is not all that productive.

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#11 2008-11-24 08:29:26

Clueless
Member
From: Maryland
Registered: 2007-10-09
Posts: 128
Website

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

Aron wrote:

I think these results above seem to follow with my preliminary observation that binning on a movie-by-movie basis for blending is not all that productive.

I tried binning by movie a while back, too, and had very poor results.  Binning by user is, as expected, even worse (but I had to try it).  After taking a couple of months off - there were just too many other things to do - I'm back at work on my GA-based mixer and some other odds and ends.  I've got the mixer to a point where it can do slightly better than non-binned linear combination, and preliminary test results from my most recent version look promising.  Don't get me wrong, I don't think this is a contest-winning strategy by any means, but it might shave enough off of my qualifying score to push me a bit closer to the top - without having to resort to implementing things that I don't really understand.

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#12 2008-11-24 11:01:42

Newman!
Member
From: BC, Canada
Registered: 2006-12-26
Posts: 168
Website

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

What's all this telling us: nobody knows what women want.


When you control the mail, you control... information !

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#13 2008-11-24 11:13:17

Newman!
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From: BC, Canada
Registered: 2006-12-26
Posts: 168
Website

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

Clueless wrote:

I'm back at work on my GA-based mixer and some other odds and ends.  I've got the mixer to a point where it can do slightly better than non-binned linear combination, and preliminary test results from my most recent version look promising.

Interesting. I tried a GA-based mixer too for a few days, using a small number of files, but it never out-performed my linear regression mixer, not to mention it took forever to run.

Last edited by Newman! (2008-11-24 11:13:57)


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#14 2008-11-24 19:26:43

Clueless
Member
From: Maryland
Registered: 2007-10-09
Posts: 128
Website

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

My first attempt did poorly - took forever and never outperformed linear regression.  My newest variation uses a combination of Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO) and Genetic Programming (GP) rather than classical GA.  The tricky part, as always, is coming up with a good way to have the "critters" model the problem space.

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#15 2008-11-26 16:50:05

Zora
Member
Registered: 2008-11-26
Posts: 1

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

I registered just to throw this newbie suggestion.

Perhaps Netflix could deal with the "Napoleon Dynamite" problem by giving customers two sorts of recommendations:

1) It is extremely probable that you will like this movie.
2) You may adore this movie or you may hate it; you're unlikely to be indifferent. We can't predict which. Take a chance!

As a customer, I could pick 1) or 2) depending on my mood and my willingness to experiment.

If you can't solve the problem, segregate it.

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#16 2008-11-27 11:16:33

ch
Member
Registered: 2008-01-02
Posts: 11

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

An other interesting question is which movies are well predictable. Here is a table of the movies, which have at least 1000 rating on probe, sorted ascending on the RMSE they have. It seems that movies with high average rating are easy to predict (average train rating TrAvg). This experiment is done with the same probe prediction as posted before.

Code:

MovieID #Probe  #Train  SqErr   RMSE    TrAvg   Title
7057    1282    73630   231.748 0.4252  4.7017  Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: Extended Edition
7230    1148    72274   253.918 0.4703  4.7163  The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Edition
5293    1103    88245   331.948 0.5486  3.9345  Patriot Games
5582    1283    91187   433.416 0.5812  4.5441  Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
3610    1859    73289   633.575 0.5838  3.8070  Lethal Weapon 3
14550   1848    137812  640.339 0.5886  4.5931  The Shawshank Redemption: Special Edition
13673   1113    50193   386.392 0.5892  4.3488  Toy Story
1798    4553    108824  1655.99 0.6031  3.9637  Lethal Weapon
2452    1934    147932  724.566 0.6121  4.4339  Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
270     1815    34616   684.529 0.6141  4.2958  Sex and the City: Season 4
3290    1326    70288   552.69  0.6456  4.4039  The Godfather, Part II
3456    1491    5758    626.73  0.6483  4.6784  Lost: Season 1
3962    1929    139050  880.2   0.6755  4.4151  Finding Nemo (Widescreen)
1476    1214    10615   555.013 0.6761  4.4653  Six Feet Under: Season 4
241     1250    41872   571.806 0.6763  4.1568  North by Northwest

BigChaos

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#17 2008-11-27 13:50:59

vzn
Member
Registered: 2006-10-04
Posts: 109

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

thx much to the teams sharing info .. these are very fascinating results.

there is an early post where someone plots the standard deviation of the ratings versus the average movie rating. maybe someone else can link that up to this thread if they recall it. as I recall, typically the std. dev. is low for low rated and high rated movies. leading to a "frown" in a graph of avg movie rating on x axis and std dev on y axis. that seems to explain (most of?) BigChaos's observation above that high rated movies are easier to predict.

as I read these results, there are several possible conclusions.

a) after a certain level of high tuning, all the algorithms are "sucking" the same signal out of the data, and it doesnt really matter what algorithm is used; moreoever, the signal limit is a constant for each movie. this is esp true the more the different algorithms are independently built/designed. also, the contest may be nearing this theoretical limit.

b) the top teams may be sharing algorithms somewhat freely, in which case each algorithm is not so independent. (maybe indirectly/inadvertently, by reading/replicating results published in the conf papers)

(a), (b) are somewhat opposite findings (based on dependent vs independent algorithms) yet some combination of (a) + (b) is probably the case.

Last edited by vzn (2008-11-27 13:53:41)

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#18 2008-11-28 03:21:33

LMV
Member
Registered: 2008-05-24
Posts: 46
Website

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

vzn wrote:

(a), (b) are somewhat opposite findings (based on dependent vs independent algorithms) yet some combination of (a) + (b) is probably the case.

Right on, there is likely an inherent randomness (case a) for each movie and nobody/nothing can beat this.
Let's hope that there is enough left of the  case b margin to allow for more progress, though this progress will not come from "improvements" by the very definition of case b.

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#19 2008-11-30 14:36:55

FroggyJ4
Member
Registered: 2008-11-30
Posts: 1

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

I have a question, but since my understanding of statistics and programming is pretty basic, it could sound pretty foolish.  From the New York Times article, I inferred that the current algorithms are capable of ferreting out small pieces of information about movies and then predicting a user's rating from how much they appreciate those factors.  This sounds similar to a regression where I input all of the factors, genre, release date, actors, themes, etc., but, I guess the algorithm does it without more inputs.

Do these algorithms account for the variability of the ratings themselves?  Is it possible to use the variability of the users' ratings for a particular movie as a predictor?  For example, Napoleon Dynamite has a high variability in ratings, users who rated ND highly might also apply this "X" factor to Sideways.

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#20 2009-04-07 12:10:46

spaglia
Member
Registered: 2008-12-01
Posts: 10

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

ADifferentName wrote:

There's obviously a lot of agreement.  My numbers come from the probe set posted at http://www.ofadifferentkind.com/probe.1 … 08.txt.zip.  The probe score is 0.8815 and the qualifying score is 0.8767.

Very impressive score! What algos are you blending?

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#21 2009-04-09 13:26:59

ADifferentName
Member
Registered: 2008-06-29
Posts: 19

Re: NYT article & an idea/suggestion on the "napoleon dynamite problem"

Hi.  That particular submission was a blend of 187 files.  Most of those files probably contributed very little to the final rmse.

At that time, I was using the results from two open source projects and five different matrix factorization algorithms.  The open source projects were nprize and Kadence's kNN.

The five flavors of matrix factorization that I used were:
1.) NSVD1 implemented as best as I could from Gravity's paperA Unified Approach of Factor Models and Neighbor Based Methods for Large Recommender Systems.
2.) BRISMF describe in Gravity's paper Investigation of Various Matrix Factorization Methods for Large Recommender Systems.
3.) A hybrid NSVD1/BRISMF describe in Gravity's paper "A Unified Approach..." (the same paper where the NSVD1 implementation is described).
4.) SVD with simultaneous factor updates (described in many posts on the Netflix forums).
5.) SVD++ from BellKor's paper Factorization Meets the Neighborhood:  a Multifaceted Collaborative Filtering Model.

I never really got BellKor's SVD++ to work, so I used my own concoction of mixing NSVD1 with BRISMF with some cross training of the factors.  I tried to integrate the ideas of the SVD part of SVD++ into code that I already had working.

And I mixed them together using Gravity's linreg linear regression program.

I guess if you follow team Gravity around and try to pick up bits and pieces from them, you can end up with a decent score :-)

Good luck!

Greg

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