Exploiting User Disagreement for Web Search Evaluation

Exploiting User Disagreement for Web Search Evaluation: An experimental approach

by Thomas Demeester, Robin Aly, Djoerd Hiemstra, Dong Nguyen, Dolf Trieschnigg, and Chris Develder

To express a more nuanced notion of relevance as compared to binary judgments, graded relevance levels can be used for the evaluation of search results. Especially in Web search, users strongly prefer top results over less relevant results, and yet they often disagree on which are the top results for a given information need. Whereas previous works have generally considered disagreement as a negative effect, this paper proposes a method to exploit this user disagreement by integrating it into the evaluation procedure. First, we present experiments that investigate the user disagreement. We argue that, with a high disagreement, lower relevance levels might need to be promoted more than in the case where there is global consensus on the top results. This is formalized by introducing the User Disagreement Model, resulting in a weighting of the relevance levels with a probabilistic interpretation. A validity analysis is given, and we explain how to integrate the model with well-established evaluation metrics. Finally, we discuss a specific application of the model, in the estimation of suitable weights for the combined relevance of Web search snippets and pages.

To be presented at the 7th ACM Conference on Web Search and Data Mining (WSDM) in New York City, USA on 24-28 February.

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