Standing in Your Shoes: External Assessments for Personalized Recommender Systems

The evaluation of recommender systems relies on user preference data, which is difficult to acquire directly because of its subjective nature. Current recommender systems widely utilize users' historical interactions as implicit or explicit feedback, but such data usually suffers from various types of bias. Little work has been done on collecting and understanding user's personal preferences via third-party annotations. External assessments, that is, annotations made by assessors who are not the systems' users, have been widely used in information search scenarios. Is it possible to use external assessments to construct user preference labels? This paper presents the first attempt to incorporate external assessments into preference labeling and recommendation evaluation. The aim is to verify the possibility and reliability of external assessments for personalized recommender systems. We collect both users' real preferences and assessors' estimated preferences through a multi-role, multi-session user study. By investigating the inter-assessor agreement and user-assessor consistency, we demonstrate the reasonable stability and high accuracy of external preference assessments. Furthermore, we investigate the usage of external assessments in system evaluation. A higher degree of consistency with users' online feedback is observed, even better than traditional history-based online evaluation. Our findings show that external assessments can be used for assessing user preference labels and evaluating systems in personalized recommendation scenarios.
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