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Content-based Recommender Systems: State of the Art and Trends

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Chapter 3
Content-based Recommender Systems: State of the Art and Trends
Pasquale Lops, Marco de Gemmis and Giovanni Semeraro Abstract Recommender systems have the effect of guiding users in a personal- ized way to interesting objects in a large space of possible options. Content-based recommendation systems try to recommend items similar to those a given user has liked in the past. Indeed, the basic process performed by a content-based recom- mender consists in matching up the attributes of a user profile in which preferences and interests are stored, with the attributes of a content object (item), in order to recommend to the user new interesting items. This chapter provides an overview of content-based recommender systems, with the aim of imposing a degree of order on the diversity of the different aspects involved in their design and implementation. The first part of the chapter presents the basic concepts and terminology of content- based recommender systems, a high level architecture, and their main advantages and drawbacks. The second part of the chapter provides a review of the state of the art of systems adopted in several application domains, by thoroughly describ- ing both classical and advanced techniques for representing items and user profiles. The most widely adopted techniques for learning user profiles are also presented. The last part of the chapter discusses trends and future research which might lead towards the next generation of systems, by describing the role of User Generated Content as a way for taking into account evolving vocabularies, and the challenge of feeding users with serendipitous recommendations, that is to say surprisingly interesting items that they might not have otherwise discovered.
Pasquale Lops Department of Computer Science, University of Bari ��Aldo Moro��, Via E. Orabona, 4, Bari (Italy) e-mail: lops@di.uniba.it Marco de Gemmis Department of Computer Science, University of Bari ��Aldo Moro��, Via E. Orabona, 4, Bari (Italy) e-mail: degemmis@di.uniba.it Giovanni Semeraro Department of Computer Science, University of Bari ��Aldo Moro��, Via E. Orabona, 4, Bari (Italy) e-mail: semeraro@di.uniba.it F. Ricci et al. (eds.), Recommender Systems Handbook, DOI 10.1007/978-0-387-85820-3_3, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011 73

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3.1 Introduction
The abundance of information available on the Web and in Digital Libraries, in combination with their dynamic and heterogeneous nature, has determined a rapidly increasing difficulty in finding what we want when we need it and in a manner which best meets our requirements. As a consequence, the role of user modeling and personalized information ac- cess is becoming crucial: users need a personalized support in sifting through large amounts of available information, according to their interests and tastes. Many information sources embody recommender systems as a way of personal- izing their content for users [73]. Recommender systems have the effect of guiding users in a personalized way to interesting or useful objects in a large space of possi- ble options [17]. Recommendation algorithms use input about a customer��s interests to generate a list of recommended items. At Amazon.com, recommendation algo- rithms are used to personalize the online store for each customer, for example show- ing programming titles to a software engineer and baby toys to a new mother [50]. The problem of recommending items has been studied extensively, and two main paradigms have emerged. Content-based recommendation systems try to recom- mend items similar to those a given user has liked in the past, whereas systems designed according to the collaborative recommendation paradigm identify users whose preferences are similar to those of the given user and recommend items they have liked [7]. In this chapter, a comprehensive and systematic study of content-based recom- mender systems is carried out. The intention is twofold: to provide an overview of state-of-the-art systems, by highlighting the techniques which revealed the most effective, and the application domains in which they have adopted; to present trends and directions for future research which might lead towards the next generation of content-based recommender systems. The chapter is organized as follows. First, we present the basic concepts and terminology related to content-based recommenders. A classical framework for pro- viding content-based recommendations is described, in order to understand the main components of the architecture, the process for producing recommendations and the advantages and drawbacks of using this kind of recommendation technique. Section 3.3 provides a thorough review of the state of the art of content-based systems, by providing details about the classical and advanced techniques for representing items to be recommended, and the methods for learning user profiles. Section 3.4 presents trends and future research in the field of content-based recommender systems, while conclusions are drawn in Section 3.5.

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3.2 Basics of Content-based Recommender Systems
Systems implementing a content-based recommendation approach analyze a set of documents and/or descriptions of items previously rated by a user, and build a model or profile of user interests based on the features of the objects rated by that user [63]. The profile is a structured representation of user interests, adopted to recommend new interesting items. The recommendation process basically consists in matching up the attributes of the user profile against the attributes of a content object. The re- sult is a relevance judgment that represents the user��s level of interest in that object. If a profile accurately reflects user preferences, it is of tremendous advantage for the effectiveness of an information access process. For instance, it could be used to filter search results by deciding whether a user is interested in a specific Web page or not and, in the negative case, preventing it from being displayed.
3.2.1 A High Level Architecture of Content-based Systems
Content-based Information Filtering (IF) systems need proper techniques for repre- senting the items and producing the user profile, and some strategies for comparing the user profile with the item representation. The high level architecture of a content- based recommender system is depicted in Figure 3.1. The recommendation process is performed in three steps, each of which is handled by a separate component: CONTENT ANALYZER – When information has no structure (e.g. text), some kind of pre-processing step is needed to extract structured relevant information. The main responsibility of the component is to represent the content of items (e.g. documents, Web pages, news, product descriptions, etc.) coming from in- formation sources in a form suitable for the next processing steps. Data items are analyzed by feature extraction techniques in order to shift item representation from the original information space to the target one (e.g. Web pages represented as keyword vectors). This representation is the input to the PROFILE LEARNER and FILTERING COMPONENT; PROFILE LEARNER – This module collects data representative of the user prefer- ences and tries to generalize this data, in order to construct the user profile. Usu- ally, the generalization strategy is realized through machine learning techniques [61], which are able to infer a model of user interests starting from items liked or disliked in the past. For instance, the PROFILE LEARNER of a Web page recom- mender can implement a relevance feedback method [75] in which the learning technique combines vectors of positive and negative examples into a prototype vector representing the user profile. Training examples are Web pages on which a positive or negative feedback has been provided by the user; FILTERING COMPONENT – This module exploits the user profile to suggest rel- evant items by matching the profile representation against that of items to be recommended. The result is a binary or continuous relevance judgment (com-

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Fig. 3.1: High level architecture of a Content-based Recommender puted using some similarity metrics [42]), the latter case resulting in a ranked list of potentially interesting items. In the above mentioned example, the matching is realized by computing the cosine similarity between the prototype vector and the item vectors. The first step of the recommendation process is the one performed by the CON-
TENT ANALYZER, that usually borrows techniques from Information Retrieval sys-
tems [80, 6]. Item descriptions coming from Information Source are processed by the CONTENT ANALYZER, that extracts features (keywords, n-grams, concepts, . . . ) from unstructured text to produce a structured item representation, stored in the repository Represented Items. In order to construct and update the profile of the active user ua (user for which recommendations must be provided) her reactions to items are collected in some way and recorded in the repository Feedback. These reactions, called anno- tations [39] or feedback, together with the related item descriptions, are exploited during the process of learning a model useful to predict the actual relevance of newly presented items. Users can also explicitly define their areas of interest as an initial profile without providing any feedback. Typically, it is possible to distinguish between two kinds of relevance feedback: positive information (inferring features liked by the user) and negative information (i.e., inferring features the user is not interested in [43]). Two different techniques can be adopted for recording user��s feedback. When a system requires the user to explicitly evaluate items, this technique is usually re- ferred to as ��explicit feedback��; the other technique, called ��implicit feedback��,

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does not require any active user involvement, in the sense that feedback is derived from monitoring and analyzing user��s activities. Explicit evaluations indicate how relevant or interesting an item is to the user [74]. There are three main approaches to get explicit relevance feedback: • like/dislike – items are classified as ��relevant�� or ��not relevant�� by adopting a simple binary rating scale, such as in [12]; • ratings – a discrete numeric scale is usually adopted to judge items, such as in [86]. Alternatively, symbolic ratings are mapped to a numeric scale, such as in Syskill & Webert [70], where users have the possibility of rating a Web page as hot, lukewarm, or cold; • text comments – Comments about a single item are collected and presented to the users as a means of facilitating the decision-making process, such as in [72]. For instance, customer��s feedback at Amazon.com or eBay.com might help users in deciding whether an item has been appreciated by the community. Textual com- ments are helpful, but they can overload the active user because she must read and interpret each comment to decide if it is positive or negative, and to what de- gree. The literature proposes advanced techniques from the affective computing research area [71] to make content-based recommenders able to automatically perform this kind of analysis. Explicit feedback has the advantage of simplicity, albeit the adoption of nu- meric/symbolic scales increases the cognitive load on the user, and may not be adequate for catching user��s feeling about items. Implicit feedback methods are based on assigning a relevance score to specific user actions on an item, such as saving, discarding, printing, bookmarking, etc. The main advantage is that they do not require a direct user involvement, even though biasing is likely to occur, e.g. interruption of phone calls while reading. In order to build the profile of the active user ua, the training set TRa for ua must be defined. TRa is a set of pairs ⟨Ik,rk⟩, where rk is the rating provided by ua on the item representation Ik. Given a set of item representation labeled with ratings, the PROFILE LEARNER applies supervised learning algorithms to generate a predictive model – the user profile – which is usually stored in a profile repository for later use by the FILTERING COMPONENT. Given a new item representation, the FIL-
TERING COMPONENT predicts whether it is likely to be of interest for the active
user, by comparing features in the item representation to those in the representation of user preferences (stored in the user profile). Usually, the FILTERING COMPO-
NENT implements some strategies to rank potentially interesting items according
to the relevance with respect to the user profile. Top-ranked items are included in a list of recommendations La, that is presented to ua. User tastes usually change in time, therefore up-to-date information must be maintained and provided to the PRO-
FILE LEARNER in order to automatically update the user profile. Further feedback
is gathered on generated recommendations by letting users state their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with items in La. After gathering that feedback, the learning process is performed again on the new training set, and the resulting profile is adapted to the

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updated user interests. The iteration of the feedback-learning cycle over time allows the system to take into account the dynamic nature of user preferences.
3.2.2 Advantages and Drawbacks of Content-based Filtering
The adoption of the content-based recommendation paradigm has several advan- tages when compared to the collaborative one: USER INDEPENDENCE - Content-based recommenders exploit solely ratings provided by the active user to build her own profile. Instead, collaborative fil- tering methods need ratings from other users in order to find the ��nearest neigh- bors�� of the active user, i.e., users that have similar tastes since they rated the same items similarly. Then, only the items that are most liked by the neighbors of the active user will be recommended; TRANSPARENCY - Explanations on how the recommender system works can be provided by explicitly listing content features or descriptions that caused an item to occur in the list of recommendations. Those features are indicators to consult in order to decide whether to trust a recommendation. Conversely, collaborative systems are black boxes since the only explanation for an item recommendation is that unknown users with similar tastes liked that item; NEW ITEM - Content-based recommenders are capable of recommending items not yet rated by any user. As a consequence, they do not suffer from the first-rater problem, which affects collaborative recommenders which rely solely on users�� preferences to make recommendations. Therefore, until the new item is rated by a substantial number of users, the system would not be able to recommend it. Nonetheless, content-based systems have several shortcomings: LIMITED CONTENT ANALYSIS - Content-based techniques have a natural limit in the number and type of features that are associated, whether automatically or manually, with the objects they recommend. Domain knowledge is often needed, e.g., for movie recommendations the system needs to know the actors and di- rectors, and sometimes, domain ontologies are also needed. No content-based recommendation system can provide suitable suggestions if the analyzed content does not contain enough information to discriminate items the user likes from items the user does not like. Some representations capture only certain aspects of the content, but there are many others that would influence a user��s experi- ence. For instance, often there is not enough information in the word frequency to model the user interests in jokes or poems, while techniques for affective com- puting would be most appropriate. Again, for Web pages, feature extraction tech- niques from text completely ignore aesthetic qualities and additional multimedia information. To sum up, both automatic and manually assignment of features to items could not be sufficient to define distinguishing aspects of items that turn out to be nec- essary for the elicitation of user interests.

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OVER-SPECIALIZATION - Content-based recommenders have no inherent method for finding something unexpected. The system suggests items whose scores are high when matched against the user profile, hence the user is going to be rec- ommended items similar to those already rated. This drawback is also called serendipity problem to highlight the tendency of the content-based systems to produce recommendations with a limited degree of novelty. To give an example, when a user has only rated movies directed by Stanley Kubrick, she will be rec- ommended just that kind of movies. A ��perfect�� content-based technique would rarely find anything novel, limiting the range of applications for which it would be useful. NEW USER - Enough ratings have to be collected before a content-based rec- ommender system can really understand user preferences and provide accurate recommendations. Therefore, when few ratings are available, as for a new user, the system will not be able to provide reliable recommendations. In the following, some strategies for tackling the above mentioned problems will be presented and discussed. More specifically, novel techniques for enhancing the content representation using common-sense and domain-specific knowledge will be described (Sections This may help to overcome the limitations of traditional content analysis methods by providing new features, such as WordNet [60, 32] or Wikipedia concepts, which help to represent the items to be recom- mended in a more accurate and transparent way. Moreover, the integration of user- defined lexicons, such as folksonomies, in the process of generating recommenda- tions will be presented in Section 3.4.1, as a way for taking into account evolving vocabularies. Possible ways to feed users with serendipitous recommendations, that is to say, interesting items with a high degree of novelty, will be analyzed as a solution to the over-specialization problem (Section 3.4.2). Finally, different strategies for overcoming the new user problem will be pre- sented. Among them, social tags provided by users in a community can be exploited as a feedback on which recommendations are produced when few or no ratings for a specific user are available to the system (Section
3.3 State of the Art of Content-based Recommender Systems
As the name implies, content-based filtering exploits the content of data items to predict its relevance based on the user��s profile. Research on content-based recom- mender systems takes place at the intersection of many computer science topics, especially Information Retrieval [6] and Artificial Intelligence. From Information Retrieval (IR), research on recommendation technologies de- rives the vision that users searching for recommendations are engaged in an infor- mation seeking process. In IR systems the user expresses a one-off information need by giving a query (usually a list of keywords), while in IF systems the information need of the user is represented by her own profile. Items to be recommended can

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be very different depending on the number and types of attributes used to describe them. Each item can be described through the same small number of attributes with known set of values, but this is not appropriate for items, such as Web pages, news, emails or documents, described through unstructured text. In that case there are no attributes with well-defined values, and the use of document modeling techniques with roots in IR research is desirable. From an Artificial Intelligence perspective, the recommendation task can be cast as a learning problem that exploits past knowledge about users. At their simplest, user profiles are in the form of user-specified keywords or rules, and reflect the long- term interests of the user. Often, it is advisable for the recommender to learn the user profile rather than impose upon the user to provide one. This generally involves the application of Machine Learning (ML) techniques, whose goal is learning to categorize new information items based on previously seen information that have been explicitly or implicitly labelled as interesting or not by the user. Given these labelled information items, ML methods are able to generate a predictive model that, given a new information item, will help to decide whether it is likely to be of interest for the target user. Section 3.3.1 describes alternative item representation techniques, ranging from traditional text representation, to more advanced techniques integrating ontologies and/or encyclopedic knowledge. Next, recommendation algorithms suitable for the described representations will be discussed in Section 3.3.2.
3.3.1 Item Representation
Items that can be recommended to the user are represented by a set of features, also called attributes or properties. For example, in a movie recommendation ap- plication, features adopted to describe a movie are: actors, directors, genres, subject matter, . . . ). When each item is described by the same set of attributes, and there is a known set of values the attributes may take, the item is represented by means of structured data. In this case, many ML algorithms can be used to learn a user profile [69]. In most content-based filtering systems, item descriptions are textual features extracted from Web pages, emails, news articles or product descriptions. Unlike structured data, there are no attributes with well-defined values. Textual features create a number of complications when learning a user profile, due to the natural language ambiguity. The problem is that traditional keyword-based profiles are un- able to capture the semantics of user interests because they are primarily driven by a string matching operation. If a string, or some morphological variant, is found in both the profile and the document, a match is made and the document is considered as relevant. String matching suffers from problems of: POLYSEMY, the presence of multiple meanings for one word; SYNONYMY, multiple words with the same meaning.

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The result is that, due to synonymy, relevant information can be missed if the pro- file does not contain the exact keywords in the documents while, due to polysemy, wrong documents could be deemed relevant. Semantic analysis and its integration in personalization models is one of the most innovative and interesting approaches proposed in literature to solve those problems. The key idea is the adoption of knowledge bases, such as lexicons or ontologies , for annotating items and representing profiles in order to obtain a ��semantic�� interpre- tation of the user information needs. In the next section, the basic keyword-based approach for document representation will be described, followed by a review of ��traditional�� systems relying on that model. Then, Sections and will provide an overview of techniques for semantic analysis based on ontological and world knowledge, respectively. Keyword-based Vector Space Model Most content-based recommender systems use relatively simple retrieval models, such as keyword matching or the Vector Space Model (VSM) with basic TF-IDF weighting. VSM is a spatial representation of text documents. In that model, each document is represented by a vector in a n-dimensional space, where each dimension corresponds to a term from the overall vocabulary of a given document collection. Formally, every document is represented as a vector of term weights, where each weight indicates the degree of association between the document and the term. Let D = {d1,d2,...,dN} denote a set of documents or corpus, and T = {t1,t2,...,tn} be the dictionary, that is to say the set of words in the corpus. T is obtained by applying some standard natural language processing operations, such as tokenization, stop- words removal, and stemming [6]. Each document dj is represented as a vector in a n-dimensional vector space, so dj = {w1j,w2j,...,dnj}, where wk j is the weight for term tk in document dj. Document representation in the VSM raises two issues: weighting the terms and measuring the feature vector similarity. The most commonly used term weight- ing scheme, TF-IDF (Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency) weighting, is based on empirical observations regarding text [79]: rare terms are not less relevant than frequent terms (IDF assumption); multiple occurrences of a term in a document are not less relevant than single occurrences (TF assumption); long documents are not preferred to short documents (normalization assump- tion). In other words, terms that occur frequently in one document (TF =term-frequency), but rarely in the rest of the corpus (IDF = inverse-document-frequency), are more likely to be relevant to the topic of the document. In addition, normalizing the re- sulting weight vectors prevent longer documents from having a better chance of retrieval. These assumptions are well exemplified by the TF-IDF function:

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TF-IDF(tk,dj) = TF(tk,dj)
︸ ︷︷ ︸
·log N nk ︸ ︷︷ ︸
(3.1) where N denotes the number of documents in the corpus, and nk denotes the number of documents in the collection in which the term tk occurs at least once.
TF(tk,dj) =
fk,j maxz fz,j (3.2) where the maximum is computed over the frequencies fz,j of all terms tz that oc- cur in document dj. In order for the weights to fall in the [0,1] interval and for the documents to be represented by vectors of equal length, weights obtained by Equation (3.1) are usually normalized by cosine normalization: wk,j =
�� ��
|T| s=1 TF-IDF(ts,dj) 2
(3.3) which enforces the normalization assumption. As stated earlier, a similarity measure is required to determine the closeness between two documents. Many similarity measures have been derived to describe the proximity of two vectors; among those measures, cosine similarity is the most widely used: sim(di,dj) = ��k wki ·wk j �� ��k wki
2 ·
�� ��k wk j
(3.4) In content-based recommender systems relying on VSM, both user profiles and items are represented as weighted term vectors. Predictions of a user��s interest in a particular item can be derived by computing the cosine similarity. Review of Keyword-based Systems Several keyword-based recommender systems have been developed in a relatively short time, and it is possible to find them in various fields of applications, such as news, music, e-commerce, movies, etc. Each domain presents different problems, that require different solutions. In the area of Web recommenders, famous systems in literature are Letizia [49], Personal WebWatcher [62, 63], Syskill & Webert [70, 68], ifWeb [4], Amalthea [66], and WebMate [23]. Letizia is implemented as a web-browser extension that tracks the user��s browsing behavior and builds a personalized model consisting of key- words related to the user��s interests. It relies on implicit feedback to infer the user��s preferences. For example, bookmarking a page is interpreted as strong evidence for the user��s interests in that page. In a similar way, Personal WebWatcher learns indi- vidual interests of users from the Web pages they visit, and from documents lying

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one link away from the visited pages. It processes visited documents as positive examples of the user��s interests, and non-visited documents as negative examples. Amalthaea uses specific filtering agents to assist users in finding interesting infor- mation as well. User can specify filtering agents by providing pages (represented as weighted vectors) closely related to their interests. The same approach is adopted by Syskill & Webert, that represents documents with the 128 most informative words (the ��informativeness�� of words in documents is determined in several different ways). Advanced representation techniques are adopted by ifWeb, that represents profiles in the form of a weighted semantic net- work. It supports explicit feedback and takes into account not only interests, but also explicit disinterests. Another interesting aspect is that it incorporates a mechanism for temporal decay, i.e. it ages the interests as expressed by the user. A different approach for representing user interests is adopted by WebMate, that keeps track of user interests in different domains by learning a user profile that consists of the keyword vectors that represents positive training examples. A profile of n keyword vectors can correctly represent up to n independent user interests. In the field of news filtering, noteworthy recommender systems are NewT [87], PSUN [90], INFOrmer [91], NewsDude [12], Daily Learner [13], and YourNews [2]. NewT (News Tailor) allows users to provide positive and negative feedback on ar- ticles, part of articles, authors or sources. Several filtering agents are trained for different types of information, e.g. one for political news, one for sports, etc. In the same way YourNews, a more recent system for personalized news access, maintains a separate interest profile for 8 different topics (National, World, Business, etc.). The user interest profile for each topic is represented as a weighted prototype term vector extracted from the user��s news view history. N articles from users�� past views are collected, and the 100 top-weighted terms are extracted to generate the final pro- totype vectors. The system maintains short-term profiles by considering only the 20 most recently viewed news item, whereas long-term profiles consider all past views. The system can use profiles to suggest recent and recommended news. Learning short-term and long-term profiles is quite typical of news filtering sys- tems. NewsDude learns a short-term user model based on TF-IDF (cosine similarity), and a long-term model based on a naıve Bayesian classifier by relying on an initial training set of interesting news articles provided by the user. The news source is Ya- hoo! News. In the same way Daily Learner, a learning agent for wireless informa- tion access, adopts an approach for learning two separate user-models. The former, based on a Nearest Neighbor text classification algorithm, maintains the short-term interests of users, while the latter, based on a naıve Bayesian classifier, represents the long-term interests of users and relies on data collected over a longer period of time. Among systems using a more complex representation for articles or profiles, PSUN and INFOrmer are worth to note. PSUN adopts an alternative representa- tion for articles. Profiles are provided initially by presenting the system with some articles the user finds interesting. Recurring words in these articles are recorded by means of n-grams stored in a network of mutually attracting or repelling words, whose degree of attraction is determined by the number of co-occurrences. Each

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user has multiple profiles that compete via a genetic algorithm, requiring explicit feedback. INFOrmer uses a semantic network for representing both user profiles and articles. A spreading activation technique [25] is used to compare articles and profiles, and a relevance feedback mechanism may be used to adapt the behavior of the system to user��s changing interests. The pure spreading activation model con- sists of a network data structure consisting of nodes interconnected by links, that may be labeled and/or weighted. The processing starts by labeling a set of source nodes with activation weights and proceeds by iteratively propagating that activa- tion to other nodes linked to the source nodes, until a termination condition ends the search process over the network. A variety of content-based recommender systems exist in other application do- mains. LIBRA [65] implements a naıve Bayes text categorization method for book recommendation that exploits the product descriptions obtained from the Web pages of the Amazon on-line digital store. Re:Agent [16] is an intelligent email agent that can learn actions such as filtering, downloading to palmtops, forwarding email to voicemail, etc. using automatic feature extraction. Re:Agent users are required only to place example messages in folders corresponding to the desired actions. Re:Agent learns the concepts and decision policies from these folders. Citeseer [15] assists the user in the process of performing a scientific literature search, by using word infor- mation and analyzing common citations in the papers. INTIMATE [53] recommends movies by using text categorization techniques to learn from movie synopses ob- tained from the Internet Movie Database1. In order to get recommendations, the user is asked to rate a minimum number of movies into six categories: terrible, bad, be- low average, above average, good and excellent. In the same way, Movies2GO [67] learns user preferences from the synopsis of movies rated by the user. The innovative aspect of the system is to integrate voting schemes [93], designed to allow multi- ple individuals with conflicting preferences arrive at an acceptable compromise, and adapt them to manage conflicting preferences in a single user. In the music domain, the commonly used technique for providing recommen- dations is collaborative filtering (see Last.fm2 and MyStrands3 systems). The most noticeable system using (manual) content-based descriptions to recommend music is Pandora4. The main problem of the system is scalability, because the music anno- tation process is entirely done manually. Conversely, FOAFing the music [21, 22] is able to recommend, discover and explore music content, based on user profiling via Friend of a Friend (FOAF)5 descriptions, context-based information extracted from music related RSS feeds, and content-based descriptions automatically extracted from the audio itself. In order to complete the survey of content-based recommender systems adopt- ing the simple keyword-based vector space representation, we should also men-
1 http://www.imdb.com 2 http://www.last.fm 3 http://www.mystrands.com 4 http://www.pandora.com 5 http://www.foaf-project.org

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tion some hybrid recommender systems that combine collaborative and content- based methods, such as Fab [7], WebWatcher [45], P-Tango [24], ProfBuilder [99], PTV [89], Content-boosted Collaborative Filtering [56], CinemaScreen [78] and the one proposed in [94]. The most important lesson learned from the analysis of the main systems devel- oped in the last 15 years is that keyword-based representation for both items and pro- files can give accurate performance, provided that a sufficient number of evidence of user interests is available. Most content-based systems are conceived as text clas- sifiers built from training sets including documents which are either positive or neg- ative examples of user interests. Therefore, accurate recommendations are achieved when training sets with a large number of examples are available, which guarantee reliable ��syntactic�� evidence of user interests. The problem with that approach is the ��lack of intelligence��. When more advanced characteristics are required, keyword- based approaches show their limitations. If the user, for instance likes ��French im- pressionism��, keyword-based approaches will only find documents in which the words ��French�� and ��impressionism�� occur. Documents regarding Claude Monet or Renoir exhibitions will not appear in the set of recommendations, even though they are likely to be very relevant for that user. More advanced representation strategies are needed in order to equip content-based recommender systems with ��semantic intelligence��, which allows going beyond the syntactic evidence of user interests provided by keywords. In the next sections, we will examine possible ways to infuse knowledge in the indexing phase by means of ontologies and encyclopedic knowledge sources. Semantic Analysis by using Ontologies Semantic analysis allows learning more accurate profiles that contain references to concepts defined in external knowledge bases. The main motivation for this ap- proach is the challenge of providing a recommender system with the cultural and linguistic background knowledge which characterizes the ability of interpreting nat- ural language documents and reasoning on their content. In this section, a review of the main strategies adopted to introduce some seman- tics in the recommendation process is presented. The description of these strategies is carried out by taking into account several criteria: the type of knowledge source involved (e.g. lexicon, ontology, etc.); the techniques adopted for the annotation or representation of the items; the type of content included in the user profile; the item-profile matching strategy. SiteIF [52] is a personal agent for a multilingual news Web site. To the best of our knowledge, it was the first system to adopt a sense-based document representation in order to build a model of the user interests. The external knowledge source involved in the representation process is MultiWordNet, a multilingual lexical database where English and Italian senses are aligned. Each news is automatically associated with

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a list of MultiWordNet synsets by using Word Domain Disambiguation [51]. The user profile is built as a semantic network whose nodes represent synsets found in the documents read by the user. During the matching phase, the system receives as input the synset representation of a document and the current user model, and it produces as output an estimation of the document relevance by using the Semantic Network Value Technique [92]. ITR (ITem Recommender) is a system capable of providing recommendations for items in several domains (e.g., movies, music, books), provided that descrip- tions of items are available as text documents (e.g. plot summaries, reviews, short abstracts) [27, 83]. Similarly to SiteIF, ITR integrates linguistic knowledge in the process of learning user profiles, but Word Sense Disambiguation rather than Word Domain Disambiguation is adopted to obtain a sense-based document representa- tion. The linguistic knowledge comes exclusively from the WordNet lexical ontol- ogy. Items are represented according to a synset-based vector space model, called bag-of-synsets (BOS), that is an extension of the classical bag-of-words (BOW) one [8, 84]. In the BOS model, a synset vector, rather than a word vector, corresponds to a document. The user profile is built as a Naıve Bayes binary text classifier able to categorize an item as interesting or not interesting. It includes those synsets that turn out to be most indicative of the user preferences, according to the value of the conditional probabilities estimated in the training phase. The item-profile matching consists in computing the probability for the item of being in the class ��interesting��, by using the probabilities of synsets in the user profile. SEWeP (Semantic Enhancement for Web Personalization) [31] is a Web person- alization system that makes use of both the usage logs and the semantics of a Web site��s content in order to personalize it. A domain-specific taxonomy of categories has been used to semantically annotate Web pages, in order to have a uniform and consistent vocabulary. While the taxonomy is built manually, the annotation process is performed automatically. SEWeP, like SiteIF and ITR, makes use of the lexical knowledge stored in WordNet to ��interpret�� the content of an item and to support the annotation/representation process. Web pages are initially represented by key- words extracted from their content, then keywords are mapped to the concepts of the taxonomy. Given a keyword, a WordNet-based word similarity measure is ap- plied to find the ��closest�� category word to that keyword. SEWeP does not build a personal profile of the user, rather it discovers navigational patterns. The categories which have been ��semantically associated�� to a pattern are used by the SEWeP rec- ommendation engine to expand the recommendation set with pages characterized by the thematic categories that seem to be of interest for the user. Quickstep [58] is a system for the recommendation of on-line academic research papers. The system adopts a research paper topic ontology based on the computer science classifications made by the DMOZ open directory project6 (27 classes used). Semantic annotation of papers consists in associating them with class names within the research paper topic ontology, by using a k-Nearest Neighbor classifier. Inter- est profiles are computed by correlating previously browsed research papers with
6 http://www.dmoz.org/

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their classification. User profiles thus hold a set of topics and interest values in these topics. The item-profile matching is realized by computing a correlation between the top three interesting topics in the user profile and papers classified as belong- ing to those topics. Foxtrot [58] extends the Quickstep system by implementing a paper search interface, a profile visualization interface and an email notification, in addition to the Web page recommendation interface. Profile visualization is made possible because profiles are represented in ontological terms understandable to the users. Informed Recommender [1] uses consumer product reviews to make recommen- dations. The system converts consumers�� opinions into a structured form by using a translation ontology, which is exploited as a form of knowledge representation and sharing. The ontology provides a controlled vocabulary and relationships among words to describe: the consumer��s skill level and experience with the product under review. To this purpose, the ontology contains two main parts: opinion quality and product quality, which formalize the two aforementioned aspects. A text-mining process automatically maps sentences in the reviews into the ontology information structure. The system does not build a profile of the user, rather it computes a set of recommendations on the basis of a user��s request, e.g. the user asks about the quality of specific features of a product. Informed Recommender is able to answer to query and also recommends the best product according to the features the user is concerned with. Two aspects make this work noteworthy: one is that ontologi- cal knowledge can model different points of view according to which items can be annotated, the other is the use of review comments in the form of free text. News@hand [18] is a system that adopts an ontology-based representation of item features and user preferences to recommend news. The annotation process as- sociates the news with concepts belonging to the domain ontologies. A total of 17 ontologies have been used: they are adaptations of the IPTC ontology7, which con- tains concepts of multiple domains such as education, culture, politics, religion, science, sports, etc. It is not clear whether the annotation process is performed man- ually or by means of automated techniques such as text categorization. Item descrip- tions are vectors of TF-IDF scores in the space of concepts defined in the ontologies. User profiles are represented in the same space, except that a score measures the in- tensity of the user interest for a specific concept. Item-profile matching is performed as a cosine-based vector similarity. A recommender system for Interactive Digital Television is proposed in [14], where the authors apply reasoning techniques borrowed from the Semantic Web in order to compare user preferences with items (TV programs) in a more flexible way, compared to the conventional syntactic metrics. The TV programs available during the recommendation process are annotated by metadata that describe accu- rately their main attributes. Both the knowledge about the TV domain and the user profiles are represented using an OWL ontology. Ontology-profiles provide a for- mal representation of the users�� preferences, being able to reason about them and discover extra knowledge about their interests. The recommendation phase exploits
7 IPTC ontology, http://nets.ii.uam.es/neptuno/iptc/

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the knowledge stored in the user profile to discover hidden semantic associations between the user��s preferences and the available products. The inferred knowledge is processed and a spreading activation technique is adopted to suggest products to the user. The noteworthy aspect of this work is that ontology-profiles improve flat lists-based approaches which are not well structured to foster the discovery of new knowledge. The JUMP System [10, 9] is capable of intelligent delivery of contextualized and personalized information to knowledge workers acting in their day-to-day working environment on non-routinary tasks. The information needs of the JUMP user is rep- resented in the form of a complex query, such as a task support request, rather than a user profile. An example of complex query is ��I have to prepare a technical report for the VIKEF project��. The semantic analysis of both documents and user infor- mation needs is based on a domain ontology in which concepts are manually anno- tated using WordNet synsets. The mapping between documents and domain/lexical concepts is performed automatically by means of Word Sense Disambiguation and Named Entity Recognition procedures, which exploit the lexical annotations in the domain ontology. The matching between concepts in the user request and docu- ments is based on the relations in the domain ontology. For the processing of the example query, all instances of the concepts ��technical report�� and ��project��, and relations among these instances are extracted from the ontology. The leading role of linguistic knowledge is highlighted by the wide use of Word- Net, which is mostly adopted for the semantic interpretation of content by using word sense disambiguation. On the other hand, the studies described above showed that the great potential provided by WordNet is not sufficient alone for the full com- prehension of the user interests and for their contextualization in the application do- main. Domain specific knowledge is also needed. Ontologies play the fundamental role of formalizing the application domain, being exploited for the semantic descrip- tions of the items and for the representation of the concepts (i.e. classes and their instances) and relationships (i.e. hierarchical links and properties) identified in the domain. In conclusion, all studies which incorporated either linguistic or domain- specific knowledge or both in content-based filtering methods provided better and more accurate results compared to traditional content-based methods. This encour- ages researchers to design novel filtering methods which formalize and contextu- alize user interests by exploiting external knowledge sources such as thesauri or ontologies. Semantic Analysis by using Encyclopedic Knowledge Sources Common-sense and domain-specific knowledge may be useful to improve the effec- tiveness of natural language processing techniques by generating more informative features than the mere bag of words. The process of learning user profiles could ben- efit from the infusion of exogenous knowledge (externally supplied), with respect to the classical use of endogenous knowledge (extracted from the documents them- selves). Many sources of world knowledge have become available in recent years.

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Examples of general purpose knowledge bases include the Open Directory Project (ODP), Yahoo! Web Directory, and Wikipedia. In the following we provide a brief overview of novel methods for generating new advanced features using world knowledge, even though those methods are not yet used in the context of learning user profiles. Explicit Semantic Analysis (ESA) [34, 35] is a technique able to provide a fine- grained semantic representation of natural language texts in a high-dimensional space of natural (and also comprehensible) concepts derived from Wikipedia . Con- cepts are defined by Wikipedia articles, e.g., ITALY, COMPUTER SCIENCE, or REC-
OMMENDER SYSTEMS. The approach is inspired by the desire to augment text rep-
resentation with massive amounts of world knowledge. In the case of Wikipedia as knowledge source, there are several advantages, such as its constant development by the community, the availability in several languages, and its high accuracy [37]. Empirical evaluations showed that ESA leads to substantial improvements in com- puting word and text relatedness, and in the text categorization task across a diverse collection of datasets. It has also been shown that ESA enhanced traditional BOW- based retrieval models [30]. Another interesting approach to add semantics to text is proposed by the Wikify! system [59, 26], which has the ability to identify important concepts in a text (key- word extraction), and then link these concepts to the corresponding Wikipedia pages (word sense disambiguation). The annotations produced by the Wikify! system can be used to automatically enrich documents with references to semantically related information. A Turing-like test to compare the quality of the system annotations to manual annotations produced by Wikipedia contributors has been designed. Human beings are asked to distinguish between manual and automatic annotations. Results suggest that the computer and human-generated Wikipedia annotations are hardly distinguishable, which indicates the high quality of the Wikify! system��s annota- tions. To the best of our knowledge, there are no (content-based) recommender sys- tems able to exploit the above mentioned advanced semantic text representations for learning profiles containing references to world facts. The positive results obtained exploiting the advanced text representations in several tasks, such as semantic relat- edness, text categorization and retrieval, suggest that similar positive results could be also obtained in the recommendation task. It seems a promising research area, not yet explored. In [47], Wikipedia is used to estimate similarity between movies, in order to provide more accurate predictions for the Netflix Prize competition. More specifi- cally, the content and the hyperlink structure of Wikipedia articles are exploited to identify similarities between movies. A similarity matrix containing the degree of similarity of each movie-movie pair is produced, and the prediction of user ratings from this matrix is computed by using a k-Nearest Neighbors and a Pseudo-SVD al- gorithm. Each of these methods combines the similarity estimates from Wikipedia with ratings from the training set to predict ratings in the test set. Unfortunately, these techniques did not show any significant improvement of the overall accuracy.

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In [88], a quite complex, but not yet complete, approach for filtering RSS feeds and e-mails is presented. More specifically, the authors present an approach exploit- ing Wikipedia to automatically generate the user profile from the user��s document collection. The approach mainly consists of four steps, namely the Wikipedia in- dexing, the profile generation, the problem-oriented index database creation, and the information filtering. The profile generation step exploits the collection of doc- uments provided by the user, which implicitly represents a set of topics interesting for the user. A set of terms is extracted from each document, then similar Wikipedia articles are found by using the ESA algorithm. The system then extracts the list of Wikipedia categories from the articles and clusters these categories in order to get a subset of categories corresponding to one topic in the user profile. The user can also check her own profile and add or remove categories in order to refine topics. For each topic in the user profile, a problem-oriented Wikipedia corpus is created and indexed, and represents the base for filtering information. In [85], a different approach to exploit Wikipedia in the content analysis step is presented. More specifically, the idea is to provide a knowledge infusion process into content-based recommender systems, in order to provide them with the cultural background knowledge that hopefully allows a more accurate content analysis than classical approaches based on words. The encyclopedic knowledge is useful to rec- ognize specific domain-dependent concepts or named entities, especially in those contexts for which the adoption of domain ontologies is not feasible. Wikipedia en- tries have been modeled using Semantic Vectors, based on the WordSpace model [77], a vector space whose points are used to represent semantic concepts, such as words and documents. Relationships between words are then exploited by a spread- ing activation algorithm to produce new features that can be exploited in several ways during the recommendation process.
3.3.2 Methods for Learning User Profiles
Machine learning techniques, generally used in the task of inducing content-based profiles, are well-suited for text categorization [82]. In a machine learning approach to text categorization, an inductive process automatically builds a text classifier by learning from a set of training documents (documents labeled with the categories they belong to) the features of the categories. The problem of learning user profiles can be cast as a binary text categorization task: each document has to be classified as interesting or not with respect to the user preferences. Therefore, the set of categories is C = {c+, c−}, where c+ is the positive class (user-likes) and c− the negative one (user-dislikes). In the next sections we review the most used learning algorithms in content-based recommender systems. They are able to learn a function that models each user��s interests. These methods typically require users to label documents by assigning a relevance score, and automatically infer profiles exploited in the filtering process to rank documents according to the user preferences.

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3 Content-based Recommender Systems: State of the Art and Trends 91 Probabilistic Methods and Naıve Bayes Naıve Bayes is a probabilistic approach to inductive learning, and belongs to the general class of Bayesian classifiers. These approaches generate a probabilistic model based on previously observed data. The model estimates the a posteriori probability, P(c|d), of document d belonging to class c. This estimation is based on the a priori probability, P(c), the probability of observing a document in class c, P(d|c), the probability of observing the document d given c, and P(d), the proba- bility of observing the instance d. Using these probabilities, the Bayes theorem is applied to calculate P(c|d): P(c|d) = P(c)P(d|c) P(d) (3.5) To classify the document d, the class with the highest probability is chosen: c = argmaxcj P(cj)P(d|cj) P(d) P(d) is generally removed as it is equal for all cj. As we do not know the value for P(d|c) and P(c), we estimate them by observing the training data. However, estimat- ing P(d|c) in this way is problematic, as it is very unlikely to see the same document more than once: the observed data is generally not enough to be able to generate good probabilities. The naıve Bayes classifier overcomes this problem by simplify- ing the model through the independence assumption: all the words or tokens in the observed document d are conditionally independent of each other given the class. Individual probabilities for the words in a document are estimated one by one rather than the complete document as a whole. The conditional independence assumption is clearly violated in real-world data, however, despite these violations, empirically the naıve Bayes classifier does a good job in classifying text documents [48, 11]. There are two commonly used working models of the naıve Bayes classifier, the multivariate Bernoulli event model and the multinomial event model [54]. Both models treat a document as a vector of values over the corpus vocabulary, V, where each entry in the vector represents whether a word occurred in the document, hence both models lose information about word order. The multivariate Bernoulli event model encodes each word as a binary attribute, i.e., whether a word appeared or not, while the multinomial event model counts how many times the word appeared in the document. Empirically, the multinomial naıve Bayes formulation was shown to outperform the multivariate Bernoulli model. This effect is particularly noticeable for large vocabularies [54]. The way the multinomial event model uses its document vector to calculate P(cj|di) is as follows: P(cj|di) = P(cj) ��

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where N(di,tk) is defined as the number of times word or token tk appeared in docu- ment di. Notice that, rather than getting the product of all the words in the corpus vocabulary V, only the subset of the vocabulary, Vdi , containing the words that ap- pear in the document di, is used. A key step in implementing naıve Bayes is estimating the word probabilities P(tk|cj). To make the probability estimates more robust with respect to infre- quently encountered words, a smoothing method is used to modify the probabili- ties that would have been obtained by simple event counting. One important effect of smoothing is that it avoids assigning probability values equal to zero to words not occurring in the training data for a particular class. A rather simple smoothing method relies on the common Laplace estimates (i.e., adding one to all the word counts for a class). A more interesting method is Witten-Bell [100]. Although naıve Bayes performances are not as good as some other statistical learning methods such as nearest-neighbor classifiers or support vector machines, it has been shown that it can perform surprisingly well in the classification tasks where the computed proba- bility is not important [29]. Another advantage of the naıve Bayes approach is that it is very efficient and easy to implement compared to other learning methods. Although the classifiers based on the multinomial model significantly outperform those based on the multivariate one at large vocabulary sizes, their performance is unsatisfactory when: 1) documents in the training set have different lengths, thus resulting in a rough parameter estimation; 2) handling rare categories (few training documents available). These conditions frequently occur in the user profiling task, where no assumptions can be made on the length of training documents, and where obtaining an appropriate set of negative examples (i.e., examples of the class c−) is problematic. Indeed, since users do not perceive having immediate benefits from giving negative feedback to the system [81], the training set for the class c+ (user- likes) may be often larger than the one for the class c− (user-dislikes). In [46], the authors propose a multivariate Poisson model for naıve Bayes text classification that allows more reasonable parameter estimation under the above mentioned conditions. We have adapted this approach to the case of user profiling task [36]. The naıve Bayes classifier has been used in several content-based recommenda- tion systems, such as Syskill & Webert [70, 68], NewsDude [12], Daily Learner [13], LIBRA [65] and ITR [27, 83]. Relevance Feedback and Rocchio��s Algorithm Relevance feedback is a technique adopted in Information Retrieval that helps users to incrementally refine queries based on previous search results. It consists of the users feeding back into the system decisions on the relevance of retrieved documents with respect to their information needs. Relevance feedback and its adaptation to text categorization, the well-known Rocchio��s formula [75], are commonly adopted by content-based recommender sys- tems. The general principle is to allow users to rate documents suggested by the rec- ommender system with respect to their information need. This form of feedback can

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subsequently be used to incrementally refine the user profile or to train the learning algorithm that infers the user profile as a classifier. Some linear classifiers consist of an explicit profile (or prototypical document) of the category [82]. The Rocchio��s method is used for inducing linear, profile-style classifiers. This algorithm represents documents as vectors, so that documents with similar content have similar vectors. Each component of such a vector corresponds to a term in the document, typically a word. The weight of each component is com- puted using the TF-IDF term weighting scheme. Learning is achieved by combining document vectors (of positive and negative examples) into a prototype vector for each class in the set of classes C. To classify a new document d, the similarity be- tween the prototype vectors and the corresponding document vector representing d are calculated for each class (for example by using the cosine similarity measure), then d is assigned to the class whose document vector has the highest similarity value. More formally, Rocchio��s method computes a classifier −�� ci = ��1i,...,��|T|i⟩ for the category ci (T is the vocabulary, that is the set of distinct terms in the training set) by means of the formula:
��ki = �� ·
��k j
|POSi| �� ·
��k j
|NEGi| (3.7) where ��k j is the TF-IDF weight of the term tk in document dj, POSi and NEGi are the set of positive and negative examples in the training set for the specific class cj,
�� and �� are control parameters that allow to set the relative importance of all positive
and negative examples. To assign a class ˜c to a document dj, the similarity between each prototype vector −�� ci and the document vector −�� dj is computed and ˜c will be the ci with the highest value of similarity. The Rocchio-based classification approach does not have any theoretic underpinning and there are guarantees on performance or convergence [69]. Relevance feedback has been used in several content-based recommendation sys- tems, such as YourNews [2], Fab [7] and NewT [87]. Other Methods Other learning algorithms have been used in content-based recommendation sys- tems. A very brief description of the most important algorithms follows. A thorough review is presented in [64, 69, 82]. Decision trees are trees in which internal nodes are labeled by terms, branches departing from them are labeled by tests on the weight that the term has in the test document, and leaves are labeled by categories. Decision trees are learned by recursively partitioning training data, that is text documents, into subgroups, until those subgroups contain only instances of a single class. The test for partitioning data is run on the weights that the terms labeling the internal nodes have in the document. The choice of the term on which to operate the partition is generally

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made according to an information gain or entropy criterion [101]. Decision trees are used in the Syskill & Webert [70, 68] recommender system. Decision rule classifiers are similar to decision trees, because they operates in a similar way to the recursive data partitioning approach decribed above. An ad- vantage of rule learners is that they tend to generate more compact classifiers than decision trees learners. Rule learning methods usually attempt to select from all the possible covering rules (i.e. rules that correctly classify all the training examples) the ��best�� one according to some minimality criterion. Nearest neighbor algorithms, also called lazy learners, simply store training data in memory, and classify a new unseen item by comparing it to all stored items by using a similarity function. The ��nearest neighbor�� or the ��k-nearest neighbors�� items are determined, and the class label for the unclassified item is derived from the class labels of the nearest neighbors. A similarity function is needed, for example the cosine similarity measure is adopted when items are represented using the VSM. Nearest neighbor algorithms are quite effective, albeit the most important drawback is their inefficiency at classification time, since they do not have a true training phase and thus defer all the computation to classification time. Daily Learner [13] and Quickstep [58] use the nearest neighbor algorithm to create a model of the user��s short term interest and for associating semantic annotations of papers with class names within the ontology, respectively.
3.4 Trends and Future Research 3.4.1 The Role of User Generated Content in the Recommendation Process
Web 2.0 is a term describing the trend in the use of World Wide Web technology that aims at promoting information sharing and collaboration among users. Accord- ing to Tim O��Reilly8, the term ��Web 2.0�� means putting the user in the center, designing software that critically depends on its users since the content, as in Flickr, Wikipedia, Del.icio.us, or YouTube, is contributed by thousands or millions of users. That is why Web 2.0 is also called the ��participative Web��. O��Reilly9 also defined Web 2.0 as ��the design of systems that get better the more people use them��. One of the forms of User Generated Content (UGC) that has drawn more atten- tion from the research community is folksonomy, a taxonomy generated by users who collaboratively annotate and categorize resources of interests with freely cho- sen keywords called tags. Despite the considerable amount of researches done in the context of recom- mender systems, the specific problem of integrating tags into standard recommender
8 http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2006/12/web-20-compact.html, Accessed on March 18, 2009 9 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98499899, Accessed on March 18, 2009

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system algorithms, especially content-based ones, is less explored than the problem of recommending tags (i.e. assisting users for annotation purposes) [98, 95]. Folksonomies provide new opportunities and challenges in the field of recom- mender systems (see Chapter 19). It should be investigated whether they might be a valuable source of information about user interests and whether they could be included in user profiles. Indeed, several difficulties of tagging systems have been identified, such as polysemy and synonymy of tags, or the different expertise and purposes of tagging participants that may result in tags at various levels of abstrac- tion to describe a resource, or the chaotic proliferation of tags [40]. Social Tagging Recommender Systems Several methods have been proposed for taking into account user tagging activity within content-based recommender systems. In [28], the user profile is represented in the form of a tag vector, with each element indicating the number of times a tag has been assigned to a document by that user. A more sophisticated approach is proposed in [57], which takes into account tag co-occurrence. The matching of profiles to information sources is achieved by using simple string matching. As the authors themselves foresee, the matching could be enhanced by adopting WORDNET. In the work by Szomszor et al. [96], the authors describe a movie recommen- dation system built purely on the keywords assigned to movies via collaborative tagging. Recommendations for the active user are produced by algorithms based on the similarity between the keywords of a movie and those of the tag-clouds of movies she rated. As the authors themselves state, their recommendation algorithms can be improved by combining tag-based profiling techniques with more traditional content-based recommender strategies. In [33], different strategies are proposed to build tag-based user profiles and to exploit them for producing music recommendations. Tag-based user profiles are defined as collections of tags, which have been chosen by a user to annotate tracks, together with corresponding scores representing the user interest in each of these tags, inferred from tag usage and frequencies of listened tracks. While in the above described approaches only a single set of popular tags rep- resents user interests, in [102] it is observed that this may not be the most suitable representation of a user profile, since it is not able to reflect the multiple interests of users. Therefore, the authors propose a network analysis technique (based on clus- tering), performed on the personal tags of a user to identify her different interests. About tag interpretation, Cantador et al. [19] proposed a methodology to se- lect ��meaningful�� tags from an initial set of raw tags by exploiting WORDNET, Wikipedia and Google. If a tag has an exact match in WORDNET, it is accepted, otherwise possible misspellings and compound nouns are discovered by using the Google ��did you mean�� mechanism (for example the tag sanfrancisco or san farn- cisco is corrected to san francisco). Finally, tags are correlated to their appropriate Wikipedia entries.

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In the work by de Gemmis et al. [36], a more sophisticated approach, implement- ing a hybrid strategy for learning a user profile from both (static) content and tags associated with items rated by that user, is described. The authors include in the user profile not only her personal tags, but also the tags adopted by other users who rated the same items (social tags). This aspect is particularly important when users who contribute to the folksonomy have different expertise in the domain. The inclusion of social tags in the personal profile of a user allows also to extend the pure content- based recommendation paradigm toward a hybrid content-collaborative paradigm [17]. Furthermore, a solution to the challenging task of identifying user interests from tags is proposed. Since the main problem lies in the fact that tags are freely chosen by users and their actual meaning is usually not very clear, the authors sug- gested to semantically interpret tags by means of a Word Sense Disambiguation al- gorithm based on WORDNET. A similar hybrid approach, combining content-based profiles and interests revealed through tagging activities is also described in [38]. Some ideas on how to analyze tags by means of WORDNET in order to cap- ture their intended meanings are also reported in [20], but suggested ideas are not supported by empirical evaluations. Another approach in which tags are semanti- cally interpreted by means of WORDNET is the one proposed in [104]. The authors demonstrated the usefulness of tags in collaborative filtering, by designing an al- gorithm for neighbor selection that exploits a WORDNET-based semantic distance between tags assigned by different users. We believe that it could be useful to investigate more on the challenging task of identifying the meaning of tags by relying on different knowledge sources such as WordNet or Wikipedia. Moreover, new strategies for integrating tags in the process of learning content-based profiles should be devised, by taking into account the different nature of personal, social and expert tags. Indeed, personal tags are mostly subjective and inconsistent, expert tags, on the other hand, are an attempt to be objective and consistent. Social tags leads to some form of coherence [5]. Another interesting research direction might be represented by the analysis of tags as a powerful kind of feedback to infer user profiles. Tags that express user opinions and emotions, such as boring, interesting, good, bad, etc., could represent a user��s degree of satisfaction with an item. Techniques from the affective computing research area are needed.
3.4.2 Beyond Over-specializion: Serendipity
As introduced in Section 3.2.2, content-based systems suffer from over-specialization, since they recommend only items similar to those already rated by users. One possi- ble solution to address this problem is the introduction of some randomness. For ex- ample, the use of genetic algorithms has been proposed in the context of information filtering [87]. In addition, the problem with over-specialization is not only that the content-based systems cannot recommend items that are different from anything the user has seen before. In certain cases, items should not be recommended if they are

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too similar to something the user has already seen, such as a different news article describing the same event. Therefore, some content-based recommender systems, such as Daily-Learner [13], filter out items if they are too similar to something the user has seen before. The use of redundancy measures has been proposed by Zhang et al. [103] to evaluate whether a document that is deemed to be relevant contains some novel information as well. In summary, the diversity of recommendations is often a desirable feature in recommender systems. Serendipity in a recommender can be seen as the experience of receiving an un- expected and fortuitous item recommendation, therefore it is a way to diversify rec- ommendations. While people rely on exploration and luck to find new items that they did not know they wanted (e.g. a person may not know she likes watching talk shows until she accidentally turns to David Letterman), due to over-specialization, content-based systems have no inherent method for generating serendipitous recom- mendations, according to Gup��s theory [41]. It is useful to make a clear distinction between novelty and serendipity. As ex- plained by Herlocker [42], novelty occurs when the system suggests to the user an unknown item that she might have autonomously discovered. A serendipitous rec- ommendation helps the user to find a surprisingly interesting item that she might not have otherwise discovered (or it would have been really hard to discover). To provide a clear example of the difference between novelty and serendipity, consider a recommendation system that simply recommends movies that were directed by the user��s favorite director. If the system recommends a movie that the user was not aware of, the movie will be novel, but probably not serendipitous. On the other hand, a recommender that suggests a movie by a new director is more likely to pro- vide serendipitous recommendations. Recommendations that are serendipitous are by definition also novel. We look at the serendipity problem as the challenge of programming for serendip- ity, that is to find a manner to introduce serendipity in the recommendation process in an operational way. From this perspective, the problem has not been deeply stud- ied, and there are really few theoretical and experimental studies. Like Toms explains [97], there are three kinds of information searching: 1. seeking information about a well-defined object; 2. seeking information about an object that cannot be fully described, but that will be recognized at first sight; 3. acquiring information in an accidental, incidental, or serendipitous manner. It is easy to realize that serendipitous happenings are quite useless for the first two ways of acquisition, but are extremely important for the third kind. As our discussion concerns the implementation of a serendipity-inducing strategy for a content-based recommender, the appropriate metaphor in a real-world situation could be one of a person going for shopping or visiting a museum who, while walking around seek- ing nothing in particular, would find something completely new that she has never expected to find, that is definitely interesting for her. Among different approaches which have been proposed for ��operationally induced serendipity��, Toms suggests four strategies, from simplistic to more complex ones [97]:

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Role of chance or blind luck, implemented via a random information node gen- erator; Pasteur principle (��chance favors the prepared mind��), implemented via a user profile; Anomalies and exceptions, partially implemented via poor similarity measures; Reasoning by analogy, whose implementation is currently unknown. In [44], it is described a proposal that implements the ��Anomalies and excep- tions�� approach, in order to provide serendipitous recommendations alongside clas- sical ones, thus providing the user with new entry points to the items in the system. The basic assumption is that the lower is the probability that user knows an item, the higher is the probability that a specific item could result in a serendipitous rec- ommendation. The probability that a user knows something semantically near to what the system is confident she knows is higher than the probability of something semantically far. In other words, it is more likely to get a serendipitous recommen- dation by providing the user with something less similar to her profile. Following this principle, the basic idea underlying the system proposed in [44] is to ground the search for potentially serendipitous items on the similarity between the item descrip- tions and the user profile. The system is implemented as a naıve Bayes classifier, able to categorize an item as interesting (class c+) or not (class c−), depending on the a-posteriori probabilities computed by the classifier. In order to integrate Toms�� ��poor similarity�� within the recommender, the item-profile matching produces a list of items ranked according to the a-posteriori probability for the class c+. That list contains on the top the most similar items to the user profile, i.e. the items whose classification score for the class c+ is high. On the other hand, the items for which the a-posteriori probability for the class c− is higher, are ranked down in the list. The items on which the system is more uncertain are the ones for which the difference between the two classification scores for c+ and c− tends to zero. Therefore it is rea- sonable to assume that those items are not known by the user, since the system was not able to clearly classify them as relevant or not. The items for which the lowest difference between the two classification scores for c+ and c− is observed are the most uncertainly categorized, thus it might result to be the most serendipitous. Regarding serendipity evaluation, there is a level of emotional response asso- ciated with serendipity that is difficult to capture, therefore an effective serendip- ity measurement should move beyond the conventional accuracy metrics and their associated experimental methodologies. New user-centric directions for evaluating new emerging aspects in recommender systems, such as serendipity of recommen- dations, are required [55]. Developing these measures constitutes an interesting and important research topic (see Chapter 8). In conclusion, the adoption of strategies for realizing operational serendipity is an effective way to extend the capabilities of content-based recommender systems in order to mitigate the over-specialization problem, by providing the user with sur- prising suggestions.

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3.5 Conclusions
In this chapter we surveyed the field of content-based recommender systems, by providing an overview of the most important aspects characterizing that kind of systems. Although there is a bunch of recommender systems in different domains, they share in common a means for representing items to be recommended and user profiles. The paper discusses the main issues related to the representation of items, starting from simple techniques for representing structured data, to more complex techniques coming from the Information Retrieval research area for unstructured data. We analyzed the main content recommender systems developed in the last 15 years, by highlighting the reasons for which a more complex ��semantic analysis�� of content is needed in order to go beyond the syntactic evidence of user interests provided by keywords. A review of the main strategies (and systems) adopted to introduce some semantics in the recommendation process is carried out, by provid- ing evidence of the leading role of linguistic knowledge, even if a more specific knowledge is mandatory for a deeper understanding and contextualization of the user interests in different application domains. The latest issues in advanced text representation using sources of world knowledge, such as Wikipedia, have been highlighted, albeit they have not yet used in the context of learning user profiles. In order to complete the survey, a variety of learning algorithms have been described as well. The last part of the chapter is devoted to the discussion of the main trends and re- search for the next generation of content-based recommender systems. More specif- ically, the chapter presents some aspects of the Web 2.0 (r)evolution, that changed the game for personalization, since the role of people evolved from passive con- sumers of information to that of active contributors. Possible strategies to integrate user-defined lexicons, such as folksonomies, as a way for taking into account evolv- ing vocabularies are debated, by presenting some recent works and possible ideas for further investigations. Finally, a very specific aspect of content recommender systems is presented. Due to the nature of this kind of systems, they can only recommend items that score highly against a user��s profile, thus the user is limited to being recommended items similar to those already rated. This shortcoming, called over-specialization, pre- vent these systems to be effectively used in real world scenarios. Possible ways to feed users with surprising and unexpected (serendipitous) recommendations are analyzed. To conclude this survey, we want to underline the importance of research in lan- guage processing for advanced item representation in order to get more reliable rec- ommendations. Just as an example, it is worth to cite the news published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office regarding series of intriguing patent applications from Google Inc. One of this patents, namely the Open Profile, for instance, would con- sider a user profile like ��I really enjoy hiking, especially long hikes when you can camp out for a few days. Indoor activities don��t interest me at all, and I really don��t like boring outdoor activities like gardening��. Using smart language-processing al- gorithms to detect the user��s sentiments (��enjoy�� or ��don��t like�� near ��hiking�� or

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��gardening��) and other linguistic cues, the system would then potentially serve up active outdoor sports-related ads to this user but avoid ads about more hobbyist- oriented activities [3]. We hope that the issues presented in this chapter will contribute to stimulate the research community about the next generation of content-based recommendation technologies.
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