A no-regret generalization of hierarchical softmax to extreme multi-label classification

Marek Wydmuch, Kalina Jasinska, Mikhail Kuznetsov, Róbert Busa-Fekete, Krzysztof Dembczyński

Extreme multi-label classification (XMLC) is a problem of tagging an instance with a small subset of relevant labels chosen from an extremely large pool of possible labels. Large label spaces can be efficiently handled by organizing labels as a tree, like in the hierarchical softmax (HSM) approach commonly used for multi-class problems. In this paper, we investigate probabilistic label trees (PLTs) that have been recently devised for tackling XMLC problems. We show that PLTs are a no-regret multi-label generalization of HSM when precision@k is used as a model evaluation metric. Critically, we prove that pick-one-label heuristic - a reduction technique from multi-label to multi-class that is routinely used along with HSM - is not consistent in general. We also show that our implementation of PLTs, referred to as extremeText (XT), obtains significantly better results than HSM with the pick-one-label heuristic and XML-CNN, a deep network specifically designed for XMLC problems. Moreover, XT is competitive to many state-of-the-art approaches in terms of statistical performance, model size and prediction time which makes it amenable to deploy in an online system.

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