Wordsi by Fozzie The Beat

A blog about computational semantics, life, and anything else.

ACL and EMNLP 2012 Debrief

Attending two conference in Jeju, South Korea

Today is the last day of two co-located top tier conferences for Natural Language Processing and Computational Linguistics, ACL and EMNLP. There’s been six full days of presentations, posters, and many conversations over coffee breaks, lunch, and dinner. Being a lone researcher from two labs attending the conferences, i’ve done a lot of floating and mingling with different groups. Here’s a debrief of some of the most interesting talks and posters I’ve seen, some good conversations i’ve had, and some thoughts on other parts of the conferences.

Talks and Posters

By a wide margin, the most intersting talks, in my opinion, were those that used clean and well structured (non-parametric) bayesian models to analyze text or speech. Here’s a short run down of the ones I liked most.

A nonparametric Bayesian Approach to Accoustic Model Discovery

This paper tied together Hidden Markov Models and Dirichlet Process Mixture Models to automatically learn word phonemes in spoken data. Everytime an utterance is observed, guess at some word boundaries and then for each segment in the word boundary, they select a HMM from a Dirichlet Process to model the phoneme. Their performance was pretty good considering it was fully unsupervised and their model even learned finer distinctions between phonemes based on common speaker patterns that weren’t recorded in the test labels.

SITS: A Hierarchical Non-parametric Model using Speaker Identity for Topic Segmentation in Multiparty Conversation

This model extends LDA to utilize speaker identities to automatically determine the topics each speaker prefers to use and the likelihood of a speaker changing a topic during a conversation. For example, in a Vice-Presidential debate, they captured Sarah Palin’s tendancy to completely change the topic of the conversation when responding to a question.

Word Sense Disambiguation Improves Information Retrieval

WSD has often been linked to IR with mixed results. This late test attempt first performs WSD by learning word senses from aligned texts in Chinese and English, where word senses are determined by the presence of multiple translations of a word between the two languages and ways in which they can be translated. Using this information they were able to improve a standard IR baseline on the TREC dataset.

Learning to “Read Between the Lines’ using Bayesian Logic Programming

This was my first exposure to Bayesian Logic Programming, which provide a nice and more scalable alternative to Markov Logic Networks. Using a pipeline system, they do some information extraction and then use a BLP to infer logical connections that can then be used to infer unsaid facts from observed information. For instance, If we know Barack Obama is President of the U.S., and we know that presidents, or leaders in general, are members of their group, then the BLP should probabilisticly infer that Barack Obama is a member of the U.S. even if it’s never said.

Computational Approaches to Sentence Completion

This evaluated Language Model and Distributional Models using a SAT styled sentence completion test. They covered a lot of different approaches to this problem, includeing two ways of using LSA, a Recurrent Neural network, and standard N-Gram based Language Models. The LSA models clearly did best which suggests something should be done to enhance the other models. I’d like to see if the different models made different types of errors, for instance, did one handle world knowledge based questions better, like “the bike law was _ by congeress” where the blank should be “ratified”, and do others handle other types of questions better. If this is the case, then perhaps we can learn these situations and build a model to decide when to use each approach on a test question.

Bayesian Symbol-Refined Tree Substitution Grammars for Syntactic Parsing

This model used a really elegant and simple three level Pitman-Yor process to combine two sophisticated parsing models together, Symbol-Refined trees and Tree Substitution Grammars. The first approach refines each node in syntax trees with finer categories and then second considers subtrees within a full tree. By using the three level Pitman-Yor model, given a parsed example, the first level process models the full tree, the second level models symbol refinements, and the third models possible tree substituions. Given the huge state space, they showed a simple but effect blocked sampling algorithm.

Using Rejuvenation to Improve Particle Filtering for Bayesian Word Segmentation

This model uses an unsupervised Sequential Markov Model to represent word segments. They improved upon a prior online approach by including Rejuvenation to the sequential model, which resamples a subset of prior examples after modeling a new sample. By doing this, they model can fix past mistakes made when there was less knowledge about the dataset. This is mostly cool because I fancy Sequential Monte Carlo methods.

Unsupervised Relation Discovery with Sense Disambiguation

This paper presented a really interested use of fully unsupervised Word Sense Induction methods. They used a very cute variant of LDA where documents are a series of extracted dependency relation tuples using the same connecting relation. The “words” were then feature vectors modeling each tuples words and the topics observed from the tuples source sentence and document. The WSD model showed good improvement over relation clustering, but has some limitations. The topics learned by LDA provide an initial clustering over the relations, then a second stage of HAC groups related topics. Would a fully non-parametric model create a more accurate number of clusters automatically by only generated topics when they are truely separate? Could this also be used to test different WSI approaches and give an indiciation of where they are lacking or what features are missing?

Joining Forces Payes Off: Multilingual Joint Word Sense Disambiguation

This Model utilizes BabelNet with a simple ensemble model to really boost knowledge based WSD. For a given word in a context, they generate the possibile translations in multiple languages and then for every sense they compute a graph centrality score using BableNet using the candidate translations. Each translation serves as an individual WSD model which are combined with a simple probablistic mixture model. Given BabelNet, this looks really promising. It might be good to try using this over NYT with my Topic Model evaluations and use it as a comparison between Knowledge Based WSD and fully unsupervised WSI.

The Appification of the Web and the Renaissance of Conversational User Interfaces

Patrick Pantel gave this amazing plenary talk and covered the coming issues and opportunities presented by the growing trend of users accessing the internet via siloed apps on mobile devices and the desire of users to perform tasks using a conversational approach. He presented a lot of really good issues that need consideration and solving. He also went into dept about a graphical model connecting user queries to user intentions and possible actions that can address those desires. I’m really fascinated by what can be done with a given model once it’s been built. For instance, if you have this kind of model and the user, which has some model of their general intentions or desired actions, then asks “what can i do that is interesting”, can you then project the dataset backwards into a view of possible actions and intentions that the user can then navigate through to explore possible things to do. Concretely, if the model knows I like certain types of food at certain prices, can it take that knowledge and then organize surrounding restaurants in terms of what i like so i can pick and choose these things easily, especially when I don’t really know what I want initially?

Learning Constraints for Consistent Timeline Extraction

The motivating example behind this paper was the challenge of extracting semantically consistent facts regarding a single entity. For example, given many mentions about James T. Kirk and many events with him as a participant, can you extract the logically consistent facts, such as that he was born after his father and was a space cadet before being a captain or instructor? They do this with a joint supervised system that extracts facts and validates their consistency.

Monte Carlo MCMC: Efficient Inference by Approximate Sampling

This paper was really exciting and elegant. When doing a Metropolis Hastings update in a graphical model, it requires computing the acceptance rate in terms of factors that change based on the update. However some of these factors can be expensive to compute, and there may be many many factors. To improve efficiency, they simply use a subset of the factors in a probability factorization to compute the acceptance rate, using two possible methods for selecting that subset. First, they consider a random subset of a uniform size, and alternatively, they sample more and more samples until the samples have an estimated mean with 95% confidence, allowing different proposals to use different sized subsets of factors and giving the inference more flexibility. In short, really simple, really smart, and really effective.

Discovering Diverse and Salient Threads in Document Collections

News corpora cover many related artciles about a string of events. This approach uses a simple graph analysis algorithm to extract chains of articles that cover a single topic spread accross many documents. The main issues seem to be with scale and how to select how many and which threads to extract. For instance, can you first impose a hierarchy of topics over the dataset and then select threads within that decomposition? Is there some number of diverse threads that sufficiently describe the dataset? And how would you learn a lot of different threads?

Constructing Task-Specific Taxonomies for Document Collection Browsing

This sounds really cool, but i didn’t have a chance to see the presentation and haven’t read it yet.

Semantic Compositionality through Recursive Matrix-Vector Spaces

Andrew Ng currently seems to have a man crush on neural networks. He and a student show a neat improvement upon Recursive Neural Networks, which can do compositionality between phrases that have non-linear properties. Take the phrase “absolutely sad”, it does some funny things composition wise, and existing RNN models can’t handle it. They go a step beyond by projecting each component phrase’s vector representation by a matrix modeling the other word’s uses. So in the example, sad modifies absolutely and visa versa, then the joint vector for both modified words gets pushed through a standard RNN. It worked out pretty well, but requires training. I’d love to see something here that doesn’t need training.

Conversations with other people

My talk about Exploring Topic Coherence over many models got some interesting responses that were really interesting.

  1. First, we didn’t really vary the feature weighting mechanism before doing LSA and PLSA, so this may be affecting the performance of those models with information that LDA doesn’t have, if we try other schemes, or no scheme, what happens? does that mean we could improve LDA if we have a way of encoding that information?
  2. How doe the models compare when using corpora of different sizes? We could use TASA as an example of a smaller corpus, or UKWac and Wikipedia as larger corpora. Does LDA get better representations with less information or does SVD? Can we then improve either method with those lessons.
  3. What about word senses? Can we pos tag and word sense tag the corpus and then see improvement along multiple lines? When doing the coherence evaluation, we would probably just have to use the raw tokens initially, but for the word similarity and document evaluations, we can use the sense tagged words. Issues with this: How do we do sense tagging? SemCore is reasonably sized but WSD models kinda suck. Are they sufficient to improve results? What about WSI models? If WSI models do something positive, this would be a good evaluation of those models without actually knowing what kind of senses or how many we need to learn.

The location

I wasn’t such a huge fan of the conferences being located on Jeju island. There were things to do on the island, but they were all expensive, as was the food, in my opinion. Furthermore, the banquet was mildly terrible. We had it in this tiny restaurant next to the ocean, which had a nice view granted, but was too small for the attendees and it was a buffet, so a hundred computational linguists, which all heard about Chinese Restaurant Processes got to wait in line to sample tasty Korean food. As awesomely ironic as it was, it made getting food a terrible experience. I’d have prefered the be in some major city or college town where things are cheap (note how the 2010 meeting of ACL was amazing). Jeju is nice and all, especially if i had the time and money to explore the island more, but I had neither really, and I think nearly all students felt the same way.