Variational User Modeling with Slow and Fast Features
Recommender systems play a key role in helping users find their favorite music to play among an often extremely large catalog of items on online streaming services. To correctly identify users’ interests, recommendation algorithms rely on past user behavior and feedback to aim at learning users’ preferences through the logged interactions. User modeling is a fundamental part of this large-scale system as it enables the model to learn an optimal representation for each user. For instance, in music recommendation, the focus of this paper, users’ interests at any time is shaped by their general preferences for music as well as their recent or momentary interests in a particular type of music. In this paper, we present a novel approach for learning user representation based on general and slow-changing user interests as well as fast-moving current preferences. We propose a variational autoencoder-based model that takes fast and slow-moving features and learns an optimal user representation. Our model, which we call FS-VAE, consists of sequential and non-sequential encoders to capture patterns in user-item interactions and learn users’ representations. We evaluate FS-VAE on a real-world music streaming dataset. Our experimental results show a clear improvement in learning optimal representations compared to state-of-the-art baselines on the next item recommendation task. We also demonstrate how each of the model components, slow input feature, and fast ones play a role in achieving the best results in next item prediction and learning users’ representations.