Towards Nuanced System Evaluation Based on Implicit User Expectations

Paul Thomas
CSIRO, Canberra Australia

Peter Bailey
Microsoft, Australia

Alistair Moffat
Department of Computing and Information Systems, The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia.

Falk Scholer
School of Computer Science and Information Technology, RMIT University, Victoria 3001, Australia.


Proc. 11th Asian Information Retrieval Societies Conference, Brisbane, December 2015, to appear.


Information retrieval systems are often evaluated through the use of effectiveness metrics. In the past, the metrics used have corresponded to fixed models of user behavior, presuming, for example, that the user will view a pre-determined number of items in the search engine results page, or that they have a constant probability of advancing from one item in the result page to the next. Recently, a number of proposals for models of user behavior have emerged that are parameterized in terms of the number of relevant documents (or other material) a user expects to be required to address their information need. That recent work has demonstrated that T, the user's a priori utility expectation, is correlated with the underlying nature of the information need; and hence that evaluation metrics should be sensitive to T. Here we examine the relationship between the query the user issues, and their anticipated T, seeking syntactic and other clues to guide the subsequent system evaluation. That is, we wish to develop mechanisms that, based on the query alone, can be used to adjust system evaluations so that the experience of the user of the system is better captured in the system's effectiveness score, and hence can be used as a more refined way of comparing systems. This paper reports on a first round of experimentation, and describes the progress (albeit modest) that we have achieved towards that goal.

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