Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 29 (NIPS 2016)

*Ramya Korlakai Vinayak, Babak Hassibi*

We consider the task of clustering items using answers from non-expert crowd workers. In such cases, the workers are often not able to label the items directly, however, it is reasonable to assume that they can compare items and judge whether they are similar or not. An important question is what queries to make, and we compare two types: random edge queries, where a pair of items is revealed, and random triangles, where a triple is. Since it is far too expensive to query all possible edges and/or triangles, we need to work with partial observations subject to a fixed query budget constraint. When a generative model for the data is available (and we consider a few of these) we determine the cost of a query by its entropy; when such models do not exist we use the average response time per query of the workers as a surrogate for the cost. In addition to theoretical justification, through several simulations and experiments on two real data sets on Amazon Mechanical Turk, we empirically demonstrate that, for a fixed budget, triangle queries uniformly outperform edge queries. Even though, in contrast to edge queries, triangle queries reveal dependent edges, they provide more reliable edges and, for a fixed budget, many more of them. We also provide a sufficient condition on the number of observations, edge densities inside and outside the clusters and the minimum cluster size required for the exact recovery of the true adjacency matrix via triangle queries using a convex optimization-based clustering algorithm.

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