DIFFRAC: a discriminative and flexible framework for clustering

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 20 (NIPS 2007)

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Francis Bach, Zaïd Harchaoui


We present a novel linear clustering framework (Diffrac) which relies on a linear discriminative cost function and a convex relaxation of a combinatorial optimization problem. The large convex optimization problem is solved through a sequence of lower dimensional singular value decompositions. This framework has several attractive properties: (1) although apparently similar to K-means, it exhibits superior clustering performance than K-means, in particular in terms of robustness to noise. (2) It can be readily extended to non linear clustering if the discriminative cost function is based on positive definite kernels, and can then be seen as an alternative to spectral clustering. (3) Prior information on the partition is easily incorporated, leading to state-of-the-art performance for semi-supervised learning, for clustering or classification. We present empirical evaluations of our algorithms on synthetic and real medium-scale datasets.