When relevance is not enough
Proceedings of the 22nd international conference on World Wide Web - WWW '13
What makes a good question recommendation system for community question-answering sites? First, to maintain the health of the ecosystem, it needs to be designed around answerers, rather than exclusively for askers. Next, it needs to scale to many questions and users, and be fast enough to route a newly-posted question to potential answerers within the few minutes before the asker's patience runs out. It also needs to show each answerer questions that are relevant to his or her interests. We
... designed and built such a system for Yahoo! Answers, but realized, when testing it with live users, that it was not enough. We found that those drawing-board requirements fail to capture user's interests. The feature that they really missed was diversity. In other words, showing them just the main topics they had previously expressed interest in was simply too dull. Adding the spice of topics slightly outside the core of their past activities significantly improved engagement. We conducted a large-scale online experiment in production in Yahoo! Answers that showed that recommendations driven by relevance alone perform worse than a control group without question recommendations, which is the current behavior. However, an algorithm promoting both diversity and freshness improved the number of answers by 17%, daily session length by 10%, and had a significant positive impact on peripheral activities such as voting.