Does SGNS (Word2Vec) encodes word frequency ?

I’ve been wondering for a while about the behaviour of SGNS vs SVD/PMI with regards to the difference of performance on analogy questions. (Have a look at Omer Levy’s TACL article  for a deep comparison of different methods).

One of my hypothesis is that, somehow, SGNS encodes the frequency of the words in its embedding. I think (haven’t tested it yet) that using frequency could help for many analogy questions, since one would expect, on average, that the frequency ratio between A and B is the same than between C and D.

One of the thing that made me think that SGNS could encode frequency is when I look at the neighbours of rare words :

With SVD (in parenthesis, the count from context with window size = 2):

1.0 iffy (279)
0.809346555885 nitpicky (125)
0.807352614797 miffed (69)
0.804748781838 shaky (934)
0.804201693021 sketchy (527)
0.797617651846 clunky (372)
0.794685053096 dodgy (797)
0.792423714522 fishy (494)
0.7876010544 listy (211)
0.786528559774 picky (397)
0.78497044497 underexposed (73)
0.784392371301 unsharp (130)
0.77507297907 choppy (691)
0.770029271436 nit-picky (90)
0.763106516724 fiddly (43)
0.762200309444 muddled (369)
0.761961572477 wonky (196)
0.761783868043 disconcerting (226)
0.760421351856 neater (121)
0.759557240261 dissapointed (32)

Variation : 0.1 – 3 x the query count

With SGNS :

1.0 iffy (279)
0.970626 nitpicky (125)
0.968823 bitey (265)
0.968336 rediculous (104)
0.967125 far-fetched (262)
0.964707 counter-intuitive (185)
0.964179 presumptuous (126)
0.963679 disputable (179)
0.963537 usefull (183)
0.96175 clunky (372)
0.96166 counterintuitive (203)
0.961654 un-encyclopedic (101)
0.961331 worrisome (213)
0.960878 self-explanatory (156)
0.960516 unecessary (143)
0.960142 nit-picky (80)
0.959044 wordy (413)
0.958482 disconcerting (226)
0.958218 disingenuous (534)
0.958188 off-putting (104)

Variation : 0.3 – 2 x the query count

That could actually be quite understandable. Since the update procedure of SGNS is online, the time of the update does have an importance (vectors at time t in the learning are not the same than at time t+s). So two rarely occuring words, if they occur roughly at the same time in the corpus, will tend to be updated by a few similar vectors (positively and negatively, by the way), and thus be highly influenced by the same direction of the data.

In other words, the rarer the word, the more its direction “lags behind” the rest of the embeddings, and in some way, the embedding slightly encodes the “age” of the words, and thus their frequency.

Here are its results on the same query with NCISC, with even more variation than SVD, with some apparently good high frequency candidates (debatable, unclear, unsatisfactory, questionable, and maybe wrong)  :

1.0 iffy (279)
0.840267098681 debatable (711)
0.835281154019 keepable (67)
0.83013430458 disputable (179)
0.821933628995 sketchy (527)
0.813930181981 unsatisfactory (1176)
0.812291787551 unclear (4445)
0.804978094441 nitpicky (125)
0.804038235737 us-centric (170)
0.802013089227 dodgy (797)
0.798211347285 salvagable (118)
0.797837578971 shaky (934)
0.797040400162 counter-intuitive (185)
0.79600914212 ambigious (41)
0.791063976199 offputting (33)
0.789877149245 questionable (6541)
0.789543971526 notible (78)
0.786470266284 unconvincing (567)
0.781320751203 wrong (12041)
0.779762440213 clunky (372)

Variation : 0.1 – 43 x query count

Spark trick shot : executor-level accumulator

At eXenSa, we are currently working on a super fast way to preprocess large amounts of documents. It’s based on a combination of our new generation Count-Min Sketch (not the one I’ve posted about before, but an even better version) and a new trick we’ve devised just this week-end.

Before I explain this trick, here is how counting is usually done with standard data structures in map-reduce, and why we have chosen to try another way. Usually here is what happens :

  1. Take a huge collection of documents
  2. Split it into thousands of partitions
  3. Now, in a convert a document into a collection of counts
  4. Reduce the counts (sum by word)

From Earth to Heaven

Since my first attempt to compute “similarity paths” between Wikipedia pages on, we’ve made some progress.

But first, a word about this “similarity path”, because a lot of people completely miss the point about it :

Usually, people use the Wikipedia graph to find path between pages. Unfortunately, Wikipedia is so well linked, that most path are just made of two or three hops. You can, for instance, play with to find the shortest path between two articles : from Earth to Heaven with wikidistrict is a short path : Earth -> Deity -> Heaven. Of course there are other paths (a huge number of paths actually).

Using the latent models built by NCISC, we can, however, recreate a graph as we want, you just have to decide

  • the model (semantic model, in-link model, out-link model, in-out-link model, out-in-link model)
  • the depth of the neighbours for each node

With this, we are now able to find our way in a much finer grained rewritten version of Wikipedia. For instance, Earth to Heaven gives :

Earth -> Moon -> Mercury (planet) -> Jupiter -> Sun -> Aurora -> Atmospheric diffraction -> Atmospheric optics -> Earth’s shadow -> Night sky -> Phases of Venus -> Counter-Earth -> History of the Center of the Universe -> Pythagorean astronomical system -> Astrological age -> History of astrology -> Zoroaster -> Asha -> Amesha Spenta -> Creator deity -> Heaven

The interesting thing here is the moment where we switch from atronomie to astrology. It happens with “Counter-Earth“, an hypothesis about another planet orbiting the sun in counter-phase with the earth.

What I show here is not in wikinsights yet, you’ll have to wait a bit before it comes live, but don’t worry it won’t be too long. We have a few novelties to add to our Wikinsights demo, with a set of improved models.

Some other paths:

  • Harry Potter to Jacques Chirac

Harry Potter -> Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -> Cerebus the Aardvark -> Anarky (comic book) -> Publication history of Anarky -> Anarky -> Operation Mindfuck -> Political strategy -> Political privacy -> Yellow Ribbon campaign (Fiji) -> Reaction to the 2005–06 Fijian political crisis -> Sitiveni Rabuka -> 1987 Fijian coups d’état -> Presidential Council (Benin) -> Hubert Maga -> Haitian general election, 2006 -> Jacques Chirac

  • Charleston, South Carolina -> Greece

Charleston, South Carolina -> History of Charleston, South Carolina -> History of the Southern United States -> History of Georgia (U.S. state) -> History of the United States -> United Kingdom–United States relations -> Decolonization -> International relations of the Great Powers (1814–1919) -> History of Europe -> Ottoman Greece -> Background of the Greek War of Independence -> Megali Idea -> Draft:Island of Cyprus -> Cyprus -> Greece



A word about Word2Vec

This excellent article  by Omer Levy, Yoav Goldberg and Ido Dagan give an amazingly detailed view on what is really behind Word2Vec method and GloVe success. I found it while reading comments on a Radim Rehurek’s post about Word2Vec.

Word2vec is one of the method which compete with our proprietary approach at eXenSa (the NCISC algorithm we use in eXenGine), even if it’s limited to words and documents. It produces very good embeddings.

What is truly impressive in the Levy et al. article is that they have dissected the algorithm to separate preprocessing choices (such as the word window or the count to weight transformation, which is basically Pointwise Mutual Information), algorithm parameters (for SVD, they show that removing the eigenvalues is always a good choice), and post-processing choices (for instance the distance computation for analogy tasks).

The only parameters they didn’t test is the number of target features. This is a bit odd, since that’s one of the selling point of NCISC, which performs very well even with 1/10 of the features required for Word2Vec, but can be easily explained since they already had to test something like 1000 different combinations.

As far as I can say, the most important piece of information from this article is that the choice of the method (raw PPMI, SVD, Word2Vec or Gradient Descent) does not play the biggest role in the final performance. It’s not really a surprise, since the main advantage of NN is in there non-linearity, and for text data, you basically already have too much dimensions to require dimensionality expansion.



Count-Min-Log : some graphs

I’ve made a few experiments to have a look at the behaviour of the Count-Min-Log Sketch with Max sampling. Here are some interesting comparisons between classical Count-Min (the graphs show both the usual CM algorithm and the Conservative Update version), and Count-Min-Log.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ve chosen to limit to one setting in terms of memory use : in every sketch we use the same number of bits (here, 4 vectors of 4000*32 bits). I have also just shown the result of 8 bits Count-Min-Log (i.e. with base 1.095) with or without the progressive base (PRG).

Let’s start by the results under heavy pressure. Here we have 8 millions events in an initial vocabulary of 640,000 elements. The values are plotted for each decile of the vocabulary (i.e. on the left is the first 10th of the vocabulary with the lowest number of occurrences).


Average Relative Error per decile for high pressure setting.

Root mean square error per decile for high pressure setting.

Root mean square error per decile for high pressure setting.

Now for the low pressure setting, still with 4 vectors of 4000*32bits for everyone, but this time the initial vocabulary is only 10000 and the number of events is about 100k.

Average Relative Error per decile for low pressure setting.

Average Relative Error per decile for low pressure setting.


Root mean square error per decile for low pressure setting.

Root mean square error per decile for low pressure setting.

Conclusion, for equal memory footprint, Count-Min-Log seems to clearly outperform classical Count-Min for high pressure settings, both for RMSE and ARE, with the exception of the RMSE for the top 10% highest frequency events. Under low pressure, it is clear that top 20-30% highest frequency items counts are significantly degraded.

I think that for any NLP-related task, Count-Min-Log is always a clear winner. For other applications, where the highest frequency are the most interesting, the gain may be negative, given the results on the high pressure setting. It will depend whether you care about ARE or RMSE.

Count-Min-Log Sketch for improved Average Relative Error on low frequency events

Count-Min sketch is a great algorithm, but it has a tendency to overestimate low frequency items when dealing with highly skewed data, at least it’s the case on zipfian data. Amit Goyal had some nice ideas to work around this, but I’m not that fund of the whole scheme he sets up to reduce the frequency of the rarest cells.

I’m currently thinking about a whole new and radical way to deal with text mining, and I’ve been hitting repeatedly a wall while trying to figure out how I could be able to count the occurrences of a very very high number of different elements. The point is, what I’m interested in is abolutely not to count accurately the number of occurrences of high frequency items, but to get the order of magnitude.

I’ve come to realize that, using Count-Min (or, for that matter, Count-Min with conservative update), I obtain an almost exact count for high frequency items, but a completely off value when looking at low frequency (or zero-frequency) items.

To deal with that, I’ve realized that would should try to weight our available bits. In Count-Min, counting from 0 to 1 is valued as much as counting from 2147483647 to 2147483648, while, frankly, no one cares whether it’s 2147483647 or just 2000000000, right ?

So I’ve introduced an interesting variation to the standard Count-Min Sketch, a variation which could, I think, be of high value for many uses, including mine. The idea is very simple, instead of using 32bits counters to count from 0 to 4294967295, we can use 8 bits counters to count from 0 to (approximately) 4294967295. This way, we can put 4 times more counters with the same number of bits, the risk of collisions is four times less, and thus, low frequency items are much less overestimated.

If you’re wondering how you can use a 8 bit counter to count from 0 to (approximately) 4294967295, just read this. It’s a log count using random sampling to increment the counter.

But it’s not all, first we can use the same very clever improvement to the standard Count-Min sketch which is called conservative update.

And additionaly, we can add a sample bias to the log-increment rule, which basically state that, if we’re at the bottom of the distribution, then probably we are going to be overestimated, then we should undersample.

Finally, we can have a progressive log base (for instance when the raw counter value is 1, the next value will be 1+1^1.1, but when the raw counter is 2, the next value will be 1+1^1.1+1^1.2). Zipfian distribution is not a power law, so why not go one step further..

The results are quite interesting. Obviously the absolute error is way worst than the absolute error of a standard Count-Min. The Average Relative Error, however, is about 10 times less with different settings.

Here is the code :

And the results (1.1 million events, 60K elements, zipfian 1.01, the sketches are 8 vectors of 5000*32 bits)

Sketch Conservative Max Sample Progressive Base RMSE ARE
Count-Min NO - - - 0.160 11.930
Count-Min YES - - - 0.072 6.351
Count-MinLog YES YES NO 1.045 (9 bits) 0.252 0.463
Count-MinLog YES YES YES 1.045 (9 bits) 0.437 0.429
Count-MinLog YES YES NO 1.095 (8 bits) 0.449 0.524
Count-MinLog YES YES YES 1.095 (8 bits) 0.245 0.372
Count-MinLog YES YES NO 1.19 (7 bits) 0.582 0.616
Count-MinLog YES YES YES 1.19 (7 bits) 0.677 0.405

Distributed Protocol for Social Networks : never more needed than now

I still have a Firefox t-shirt labelled “Take back the web”. I think this goal hasn’t been more important than today, with the rise of so many social networks.

I’ve already written my opinion on this here and here, and I’ve read this on Slashdot recently, that seems to back it a little :

With the failure of email on the spam-fighting front, the weaknesses of DNS to properly enforce trust in network communication, I think it’s time to build an ecosystem of social communication, not based on a company or even a free software (as did Diaspora), but on a set of protocols that could allow messages, information, search, affinities, trust and money to be distributed and exchanged between identities on the web.

The ideas from virtual distributed money can maybe be reused to some extent, but other methods, for instance to deal with distributed affinities or search needs to be invented.

For once, public intervention may be a good idea. I’m pretty sure the EU would be wise to invest a lot of money in this envdeavour, to break free from our US friends and their companies.

Brand new version of

We’ve worked hard to make WikInsights more appealing and fun to use. Now it has a graphical interface with a graph view of the neighbours of Wikipedia.

Wikinsights - Wikipedia

Of course, the graph is dynamically generated and expose the most relevant neighbours along various dimensions, it’s not a view of the Wikipedia page graph.

A very fun thing to do in wikinsights is to compute the similarity path between two pages. You can discover the path between the Green Lantern (movie) and a Lantern :


Wikinsights - Lantern - Green Lantern

Have fun with it, and enjoy discovering new and relevant pages.