Influence Function Learning in Information Diffusion Networks


Nan Du, Yingyu Liang, Maria Balcan, Le Song ;
Proceedings of the 31st International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 32(2):2016-2024, 2014.


Can we learn the influence of a set of people in a social network from cascades of information diffusion? This question is often addressed by a two-stage approach: first learn a diffusion model, and then calculate the influence based on the learned model. Thus, the success of this approach relies heavily on the correctness of the diffusion model which is hard to verify for real world data. In this paper, we exploit the insight that the influence functions in many diffusion models are coverage functions, and propose a novel parameterization of such functions using a convex combination of random basis functions. Moreover, we propose an efficient maximum likelihood based algorithm to learn such functions directly from cascade data, and hence bypass the need to specify a particular diffusion model in advance. We provide both theoretical and empirical analysis for our approach, showing that the proposed approach can provably learn the influence function with low sample complexity, be robust to the unknown diffusion models, and significantly outperform existing approaches in both synthetic and real world data.

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