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# CountSketches, Feature Hashing and the Median of Three

*Proceedings of the 38th International Conference on Machine Learning*, PMLR 139:6011-6020, 2021.

#### Abstract

In this paper, we revisit the classic CountSketch method, which is a sparse, random projection that transforms a (high-dimensional) Euclidean vector $v$ to a vector of dimension $(2t-1) s$, where $t, s > 0$ are integer parameters. It is known that a CountSketch allows estimating coordinates of $v$ with variance bounded by $\|v\|_2^2/s$. For $t > 1$, the estimator takes the median of $2t-1$ independent estimates, and the probability that the estimate is off by more than $2 \|v\|_2/\sqrt{s}$ is exponentially small in $t$. This suggests choosing $t$ to be logarithmic in a desired inverse failure probability. However, implementations of CountSketch often use a small, constant $t$. Previous work only predicts a constant factor improvement in this setting. Our main contribution is a new analysis of CountSketch, showing an improvement in variance to $O(\min\{\|v\|_1^2/s^2,\|v\|_2^2/s\})$ when $t > 1$. That is, the variance decreases proportionally to $s^{-2}$, asymptotically for large enough $s$.