Authority identification in online communities and social networks



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As Internet communities such as question-answer (Q&A) forums and online social networks (OSNs) grow in prominence as knowledge sources, traditional editorial filters are unable to scale to their size and pace. This absence hinders the exchange of knowledge online, by creating an understandable lack of trust in information. This mistrust can be partially overcome by a forum by consistently providing reliable information, thus establishing itself as a reliable source. This work investigates how algorithmic approaches can contribute to building such a community of voluntary experts willing to contribute authoritative information. This work identifies two approaches: a) reducing the cost of participation for experts via matching user queries to experts (question recommendation), and b) identifying authoritative contributors for incentivization (authority estimation). The question recommendation problem is addressed by extending existing approaches via a new generative model that augments textual data with expert preference information among different questions. Another contribution to this domain is the introduction of a set of formalized metrics to include the expert's experience besides the questioner's. This is essential for expert retention in a voluntary community, and has not been addressed by previous work. The authority estimation problem is addressed by observing that the global graph structure of user interactions, results from two factors: a user's performance in local one-to-one interactions, and their activity levels. By positing an intrinsic authority 'strength' for each user node in the graph that governs the outcome of individual interactions via the Bradley-Terry model for pairwise comparison, this research establishes a relationship between intrinsic user authority, and global measures of influence. This approach overcomes many drawbacks of current measures of node importance in OSNs by naturally correcting for user activity levels, and providing an explanation for the frequent disconnect between real world reputation and online influence. Also, while existing research has been restricted to node ranking on a single OSN graph, this work demonstrates that co-ranking across multiple endorsement graphs drawn from the same OSN is a highly effective approach for aggregating complementary graph information. A new scalable co-ranking framework is introduced for this task. The resulting algorithms are evaluated on data from various online communities, and empirically shown to outperform existing approaches by a large margin.