On August 26, 2004, Yahoo! Research Labs in Pasadena held the fourth in a series of Spot Workshops. Spot workshops are informal one-day gatherings of academics and Yahoo folks centered around a common theme. This workshop’s theme was “Recommender Systems”.
A recommender system is an automated algorithm for providing personalized recommendations (for movies, or music, or restaurants, for example) to a user, often by looking for relationships between that user and a large base of other users. In a sense, a recommender system automates the social process of obtaining referrals or recommendations from like-minded friends.
There were two invited academic speakers, Professor John Riedl and Professor Jon Herlocker, who are both are active at the forefront of recommender systems research (and who played a large role in the field’s creation, including founding NetPerceptions, one of the first startup companies in this area). Todd Beaupre spoke about recommendations on Launch Music — one of the Y! properties most successful at creating personalization that works, providing significant and measurable user value. Donna Boyer and Nilesh Gohel from Y! Network Products discussed the benefits of (and obstacles to) deploying recommendation services across dozens of Y! properties, including Movies, TV, shopping, personals, autos, and others. There was a technical session on algorithmic tools from machine learning and linear algebra useful for recommendation systems, with several topics presented by scientists from Yahoo! Research Labs. The workshop ended with a roundtable discussion. Turnout was excellent, including a number of people from Sunnyvale and Santa Monica. Many attendees felt that the workshop was productive and valuable, serving to successfully bring together a number of people throughout the company with similar goals and interests, and ending with concrete plans for continued interaction and collaboration. The invited academic speakers served as a bridge to the academic research community, helping us to assess the current state of the art, as well as make connections for future collaborative projects, student internships, and new hires.
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