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In this paper, we analyze a collaborative filter that answers the simple question: What is popular amongst your “friends”? While this basic principle seems to be prevalent in many practical implementations, there does not appear to be much theoretical analysis of its performance. In this paper, we partly fill this gap. While recent works on this topic, such as the low-rank matrix completion literature, consider the probability of error in recovering the entire rating matrix, we consider probability of an error in an individual recommendation [bit error rate (BER)]. For a mathematical model introduced by Aditya et al. in 2009 and 2011, we identify three regimes of operation for our algorithm (named Popularity Amongst Friends) in the limit as the matrix size grows to infinity. In a regime characterized by large number of samples and small degrees of freedom (defined precisely for the model in the paper), the asymptotic BER is zero; in a regime characterized by large number of samples and large degrees of freedom, the asymptotic BER is bounded away from 0 and 1/2 (and is identified exactly except for a special case); and in a regime characterized by a small number of samples, the algorithm fails. We then compare these results with the performance of the optimal recommender. We also present numerical results for the MovieLens and Netflix datasets. We discuss the empirical performance in light of our theoretical results and compare with an approach based on low-rank matrix completion.
Date of Publication: Dec. 2012