Archive for February, 2012

Multi-Attribute Profit-Maximizing Pricing

Author: Parinya Chalermsook, Khaled Elbassioni, Danupon Nanongkai, He Sun

Download: arXiv (Extended Abstract)pdf (full version)

Conference: Submitted



In the unlimited-supply profit-maximizing pricing problem, we are given the consumers’ consideration sets and know their purchase strategy (e.g. buy the cheapest items). The goal is to price the items to maximize the revenue. Previous studies suggest that this problem is too general to obtain even a sublinear approximation ratio (in terms of the number of items) even when the consumers are restricted to have very simple purchase strategies.
In this paper we initiate the study of the multi-attribute pricing problem as a direction to break this barrier. Specifically, we consider the case where each item has a constant number of attributes, and each consumer would like to buy the items that satisfy her criteria in all attributes. This notion intuitively captures typical real-world settings and has been widely-studied in marketing research, healthcare economics, etc. It also helps categorizing previously studied cases, such as highway pricing problem and graph vertex pricing problem on planar and bipartite graphs, from the general case.

We show that this notion of attributes leads to improved approximation ratios on a large class of problems. This is obtained by utilizing the fact that the consideration sets have low VC-dimension and applying Dilworth’s theorem on a certain partial order defined on the set of items. As a consequence, we present sublinear-approximation algorithms, thus breaking the previous barrier, for two well-known variants of the problem: unit-demand uniform-budget min-buying and single-minded pricing problems. Moreover, we generalize these techniques to the unit-demand utility-maximizing pricing problem and (non-uniform) unit-demand min-buying pricing problem when valuations or budgets depend on attributes, as well as the pricing problem with symmetric valuations and subadditive revenues. These results suggest that considering attributes is a promising research direction in obtaining improved approximation algorithms for such pricing problems.


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Interactive Regret Minimization

Author: Danupon Nanongkai, Atish Das Sarma, Ashwin Lall, Kazuhisa Makino
(Author names are NOT in alphabetical order. )

Download: Soon

Conference: SIGMOD 2012



We study the notion of regret ratio proposed by Nanongkai et al. [VLDB’10] to deal with multi-criteria decision making in database systems. The regret minimization query proposed Nanongkai et al. was shown to have features of both skyline and top-k: it does not need information from the user but still controls the output size. While this approach is suitable for obtaining a reasonably small regret ratio, it is still open whether one can make the regret ratio arbitrarily small. Moreover, it remains open whether reasonable questions can be asked to the users in order to improve efficiency of the process.

In this paper, we study the problem of minimizing regret ratio when the system is enhanced with interaction. We assume that when presented with a set of tuples, the user can tell which tuple is most preferred. Under this assumption, we develop the problem of interactive regret minimization where we fix the number of questions, and tuples per question, that we can display, and aim at minimizing the regret ratio. We try to answer two questions in this paper: (1) How much does interaction help? That is, how much can we improve the regret ratio when there are interactions? (2) How efficient can interaction be? In particular, we measure how many questions we have to ask the user in order to make her regret ratio small enough.

We answer both questions from both theoretical and practical standpoints. For the first question, we show that interaction can reduce the regret ratio almost exponentially. To do this, we prove a lower bound for the previous approach (thereby resolving an open problem from Nanongkai et al.), and develop an almost-optimal upper bound that makes the regret ratio exponentially smaller. Our experiments also confirm that, in practice, interactions help in improving the regret ratio by many orders of magnitude. For the second question, we prove that when our algorithm shows a reasonable number of points per question, it only needs a few questions to make the regret ratio small. Thus, interactive regret minimization seems to be a necessary and sufficient way to deal with multi-criteria decision making in database systems.

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