- Open Access
An approach to enrich users’ personomy using the recommendation of semantic tags
© The Brazilian Computer Society 2012
- Received: 15 June 2011
- Accepted: 25 December 2011
- Published: 28 January 2012
Tagging-based systems are a popular and convenient way to organize information on the Web. Despite the alleged advantage of the free choice of words used to categorize Web resources in this kind of systems, it also brings some disadvantages due to the difficulty to remember freely chosen tags when users need to retrieve tagged resources. This paper presents a new approach to improve the quality of the categorizations performed by users in tagging-based systems by means of the recommendation of semantic tags. Our approach combines three sources of information for selecting the recommended tags: the Web resource been categorized, the tagging-based system folksonomy and the user personomy. By using these sources, we combine some features of the context of the categorization, the social opinion about the resource been categorized and the users’ vocabulary preferences. The use of the Web resource helps to solve the cold start problem, and the recommendation of more contextualized and personalized tags helps to develop a better personomy for the user, which could relieve the users’ cognitive effort when retrieving tagged resources.
- Semantic tag recommendation
- Tagging-based systems
Due to technical difficulties and high costs of implementation, it becomes impractical to have qualified experts evaluating and controlling all published content on the Web. This lack of schemes, or measures, to ensure the quality and organization of information results in a problem called information overload .
The tagging technique  represents an initiative to help in the organization and assignment of meaning to resources available on the Web. This technique adopts the principle that, if someone is able to publish a resource, she/he is also able to organize and assign meaning to other resources. Thus, it passes over to users the responsibility of organizing and labeling Web resources using tags, as they believe to be most convenient, and without any kind of control , eliminating the need for experts. As a result, this technique became an interesting alternative for an open and highly changeable environment as the Web, where one cannot maintain a hard scheme of control and organization.
In tagging-based systems (TBSs), the set of tags and tagged resources of a user comprises his/her personomy, which generally reflects the user’s vocabulary, preferences, interests, and knowledge. Some systems allow users to share their personomies with each other, producing what is known as a folksonomy , which generally reflects the social view of a Web resource.
Although the freedom and dynamicity are positive characteristics of TBSs, they are also the main cause of problems when users try to retrieve tagged resources . This freedom allows for the introduction in the user’s personomy of alternative forms of writing, synonymy, polysemy, different lexical forms, and different levels of accuracy in the vocabulary, what makes it difficult for users to remember the tags used in the categorization and complicates the retrieval of the tagged resources . Most of these problems are directly related to not taking into account semantic [15, 43] and contextual information  during the categorization process.
As pointed by [1, 8, 13], the fact that cooccurrence is the only relation among tags is also a limiting factor when retrieving information because it is semantically weak. The absence of stronger semantics makes it difficult to solve ambiguities caused by synonymy and polysemy which are common to natural languages. In order to improve the tagging technique the creation of mechanisms has been proposed, in order to bring strong semantics to tags by recommending tags based on ontologies derived from the folksonomy of the TBS . Although these recommendation bring valid suggestions, they rely only on the folksonomy as the source of information for creating semantics, leaving out contextual information provided by the Web resource itself.
Like some other authors [23, 40], we believe that it is necessary to consider as much information as possible about the resource and the users’ preferences if we want to help the user to create and use better tags, which has high influence in the personomy tagspace convergence  and in making the resource retrieval process easier. Thus, aiming at improving the tag recommendation process, we propose the combination of three sources of information—the Web resource, the TBS’s folksonomy and the user’s personomy—to improve the quality of the recommended tags . The combination of these sources is an attempt to take into account the following aspects of the tagging process: contextual (i.e., the Web pages of the resource being tagged); social (i.e., the TBS folksonomy view of the resource); and personal (i.e., the users’ personomy which reflects is vocabulary preferences).
In order to combine these three sources of information and bring stronger semantics to the tags, we propose an algorithm that analyzes lightweight ontologies  generated from each source and extracts the most relevant concepts that are common to them to use as semantic tags to be recommended. To get the three ontologies, we show how the emergence of a lightweight ontology from tags belonging to the user personomy proposed by Basso et al.  can be adapted to emerge lightweight ontologies from tags of a TBS folksonomy and from terms of a Web resource. We also show how these three ontologies can be combined to generate tags for a TBS.
This paper is organized as follows: In Sect. 2, we discuss the relevance of the three sources of information available for a semantic tag recommender system and briefly review their use in current literature. In Sect. 3, we briefly discuss some alternatives for the emergence of ontologies from terms. In Sect. 4, each step of our semantic tag recommendation proposal is described. In Sect. 5, we analyze results derived from some experiments with real users. Finally, in Sect. 6, we show the conclusions and limitations of our proposal, along with suggestions for further investigation.
A tagging-based system usually has three sources of information available when it needs to recommend tags: (i) the Web resource, (ii) the folksonomy of the TBS, and (iii) the user’s personomy. Each one of these has a particular importance in the recommendation process.
The Web resource is the main element of a categorization, and its content can be available in many forms, such as text, pictures, videos, flash animations, etc. In this work, we considered only textual content (i.e., any Web page with some text). One of the most important aspects of a Web resource content that is generally forgotten is the fact that it can express some features of the context of the resource categorization. For any Web resource, there are several factors influencing the context in which it could be used, but for a Web page the context can usually be determined by the way in which the vocabulary is employed by their author in order to expose the content to the reader. The task of getting the context of a Web page is not trivial, since the text of the page may present misspellings, synonymy, polysemy, bending terms, parts that do not refer to the content (e.g., header, footer, menu columns, advertisements), among others. Taking all these aspects into account, we decided to represent the context of a Web page by the set of keywords that is most representative of the characteristics and properties of the Web page, i.e., the most relevant terms contained in its term-vector1 . It is also possible to use Web resource metadata when it is available to represent a summary of the content , but as any summary it does not convey the richness of the content itself for the generation of the candidate tags.
A TBS folksonomy normally reflects the vocabulary that is common to the system’s users , providing a social view of the categorized resources, which a single user could never have by themselves. Thus, using the TBS folksonomy data to recommend tags can always be a valid alternative, since the user is categorizing a resource that others in the community have already categorized and, therefore, there may be a common interest, which guarantees the utility of the folksonomy tags. Also, the idiosyncrasies present in a folksonomy may benefit the information retrieval process, as they represent alternative and interesting terms for the users (which makes the serendipity effect possible ).
The user’s personomy can bring together a wide diversity of knowledge about the individual, since in a categorization users express, by the used tags, their knowledge, intentions and terminology preferences related to the content of each resource . From the analysis of a user’s personomy, it is possible to guide the tag recommendation to target the user’s vocabulary, offering terms according to their preferences [34, 41].
Reviewing the recent literature about tag recommendation, we found that current approaches generally focuses on the system folksonomy as its main source of information . A small number of approaches also uses the Web resource content to assist in the recommendation, among them we can quote Lu et al. , which analyzes the Web resource content and combines it with tags of similar resource for generating the candidate recommendations; Song et al. , which extract the document vector of the Web resource and applies statistical techniques over a bipartite graph of the words, tags, and resources to generate the candidate tags; and Heymann et al. , which uses the Web resource text, anchor text, and surround hosts for generating the recommending tags. Another small number of approaches employ information about the user together with the information of the folksonomy and Web resource metadata to select the tags that will be recommended, among them we can quote Lipczak , which uses the Web resource title and cooccurrence analysis to expand the set of candidate tags filtering it by using the user personomy to obtain the final recommendation; Musto et al. , which use the Web resource metadata to generate the candidates and the user information to personalize the final recommendation; and Tatu et al. , which use the Web resource to extract a combination of semantic and statistical characteristics to construct models of users and documents that are used to generate and select the recommended tags (they also employing the WordNet2 to standardize concepts).
From the above review, we can observe that very few systems has tried to use the combination of the three sources of information together. Also, in spite of the fact that some systems had used a semantic approach, the level of semantic they explored is shallow. Most of them make use of complex statistical techniques to identify some level of semantic relations among the concepts and use these relations to inform the selection of candidates to the recommending tags. We propose to make use of these three sources together with an approach based on the recommendation of semantic tags that explores relations among the concepts. The three sources of information taken into account in this proposal can be combined in various ways, which we will discussed in the next section.
2.1 Possible scenarios for a tag recommendation process in a TBS
Let us first consider the scenarios where the Web resources are not used as a source of information, since this is the common case for the recommender systems in current TBSs.
Scenario 1: A user, without any information on his/her personomy, is trying to categorize a resource using a TBS without information on its folksonomy about that resource. This is the worst case scenario for a tag recommender system, and represents the situation confronted by a new system user categorizing a new resource. Since we do not have access to any of the three sources of information there is no way to generate recommendations. This is an instance of the cold start problem (i.e., the problem to generate recommendations for a resource without any source of information from where to take the terms to recommend) and happens in most of the recommender systems in current TBSs.
Scenario 2: A user, with information on his/her personomy, is trying to categorize a resource using a TBS without information on its folksonomy about that resource. This is the typical case of a user trying to categorize a new resource in a TBS. As a personomy has only information about resources already categorized by the user, there is no way to obtain information about the current resource being categorized and, therefore, we can only generate recommendations based on the global users’ interests, given by the most used vocabulary in his/her personomy. This kind of data is most of the time of little use, generating recommendations of low quality. This is another instance of the cold start problem and also happens in most recommender systems in the current TBSs.
Scenario 3: A user, without information on his/her personomy, is trying to categorize a resource using a TBS with information on its folksonomy about that resource. This is another possible scenario for a new system user, but once the resource has already been evaluated and categorized by other system users, it is possible to generate recommendations from a social point of view. However, it will not be possible to personalize these recommendations to match the user’s vocabulary, since there is no information in their personomy. The use of the folksonomy as the unique source of information is the common case for the majority of the recommender systems in current TBSs.
Scenario 4: A user, with information on his/her personomy, is trying to categorize a resource using a TBS with information on its folksonomy about that resource. This could be considered a desirable scenario for a recommender system, since it would be possible to use the folksonomy’s social point of view to generate recommendations, giving priority to the terms most used by the community; and also to use the user’s personomy to further personalize the recommendation data to match their vocabulary. The use of the folksonomy together with the personomy as source of information is the configuration used by the Delicious system.3
For the other four scenarios, we will assume that the Web resource was analyzed and a representation of some features of the context of the categorization is available.
Scenario 5: A user, without information on his/her personomy, is trying to categorize a resource using a TBS without information on its folksonomy about that resource. Unlike what happens in Scenario 1, once we have information from the Web resource it will be possible to generate recommendations from the extracted contextual data, avoiding the cold start problem.
Scenario 6: A user, with information on his/her personomy, is trying to categorize a resource using a TBS without information on its folksonomy about that resource. Again, contrary to what happens in Scenario 2, once we have information from the Web resource it will be possible to generate recommendations from the extracted contextual data, avoiding the cold start problem. In addition, in this scenario it would be possible to personalize the recommendations to the user’s preferences, based on the information contained in their personomy.
Scenario 7: A user, without information on his/her personomy, is trying to categorize a resource using a TBS with information on its folksonomy about that resource. What makes this scenario different from Scenario 3 is that it will be possible to use the folksonomy data to filter the contextual data extracted from the Web resource, giving priority to the terms most used by the community.
Scenario 8: A user, with information on his/her personomy, is trying to categorize a resource using a TBS with information on its folksonomy about that resource. In this scenario, besides the social filter employed in the last scenario, we could also personalize the recommendation data to the user’s preferences based on the vocabulary of his/her personomy. In this way, this could be considered the best case scenario for a recommender system.
Although it is possible to make recommendations without analyzing the Web resource, as discussed in Scenarios 2, 3, and 4, using it as a source of information could lead to better recommendations. This will take place because the recommended tags will come from terms present in the Web resource, which normally makes it easier for the use to remember. Even better, if the folksonomy information is available, it would be possible to further improve the tag’s quality by applying a social filter to them, given priority to the tags most used by the community. In addition, if the personomy information is available, it would be possible to increase the memory of the recommended tags by taking into account the user’s vocabulary preferences, which will certainly contribute to the retrieval of the resource.
One more aspect is worth mentioning. As discussed in Scenarios 5 and 6, the variations of the Scenarios 1 and 2, where the cold start problem normally happens in the recommender systems of the current TBSs, the use of the Web resource as a source of information allows the system to deliver recommendations to users, avoiding the cold start problem.
Taking all these aspects into consideration, we claim that using these three sources of information to recommend semantic tags to the users of a TBS can enrich the quality of the user’s personomy. The adoption of semantic tags would avoid the use of mistaken terms and ambiguity and would improve the quality of the user’s tag from the beginning. To obtain semantic tags we develop an algorithm that analyze and combine ontologies emerged from the three sources discussed, which will be presented in the following sections.
This section presents three experiments employed to analyze the quality of the semantic tags recommended by the proposed approach. The first experiment automatically assesses the relevance of the semantic tags recommended by this approach comparing them with the tags used in the folksonomy of a current TBS. The second experiment assesses the acceptance by real users of the semantic tags recommended by this approach considering only the most relevant concepts selected from the sources used. The third experiment assesses the acceptance by real users of the semantic tags recommended by this approach considering the most relevant concepts selected from sources used and their hypernyn concepts.
5.1 Experiment 1: Comparison of the recommendation of semantic tags with the Delicious system folksonomy
In this experiment, we automatically analyzed 1,304 bookmarks, randomly selected from a Delicious data set containing 3,401 users with 2.613.446 categorizations and 8.208.402 tags (1.804.282 unique URLs and 305.948 unique tags), aiming at accessing the relevance of the recommendations. Between the selected URLs there were web pages that contain a great variety of content (e.g., text, images, video, and a combinations of them), making it a very good approximation of a real situation. We should notice that, due to this test set characteristics, the percentage of terms found in each web page has a great variation, which has an impact on the final quality of the suggested terms. It was our decision to use this test set to evaluate the behavior of our approach in a real situation. Thus, for each URL, we analyzed the percentage of the first 10 recommended tags produced by our approach that were found between the TOP 10, 20, and 30 tags of the Delicious folksonomy.
5.2 Experiment 2: Evaluation of the recommendation of semantic tags with real users
The purpose of this experiment was to assess the acceptance by real users of the semantic tags recommended by the proposed approach. It is important to justify why we choose to do tests with real users instead of using a standard collection, such as the ones used in ECML PKDD discovery challenge. We take this decision due to the fact that the choice of a tag by a user in a tagging process is strongly biased by the tags s/he receives as recommendation from the system. Thus, if we compare the tags generated by our approach for a given resource with the ones selected by users’ of another system, we will be comparing the other system bias with ours. But this does not imply that this would be the user’s choice if s/he had originally be submitted directly to our bias, i.e., we will not be allowing our recommender to influence the users’ choice, which is exactly what we want to measure.
In this experiment, the three sources of information (the Web resource—R; the Delicious system folksonomy—F; and the users personomy—P)9 were considered in the analysis. Thus, we were able to analyze all but the first scenario discussed in Sect. 2.1, since there is not enough information in this scenario to generate recommendations. For Scenarios 2, 3, and 5, where we have only one source of information we recommended syntactic tags based on the frequency of the terms. For Scenarios 4, 6, 7, and 8, where we have more than one source of information, we recommended semantic tags based on the combination of the ontologies of the sources through our algorithm, as discussed in Sect. 4.
Two issues should be considered in this experiment to explain part of the results’ behavior. First, we observe that great part of the tags added by the users were compound words, and most of them were composed of tags recommended to the user. This contributes to increase the number of the additional tags used and to decrease the user acceptance of the recommended tags. We did not recommend compound words in this experiment due to the complexity to choose among the possible term combinations. This shall be done as a future work. Second, we suppose in our approach that the personomy and folksonomy used were generated by the proposed process. This means that they are “clean” in the sense of having been through a normalization process, which improves their recognition rate in the WordNet. Unfortunately, it was not possible to accomplish this at the time of this experiment, which also influence the acceptance of the recommended tags. This also shall be done as a future work.
Third, when the three sources of information are considered within the semantic approach, they produce a significant improvement in the user acceptance (α=0.05 and t=2.6954 between Scenarios 7 and 8). But there is no significant difference if we leave the Web resource out when using the semantic approach (α=0.05 and t=0.6757 between Scenarios 4 and 8). Last, the use of the three sources of information results in a significant improvement in the user acceptance (α=0.05 and t=1.9865) over the (Scenario 3) the folksonomy syntactic approach (our baseline), with an increase of 16% in the overall user acceptance.
5.3 Experiment 3: Evaluation of the recommendation of hypernyn tags with real users
In this third experiment, we followed the same methodology as in the second experiment, namely we used the same URLs and the same evaluation metrics, but a smaller number of users was employed per scenario in the analysis due to resource restrictions. So, the results of this experiment should be considered as preliminary. The main difference between the two experiments is that in this one the focus was on assessing the recommendation of semantic tags based on the hierarchical structure of the sources ontology. Thus, we considered only Scenarios 8 (R/F/P), 7 (R/F), and 4 (F/P), which use semantic tags and have shown better results in the second experiment.
In this paper, we aimed at addressing the problem of improving the quality of tags used in TBSs. To reach this objective, we proposed an approach to the recommendation of semantic tag for TBS that takes into account the contextual, social, and personal aspects of a Web resource. For this, we suggested using the content of the Web resource, the TBS folksonomy data and the users’ personomy data as sources of information for the recommender system.
To obtain the semantic tags for the recommendation, we proposed a process in which, after preprocessing the Web resources, the folksonomy and the personomy terms, we extract a lightweight ontology from them and create a ranking based on the terms frequency and a mapping between the Web resource and folksonomy ontologies over the personomy ontology. In this way, we prioritize the personomy terms but also consider new frequent terms that could appear in the Web resource or the folksonomy. The emergence of the lightweight ontologies was done by extension of the Basso’s et al.  approach to emerge ontologies from the Web pages and the TBS folksonomy. In this extension, we included adjectives and verbs, which give us a better identification rate for terms in the WordNet. We also show how to get a reasonable trade-off between the candidate tag quality and the performance of the ontology generation process using the Pareto’s principle over the set of concepts. To evaluate our proposal, we carried out three experiments, one automatic and two with real users.
The first experiment was designed to access the relevance of the semantic tags generated by our approach. It automatically compared the first 10 tags generated by our approach with the top 10, 20, and 30 most relevant tags from the Delicious system for a resource. As a result, it shows that although the raw results were not high, they are acceptable, given the test set used where the web pages had content of any kind (i.e., text, images, video, etc.), which certainly affects the quality of the tags generated by our approach.
However, as this experiment was automatic, it did not take into account the bias induced in the user when s/he saw the set of recommended tag during the tagging process. Thus, we decided to do another experiment with real users to access the user acceptance of the recommended tags.
Concerning the number of tags used per categorization, there is no difference in the number of tags used among the scenarios using the syntactic approach. On the other hand, there is a significant difference in the number of tags used among the scenarios using the semantic approach, the best one being the one that uses the three sources of information, with an increase of 15% in the number of tags used in relation to baseline scenario. Among the scenarios that use two sources of information the best was the one using the folksonomy and the personomy as its sources, which was also significantly better than any scenario that used the syntactic approach.
Concerning the number of additional tags (i.e., tags freely chosen by the users) used in the categorizations, among the scenarios using the syntactic approach, the best one was the one using the folksonomy as its source, followed by the Web resource and them the personomy, a result that was already expected from the discussion in Sect. 2. Among the scenarios using the semantic approach, the behavior was similar to the number of tags used, but this time there was no significant difference between the scenario using the folksonomy and personomy as its sources and the one using the three sources, also these scenarios were not better than the syntactic approach using only the folksonomy as its source. This shows that the social aspect are essential to the recommendation process in both approaches.
Concerning the user acceptance of the recommended tags, among the scenarios using the syntactic approach, the behavior was similar to the number of additional tags used, which was also expected from the discussion in Sect. 2. The same has occurred with the scenarios that used the semantic approach, but in this case there was not statistical difference between the scenarios using the three sources and the one using the folksonomy and the personomy. The best scenario in this experiment was the one using the three sources of information with a significant difference from the baseline scenario (Scenario 3) with an increase of 15% in the user acceptance.
In general, this experiment gave us a better understanding of the influence of each aspect of the resource over the recommendation process. We could see that the social aspect shows greater power to filter the Web resource than the personal aspect. Also, that the combination of both produces the best results, as we had already predicted in the discussion in Sect. 2.
The last experiment was designed to address the effect of exploring the ontology structure in the recommendation, for this we used the same procedures of the second experiment, with a more limited number of users in the test, and selected only 8 tags (4 normal tags and 4 hypernyns). Even with such restrictions, we observed that the use of hypernyn concepts brings no direct advantage to the recommendation process when compared with the cost of producing the candidate tags.
All in all, we can say that the proposed approach definitely produces significant results concerning the improvement of the quality of the recommended tags as measured by its user acceptance. Moreover, this approach does not suffer from the cold start problem, which is common to most current TBSs, since it was able to use the terms extracted from the Web resources to guide its first recommendations.
We can also visualize other benefits for this approach to tag recommendation as, for example, the exploration of the structure provided by its ontology for navigation on and visualization of the users’ personomy. In addition, unlike most current TBSs which make users remember the exact lexical form of the tag in order to retrieve a resource, the semantic relationships present in their ontologies enable searches using alternative terms than the selected tag. Besides that, it also allows for making searches using more generic or more specific concepts for the desired term by walking in the ontology structure, which possibly contributes to reduce the cognitive effort on the user when retrieving a categorized resource.
Despite the benefits we acknowledge for our approach it needs further work before being used in a production system. At the moment, the time necessary for processing the sources is high for on-line Web systems. Thus, further work is necessary in its implementation architecture to improve its performance. Moreover, as observed in the analysis of experiment two, it is necessary to attack the problem of generating compound word tags, since this represents a great number of the additional tags used. Also, it is necessary to aggregate a tag management system, like the TagManager system , to our system to allow for the maintenance of the tag quality, which will improve its recognition by the WordNet, or any other anchor ontology from the Web, resulting in a better ranking for the candidate tags. Last but not least, we intend to address the quality of our recommendation from the point of view of the retrieval task. This will require new experiments with users retrieving the resources they have previously categorized using the proposed approach. Furthermore, it would be interesting to explore the effect that the user interface has over a semantic recommendation.
We believe that the availability of a semantic tag recommender system can enhance the categorization process, so that users can create and use more meaningful tags in their categorizations, which as a consequence, could stabilize the users personomy faster and improve the whole tagging process by making the retrieval of tagged resources easier.
A term-vector is a vector of pairs of keywords and their frequency of occurrence in the text.
Delicious will be taken as the baseline in this work due to its importance in the area of TBSs.
The title’s terms will be used to improve the relevance of the Web page’s terms, by evaluating its similarities and increasing the Web page’s term frequencies.
A stop word in this context is a word that does not add semantics to a document, such as “a,” “but,” “for,” etc.
We will use the notation R/F/P to represent the sources available in each scenario.
We have employed a one tail t-test for this experiment because the populations are unknown but we can consider their standard deviation equal, given that the tested subjects are the same for the two approaches.
Our thanks to CAPES for the scholarship granted to Marcelo Rafael Borth during his Master degree from which this paper is a result.
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