Building Self Learning Recommendation system – VIII : Evaluating deployment options

This is the eighth and last post of our series on building a self learning recommendation system using reinforcement learning. This series consists of 8 posts where in we progressively build a self learning recommendation system.

  1. Recommendation system and reinforcement learning primer
  2. Introduction to multi armed bandit problem
  3. Self learning recommendation system as a K-armed bandit
  4. Build the prototype of the self learning recommendation system : Part I
  5. Build the prototype of the self learning recommendation system : Part II
  6. Productionising the self learning recommendation system : Part I – Customer Segmentation
  7. Productionising self learning recommendation system: Part II : Implementing self learning recommendations
  8. Evaluating deployment options for the self learning recommendation systems. ( This post )

This post ties together all what we discussed in the previous two posts where in we explored all the classes and methods we built for the application. In this post we will implement the driver file which controls all the processes and then explore different options to deploy this application.

Implementing the driver file

Now that we have seen all the classes and methods of the application, let us now see the main driver file which will control the whole process.

Open a new file and name it rlRecoMain.py and copy the following code into the file

import argparse
import pandas as pd
from utils import Conf,helperFunctions
from Data import DataProcessor
from processes import rfmMaker,rlLearn,rlRecomend
import os.path
from pymongo import MongoClient

# Construct the argument parser and parse the arguments
ap = argparse.ArgumentParser()
ap.add_argument('-c','--conf',required=True,help='Path to the configuration file')
args = vars(ap.parse_args())

# Load the configuration file
conf = Conf(args['conf'])

print("[INFO] loading the raw files")
dl = DataProcessor(conf)

# Check if custDetails already exists. If not create it
if os.path.exists(conf["custDetails"]):
    print("[INFO] Loading customer details from pickle file")
    # Load the data from the pickle file
    custDetails = helperFunctions.load_files(conf["custDetails"])
else:
    print("[INFO] Creating customer details from csv file")
    # Let us load the customer Details
    custDetails = dl.gvCreator()
    # Starting the RFM segmentation process
    rfm = rfmMaker(custDetails,conf)
    custDetails = rfm.segmenter()
    # Save the custDetails file as a pickle file 
    helperFunctions.save_clean_data(custDetails,conf["custDetails"])

# Starting the self learning Recommendation system

# Check if the collections exist in Mongo DB
client = MongoClient(port=27017)
db = client.rlRecomendation

# Get all the collections from MongoDB
countCol = db["rlQuantdic"]
polCol = db["rlValuedic"]
rewCol = db["rlRewarddic"]
recoCountCol = db['rlRecotrack']

print(countCol.estimated_document_count())

# If Collections do not exist then create the collections in MongoDB
if countCol.estimated_document_count() == 0:
    print("[INFO] Main dictionaries empty")
    rll = rlLearn(custDetails, conf)
    # Consolidate all the products
    rll.prodConsolidator()
    print("[INFO] completed the product consolidation phase")
    # Get all the collections from MongoDB
    countCol = db["rlQuantdic"]
    polCol = db["rlValuedic"]
    rewCol = db["rlRewarddic"]

# start the recommendation phase
rlr = rlRecomend(custDetails,conf)
# Sample a state since the state is not available
stateId = rlr.stateSample()
print(stateId)

# Get the respective dictionaries from the collections

countDic = countCol.find_one({stateId: {'$exists': True}})
polDic = polCol.find_one({stateId: {'$exists': True}})
rewDic = rewCol.find_one({stateId: {'$exists': True}})

# The count dictionaries can exist but still recommendation dictionary can not exist. So we need to take this seperately

if recoCountCol.estimated_document_count() == 0:
    print("[INFO] Recommendation tracking dictionary empty")
    recoCountdic = {}
else:
    # Get the dictionary from the collection
    recoCountdic = recoCountCol.find_one({stateId: {'$exists': True}})


print('recommendation count dic', recoCountdic)


# Initialise the Collection checker method
rlr.collfinder(stateId,countDic,polDic,rewDic,recoCountdic)
# Get the list of recommended products
seg_products = rlr.rlRecommender()
print(seg_products)
# Initiate customer actions

click_list,buy_list = rlr.custAction(seg_products)
print('click_list',click_list)
print('buy_list',buy_list)

# Get the reward functions for the customer action
rlr.rewardUpdater(seg_products,buy_list ,click_list)

We import all the necessary libraries and classes in lines 1-7.

Lines 10-12, detail the argument parser process. We provide the path to our configuration file as the argument. We discussed in detail about the configuration file in post 6 of this series. Once the path of the configuration file is passed as the argument, we read the configuration file and the load the value in the variable conf in line 15.

The first of the processes is to initialise the dataProcessor class in line 18. As you know from post 6, this class has the methods for loading and processing data. After this step, lines 21-33 implements the raw data loading and processing steps.

In line 21 we check if the processed data frame custDetails is already present in the output directory. If it is present we load it from the folder in line 24. If we havent created the custDetails data frame before, we initiate that action in line 28 using the gvCreator method we have seen earlier. In lines 30-31, we create the segments for the data using the segmenter method in the rfmMaker class. Finally the custDetails data frame is saved as a pickle file in line 33.

Once the segmentation process is complete the next step is to start the recommendation process. We first establish the connection with our collection in lines 38-39. Then we collect the 4 collections from MongoDB in lines 42-45. If the collections do not exist it will return a ‘None’.

If the collections are none, we need to create the collections. This is done in lines 50-59. We instantiate the rlLearn class in line 52 and the execute the prodConsolidator() method in line 54. Once this method is run the collections would be created. Please refer to the prodConsolidator() method in post 7 for details. Once the collections are created, we get those collections in lines 57-59.

Next we instantiate the rlRecomend class in line 62 and then sample a stateID in line 64. Please note that the sampling of state ID is only a work around to simulate a state in the absence of real customer data. If we were to have a live application, then the state Id would be created each time a customer logs into the sytem to buy products. As you know the state Id is a combination of the customers segment, month and day in which the logging happens. So as there are no live customers we are simulating the stateId for our online recommendation process.

Once we have sampled the stateId, we need to extract the dictionaries corresponding to that stateId from the MongoDb collections. We do that in lines 69-71. We extract the dictionary corresponding to the recommendation as a seperate step in lines 75-80.

Once all the dictionaries are extracted, we do the initialisation of the dictionaries in line 87 using the collfinder method we explored in post 7 . Once the dictionaries are initialised we initiate the recommendation process in line 89 to get the list of recommended products.

Once we get the recommended products we simulate customer actions in line 93, and then finally update the rewards and values using rewardUpdater method in line 98.

This takes us to the end of the complete process to build the online recommendation process. Let us now see how this application can be run on the terminal

Figure 1 : Running the application on terminal

The application can be executed on the terminal with the below command

$ python rlRecoMain.py --conf config/custprof.json

The argument we give is the path to the configuration file. Please note that we need to change directory to the rlreco directory to run this code. The output from the implementation would be as below

The data can be seen in the MongoDB collections also. Let us look at ways to find the data in MongoDB collections.

To initialise Mongo db from terminal, use the following command

Figure 3 : Initialize Mongo

You should get the following output

Now to find all the data bases in Mongo DB you can use the below command

You will be able to see all the databases which you have created. The one marked in red is the database we created. No to use that data base the command used is use rlRecomendation as shown below. We will get the command that the database has been switched to the desired data base.

To see all the collections we have made in this database we can use the below command.

From the output we can see all the collections we have created. Now to see some specific record within the collections, we can use the following command.

db.rlValuedic.find({"Q1_August_1_Monday":{$exists:true} })

In the above command we are trying to find all records in the collection rlValuedic for the stateID "Q1_August_1_Monday". Once we execute this command we get all the records in this collection for this specific stateID. You should get the below output.

The output displays all the proucts for that stateID and its value function.

What we have implemented in code is a simulation of the complete process. To run this continuously for multiple customers, we can create another scrip with a list of desired customers and then execute the code multiple times. I will leave that step as an exercise for you to implement. Now let us look at different options to deploy this application.

Deployment of application

The end product of any data science endeavour should be to build an application and sharing it with the world. There are different options to deploy python applications. Let us look at some of the options available. I would encourage you to explore more methods and share your results.

Flask application with Heroku

A great option to deploy your applications is to package it as a Flask application and then deploy it using Heroku. We have discussed this option in one of our earlier series, where we built a machine translation application. You can refer this link for details. In this section we will discuss the nuances of building the application in Flask and then deploying it on Heroku. I will leave the implementation of the steps for you as an exercise.

When deploying the self learning recommendation system we have built, the first thing which we need to design is what the front end will contain. From the perspective of the processes we have implemented, we need to have the following processes controlled using the front end.

  1. Training process : This is the process which takes the raw data, preprocesses the data and then initialises all the dictionaries. This includes all the processes till line 59 in the driver file rlRecoMain.py. We need to initialise the process of training from the front end of the flask application. In the background all the process till line 59 should run and the dictionaries needs to be updated.
  2. Recommendation simulation : The second process which needs to be controlled is the one where we get the recommendations. The start of this process is the simulation of the state from the front end. To do this we can provide a drop down of all the customer IDs on the flask front end and take the system time details to form the stateID. Once this stateID is generated, we start the recommendation process which includes all the process starting from line 62 till line 90 in the the driver file rlRecoMain.py. Please note that line 64 is the stateID simulating process which will be controlled from the front end. So that line need not be implemented. The final output, which is the list of all recommended products needs to be displayed on the front end. It will be good to add some visual images along with the product for visual impact.
  3. Customer action simulation : Once the recommended products are displayed on the front end, we can send feed back from the front end in terms of the products clicked and the products bought through some widgets created in the front end. These widgets will take the place of line 93, in our implementation. These feed back from the front end needs to be collected as lists, which will take the place of click_list and buy_list given in lines 94-95. Once the customer actions are generated, the back end process in line 98, will have to kick in to update the dictionaries. Once the cycle is completed we can build a refresh button on the screen to simulate the recommendation process again.

Once these processes are implemented using a Flask application, the application can be deployed on Heroku. This post will give you overall guide into deploying the application on Heroku.

These are broad guidelines for building the application and then deploying them. These need not be the most efficient and effective ones. I would challenge each one of you to implement much better processes for deployment. Request you to share your implementations in the comments section below.

Other options for deployment

So far we have seen one of the option to build the application using Flask and then deploy them using Heroku. There are other options too for deployment. Some of the noteable ones are the following

  • Flask application on Ubuntu server
  • Flask application on Docker

The attached link is a great resource to learn about such deployment. I would challenge all of you to deploy using any of these implementation steps and share the implementation for the community to benefit.

Wrapping up.

This is the last post of the series and we hope that this series was informative.

We will start a new series in the near future. The next series will be on a specific problem on computer vision specifically on Object detection. In the next series we will be building a ‘Road pothole detector using different object detection algorithms. This series will touch upon different methods in object detection like Image Pyramids, RCNN, Yolo, Tensorflow Object detection API etc. Watch out this space for the next series.

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You can also subscribe to our Youtube channel for all the videos related to this series.

The complete code base for the series is in the Bayesian Quest Git hub repository

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I would also recommend two books I have co-authored. The first one is specialised in deep learning with practical hands on exercises and interactive video and audio aids for learning

This book is accessible using the following links

The Deep Learning Workshop on Amazon

The Deep Learning Workshop on Packt

The second book equips you with practical machine learning skill sets. The pedagogy is through practical interactive exercises and activities.

The Data Science Workshop Book

This book can be accessed using the following links

The Data Science Workshop on Amazon

The Data Science Workshop on Packt

Enjoy your learning experience and be empowered !!!!

Building Self Learning Recommendation system – VII : Productionizing the application : II

This is the seventh post of our series on building a self learning recommendation system using reinforcement learning. This series consists of 8 posts where in we progressively build a self learning recommendation system.

  1. Recommendation system and reinforcement learning primer
  2. Introduction to multi armed bandit problem
  3. Self learning recommendation system as a K-armed bandit
  4. Build the prototype of the self learning recommendation system : Part I
  5. Build the prototype of the self learning recommendation system : Part II
  6. Productionising the self learning recommendation system : Part I – Customer Segmentation
  7. Productionising the self learning recommendation system: Part II – Implementing self learning recommendation ( This Post )
  8. Evaluating different deployment options for the self learning recommendation systems.

This post builds on the previous post where we started off with productionizing the application using python scripts. In the last post we completed the customer segmentation part. In this post we continue from where we left off and then build the self learning system using python scripts. Let us get going.

Creation of States

Let us take a quick recap of the project structure and what we covered in the last post.

In the last post we were in the early part of our main driver file rlRecoMain.py. We explored rfmMaker class in file rfmProcess.py from the processes directory. We will now explore selfLearnProcess.py file in the same directory.

Open a new file and name it selfLearnProcess.py and insert the following code

import pandas as pd
from numpy.random import normal as GaussianDistribution
from collections import OrderedDict
from collections import Counter
import operator
from random import sample
import numpy as np
from pymongo import MongoClient
client = MongoClient(port=27017)
db = client.rlRecomendation



class rlLearn:
    def __init__(self,custDetails,conf):
        # Get the date  as a seperate column
        custDetails['Date'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.strftime("%d"))
        # Converting date to float for easy comparison
        custDetails['Date'] = custDetails['Date'].astype('float64')
        # Get the period of month column
        custDetails['monthPeriod'] = custDetails['Date'].apply(lambda x: int(x > conf['monthPer']))
        # Aggregate the custDetails to get a distribution of rewards
        rewardFull = custDetails.groupby(['Segment', 'Month', 'monthPeriod', 'Day', conf['product_id']])[conf['prod_qnty']].agg(
            'sum').reset_index()
        # Get these data frames for all methods
        self.custDetails = custDetails
        self.conf = conf
        self.rewardFull = rewardFull
        # Defining some dictionaries for storing the values
        self.countDic = {}  # Dictionary to store the count of products
        self.polDic = {}  # Dictionary to store the value distribution
        self.rewDic = {}  # Dictionary to store the reward distribution
        self.recoCountdic = {}  # Dictionary to store the recommendation counts

    # Method to find unique values of each of the variables
    def uniqeVars(self):
        # Finding unique value for each of the variables
        segments = list(self.rewardFull.Segment.unique())
        months = list(self.rewardFull.Month.unique())
        monthPeriod = list(self.rewardFull.monthPeriod.unique())
        days = list(self.rewardFull.Day.unique())
        return segments,months,monthPeriod,days

    # Method to consolidate all products
    def prodConsolidator(self):
        # Get all the unique values of the variables
        segments, months, monthPeriod, days = self.uniqeVars()
        # Creating the consolidated dictionary
        for seg in segments:
            for mon in months:
                for period in monthPeriod:
                    for day in days:
                        # Get the subset of the data
                        subset1 = self.rewardFull[(self.rewardFull['Segment'] == seg) & (self.rewardFull['Month'] == mon) & (
                                self.rewardFull['monthPeriod'] == period) & (self.rewardFull['Day'] == day)]
                        # INitializing a temporary dictionary to storing in mongodb
                        tempDic = {}
                        # Check if the subset is valid
                        if len(subset1) > 0:
                            # Iterate through each of the subset and get the products and its quantities
                            stateId = str(seg) + '_' + mon + '_' + str(period) + '_' + day
                            # Define a dictionary for the state ID
                            self.countDic[stateId] = {}
                            tempDic[stateId] = {}
                            for i in range(len(subset1.StockCode)):
                                # Store in the Count dictionary
                                self.countDic[stateId][subset1.iloc[i]['StockCode']] = int(subset1.iloc[i]['Quantity'])
                                tempDic[stateId][subset1.iloc[i]['StockCode']] = int(subset1.iloc[i]['Quantity'])
                            # Dumping each record into mongo db
                            db.rlQuantdic.insert(tempDic)

        # Consolidate the rewards and value functions based on the quantities
        for key in self.countDic.keys():
            # Creating two temporary dictionaries for loading in Mongodb
            tempDicpol = {}
            tempDicrew = {}
            # First get the dictionary of products for a state
            prodCounts = self.countDic[key]
            self.polDic[key] = {}
            self.rewDic[key] = {}
            # Initializing temporary dictionaries also
            tempDicpol[key] = {}
            tempDicrew[key] = {}
            # Update the policy values
            for pkey in prodCounts.keys():
                # Creating the value dictionary using a Gaussian process
                self.polDic[key][pkey] = GaussianDistribution(loc=prodCounts[pkey], scale=1, size=1)[0].round(2)
                tempDicpol[key][pkey] = self.polDic[key][pkey]
                # Creating a reward dictionary using a Gaussian process
                self.rewDic[key][pkey] = GaussianDistribution(loc=prodCounts[pkey], scale=1, size=1)[0].round(2)
                tempDicrew[key][pkey] = self.rewDic[key][pkey]
            # Dumping each of these in mongo db
            db.rlRewarddic.insert(tempDicrew)
            db.rlValuedic.insert(tempDicpol)
        print('[INFO] Dumped the quantity dictionary,policy and rewards in MongoDB')

As usual we start with import of the libraries we want from lines 1-7. In this implementation we make a small deviation from the prototype which we developed in the previous post. During the prototyping phase we predominantly relied on dictionaries to store data. However here we would be storing data in Mongo DB. Those of you who are not fully conversant with MongoDB can refer to some good tutorials on MongDB like the one here. I will also be explaining the key features as and when required. In line 8, we import the MongoClient which is required for connections with the data base. We then define the client using the default port number ( 27017 ) in line 9 and then name the data base where we will store the recommendation in line 10. The name of the database we have selected is rlRecomendation . You are free to choose any name of your choice.

Let us now explore the rlLearn class. The constructor of the class which starts from line 15, takes the custDetails data frame and the configuration file as inputs. You would already be familiar with lines 17-23 from our prototyping phase, where we extract information to create states and then consolidate the data frame to get the quantities of each state. In lines 30-33, we create dictionaries where we store the relevant information like count of products, value distribution, reward distribution and the number of times the products are recommended.

The main method within the rlLearn class is the prodConslidator() method in lines 45-95. We have seen the details of this method in the prototyping phase. Just to recap, in this method we iterate through each of the components of our states and then store the quantities of each product under the state in the dictionaries. However there is a subtle difference from what we did during the prototyping phase. Here we are inserting each state and its associated products in Mongodb data base we created, as shown in line 70, 93 and 94. We create a temporary dictionary in line 57 to dump each state into Mongodb. We also store the data in the dictionaries,as we did during the prototyping phase, so that we get the data for other methods in this class. The final outcome from this method, is the creation of the count dictionary, value dictionary and reward dictionary from our data and updation of this data in Mongodb.

This takes us to the end of the rlLearn class.

We now go back to the driver file rlRecoMain.py and the explore the next important class rlRecomend.

The rlRecomend class has the methods which are required for recommending products. This class has many methods and therefore we will go one by one through each of the methods. We have seen all these methods during the prototyping phase and therefore we will not get into detailed explanation of these methods here. For detailed explanation you can refer to the previous post.

Now on the selfLearnProcess.py start adding the code pertaining to the rlRecomend class.

class rlRecomend:
    def __init__(self, custDetails, conf):
        # Get the date  as a seperate column
        custDetails['Date'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.strftime("%d"))
        # Converting date to float for easy comparison
        custDetails['Date'] = custDetails['Date'].astype('float64')
        # Get the period of month column
        custDetails['monthPeriod'] = custDetails['Date'].apply(lambda x: int(x > conf['monthPer']))
        # Aggregate the custDetails to get a distribution of rewards
        rewardFull = custDetails.groupby(['Segment', 'Month', 'monthPeriod', 'Day', conf['product_id']])[
            conf['prod_qnty']].agg(
            'sum').reset_index()
        # Get these data frames for all methods
        self.custDetails = custDetails
        self.conf = conf
        self.rewardFull = rewardFull

The above code is for the constructor of the class ( lines 97 – 112 ), which is similar to the constructor of the rlLearn class. Here we consolidate the custDetails data frame and get the count of each products for the respective state.

Let us now look at the next two methods. Add the following code to the class we earlier created.

# Method to find unique values of each of the variables
    def uniqeVars(self):
        # Finding unique value for each of the variables
        segments = list(self.rewardFull.Segment.unique())
        months = list(self.rewardFull.Month.unique())
        monthPeriod = list(self.rewardFull.monthPeriod.unique())
        days = list(self.rewardFull.Day.unique())
        return segments, months, monthPeriod, days

    # Method to sample a state
    def stateSample(self):
        # Get the unique state elements
        segments, months, monthPeriod, days = self.uniqeVars()
        # Get the context of the customer. For the time being let us randomly select all the states
        seg = sample(segments, 1)[0]  # Sample the segment
        mon = sample(months, 1)[0]  # Sample the month
        monthPer = sample([0, 1], 1)[0]  # sample the month period
        day = sample(days, 1)[0]  # Sample the day
        # Get the state id by combining all these samples
        stateId = str(seg) + '_' + mon + '_' + str(monthPer) + '_' + day
        self.seg = seg
        return stateId

The first method , lines 115 – 121, is to get the unique values of segments, months, month-period and days. This information will be used in some of the methods we will see later on. The second method detailed in lines 124-135, is to sample a state id, through random sampling of the components of a state.

The next methods we will explore are to initialise dictionaries if a state id has not been seen earlier. The first method initialises dictionaries and the second method inserts a recommendation collection record in MongoDB if the state dosent exist. Let us see the code for these methods.

  # Method to initialize a dictionary in case a state Id is not available
    def collfinder(self,stateId,countDic,polDic,rewDic,recoCountdic):
        # Defining some dictionaries for storing the values
        self.countDic = countDic  # Dictionary to store the count of products
        self.polDic = polDic  # Dictionary to store the value distribution
        self.rewDic = rewDic  # Dictionary to store the reward distribution
        self.recoCountdic = recoCountdic  # Dictionary to store the recommendatio
        self.stateId = stateId
        print("[INFO] The current state is :", stateId)
        if self.countDic is None:
            print("[INFO] State ID do not exist")
            self.countDic = {}
            self.countDic[stateId] = {}
            self.polDic = {}
            self.polDic[stateId] = {}
            self.rewDic = {}
            self.rewDic[stateId] = {}
        if self.recoCountdic is None:
            self.recoCountdic = {}
            self.recoCountdic[stateId] = {}
        else:
            self.recoCountdic[stateId] = {}

# Method to update the recommendation dictionary
    def recoCollChecker(self):
        print("[INFO] Inside the recommendation collection")
        recoCol = db.rlRecotrack.find_one({self.stateId: {'$exists': True}})
        if recoCol is None:
            print("[INFO] Inserting the record in the recommendation collection")
            db.rlRecotrack.insert_one({self.stateId: {}})
        return recoCol

The inputs to the first method, as in line 138 are the state Id and all the other 4 dictionaries we extract from Mongo DB, which we will see later on in the main script rlRecoMain.py. If no record exists for a specific state Id, the dictionaries we extract from Mongo DB would be null and therefore we need to initialize these dictionaries for storing all the values of products, its values, rewards and the count of recommendations. The initialisation of these dictionaries are implemented in this method from lines 146-158.

The second initialisation method is to check for the recommendation count dictionary for a specific state Id. We first check for the state Id in the collection in line 163. If the record dosent exist then we insert a blank dictionary for that state in line 166.

Let us now look at the next two methods in the class

    # Create a function to get a list of products for a certain segment
    def segProduct(self,seg, nproducts):
        # Get the list of unique products for each segment
        seg_products = list(self.rewardFull[self.rewardFull['Segment'] == seg]['StockCode'].unique())
        seg_products = sample(seg_products, nproducts)
        return seg_products

    # This is the function to get the top n products based on value
    def sortlist(self,nproducts,seg):
        # Get the top products based on the values and sort them from product with largest value to least
        topProducts = sorted(self.polDic[self.stateId].keys(), key=lambda kv: self.polDic[self.stateId][kv])[-nproducts:][::-1]
        # If the topProducts is less than the required number of products nproducts, sample the delta
        while len(topProducts) < nproducts:
            print("[INFO] top products less than required number of products")
            segProducts = self.segProduct(seg, (nproducts - len(topProducts)))
            newList = topProducts + segProducts
            # Finding unique products
            topProducts = list(OrderedDict.fromkeys(newList))
        return topProducts

The method in lines 171-175 is to sample a list of products for a segment. This method is used incase the number of products in a particular state is less than the total number of products which we want to recommend. In such cases, we randomly sample some products from the list of all products bought by customers in that segment and then add it to the list of products we want to recommend. We will see this in action in sortlist method (lines 178-188).

The sortlist method, sorts the list of products based on the demand for that product and the returns the list of top products. The inputs to this method are the number of products we want to be recommended and the segment ( line 178 ). We then get the top ‘n‘ products by sorting the value dictionary based on the number of times a product is bought as in line 180. If the number of products is less than the required products, sampling of products is done using the segProduct method we saw earlier. The final list of top products is then returned by this method.

The next method which we are going to explore is the one which controls the exploration and exploitation process thereby generating a list of products to be recommended. Let us add the following code to the class.

# This is the function to create the number of products based on exploration and exploitation
    def sampProduct(self,seg, nproducts,epsilon):
        # Initialise an empty list for storing the recommended products
        seg_products = []
        # Get the list of unique products for each segment
        Segment_products = list(self.rewardFull[self.rewardFull['Segment'] == seg]['StockCode'].unique())
        # Get the list of top n products based on value
        topProducts = self.sortlist(nproducts,seg)
        # Start a loop to get the required number of products
        while len(seg_products) < nproducts:
            # First find a probability
            probability = np.random.rand()
            if probability >= epsilon:
                # print(topProducts)
                # The top product would be first product in the list
                prod = topProducts[0]
                # Append the selected product to the list
                seg_products.append(prod)
                # Remove the top product once appended
                topProducts.pop(0)
                # Ensure that seg_products is unique
                seg_products = list(OrderedDict.fromkeys(seg_products))
            else:
                # If the probability is less than epsilon value randomly sample one product
                prod = sample(Segment_products, 1)[0]
                seg_products.append(prod)
                # Ensure that seg_products is unique
                seg_products = list(OrderedDict.fromkeys(seg_products))
        return seg_products

The inputs to the method are the segment, number of products to be recommended and the epsilon value which determines exploration and exploitation as shown in line 191. In line 195, we get the list of the products for the segment. This list is from where products are sampled during the exploration phase. We also get the list of top products which needs to be recommended in line 197, using the sortlist method we defined earlier. In lines 199-218 we implement the exploitation and exploration processes we discussed during the prototyping phase and finally we return the list of top products for recommendation.

The next method which we will explore is the one to update dictionaries after the recommendation process.

# This is the method for updating the dictionaries after recommendation
    def dicUpdater(self,prodList, stateId):        
        for prod in prodList:
            # Check if the product is in the dictionary
            if prod in list(self.countDic[stateId].keys()):
                # Update the count by 1
                self.countDic[stateId][prod] += 1                
            else:
                self.countDic[stateId][prod] = 1                
            if prod in list(self.recoCountdic[stateId].keys()):
                # Update the recommended products with 1
                self.recoCountdic[stateId][prod] += 1                
            else:
                # Initialise the recommended products as 1
                self.recoCountdic[stateId][prod] = 1                
            if prod not in list(self.polDic[stateId].keys()):
                # Initialise the value as 0
                self.polDic[stateId][prod] = 0                
            if prod not in list(self.rewDic[stateId].keys()):
                # Initialise the reward dictionary as 0
                self.rewDic[stateId][prod] = GaussianDistribution(loc=0, scale=1, size=1)[0].round(2)                
        print("[INFO] Completed the initial dictionary updates")

The inputs to this method, as in line 221, are the list of products to be recommended and the state Id. From lines 222-234, we iterate through each of the recommended product and increament the count in the dictionary if the product exists in the dictionary or initialize the count to 1 if the product wasnt available. Later on in lines 235-240, we initialise the value dictionary and the reward dictionary if the products are not available in them.

The next method we will see is the one for initializing the dictionaries in case the context dosent exist.

    def dicAdder(self,prodList, stateId):        
        # Loop through the product list
        for prod in prodList:
            # Initialise the count as 1
            self.countDic[stateId][prod] = 1
            # Initialise the value as 0
            self.polDic[stateId][prod] = 0
            # Initialise the recommended products as 1
            self.recoCountdic[stateId][prod] = 1
            # Initialise the reward dictionary as 0
            self.rewDic[stateId][prod] = GaussianDistribution(loc=0, scale=1, size=1)[0].round(2)
        print("[INFO] Completed the dictionary initialization")
        # Next update the collections with the respective updates        
        # Updating the quantity collection
        db.rlQuantdic.insert_one({stateId: self.countDic[stateId]})
        # Updating the recommendation tracking collection
        db.rlRecotrack.insert_one({stateId: self.recoCount[stateId]})
        # Updating the value function collection for the products
        db.rlValuedic.insert_one({stateId: self.polDic[stateId]})
        # Updating the rewards collection
        db.rlRewarddic.insert_one({stateId: self.rewDic[stateId]})
        print('[INFO] Completed updating all the collections')

If the state Id dosent exist, the dictionaries are initialised as seen in lines 147-155. Once the dictionaries are initialised, MongoDb data bases are updated in lines 259-265.

The next method which we are going to explore is one of the main methods which integrates all the methods we have seen so far. This methods implements the recomendation process. Let us explore this method.

# Method to sample a stateID and then initialize the dictionaries
    def rlRecommender(self):
        # First sample a stateID
        stateId = self.stateId        
        # Start the recommendation process
        if len(self.polDic[stateId]) > 0:
            print("The context exists")
            # Implement the sampling of products based on exploration and exploitation
            seg_products = self.sampProduct(self.seg, self.conf["nProducts"],self.conf["epsilon"])
            # Check if the recommendation count collection exist
            recoCol = self.recoCollChecker()
            print('Recommendation collection existing :',recoCol)
            # Update the dictionaries of values and rewards
            self.dicUpdater(seg_products, stateId)
        else:
            print("The context dosent exist")
            # Get the list of relavant products
            seg_products = self.segProduct(self.seg, conf["nProducts"])
            # Add products to the value dictionary and rewards dictionary
            self.dicAdder(seg_products, stateId)
        print("[INFO] Completed the recommendation process")

        return seg_products

The first step in the process is to get the state Id ( line 271 ) based on which we have to do all the recommendations. Once we have the state Id, we check if it is an existing state id in line 273. If it is an existing state Id we get the list of ‘n’ products for recommendation using the sampProduct method we saw earlier, where we implement exploration and exploitation. Once we get the products we initialise the recommendation collection in line 278. Finally we update all dictionaries using the dicUpdater method in line 281.

From lines 282-287, we implement a similar process when the state Id dosent exist. The only difference in this case is in the initialisation of the dictionaries in line 287, where we use the dicAdder method.

Once we complete the recommendation process, we get into simulating the customer action.

# Function to initiate customer action
    def custAction(self,segproducts):
        print('[INFO] getting the customer action')
        # Sample a value to get how many products will be clicked
        click_number = np.random.choice(np.arange(0, 10),
                                        p=[0.50, 0.35, 0.10, 0.025, 0.015, 0.0055, 0.002, 0.00125, 0.00124, 0.00001])
        # Sample products which will be clicked based on click number
        click_list = sample(segproducts, click_number)

        # Sample for buy values
        buy_number = np.random.choice(np.arange(0, 10),
                                      p=[0.70, 0.15, 0.10, 0.025, 0.015, 0.0055, 0.002, 0.00125, 0.00124, 0.00001])
        # Sample products which will be bought based on buy number
        buy_list = sample(segproducts, buy_number)

        return click_list, buy_list

Lines 296-305 implements the processes for simulating the list of products which are bought and browsed by the customer based on the recommendation we made. The method returns the list of products which were browsed through and also the one which were bought. For detailed explanations on these methods please refer the previous post

The next methods we will explore are the ones related to the value updation of the recommendation system.

    def getReward(self,loc):
        rew = GaussianDistribution(loc=loc, scale=1, size=1)[0].round(2)
        return rew

    def saPolicy(self,rew, prod):
        # This function gets the relavant algorithm for the policy update
        # Get the current value of the state        
        vcur = self.polDic[self.stateId][prod]        
        # Get the counts of the current product
        n = self.recoCountdic[self.stateId][prod]        
        # Calculate the new value
        Incvcur = (1 / n) * (rew - vcur)       
        return Incvcur

The getReward method on line 309 is to generate a reward from a gaussian distribution centred around the reward value. We will see the use of this method in subsequent methods.

The saPolicy method in lines 313-321 updates the value of the state based on the simple averaging method in line 320. We have already seen these methods in our prototyping phase in the previous post.

Next we will see the method which uses both the above methods.

    def valueUpdater(self,seg_products, loc, custList, remove=True):
        for prod in custList:
            # Get the reward for the bought product. The reward will be centered around the defined reward for each action
            rew = self.getReward(loc)            
            # Update the reward in the reward dictionary
            self.rewDic[self.stateId][prod] += rew            
            # Update the policy based on the reward
            Incvcur = self.saPolicy(rew, prod)            
            self.polDic[self.stateId][prod] += Incvcur           
            # Remove the bought product from the product list
            if remove:
                seg_products.remove(prod)
        return seg_products

The inputs to this method are the recommended list of products, the mean reward ( click, buy or ignore), the corresponding list ( click list or buy list) and a flag to indicate if the product has to be removed from the recommendation list or not.

We interate through all the products in the customer action list in line 324 and then gets the reward in line 326. Once the reward is incremented in the reward dictionary in line 328, we get the incremental value in line 330 and this is updated in the value dictionary in line 331. If the flag is True, we remove the product from the recommended list and the finally returns the remaining recommendation list.

The next method is the last of the methods and ties the above three methods with the customer action.

# Function to update the reward dictionary and the value dictionary based on customer action
    def rewardUpdater(self, seg_products,custBuy=[], custClick=[]):
        # Check if there are any customer purchases
        if len(custBuy) > 0:
            seg_products = self.valueUpdater(seg_products, self.conf['buyReward'], custBuy)
            # Repeat the same process for customer click
        if len(custClick) > 0:
            seg_products = self.valueUpdater(seg_products, self.conf['clickReward'], custClick)
            # For those products not clicked or bought, give a penalty
        if len(seg_products) > 0:
            custList = seg_products.copy()
            seg_products = self.valueUpdater(seg_products, -2, custList,False)
        # Next update the collections with the respective updates
        print('[INFO] Updating all the collections')
        # Updating the quantity collection
        db.rlQuantdic.replace_one({self.stateId: {'$exists': True}}, {self.stateId: self.countDic[self.stateId]})
        # Updating the recommendation tracking collection
        db.rlRecotrack.replace_one({self.stateId: {'$exists': True}}, {self.stateId: self.recoCountdic[self.stateId]})
        # Updating the value function collection for the products
        db.rlValuedic.replace_one({self.stateId: {'$exists': True}}, {self.stateId: self.polDic[self.stateId]})
        # Updating the rewards collection
        db.rlRewarddic.replace_one({self.stateId: {'$exists': True}}, {self.stateId: self.rewDic[self.stateId]})
        print('[INFO] Completed updating all the collections')

In lines 340-348, we update the value based on the number of products bought, clicked and ignored. Once the value dictionaries are updated, the respective MongoDb dictionaries are updated in lines 352-358.

With this we have covered all the methods which are required for implementing the self learning recommendation system. Let us summarise our learning so far in this post.

  • Created the states and updated MongoDB with the states data. We used the historic data for initialisation of values.
  • Implemented the recommendation process by getting a list of products to be recommended to the customer
  • Explored customer response simulation wherein the customer response to the recommended products were implemented.
  • Updated the value functions and reward functions after customer response
  • Updated Mongo DB collections after the completion of the process for a customer.

What next ?

We are coming to the fag end of our series. The next post is where we tie all these methods together in the main driver file and see how these processes are implmented. We will also run the script on the terminal and observe the results. Once the application implementation is done, we will also explore avenues to deploy the application. Watch this space for the last post of the series.

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The complete code base for the series is in the Bayesian Quest Git hub repository

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The Data Science Workshop Book

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Building Self Learning Recommendation system – VI : Productionizing the application : I

This is the sixth post of our series on building a self learning recommendation system using reinforcement learning. This series consists of 8 posts where in we progressively build a self learning recommendation system. This series consists of the following posts

  1. Recommendation system and reinforcement learning primer
  2. Introduction to multi armed bandit problem
  3. Self learning recommendation system as a K-armed bandit
  4. Build the prototype of the self learning recommendation system : Part I
  5. Build the prototype of the self learning recommendation system : Part II
  6. Productionising the self learning recommendation system: Part I – Customer Segmentation ( This post )
  7. Productionising the self learning recommendation system: Part II – Implementing self learning recommendation
  8. Evaluating different deployment options for the self learning recommendation systems.

This post builds on the previous post where we started off with building the prototype of the application in Jupyter notebooks. In this post we will see how to convert our prototype into Python scripts. Converting into python script is important because that is the basis for building an application and then deploying them for general consumption.

File Structure for the project

First let us look at the file structure of our project.

The directory RL_Recomendations is the main directory which contains other folders which are required for the project. Out of the directories rlreco is a virtual environment we will create and all our working directories are within this virtual environment.Along with the folders we also have the script rlRecoMain.py which is the main driver script for the application. We will now go through some of the steps in creating this folder structure

When building an application it is always a good practice to create a virtual environment and then complete the application build process within the virtual environment. We talked about this in one of our earlier series for building machine translation applications . This way we can ensure that only application specific libraries and packages are present when we deploy our application.

Let us first create a separate folder in our drive and then create a virtual environment within that folder. In a Linux based system, a seperate folder can be created as follows

$ mkdir RL_Recomendations

Once the new directory is created let us change directory into the RL_Recomendations directory and then create a virtual environment. A virtual environment can be created on Linux with Python3 with the below script

RL_Recomendations $ python3 -m venv rlreco

Here the rlreco is the name of our virtual environment. The virtual environment which we created can be activated as below

RL_Recomendations $ source rlreco/bin/activate

Once the virtual environment is enabled we will get the following prompt.

(rlreco) ~$

In addition you will notice that a new folder created with the same name as the virtual environment. We will use that folder to create all our folders and main files required for our application. Let us traverse through our driver file and then create all the folders and files required for our application.

Create the driver file

Open a file using your favourite editor and name it rlRecoMain.py and the insert the following code.

import argparse
import pandas as pd
from utils import Conf,helperFunctions
from Data import DataProcessor
from processes import rfmMaker,rlLearn,rlRecomend
from utils import helperFunctions
import os.path
from pymongo import MongoClient

Lines 1-2 we import the libraries which we require for our application. In line 3 we have to import Conf class from the utils folder.

So first let us create a folder called utils, which will have the following file structure.

The utils folder has a file called Conf.py which contains the Conf class and another file called helperFunctions.py . The first file controls the configuration functions and the second file contains some of the helper functions like saving data into pickle files. We will get to that in a moment.

First let us open a new python file Conf.py and copy the following code.

from json_minify import json_minify
import json

class Conf:

    def __init__(self,confPath):
        # Read the json file and load it into a dictionary
        conf = json.loads(json_minify(open(confPath).read()))
        self.__dict__.update(conf)
    def __getitem__(self, k):
        return self.__dict__.get(k,None)

The Conf class is a simple class, with its constructor loading the configuration file which is in json format in line 8. Once the configuration file is loaded the elements are extracted by invoking ‘conf’ method. We will see more of how this is used later.

We have talked about the Conf class which loads the configuration file, however we havent made the configuration file yet. As you may know a configuration file contains all the parameters in the application. Let us see the directory structure of the configuration file.

Figure : config folder and configuration file

You can now create the folder called config, under the rlreco folder and then open a file in your editor and then name it custprof.json and include the following code.

{

  /****
  * paths required
  ****/

  "inputData" : "/media/acer/7DC832E057A5BDB1/JMJTL/Tomslabs/Datasets/Retail/OnlineRetail.csv",
  "custDetails" : "/media/acer/7DC832E057A5BDB1/JMJTL/Tomslabs/BayesianQuest/RL_Recomendations/rlreco/output/custDetails.pkl",

  /****
  * Column mapping
  ****/

  "order_id" : "InvoiceNo",
  "product_id": "StockCode",
  "product" : "Description",
  "prod_qnty" : "Quantity",
  "order_date" : "InvoiceDate",
  "unit_price" : "UnitPrice",
  "customer_id" : "CustomerID",
    /****
  * Parameters
  ****/

  "nclust" : 4,
  "monthPer" : 15,
  "epsilon" : 0.1,
  "nProducts" : 10,
  "buyReward" : 5,
  "clickReward": 1
}

As you can see the config, file contains all the configuration items required as part of the application. The first part is where the paths to the raw file and processed pickle files are stored. The second part is the mapping of the column names in the raw file and the names used in our application. The third part contains all the parameters required for the application. The Conf class which we earlier saw will read the json file and all these parameters will be loaded to memory for us to be used in the application.

Lets come back to the utils folder and create the second file which we will name as helperFunctions.py and insert the following code.

from pickle import load
from pickle import dump
import numpy as np


# Function to Save data to pickle form
def save_clean_data(data,filename):
    dump(data,open(filename,'wb'))
    print('Saved: %s' % filename)

# Function to load pickle data from disk
def load_files(filename):
    return load(open(filename,'rb'))

This file contains two functions. The first function starting in line 7 saves a file in pickle format to the specified path. The second function in line 12, loads a pickle file and return the data. These two functions are handy functions which will be used later in our project.

We will come back to the main file rlRecoMain.py and look at the next folder and methods on line 4. In this line we import DataProcessor method from the folder Data . Let us take a look at the folder called Data.

Create the data processor module

The class and the methods associated with the class are in the file dataLoader.py. Let us first create the folder, Data and then open a file named dataLoader.py and insert the following code.

import os
import pandas as pd
import pickle
import numpy as np
import random
from utils import helperFunctions
from datetime import datetime, timedelta,date
from dateutil.parser import parse

class DataProcessor:
    def __init__(self,configfile):
        # This is the first method in the DataProcessor class
        self.config = configfile

     # This is the method to load data from the input files
    def dataLoader(self):
        inputPath = self.config["inputData"]
        dataFrame = pd.read_csv(inputPath,encoding = "ISO-8859-1")
        return dataFrame

    # This is the method for parsing dates
    def dateParser(self):
        custDetails = self.dataLoader()
        #Parsing  the date
        custDetails['Parse_date'] = custDetails[self.config["order_date"]].apply(lambda x: parse(x))
        # Parsing the weekdaty
        custDetails['Weekday'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.weekday())
        # Parsing the Day
        custDetails['Day'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.strftime("%A"))
        # Parsing the Month
        custDetails['Month'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.strftime("%B"))
        # Getting the year
        custDetails['Year'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.strftime("%Y"))
        # Getting year and month together as one feature
        custDetails['year_month'] = custDetails['Year'] + "_" +custDetails['Month']

        return custDetails

    def gvCreator(self):
        custDetails = self.dateParser()
        # Creating gross value column
        custDetails['grossValue'] = custDetails[self.config["prod_qnty"]] * custDetails[self.config["unit_price"]]

        return custDetails

The constructor of the DataProcessor class takes the config file as the input and then make it available for all the other methods in line 13.

This dataProcessor class will have three methods, dataLoader, dateParser and gvCreator. The last method is the driving method which internally calls other two methods. Let us look at the gvCreator method.

The dateParser method is called first within the gvCreator method in line 40. The dateParser method in turn calls the dataLoader method in line 23. The dataLoader method loads the customer data as a pandas data frame in line 18 and the passes it to the dateParser method in line 23. The dateParser method takes the custDetails data frame and then extracts all the date related fields from lines 25-35. We saw this in detail during the prototyping phase in the previous post.

Once the dates are parsed in the custDetails data frame, it is passed to gvCreator method in line 40 and then the ‘gross value’ is calcuated by multiplying the unit price and the product quantity. Finally the processed custDetails file is returned.

Now we will come back to the rlRecoMain file and the look at the three other classes, rfmMaker,rlLearn,rlRecomend, we import in line 5 of the file rlRecoMain.py. This is imported from the ‘processes’ folder. Let us look at the composition of the processes folder.

We have three files in the folder, processes.

The first one is the __init__.py file which is the constructor to the package. Let us see its contentes. Open a file and name it __init__.py and add the following lines of code.

from .rfmProcess import rfmMaker
from .selfLearnProcess import rlLearn,rlRecomend

Create customer segmentation modules

In lines 1-2 of the constructor file we make the three classes ( rfmMaker,rlLearn and rlRecomend) available to the package. The class rfmMaker is in the file rfmProcess.py and the other two classes are in the file selfLearnProcess.py.

Let us open a new file, name it rfmProcess.py and then insert the following code.

import sys
sys.path.append('path_to_the_folder/RL_Recomendations/rlreco')
import pandas as pd
import lifetimes
from sklearn.cluster import KMeans
from utils import helperFunctions



class rfmMaker:
    def __init__(self,custDetails,conf):
        self.custDetails = custDetails
        self.conf = conf

    def rfmMatrix(self):
        # Converting data to RFM format
        RfmAgeTrain = lifetimes.utils.summary_data_from_transaction_data(self.custDetails, self.conf['customer_id'], 'Parse_date','grossValue')
        # Reset the index
        RfmAgeTrain = RfmAgeTrain.reset_index()
        return RfmAgeTrain

    # Function for ordering cluster numbers

    def order_cluster(self,cluster_field_name, target_field_name, data, ascending):
        # Group the data on the clusters and summarise the target field(recency/frequency/monetary) based on the mean value
        data_new = data.groupby(cluster_field_name)[target_field_name].mean().reset_index()
        # Sort the data based on the values of the target field
        data_new = data_new.sort_values(by=target_field_name, ascending=ascending).reset_index(drop=True)
        # Create a new column called index for storing the sorted index values
        data_new['index'] = data_new.index
        # Merge the summarised data onto the original data set so that the index is mapped to the cluster
        data_final = pd.merge(data, data_new[[cluster_field_name, 'index']], on=cluster_field_name)
        # From the final data drop the cluster name as the index is the new cluster
        data_final = data_final.drop([cluster_field_name], axis=1)
        # Rename the index column to cluster name
        data_final = data_final.rename(columns={'index': cluster_field_name})
        return data_final

    # Function to do the cluster ordering for each cluster
    #

    def clusterSorter(self,target_field_name,RfmAgeTrain, ascending):
        # Defining the number of clusters
        nclust = self.conf['nclust']
        # Make the subset data frame using the required feature
        user_variable = RfmAgeTrain[['CustomerID', target_field_name]]
        # let us take four clusters indicating 4 quadrants
        kmeans = KMeans(n_clusters=nclust)
        kmeans.fit(user_variable[[target_field_name]])
        # Create the cluster field name from the target field name
        cluster_field_name = target_field_name + 'Cluster'
        # Create the clusters
        user_variable[cluster_field_name] = kmeans.predict(user_variable[[target_field_name]])
        # Sort and reset index
        user_variable.sort_values(by=target_field_name, ascending=ascending).reset_index(drop=True)
        # Sort the data frame according to cluster values
        user_variable = self.order_cluster(cluster_field_name, target_field_name, user_variable, ascending)
        return user_variable


    def clusterCreator(self):
        
        #data : THis is the dataframe for which we want to create the clsuters
        #clustName : This is the variable name
        #nclust ; Numvber of clusters to be created
        
        # Get the RFM data Frame
        RfmAgeTrain = self.rfmMatrix()
        # Implementing for user recency
        user_recency = self.clusterSorter('recency', RfmAgeTrain,False)
        #print('recency grouping',user_recency.groupby('recencyCluster')['recency'].mean().reset_index())
        # Implementing for user frequency
        user_freqency = self.clusterSorter('frequency', RfmAgeTrain, True)
        #print('frequency grouping',user_freqency.groupby('frequencyCluster')['frequency'].mean().reset_index())
        # Implementing for monetary values
        user_monetary = self.clusterSorter('monetary_value', RfmAgeTrain, True)
        #print('monetary grouping',user_monetary.groupby('monetary_valueCluster')['monetary_value'].mean().reset_index())

        # Merging the individual data frames with the main data frame
        RfmAgeTrain = pd.merge(RfmAgeTrain, user_monetary[["CustomerID", 'monetary_valueCluster']], on='CustomerID')
        RfmAgeTrain = pd.merge(RfmAgeTrain, user_freqency[["CustomerID", 'frequencyCluster']], on='CustomerID')
        RfmAgeTrain = pd.merge(RfmAgeTrain, user_recency[["CustomerID", 'recencyCluster']], on='CustomerID')
        # Calculate the overall score
        RfmAgeTrain['OverallScore'] = RfmAgeTrain['recencyCluster'] + RfmAgeTrain['frequencyCluster'] + RfmAgeTrain['monetary_valueCluster']
        return RfmAgeTrain

    def segmenter(self):
        
        #This is the script to create segments after the RFM analysis
        
        # Get the RFM data Frame
        RfmAgeTrain = self.clusterCreator()
        # Segment data
        RfmAgeTrain['Segment'] = 'Q1'
        RfmAgeTrain.loc[(RfmAgeTrain.OverallScore == 0), 'Segment'] = 'Q2'
        RfmAgeTrain.loc[(RfmAgeTrain.OverallScore == 1), 'Segment'] = 'Q2'
        RfmAgeTrain.loc[(RfmAgeTrain.OverallScore == 2), 'Segment'] = 'Q3'
        RfmAgeTrain.loc[(RfmAgeTrain.OverallScore == 4), 'Segment'] = 'Q4'
        RfmAgeTrain.loc[(RfmAgeTrain.OverallScore == 5), 'Segment'] = 'Q4'
        RfmAgeTrain.loc[(RfmAgeTrain.OverallScore == 6), 'Segment'] = 'Q4'

        # Merging the customer details with the segment
        custDetails = pd.merge(self.custDetails, RfmAgeTrain, on=['CustomerID'], how='left')
        # Saving the details as a pickle file
        helperFunctions.save_clean_data(custDetails,self.conf["custDetails"])
        print("[INFO] Saved customer details ")

        return custDetails

The rfmMaker, class contains methods which does the following tasks,Converting the custDetails data frame to the RFM format. We saw this method in the previous post, where we used the lifetimes library to convert the data frame to the RFM format. This process is detailed in the rfmMatrix method from lines 15-20.

Once the data is made in the RFM format, the next task as we saw in the previous post was to create the clusters for recency, frequency and monetary values. During our prototyping phase we decided to adopt 4 clusters for each of these variables. In this method we will pass the number of clusters through the configuration file as seen in line 44 and then we create these clusters using Kmeans method as shown in lines 48-49. Once the clusters are created, the clusters are sorted to get a logical order. We saw these steps during the prototyping phase and these are implemented using clusterCreator method ( lines 61-85) clusterSorter method ( lines 42-58 ) and orderCluster methods ( lines 24 – 37 ). As the name suggests the first method is to create the cluster and the latter two are to sort it in the logical way. The detailed explanations of these functions are detailed in the last post.

After the clusters are made and sorted, the next task was to merge it with the original data frame. This is done in the latter part of the clusterCreator method ( lines 80-82 ). As we saw in the prototyping phase we merged all the three cluster details to the original data frame and then created the overall score by summing up the scores of each of the individual clusters ( line 84 ) . Finally this data frame is returned to the final method segmenter for defining the segments

Our final task was to combine the clusters to 4 distinct segments as seen from the protoyping phase. We do these steps in the segmenter method ( lines 94-100 ). After these steps we have 4 segments ‘Q1’ to ‘Q4’ and these segments are merged to the custDetails data frame ( line 103 ).

Thats takes us to the end of this post. So let us summarise all our learning so far in this post.

  • Created the folder structure for the project
  • Created a virtual environment and activated the virtual environment
  • Created folders like Config, Data, Processes, Utils and the created the corresponding files
  • Created the code and files for data loading, data clustering and segmenting using the RFM process

We will not get into other aspects of building our self learning system in the next post.

What Next ?

Now that we have explored rfmMaker class in file rfmProcess.py in the next post we will define the classes and methods for implementing the recommendation and self learning processes. The next post will be published next week. To be notified of the next post please subscribe to this blog post .You can also subscribe to our Youtube channel for all the videos related to this series.

The complete code base for the series is in the Bayesian Quest Git hub repository

Do you want to Climb the Machine Learning Knowledge Pyramid ?

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I would also recommend two books I have co-authored. The first one is specialised in deep learning with practical hands on exercises and interactive video and audio aids for learning

This book is accessible using the following links

The Deep Learning Workshop on Amazon

The Deep Learning Workshop on Packt

The second book equips you with practical machine learning skill sets. The pedagogy is through practical interactive exercises and activities.

The Data Science Workshop Book

This book can be accessed using the following links

The Data Science Workshop on Amazon

The Data Science Workshop on Packt

Enjoy your learning experience and be empowered !!!!

Building Self Learning Recommendation system – V : Prototype Phase II : Self Learning Implementation

This is the fifth post of our series on building a self learning recommendation system using reinforcement learning. This post of the series builds on the previous post where we segmented customers using RFM analysis. This series consists of the following posts.

  1. Recommendation system and reinforcement learning primer
  2. Introduction to multi armed bandit problem
  3. Self learning recommendation system as a K-armed bandit
  4. Build the prototype of the self learning recommendation system : Part I
  5. Build the prototype of the self learning recommendation system: Part II ( This post )
  6. Productionising the self learning recommendation system: Part I – Customer Segmentation
  7. Productionising the self learning recommendation system: Part II – Implementing self learning recommendation
  8. Evaluating different deployment options for the self learning recommendation systems.

Introduction

In the last post we saw how to create customer segments from transaction data. In this post we will use the customer segments to create states of the customer. Before making the states let us make some assumptions based on the buying behaviour of customers.

  1. Customers in the same segment have very similar buying behaviours
  2. The second assumption we will make is that buying pattern of customers vary accross the months. Within each month we are assuming that the buying behaviour within the first 15 days is different from the buying behaviour in the next 15 days. Now these assumptions are made only to demonstrate how such assumptions will influence the creation of different states of the customer. One can still go much more granular with assumptions that the buying pattern changes every week in a month, i.e say the buying pattern within the first week will be differnt from that of the second week and so on. With each level of granularity the number of states required will increase. Ideally such decisions need to be made considering the business dynamics and based on real customer buying behaviours.
  3. The next assumption we will be making is based on the days in a week. We make an assumption that buying behaviours of customers during different days of a week also varies.

Based on these assumptions, each state will have four tiers i.e

Customer segment >> month >> within first 15 days or not >> day of the week.

Let us now see how this assumption can be carried forward to create different states for our self learning recommendation system.

As a first step towards creation of states, we will create some more variables from the existing variables. We will be using the same dataframe we created till the segmentation phase, which we discussed in the last post.

# Feature engineering of the customer details data frame
# Get the date  as a seperate column
custDetails['Date'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.strftime("%d"))
# Converting date to float for easy comparison
custDetails['Date']  = custDetails['Date'] .astype('float64')
# Get the period of month column
custDetails['monthPeriod'] = custDetails['Date'].apply(lambda x: int(x > 15))

custDetails.head()

Let us closely look at the changes incorporated. In line 3, we are extracting the date of the month and then converting them into a float type in line 5. The purpose of taking the date is to find out which of these transactions have happened before 15th of the month and which after 15th. We extract those details in line 7, where we create a binary points ( 0 & 1) as to whether a date falls in the last 15 days or the first 15 days of the month. Now all data points required to create the state is in place. These individual data points will be combined together to form the state ( i.e. Segment-Month-Monthperiod-Day ). We will getinto nuances of state creation next.

Initialization of values

When we discussed about the K armed bandit in post 2, we saw the functions for generating the rewards and value. What we will do next is to initialize the reward function and the value function for the states.A widely used method for finding the value function and the reward function is to intialize those values to zero. However we already have data on each state and the product buying frequency for each of these states. We will aggregate the quantities of each product as per the state combination to create our initial value functions.

# Aggregate custDetails to get a distribution of rewards
rewardFull = custDetails.groupby(['Segment','Month','monthPeriod','Day','StockCode'])['Quantity'].agg('sum').reset_index()

rewardFull

From the output, we can see the state wise distribution of products . For example for the state Q1_April_0_Friday we find that the 120 quantities of product ‘10002’ was bought and so on. So the consolidated data frame represents the propensity of buying of each product. We will make the propensity of buying the basis for the initial values of each product.

Now that we have consolidated the data, we will get into the task of creating our reward and value distribution. We will extract information relevant for each state and then load the data into different dictionaries for ease of use. We will kick off these processes by first extracting the unique values of each of the components of our states.

# Finding unique value for each of the segment 
segments = list(rewardFull.Segment.unique())
print('segments',segments)
months = list(rewardFull.Month.unique())
print('months',months)
monthPeriod = list(rewardFull.monthPeriod.unique())
print('monthPeriod',monthPeriod)
days = list(rewardFull.Day.unique())
print('days',days)

In lines 16-22, we take the unique values of each of the components of our state and then store them as list. We will use these lists to create our reward an value function dictionaries . First let us create dictionaries in which we are going to store the values.

# Defining some dictionaries for storing the values
countDic = {} # Dictionary to store the count of products
polDic = {} # Dictionary to store the value distribution
rewDic = {} # Dictionary to store the reward distribution
recoCount = {} # Dictionary to store the recommendation counts

Let us now implement the process of initializing the reward and value functions.

for seg in segments:
    for mon in months:
        for period in monthPeriod:
            for day in days:
                # Get the subset of the data
                subset1 = rewardFull[(rewardFull['Segment'] == seg) & (rewardFull['Month'] == mon) & (
                            rewardFull['monthPeriod'] == period) & (rewardFull['Day'] == day)]                
                # Check if the subset is valid
                if len(subset1) > 0:
                    # Iterate through each of the subset and get the products and its quantities
                    stateId = str(seg) + '_' + mon + '_' + str(period) + '_' + day
                    # Define a dictionary for the state ID
                    countDic[stateId] = {}                    
                    for i in range(len(subset1.StockCode)):
                        countDic[stateId][subset1.iloc[i]['StockCode']] = int(subset1.iloc[i]['Quantity'])

Thats an ugly looking loop. Let us unravel it. In lines 30-33, we implement iterative loops to go through each component of our state, starting from segment, month, month period and finally days. We then get the data which corresponds to each of the components of the state in line 35. In line 38 we do a check to see if there is any data pertaining to the state we are interested in. If there is valid data, then we first define an ID for the state, by combining all the components in line 40. In line 42, we define an inner dictionary for each element of the countDic, dictionary. The key of the countDic dictionary is the state Id we defined in line 40. In the inner dictionary we store each of the products as its key and the corresponding quantity values of the product as its values in line 44.

Let us look at the total number of states in the countDic

len(countDic)

You will notice that there are 572 states formed. Let us look at the data for some of the states.

stateId = 'Q4_September_1_Wednesday'
countDic[stateId]

From the output we can see how for each state, the products and its frequency of purchase is listed. This will form the basis of our reward distribution and also the value distribution. We will create that next

Consolidation of rewards and value distribution

from numpy.random import normal as GaussianDistribution
# Consolidate the rewards and value functions based on the quantities
for key in countDic.keys():    
    # First get the dictionary of products for a state
    prodCounts = countDic[key]
    polDic[key] = {}
    rewDic[key] = {}    
    # Update the policy values
    for pkey in prodCounts.keys():
        # Creating the value dictionary using a Gaussian process
        polDic[key][pkey] = GaussianDistribution(loc=prodCounts[pkey], scale=1, size=1)[0].round(2)
        # Creating a reward dictionary using a Gaussian process
        rewDic[key][pkey] = GaussianDistribution(loc=prodCounts[pkey], scale=1, size=1)[0].round(2)

In line 50, we iterate through each of the states in the countDic. Please note that the key of the dictionary is the state. In line 52, we store the products and its counts for a state, in another variable prodCounts. The prodCounts dictionary has the the product id as its key and the buying frequency as the value,. Lines 53 and 54, we create two more dictionaries for the value and reward dictionaries. In line 56 we loop through each product of the state and make it the key of the inner dictionaries of reward and value dictionaries. We generate a random number from a Gaussian distribution with the mean as the frequency of purchase for the product . We store the number generated from the Gaussian distribution as values for both rewards and value function dictionaries. At the end of the iterations, we get a distribution of rewards and value for each state and the products within each state. The distribution would be centred around the frequency of purchase of each of the product under the state.

Let us take a look at some sample values of both the dictionaries

polDic[stateId]
rewDic[stateId]

We have the necessary ingradients for building our selflearning recommendation engine. Let us now think about the actual process in an online recommendation system. In the actual process when a customer visits the ecommerce site, we first need to understand the state of that customer which will be the segment of the customer, the currrent month, which half of the month the customer is logging in and also the day when the customer is logging in. These are the information we would require to create the states.

For our purpose we will simulate the context of the customer using random sampling

Simulation of customer action

# Get the context of the customer. For the time being let us randomly select all the states
seg = sample(['Q1','Q2','Q3','Q4'],1)[0] # Sample the segment
mon = sample(['January','February','March','April','May','June','July','August','September','October','November','December'],1)[0] # Sample the month
monthPer = sample([0,1],1)[0] # sample the month period
day = sample(['Sunday','Monday','Tuesday','Wednesday','Thursday','Friday','Saturday'],1)[0] # Sample the day
# Get the state id by combining all these samples
stateId = str(seg) + '_' +  mon + '_' + str(monthPer) + '_' + day
print(stateId)

Lines 64-67, we sample each component of the state and then in line 68 we combine them to form the state id. We will be using the state id for the recommendation process. The recommendation process will have the following step.

Process 1 : Initialize dictionaries

A check is done to find if the value of reward dictionares which we earlier defined has the states which we sampled. If the state exists we take the value dictionary corresponding to the sampled state, if the state dosent exist, we initialise an empty dictionary corresponding to the state. Let us look at the function to do that.

def collfinder(dictionary,stateId):
    # dictionary ; This is the dictionary where we check if the state exists
    # stateId : StateId to be checked    
    if stateId in dictionary.keys():        
        mycol = {}
        mycol[stateId] = dictionary[stateId]
    else:
        # Initialise the state Id in the dictionary
        dictionary[stateId] = {}
        # Return the state specific collection
        mycol = {}
        mycol[stateId] = dictionary[stateId]
        
    return mycol[stateId],mycol,dictionary

In line 71, we define the function. The inputs are the dictionary the state id we want to verify. We first check if the state id exists in the dictionary in line 74. If it exists we create a new dictionary called mycol in line 75 and then load all the products and its count to mycol dictionary in line 76.

If the state dosent exist, we first initialise the state in line 79 and then repeat the same processes as of lines 75-76.

Let us now implement this step for the dictionaries which we have already created.

# Check for the policy Dictionary
mypolDic,mypol,polDic = collfinder(polDic,stateId)

Let us check the mypol dictionary.

mypol

We can see the policy dictionary for the state we defined. We will now repeat the process for the reward dictionary and the count dictionaries

# Check for the Reward Dictionary
myrewDic, staterew,rewDic = collfinder(rewDic,stateId)
# Check for the Count Dictionary
myCount,quantityDic,countDic = collfinder(countDic,stateId)

Both these dictionaries are similar to the policy dictionary above.

We also will be creating a similar dictionary for the recommended products, to keep count of all the products which are recommended. Since we havent created a recommendation dictionary, we will initialise that and create the state for the recommendation dictionary.

# Initializing the recommendation dictionary
recoCountdic = {}
# Check the recommendation count dictionary
myrecoDic,recoCount,recoCountdic = collfinder(recoCountdic,stateId)

We will now get into the second process which is the recommendation process

Process 2 : Recommendation process

We start the recommendation process based on the epsilon greedy method. Let us define the overall process for the recommendation system.

As mentioned earlier, one of our basic premise was that customers within the same segment have similar buying propensities. So the products which we need to recommend for a customer, will be picked from all the products bought by customers belonging to that segment. So the first task in the process is to get all the products relevant for the segment to which the customer belongs. We sort the products, in descending order, based on the frequency of product purchase.

Implementing the self learning recommendation system using epsilon greedy process

Next we start the epsion greedy process as learned in post 2, to select the top n products we want to recommend. To begin this process, we generate a random probability distribution value. If the random value is greater than the epsilon value, we pick the first product in the sorted list of products for the segment. Once a product is picked we remove it from the list of products from the segment to ensure that we dont pick it again. This process as we learned when we implemented K-armed bandit problem, is the exploitation phase.

The above was a case when the random probability number was greater than the epsilon value, now if the random probability number is less than the epsilon value, we get into the exploration phase. We randomly sample a product from the universe of products for the segment. Here again we restrict our exploration to the universe of products relevant for the segment. However one could design the exploration ourside the universe of the segment and maybe explore from the basket of all products for all customers.

We continue the exploitation and exploration process till we get the top n products we want. We will look at some of the functions which implements this process.

# Create a function to get a list of products for a certain segment
def segProduct(seg, nproducts,rewardFull):
    # Get the list of unique products for each segment
    seg_products = list(rewardFull[rewardFull['Segment'] == seg]['StockCode'].unique())
    seg_products = sample(seg_products, nproducts)
    return seg_products

# This is the function to get the top n products based on value
def sortlist(nproducts, stateId,seg,mypol):
    # Get the top products based on the values and sort them from product with largest value to least
    topProducts = sorted(mypol[stateId].keys(), key=lambda kv: mypol[stateId][kv])[-nproducts:][::-1]
    # If the topProducts is less than the required number of products nproducts, sample the delta
    while len(topProducts) < nproducts:
        print("[INFO] top products less than required number of products")
        segProducts = segProduct(seg,(nproducts - len(topProducts)))
        newList = topProducts + segProducts
        # Finding unique products
        topProducts = list(OrderedDict.fromkeys(newList))
    return topProducts

# This is the function to create the number of products based on exploration and exploitation
def sampProduct(seg, nproducts, stateId, epsilon,mypol):
    # Initialise an empty list for storing the recommended products
    seg_products = []
    # Get the list of unique products for each segment
    Segment_products = list(rewardFull[rewardFull['Segment'] == seg]['StockCode'].unique())
    # Get the list of top n products based on value
    topProducts = sortlist(nproducts, stateId,seg,mypol)
    # Start a loop to get the required number of products
    while len(seg_products) < nproducts:
        # First find a probability
        probability = np.random.rand()
        if probability >= epsilon:            
            # The top product would be first product in the list
            prod = topProducts[0]
            # Append the selected product to the list
            seg_products.append(prod)
            # Remove the top product once appended
            topProducts.pop(0)
            # Ensure that seg_products is unique
            seg_products = list(OrderedDict.fromkeys(seg_products))
        else:
            # If the probability is less than epsilon value randomly sample one product
            prod = sample(Segment_products, 1)[0]
            seg_products.append(prod)
            # Ensure that seg_products is unique
            seg_products = list(OrderedDict.fromkeys(seg_products))
    return seg_products

In line 117 we define the function to get the recommended products. The input parameters for the function are the segment, number of products we want to recommend, state id,epsilon value and the policy dictionary . We initialise a list to store the recommended products in line 119 and then extract all the products relevant for the segment in line 121. We then sort the segment products according to frequency of the products. We use the function ‘sortlist‘ in line 104 for this purpose. We sort the value dictionary according to the frequency and then select the top n products in the descending order in line 106. Now if the number of products in the dictionary is less than the number of products we want to be recommended, we randomly select the remaining products from the list of products for the segment. Lines 99-100 in the function ‘segproducts‘ is where we take the list of unique products for the segment and then randomly sample the required number of products and return it in line 110. In line 111 the additional products along with the top products is joined together. The new list of top products are sorted as per the order in which the products were added in line 112 and returned to the calling function in line 123.

Lines 125-142 implements the epsilon greedy process for product recommendation. This is a loop which continues till we get the required number of products for recommending. In line 127 a random probability score is generated and is verified whether it is greater than the epsilon value in line 128. If the random probability score is greater than epsilon value, we extract the topmost product from the list of products in line 130 and then append it to the recommendation candidate product list in line 132. After extraction of the top product, it is removed from the list in line 134. The list is sorted according to the order in which products are added in line 136. This loop continues till we get the required number of products for recommendation.

Lines 137-142 is the loop when the random score is less than the epsilon value i.e exploration stage. In this stage we randomly sample products from the list of products appealing to the segment and append it to the list of recommendation candidates. The final list of candiate products to be recommended is returned in line 143.

Process 3 : Updation of all relevant dictionaries

In the last section we saw the process of selecting the products for recommendation. The next process we will cover is how the products recommended are updated in the relevant dictionaries like quantity dictionary, value dictionary, reward dictionary and recommendation dictionary. Again we will use a function to update the dictionaries. The first function we will see is the one used to update sampled products.

def dicUpdater(prodList, stateId,countDic,recoCountdic,polDic,rewDic):
    # Loop through each of the products
    for prod in prodList:        
        # Check if the product is in the dictionary
        if prod in list(countDic[stateId].keys()):
            # Update the count by 1
            countDic[stateId][prod] += 1            
        else:
            countDic[stateId][prod] = 1            
        if prod in list(recoCountdic[stateId].keys()):            
            # Update the recommended products with 1
            recoCountdic[stateId][prod] += 1           
        else:
            # Initialise the recommended products as 1
            recoCountdic[stateId][prod] = 1            
        if prod not in list(polDic[stateId].keys()):
            # Initialise the value as 0
            polDic[stateId][prod] = 0            
        if prod not in list(rewDic[stateId].keys()):            
            # Initialise the reward dictionary as 0
            rewDic[stateId][prod] = GaussianDistribution(loc=0, scale=1, size=1)[0].round(2)     
            
    # Return all the dictionaries after update
    return countDic,recoCountdic,polDic,rewDic

The inputs for the function are the recommended products ,prodList , stateID, count dictionary, recommendation dictionary, value dictionary and reward dictionary as shown in line 144.

A inner loop is executed in lines 146-166, to go through each product in the product list. In line 148 a check is made to find out if the product is in the count dictionary. This entails, understanding if the product was ever bought under that state. If the product was ever bought before, the count is updated by 1. However if the product was not bought earlier, then the dictionary for that product under that state is initialised as 1 in line 152.

The next step is for updating the recommendation count for the same product. The same logic as above applies. If the product was recommended before, for that state, the number is updated by 1 if not the number is initialised to 1 in lines 153-158.

The next task is to verify if there is a value distribution for this product for the specific state as in lines 159-161. If the value distribution does not exist, it is initialised to zero. However we dont do any updation to the value distribution here. The updation to value distribution happens later on. We will come to that in a moment

The last check is to verify if the product exists in the reward dictionary for that state in lines 162-164. If it dosent exist then it is initialised with a gaussian distribution. Again we dont do any updation for reward as this is done later on.

Now that we have seen the function for updating the dictionaries, we will get into a function which initializes dictionaries. This process is required, if a particular state has never been seen for any of the dictionaries. Let us get to that function

def dicAdder(prodList, stateId,countDic,recoCountdic,polDic,rewDic):
    countDic[stateId] = {}
    polDic[stateId] = {}
    recoCountdic[stateId] = {}
    rewDic[stateId] = {}    
    # Loop through the product list
    for prod in prodList:
        # Initialise the count as 1
        countDic[stateId][prod] = 1
        # Initialise the value as 0
        polDic[stateId][prod] = 0
        # Initialise the recommended products as 1
        recoCountdic[stateId][prod] = 1
        # Initialise the reward dictionary as 0
        rewDic[stateId][prod] = GaussianDistribution(loc=0, scale=1, size=1)[0].round(2)
    # Return all the dictionaries after update
    return countDic,recoCountdic,polDic,rewDic

The inputs to this function as seen in line 168 are the same as what we saw in the update function. In lines 169-172, we initialise the innner dictionaries for the current state. Lines 174-182, all the inner dictionaries are initialised for the respective products. The count and recommendation dictionaries are initialised by 1 and the value dictionary is intialised as 0. The reward dictionary is initialised using a gaussian distribution. Finally the updated dictionaries are returned in line 184.

Next we start the recommendation process using all the functions we have defined so far.

nProducts = 10
epsilon=0.1

# Get the list of recommended products and update the dictionaries.The process is executed for a scenario when the context exists and does not exist
if len(mypolDic) > 0:    
    print("The context exists")
    # Implement the sampling of products based on exploration and exploitation
    seg_products = sampProduct(seg, nProducts , stateId, epsilon,mypol)
    # Update the dictionaries of values and rewards
    countDic,recoCountdic,polDic,rewDic = dicUpdater(seg_products, stateId,countDic,recoCountdic,polDic,rewDic)
else:
    print("The context dosent exist")
    # Get the list of relavant products
    seg_products = segProduct(seg, nProducts)
    # Add products to the value dictionary and rewards dictionary
    countDic,recoCountdic,polDic,rewDic = dicAdder(seg_products, stateId,countDic,recoCountdic,polDic,rewDic)

We define the number of products and epsilon values in lines 185-186. In line 189 we check if the state exists which would mean that there would be some products in the dictionary. If the state exists, then we get the list of recommended products using the ‘sampProducts‘ function we saw earlier in line 192. After getting the list of products we update all the dictionaries in line 194.

If the state dosent exist, then products are randomly sampled using the ‘segProduct‘ function in line 198. As before we update the dictionaries in line 200.

Process 4 : Customer Action

So far we have implemented the recommendation process. In real world application, the products we generated are displayed as recommendations to the customer. Based on the recommendations received, the customer carries out different actions as below.

  1. Customer could buy one or more of the recommended products
  2. Customer could browse through the recommended products
  3. Customer could ignore all the recommendations.

Based on the customer actions, we need to give feed back to the online learning system as to how good the recommendations were. Obviously the first scenario is the most desired one, the second one indicates some level of interest and the last one is the undesirable effect. From an self learning perspective we need to reinforce the desirable behaviours and discourage undesirable behavrious by devising proper rewards systems.

Just like we simulated customer states, we will create some functions to simulate customer actions. We define probability distribution to simulate customers propensity for buying a product or clicking a product. Based on the probability distribution we get how many products get bought or how many get clicked. Based on these numbers we sample products from our recommended list as to how many of them are going to be bought or how many would be clicked. Please note that these processes are only required as we are not implementing on a real system. When we are implementing this process in a real system, we get all these feedbacks from the the choices made by the customer.

def custAction(segproducts):
    print('[INFO] getting the customer action')
    # Sample a value to get how many products will be clicked    
    click_number = np.random.choice(np.arange(0, 10), p=[0.50,0.35,0.10, 0.025, 0.015,0.0055, 0.002,0.00125,0.00124,0.00001])
    # Sample products which will be clicked based on click number
    click_list = sample(segproducts,click_number)

    # Sample for buy values    
    buy_number = np.random.choice(np.arange(0, 10), p=[0.70,0.15,0.10, 0.025, 0.015,0.0055, 0.002,0.00125,0.00124,0.00001])
    # Sample products which will be bought based on buy number
    buy_list = sample(segproducts,buy_number)

    return click_list,buy_list

The input to the function is the recommended products as seen from line 201. We then simulate the number of products the customer is going to click using a probability distribution shown in line 204. From the probability distribution we can see there is 50% of chance for not clicking any product, 35% chance to click one product and so on. Once we get the number of products which are likely to be clicked, we sample that many products from the recommended product list. We do a similar process for products that are likely to be bought in lines 209-211. Finally we return the list of products that will be clicked and bought. Please note that there is high likelihood that the returned lists will be empty as the probability distributions are skewed heavily towards that possiblity. Let us implement that function and see what we get.

click_list,buy_list = custAction(seg_products)
print(click_list)
print(buy_list)

So from the simulation, we can see that the customer browsed one product however did not buy any of the products. Please note that you might get a very different simulation when you try as this is a random sampling of products.

Now that we have got the customer action, our next step is to get rewards based on the customer actions. As reward let us define that we will give 5 points if the customer has bought a product and a reward of 1 if the customer has clicked the product and -2 reward if the customer has done neither of these.We will define some functions to update the value dictionaries based on the rewards.

def getReward(loc):
    rew = GaussianDistribution(loc=loc, scale=1, size=1)[0].round(2)
    return rew

def saPolicy(rew, stateId, prod,polDic,recoCountdic):
    # This function gets the relavant algorithm for the policy update
    # Get the current value of the state    
    vcur = polDic[stateId][prod]    
    # Get the counts of the current product
    n = recoCountdic[stateId][prod]    
    # Calculate the new value
    Incvcur = (1 / n) * (rew - vcur)    
    return Incvcur

def valueUpdater(seg_products, loc,custList,stateId,rewDic,polDic,recoCountdic, remove=True):
    for prod in custList:       
        # Get the reward for the bought product. The reward will be centered around the defined reward for each action
        rew = getReward(loc)        
        # Update the reward in the reward dictionary
        rewDic[stateId][prod] += rew        
        # Update the policy based on the reward
        Incvcur = saPolicy(rew, stateId, prod,polDic,recoCountdic)        
        polDic[stateId][prod] += Incvcur        
        # Remove the bought product from the product list
        if remove:
            seg_products.remove(prod)
    return seg_products,rewDic,polDic,recoCountdic

The main function is in line 231, whose inputs are the following,

seg_products : segment products we earlier derived

loc : reward for action ( i.e 5 for buy, 1 for browse and -2 for ignoring)

custList : The list of products which are clicked or bought by the customer

stateId : The state ID

rewDic,polDic,recoCountdic : Reward dictionary, value dictionary and recommendation count dictionary for updates

An iterative loop is initiated from line 232 to iterate through all the products in the corresponding list ( buy or click list). First we get the corresponding reward for the action in line 234. This line calls a function defined in line 217, which returns the reward from a Gaussian distribution centred at the reward location ( 5, 1 or -2). Once we get the reward we update the reward dictionary in line 236 with the new reward.

In line 238 we call the function ‘saPolicy‘ for getting the new value for the action. The function ‘saPolicy‘ defined in line 221, takes the reward, state Id , product and dictionaries as input and output the new values for updating the policy dictionary.

In line 224, we get the current value for the state and the product and in line 226 we get the number of times that product was ever selected. The new value is calculated in line 228 through the simple averaging method we dealt with in our post on K armed bandits. The new value is then returned to the calling function and then incremented with the existing value in lines 238-239. To avoid re-recommending the current product for the customer we do a check in line 241 and then remove it from the segment products in line 242. The updated list of segment products along with the updated dictionaries are then returned in line 243.

Let us now look at the implementation of these functions next.

if len(buy_list) > 0:
    seg_products,rewDic,polDic,recoCountdic = valueUpdater(seg_products, 5, buy_list,stateId,rewDic,polDic,recoCountdic)
    # Repeat the same process for customer click
if len(click_list) > 0:
    seg_products,rewDic,polDic,recoCountdic = valueUpdater(seg_products, 1, click_list,stateId,rewDic,polDic,recoCountdic)
    # For those products not clicked or bought, give a penalty
if len(seg_products) > 0:
    custList = seg_products.copy()
    seg_products,rewDic,polDic,recoCountdic = valueUpdater(seg_products, -2, custList,stateId ,rewDic,polDic,recoCountdic, False)

In lines 245,248 and 252 we update the values for the buy list, click list and the ignored products respectively. In the process all the dictionaries also get updated.

That takes us to the end of all the processes for the self learning system. When implementing these processes as system, we have to keep implementing these processes one by one. Let us summarise all the processes which needs to be repeated to build this self learning recommendation system.

  1. Identify the customer context by simulating the states. In a real life system we dont have to simulate this information as this will be available when a customer logs in
  2. Initialise the dictionaries for the state id we generated
  3. Get the list of products to be recommended based on the state id
  4. Update the dictionaries based on the list of products which were recommended
  5. Simulate customer actions on the recommended products. Again in real systems we done simulate customer actions as it will be captured online.
  6. Update the value dictionary and reward dictionary based on customer actions.

All these 6 steps will have to be repeated for each customer instance. Once this cycle runs for some continuous steps, we will get the value dictionaries updated and dynamically aligned to individual customer segments.

What next ?

In this post we built our self learning recommendation system using Jupyter notebooks. Next we will productionise these processes using python scripts. When we productionise these processes, we will also use Mongo DB database to store and retrieve data. We will start the productionising phase in the next post.

Please subscribe to this blog post to get notifications when the next post is published.

You can also subscribe to our Youtube channel for all the videos related to this series.

The complete code base for the series is in the Bayesian Quest Git hub repository

Do you want to Climb the Machine Learning Knowledge Pyramid ?

Knowledge acquisition is such a liberating experience. The more you invest in your knowledge enhacement, the more empowered you become. The best way to acquire knowledge is by practical application or learn by doing. If you are inspired by the prospect of being empowerd by practical knowledge in Machine learning, subscribe to our Youtube channel

I would also recommend two books I have co-authored. The first one is specialised in deep learning with practical hands on exercises and interactive video and audio aids for learning

This book is accessible using the following links

The Deep Learning Workshop on Amazon

The Deep Learning Workshop on Packt

The second book equips you with practical machine learning skill sets. The pedagogy is through practical interactive exercises and activities.

The Data Science Workshop Book

This book can be accessed using the following links

The Data Science Workshop on Amazon

The Data Science Workshop on Packt

Enjoy your learning experience and be empowered !!!!

Building Self Learning Recommendation system – IV : Prototype Phase I: Segmenting the customers.

This is the fourth post of our series on building a self learning recommendation system using reinforcement learning. In the coming posts of the series we will expand on our understanding of the reinforcement learning problem and build an application for recommending products. These are the different posts of the series where we will progressively build our recommendation system.

  1. Recommendation system and reinforcement learning primer
  2. Introduction to multi armed bandit problem
  3. Self learning recommendation system as a K-armed bandit
  4. Build the prototype of the self learning recommendation system: Part I ( This post )
  5. Build the prototype of the self learning recommendation system: Part II
  6. Productionising the self learning recommendation system: Part I – Customer Segmentation
  7. Productionising the self learning recommendation system: Part II – Implementing self learning recommendation
  8. Evaluating different deployment options for the self learning recommendation systems.

Introduction

In the last post of the series we formulated the idea on how we can build the self learning recommendation system as a K armed bandit. In this post we will go ahead and start building the prototype of our self learning system based on the idea we developed. We will be using Jupyter notebook to build our prototype. Let us dive in

Processes for building our self learning recommendation system

Let us take a birds eye view of the recommendation system we are going to build. We will implement the following processes

  1. Cleaning of the data set
  2. Segment the customers using RFM segmentation
  3. Creation of states for contextual recommendation
  4. Creation of reward and value distributions
  5. Implement the self learning process using simple averaging method
  6. Simulate customer actions to initiate self learning for recommendations

The first two processes will be implemented in this post and the remaining processes will be covered in the next post.

Cleaning the data set

The data set which we would be using for this exercise would be the online retail data set. Let us load the data set in our system and get familiar with the data. First let us import all the necessary library files

from pickle import load
from pickle import dump
import numpy as np
import pandas as pd
from dateutil.parser import parse
import os
from collections import Counter
import operator
from random import sample

We will now define a simple function to load the data using pandas.

def dataLoader(orderPath):
    # THis is the method to load data from the input files    
    orders = pd.read_csv(orderPath,encoding = "ISO-8859-1")
    return orders

The above function reads the csv file and returns the data frame. Let us use this function to load the data and view the head of the data

# Please define your specific path where the data set is loaded
filename = "OnlineRetail.csv"
# Let us load the customer Details
custDetails = dataLoader(filename)
custDetails.head()
Figure 1 : Retail data set

Further in the exercise we have to work a lot with the dates and therefore we need to extract relevant details from the date column like the day, weekday, month, year etc. We will do that with the date parser library. Let us now parse all the date related column and create new columns storing the new details we extract after parsing the dates.

#Parsing  the date
custDetails['Parse_date'] = custDetails["InvoiceDate"].apply(lambda x: parse(x))
# Parsing the weekdaty
custDetails['Weekday'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.weekday())
# Parsing the Day
custDetails['Day'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.strftime("%A"))
# Parsing the Month
custDetails['Month'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.strftime("%B"))
# Extracting the year
custDetails['Year'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.strftime("%Y"))
# Combining year and month together as one feature
custDetails['year_month'] = custDetails['Year'] + "_" +custDetails['Month']

custDetails.head()
Figure 2 : Data frame after date parsing

As seen from line 22 we have used the lambda() function to first parse the ‘date’ column. The parsed date is stored in a new column called ‘Parse_date’. After parsing the dates first, we carry out different operations, again using the lambda() function on the parsed date. The different operations we carry out are

  1. Extract weekday and store it in a new column called ‘Weekday’ : line 24
  2. Extract the day of the week and store it in the column ‘Day’ : line 26
  3. Extract the month and store in the column ‘Month’ : line 28
  4. Extract year and store in the column ‘Year’ : line 30

Finally, in line 32 we combine the year and month to form a new column called ‘year_month’. This is done to enable easy filtering of data based on the combination of a year and month.

We will also create a column which gives you the gross value of each puchase. Gross value can be calculated by multiplying the quantity with unit price.

# Creating gross value column
custDetails['grossValue'] = custDetails["Quantity"] * custDetails["UnitPrice"]
custDetails.head()
Figure 3 :Customer Details Data frame

The reason we are calculating the gross value is to use it for segmentation of customers which will be dealt with in the next section. This takes us to the end of the initial preparation of the data set. Next we start creating customer segments.

Creating Customer Segments

In the last post, where we formulated the problem statement, we identified that customer segment could be one of the important components of the states. In addition to the customer segment,the other components are day of purchase and period of the month. So our next endeavour is to prepare data to create the different states we require. We will start with defining the customer segment.

There are different approaches to creating customer segments. In this post we will use the RFM analysis to create customer segments. Let us get going with creation of customer segments from our data set. We will continue on the same notebook we were using so far.

import lifetimes

In line 39,We import the lifetimes package to create the RFM data from our transactional dataset. Next we will use the package to convert the transaction data to the specific format.

# Converting data to RFM format
RfmAgeTrain = lifetimes.utils.summary_data_from_transaction_data(custDetails, 'CustomerID', 'Parse_date', 'grossValue')
RfmAgeTrain

The process for getting the frequency, recency and monetary value is very simple using the life time package as shown in line 42 . From the output we can see the RFM data frame formed with each customer ID as individual row. For each of the customer, the frequency and recency in days is represented along with the average monetary value for the customer. We will be using these values for creating clusters of customer segments.

Before we work further, let us clean the data frame a bit by resetting the index values as shown in line 44

RfmAgeTrain = RfmAgeTrain.reset_index()
RfmAgeTrain

What we will now do is to use recency, frequency and monetary values seperately to create clusters. We will use the K-means clustering technique to find the number of clusters required. Many parts of the code used for clustering is taken from the following post on customer segmentation.

In lines 46-47 we import the Kmeans clustering method and matplotlib library.

from sklearn.cluster import KMeans
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

For the purpose of getting the recency matrix let us take a subset of the data frame with only customer ID and recency value as shown in lines 48-49

user_recency = RfmAgeTrain[['CustomerID','recency']]
user_recency.head()

In any clustering problem,as you might know, one of the critical tasks is to determine the number of clusters which in the Kmeans algorithm is a parameter. We will use the well known elbow method to find the optimum number of clusters.

# Initialize a dictionary to store sum of squared error
sse = {}
recency = user_recency[['recency']]

# Loop through different cluster combinations
for k in range(1,10):
    # Fit the Kmeans model using the iterated cluster value
    kmeans = KMeans(n_clusters=k,max_iter=2000).fit(recency)
    # Store the cluster against the sum of squared error for each cluster formation   
    sse[k] = kmeans.inertia_
    
# Plotting all the clusters
plt.figure()
plt.plot(list(sse.keys()),list(sse.values()))
plt.xlabel("Number of clusters")
plt.show()
Figure 4 : Plot of number of clusters

In line 51, we initialise a dictionary to store the sum of square error for each k-means cluster and then subset the data frame ‘recency’ with only the recency values in line 52.

From line 55, we start a loop to itrate through different cluster values. For each cluster value, we fit the k-means model in line 57. We also store the sum of squared error in line 59 for each of the cluster in the dictionary we initialized.

Lines 62-65, we visualise the number of clusters against the sum of squared error, which gives and indication of the right k value to choose.

From the plot we can see that 2,3 and 4 cluster values are where the elbow tapers and one of these values can be taken as the cluster value.Let us choose 4 clusters for our purpose and then refit the data.

# let us take four clusters 
kmeans = KMeans(n_clusters=4)
# Fit the model on the recency data
kmeans.fit(user_recency[['recency']])
# Predict the clusters for each of the customer
user_recency['RecencyCluster'] = kmeans.predict(user_recency[['recency']])
user_recency

In line 67, we instantiate the KMeans class using 4 clusters. We then use the fit method on the recency values in line 69. Once the model is fit, we predict the cluster for each customer in line 71.

From the output we can see that the recency cluster is predicted against each customer ID. We will clean up this data frame a bit, by resetting the index.

user_recency.sort_values(by='recency',ascending=False).reset_index(drop=True)

From the output we can see that the data is ordered according to the clusters. Let us also look at how the clusters are mapped vis a vis the actual recency value. For doing this, we will group the data with respect to each cluster and then find the mean of the recency value, as in line 74.

user_recency.groupby('RecencyCluster')['recency'].mean().reset_index()

From the output we see the mean value of recency for each cluster. We can clearly see that there is a demarcation of the mean values with the value of the cluster. However, the mean values are not mapped in a logical (increasing or decreasing) order of the clusters. From the output we can see that cluster 3 is mapped to the smallest recency value ( 7.72). The next smallest value (115.85) is mapped to cluster 0 and so on. So there is not specific ordering to the custer and the mean value mapping. This might be a problem when we combine all the clusters for recency, frequency and monetary together to derive a combined score. So it is necessary to sort it in an ordered fashion. We will use a custom function to get the order right. Let us see the function.

# Function for ordering cluster numbers

def order_cluster(cluster_field_name,target_field_name,data,ascending):    
    # Group the data on the clusters and summarise the target field(recency/frequency/monetary) based on the mean value
    data_new = data.groupby(cluster_field_name)[target_field_name].mean().reset_index()
    # Sort the data based on the values of the target field
    data_new = data_new.sort_values(by=target_field_name,ascending=ascending).reset_index(drop=True)
    # Create a new column called index for storing the sorted index values
    data_new['index'] = data_new.index
    # Merge the summarised data onto the original data set so that the index is mapped to the cluster
    data_final = pd.merge(data,data_new[[cluster_field_name,'index']],on=cluster_field_name)
    # From the final data drop the cluster name as the index is the new cluster
    data_final = data_final.drop([cluster_field_name],axis=1)
    # Rename the index column to cluster name
    data_final = data_final.rename(columns={'index':cluster_field_name})
    return data_final

In line 77, we define the function and its inputs. Let us look at the inputs to the function

cluster_field_name : This is the field name we give to the cluster in the data set like “RecencyCluster”.

target_field_name : This is the field pertaining to our target values like ‘recency’ , ‘frequency’ and ,’monetary_values’.

data : This is the data frame containing the cluster information and target values, for eg ( user_recency)

ascending : This is a flag indicating whether the data has to be sorted in ascending order or not

Line 79, we group the data based on the cluster and summarise the data under each group to get the mean of the target variable. The idea is to sort the data frame based on the mean values in ascending order which is done in line 81. Once the data is sorted in ascending order, we form a new feature with the data frame index as its values, in line 83. Now the index values will act as sorted cluster values and we will get a mapping between the existing cluster values and the new cluster values which are sorted. In line 85, we merge the summarised data frame with the original data frame so that the new cluster values are mapped to all the values in the data frame. Once the new sorted cluster labels are mapped to the original data frame, the old cluster labels are dropped in line 87 and the column renamed in line 89

Now that we have defined the function, let us implement it and sort the data frame in a logical order in line 91.

user_recency = order_cluster('RecencyCluster','recency',user_recency,False)

Next we will summarise the new sorted data frame and check if the clusters and mapped in a logical order.

user_recency.groupby('RecencyCluster')['recency'].mean().reset_index()

From the above output we can see that the cluster numbers are mapped in a logical order of decreasing recency.
We now need to repeat the process for frequency and monetary values. For convenience we will wrap all these processes in a new function.

def clusterSorter(target_field_name,ascending):    
    # Make the subset data frame using the required feature
    user_variable = RfmAgeTrain[['CustomerID',target_field_name]]
    # let us take four clusters indicating 4 quadrants
    kmeans = KMeans(n_clusters=4)
    kmeans.fit(user_variable[[target_field_name]])
    # Create the cluster field name from the target field name
    cluster_field_name = target_field_name + 'Cluster'
    # Create the clusters
    user_variable[cluster_field_name] = kmeans.predict(user_variable[[target_field_name]])
    # Sort and reset index
    user_variable.sort_values(by=target_field_name,ascending=ascending).reset_index(drop=True)
    # Sort the data frame according to cluster values
    user_variable = order_cluster(cluster_field_name,target_field_name,user_variable,ascending)
    return user_variable

Let us now implement this function to get the clusters for frequency and monetary values.

# Implementing for user frequency
user_freqency = clusterSorter('frequency',True)
user_freqency.groupby('frequencyCluster')['frequency'].mean().reset_index()
# Implementing for monetary values
user_monetary = clusterSorter('monetary_value',True)
user_monetary.groupby('monetary_valueCluster')['monetary_value'].mean().reset_index()

Let us now sit back and look at the three results which we got and try to analyse the results. For recency, we implemented the process using ‘ascending’ value as ‘False’ and the other two with ascending value as ‘True’. Why do you think we did it this way ?

To answer let us look these three variables from the perspective of the desirable behaviour from a customer. We would want customers who are very recent, are very frequent and spent lot of money. So from a recency perspective lesser days is a good behaviour as this indicate very recent customers. The reverse is true for frequency and monetary where the more of those values is the desirable behaviour. This is why we used 'ascending = false' in the recency variable as the clusters would be sorted with the less frequent ( more days) for cluster ‘0’ and the mean days comes down when we go to cluster 3. So in effect we are making cluster 3 as the group of most desirable customers. The reverse applies to frequency and monetary value where we gave 'ascending = True' to make custer 3 as the group of most desirable customers.

Now that we have obtained the clusters for each of the variables seperately, its time to combine them into one data frame and then get a consolidated score which will become the segments we want.

Let us first combine each of the individual dataframes we created with the original data frame

# Merging the individual data frames with the main data frame
RfmAgeTrain = pd.merge(RfmAgeTrain,user_monetary[["CustomerID",'monetary_valueCluster']],on='CustomerID')
RfmAgeTrain = pd.merge(RfmAgeTrain,user_freqency[["CustomerID",'frequencyCluster']],on='CustomerID')
RfmAgeTrain = pd.merge(RfmAgeTrain,user_recency[["CustomerID",'RecencyCluster']],on='CustomerID')
RfmAgeTrain.head()

In lines 115-117, we combine the individual dataframes to our main dataframe. We combine them on the ‘CustomerID’ field. After combining we have a consolidated data frame with each individual cluster label mapped to each customer id as shown below

Let us now add the individual cluster labels to get a combined cluster score.

# Calculate the overall score
RfmAgeTrain['OverallScore'] = RfmAgeTrain['RecencyCluster'] + RfmAgeTrain['frequencyCluster'] + RfmAgeTrain['monetary_valueCluster']
RfmAgeTrain

Let us group the data based on the ‘OverallScore’ and find the mean values of each of our variables , recency, frequency and monetary.

RfmAgeTrain.groupby('OverallScore')['frequency','recency','monetary_value'].mean().reset_index()

From the output we can see how the distributions of the new clusters are. From the values we can see that there is some level of logical demarcation according to the cluster labels. The higher cluster labels ( 4,5 & 6) have high monetary values, high frequency levels and also mid level recency levels. The first two clusters ( 0 & 1) have lower monetary values, high recency and low levels of frequency. Another stand out cluster is cluster 3, which has the lowest monetary value, lowest frequency and the lowest recency. We can very well go with these six clusters or we can combine clusters who demonstrate similar trends/behaviours. However this assessment needs to be taken based on the number of customers we have under each of these new clusters. Let us get those numbers first.

RfmAgeTrain.groupby('OverallScore')['frequency'].count().reset_index()

From the counts, we can see that the higher scores ( 4,5,6) have very few customers relative to the other clusters. So it would make sense to combine them to one single segment. As these clusters have higher values we will make them customer segment ‘Q4’. Cluster 3 has some of the lowest relative scores and so we will make it segment ‘Q1’. We can also combine clusters 0 & 1 to a single segment as the number of customers for those two clusters are also lower and make it segment ‘Q2’. Finally cluster 2 would be segment ‘Q3’ . Lets implement these steps next.

RfmAgeTrain['Segment'] = 'Q1'
RfmAgeTrain.loc[(RfmAgeTrain.OverallScore == 0) ,'Segment']='Q2'
RfmAgeTrain.loc[(RfmAgeTrain.OverallScore == 1),'Segment']='Q2'
RfmAgeTrain.loc[(RfmAgeTrain.OverallScore == 2),'Segment']='Q3'
RfmAgeTrain.loc[(RfmAgeTrain.OverallScore == 4),'Segment']='Q4'
RfmAgeTrain.loc[(RfmAgeTrain.OverallScore == 5),'Segment']='Q4'
RfmAgeTrain.loc[(RfmAgeTrain.OverallScore == 6),'Segment']='Q4'

RfmAgeTrain

After allocating the clusters to the respective segments, the subsequent data frame will look as above. Let us now take the mean values of each of these segments to understand how the segment values are distributed.

RfmAgeTrain.groupby('Segment')['frequency','recency','monetary_value'].mean().reset_index()

From the output we can see that for each customer segment the monetary value and frequency values are in ascending order. The value of recency is not ordered in any fashion. However that dosent matter as all what we are interested in getting is the segmentation of the customer data into four segments. Finally let us merge the segment information to the orginal customer transaction data.

# Merging the customer details with the segment
custDetails = pd.merge(custDetails, RfmAgeTrain, on=['CustomerID'], how='left')
custDetails.head()

The above output is just part of the final dataframe. From the output we can see that the segment data is updated to the original data frame.

With that we complete the first step of our process. Let us summarise what we have achieved so far.

  • Preprocessed data to extract information required to generate states
  • Transformed data to the RFM format.
  • Clustered data with respect to recency, frequency and monetary values and then generated the composite score.
  • Derived 4 segments based on the cluster data.

Having completed the segmentation of customers, we are all set to embark on the most important processes.

What Next ?

The next step is to take the segmentation information and then construct our states and action strategies from them. This will be dealt with in the next post. Let us take a peek into the processes we will implement in the next post.

  1. Create states and actions from the customer segments we just created
  2. Initialise the value distribution and rewards distribution
  3. Build the self learning recommendaton system using the epsilon greedy method
  4. Simulate customer action to get the feed backs
  5. Update the value distribution based on customer feedback and improve recommendations

There is lot of ground which will be covered in the next post.Please subscribe to this blog post to get notifications when the next post is published.

You can also subscribe to our Youtube channel for all the videos related to this series.

The complete code base for the series is in the Bayesian Quest Git hub repository

Do you want to Climb the Machine Learning Knowledge Pyramid ?

Knowledge acquisition is such a liberating experience. The more you invest in your knowledge enhacement, the more empowered you become. The best way to acquire knowledge is by practical application or learn by doing. If you are inspired by the prospect of being empowerd by practical knowledge in Machine learning, subscribe to our Youtube channel

I would also recommend two books I have co-authored. The first one is specialised in deep learning with practical hands on exercises and interactive video and audio aids for learning

This book is accessible using the following links

The Deep Learning Workshop on Amazon

The Deep Learning Workshop on Packt

The second book equips you with practical machine learning skill sets. The pedagogy is through practical interactive exercises and activities.

The Data Science Workshop Book

This book can be accessed using the following links

The Data Science Workshop on Amazon

The Data Science Workshop on Packt

Enjoy your learning experience and be empowered !!!!

Building Self Learning Recommendation system – III : Recommendation System as a K-armed Bandit

This is the third post of our series on building a self learning recommendation system using reinforcement learning. This series consists of 8 posts where in we progressively build a self learning recommendation system.

  1. Recommendation system and reinforcement learning primer
  2. Introduction to multi armed bandit problem
  3. Self learning recommendation system as a K-armed bandit ( This post )
  4. Build the prototype of the self learning recommendation system: Part I
  5. Build the prototype of the self learning recommendation system: Part II
  6. Productionising the self learning recommendation system: Part I – Customer Segmentation
  7. Productionising the self learning recommendation system: Part II – Implementing self learning recommendation
  8. Evaluating different deployment options for the self learning recommendation systems.

Introduction

In our previous post we implemented couple of experiments with K-armed bandit. When we discussed the idea of the K-armed bandits from the context of recommendation systems, we briefly touched upon the idea that the buying behavior of a customer depends on the customers context. In this post we will take the idea of the context forward and how the context will be used to build the recommendation system using the K-armed bandit solution.

Defining the context for customer buying

When we discussed about reinforcement learning in our first post, we learned about the elements of a reinforcement learning setting like state, actions, rewards etc. Let us now identify these elements in the context of the recommendation system we are building.

State

When we discussed about reinforcement learning in the first post, we learned that when an agent interacts with the environment at each time step, the agent manifests a certain state. In the example of the robot picking trash the different states were that of high charge or low charge. However in the context of the recommendation system, what would be our states ? Let us try to derive the states from the context of a customer who makes an online purchase. What would be those influencing factors which defines the product the customer buys ? Some of these are

  • The segment the customer belongs
  • The season or time of year the purchase is made
  • The day in which purchase is made

There could be many other influencing factors other than this. For simplicity let us restrict to these factors for now. A state could be made from the combinations of all these factors. Let us arrive at these factors through some exploratory analysis of the data

The data set we would be using is the online retail data set available in the UCI Machine learning library. We will download the data and the place it in local folder and the read the file from the local folder.

import numpy as np
import pandas as pd
from dateutil.parser import parse

Lines 1-3 imports all the necessary packages for our purpose. Let us now load the data as a pandas data frame

# Please use the path to the actual data
filename = "data/Online Retail.xlsx"
# Let us load the customer Details
custDetails = pd.read_excel(filename, engine='openpyxl')
custDetails.head()
Figure 1: Head of the retail data set

In line 5, we load the data from disk and then read the excel shee using the ‘openpyxl’ engine. Please note to pip install the ‘openpyxl’ package if not available.

Let us now parse the date column using date parser and extract information from the date column.

#Parsing  the date
custDetails['Parse_date'] = custDetails["InvoiceDate"].apply(lambda x: parse(str(x)))
# Parsing the weekdaty
custDetails['Weekday'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.weekday())
# Parsing the Day
custDetails['Day'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.strftime("%A"))
# Parsing the Month
custDetails['Month'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.strftime("%B"))
# Getting the year
custDetails['Year'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.strftime("%Y"))
# Getting year and month together as one feature
custDetails['year_month'] = custDetails['Year'] + "_" +custDetails['Month']
# Feature engineering of the customer details data frame
# Get the date  as a seperate column
custDetails['Date'] = custDetails['Parse_date'].apply(lambda x: x.strftime("%d"))
# Converting date to float for easy comparison
custDetails['Date']  = custDetails['Date'] .astype('float64')
# Get the period of month column
custDetails['monthPeriod'] = custDetails['Date'].apply(lambda x: int(x > 15))

custDetails.head()
Figure 2 : Parsed Data

As seen from line 11 we have used the lambda() function to first parse the ‘date’ column. The parsed date is stored in a new column called ‘Parse_date’. After parsing the dates first, we carry out different operations, again using the lambda() function on the parsed date. The different operations we carry out are

  1. Extract weekday and store it in a new column called ‘Weekday’ : line 13
  2. Extract the day of the week and store it in the column ‘Day’ : line 15
  3. Extract the month and store in the column ‘Month’ : line 17
  4. Extract year and store in the column ‘Year’ : line 19

In line 21 we combine the year and month to form a new column called ‘year_month’. This is done to enable easy filtering of data, based on the combination of a year and month.

We make some more changes from line 24-28. In line 24, we extract the date of the month and then convert it into a float type in line 26. The purpose of taking the date is to find out which of these transactions have happened before 15th of the month and which after 15th. We extract those details in line 28, where we create a binary points ( 0 & 1) as to whether a date falls in the last 15 days or the first 15 days of the month.

We will also create a column which gives you the gross value of each puchase. Gross value can be calculated by multiplying the quantity with unit price. After that we will consolidate the data for each unique invoice number and then explore some of the elements of states which we want to explore

# Creating gross value column
custDetails['grossValue'] = custDetails["Quantity"] * custDetails["UnitPrice"]
# Consolidating accross the invoice number for gross value
retailConsol = custDetails.groupby('InvoiceNo')['grossValue'].sum().reset_index()
print(retailConsol.shape)
retailConsol.head()
Figure 3: Aggregated Data

Now that we have got the data consolidated based on each invoice number, let us merge the date related features from the original data frame with this consolidated data. We merge the consolidated data with the custDetails data frame and then drop all the duplicate data so that we get a record per invoice number, along with its date features.

# Merge the other information like date, week, month etc
retail = pd.merge(retailConsol,custDetails[["InvoiceNo",'Parse_date','Weekday','Day','Month','Year','year_month','monthPeriod']],how='left',on='InvoiceNo')
# dropping ALL duplicate values
retail.drop_duplicates(subset ="InvoiceNo",keep = 'first', inplace = True)
print(retail.shape)
retail.head()
Figure 4 : Consolidated data

Let us first look at the month wise consolidation of data and then plot the data. We will use a functions to map the months to its index position. This is required to plot the data according to months. The function ‘monthMapping‘, maps an integer value to the month and then sort the data frame.

# Create a map for each month
def monthMapping(mnthTrend):
    # Get the map
    mnthMap = {"January": 1, "February": 2,"March": 3, "April": 4,"May": 5, "June": 6,"July": 7, "August": 8,"September": 9, "October": 10,"November": 11, "December": 12}
    # Create a new feature for month
    mnthTrend['mnth'] = mnthTrend.Month
    # Replace with the numerical value
    mnthTrend['mnth'] = mnthTrend['mnth'].map(mnthMap)
    # Sort the data frame according to the month value
    return mnthTrend.sort_values(by = 'mnth').reset_index()

We will use the above function to consolidate the data according to the months and then plot month wise grossvalue data

mnthTrend = retail.groupby(['Month'])['grossValue'].agg('mean').reset_index().sort_values(by = 'grossValue',ascending = False)
# sort the months in the right order
mnthTrend = monthMapping(mnthTrend)
sns.set(rc = {'figure.figsize':(20,8)})
sns.lineplot(data=mnthTrend, x='Month', y='grossValue')
plt.legend(bbox_to_anchor=(1.02, 1), loc='upper left', borderaxespad=0)
plt.show()

We can see that there is sufficient amount of variability of data month on month. So therefore we will take months as one of the context items on which the states can be constructed.

Let us now look at buying pattern within each month and check how the buying pattern is within the first 15 days and the latter half

# Aggregating data for the first 15 days and latter 15 days
fortnighTrend = retail.groupby(['monthPeriod'])['grossValue'].agg('mean').reset_index().sort_values(by = 'grossValue',ascending = False)

sns.set(rc = {'figure.figsize':(20,8)})
sns.lineplot(data=fortnighTrend, x='monthPeriod', y='grossValue')
plt.legend(bbox_to_anchor=(1.02, 1), loc='upper left', borderaxespad=0)
plt.show()

We can see that there is as small difference between buying patterns in the first 15 days of the month and the latter half of the month. Eventhough the difference is not significant, we will still take this difference as another context.

Next let us aggregate data as per the days of the week and and check the trend

# Aggregating data accross weekdays
dayTrend = retail.groupby(['Weekday'])['grossValue'].agg('mean').reset_index().sort_values(by = 'grossValue',ascending = False)

sns.set(rc = {'figure.figsize':(20,8)})
sns.lineplot(data=dayTrend, x='Weekday', y='grossValue')
plt.legend(bbox_to_anchor=(1.02, 1), loc='upper left', borderaxespad=0)
plt.show()

We can also see that there is quite a bit of variability of buying patterns accross the days of the week. We will therefore take the week days also as another context

So far we have observed 4 different features, which will become our context for recommending products. The context which we have defined would act as the states from the reinforcement learning setting perspective. Let us now look at the big picture of how we will formulate the recommendation task as reinforcement learning setting.

The Big Picture

Figure 5: The Big Picture

We will now have a look at the big picture of this implementation. The above figure is the representation of what we will implement in code in the next few posts.

The process starts with the customer context, consisting of segment, month, period in the month and day of the week. The combination of all the contexts will form the state. From an implementation perspective we will run simulations to generate the context since we do not have a real system where customers logs in and thereby we automatically capture context.

Based on the context, the system will recommend different products to the customer. From a reinforcement learning context these are the actions which are taken from each state. The initial recommendation of products ( actions taken) will be based on the value function learned from the historical data.

The customer will give rewards/feedback based on the actions taken( products recommended ). The feedback would be the manifestation of the choices the customer make. The choice the customer makes like the products the customer buys, browses and ignores from the recommended list. Depending on the choice made by the customer, a certain reward will be generated. Again from an implementation perspective, since we do not have real customers giving feedback, we will be simulating the customer feedback mechanism.

Finally the update of the value functions based on the reward generated will be done based on the simple averaging method. Based on the value update, the bandit will learn and adapt to the affinities of the customers in the long run.

What next ?

In this post we explored the data and then got a big picture of what we will implement going forward. In the next post we will start implementing these processes and building a prototype using Jupyter notebook. Later on we will build an application using Python scripts and then explore options to deploy the application. Watch out this space for more.

 The next post will be published next week. Please subscribe to this blog post to get notifications when the next post is published.

You can also subscribe to our Youtube channel for all the videos related to this series.

The complete code base for the series is in the Bayesian Quest Git hub repository

Do you want to Climb the Machine Learning Knowledge Pyramid ?

Knowledge acquisition is such a liberating experience. The more you invest in your knowledge enhacement, the more empowered you become. The best way to acquire knowledge is by practical application or learn by doing. If you are inspired by the prospect of being empowerd by practical knowledge in Machine learning, subscribe to our Youtube channel

I would also recommend two books I have co-authored. The first one is specialised in deep learning with practical hands on exercises and interactive video and audio aids for learning

This book is accessible using the following links

The Deep Learning Workshop on Amazon

The Deep Learning Workshop on Packt

The second book equips you with practical machine learning skill sets. The pedagogy is through practical interactive exercises and activities.

The Data Science Workshop Book

This book can be accessed using the following links

The Data Science Workshop on Amazon

The Data Science Workshop on Packt

Enjoy your learning experience and be empowered !!!!

Building Self learning Recommendation System using Reinforcement Learning : Part I

In our previous series on building data science products we learned how to build a machine translation application and how to deploy the application. In this post we start a new series where in we will build a self learning recommendation system. We will be building this system using reinforcement learning methods. We will be leveraging the principles of the bandit problem to build our self learning recommendation engine. This series will be split across 8 posts.

Let us start our series with a primer on Recommendations systems and Reinforcement learning.

Primer on Recommendation Systems

Recommendation systems (RS) are omnipresent phenomenon which we encounter in our day to day life. Powering the modern day e-commerce systems are gigantic ‘recommendation engines’, looking at each individual transactions, mapping customer profiles and using them to recommend personalized products and services.

Before we embark on building our self learning recommendation system, it will be a good idea to take a quick tour on different types of recommendation systems powering large e-commerce systems of the modern era.

For convenience let us classify recommendation systems into three categories,

Figure 1 : Different types of Recommendation Systems

Traditional recommendation systems leverages data involving user-item interactions ( buying behavior of users ,ratings given by users, etc. ) and attribute information of items ( textual descriptions of items ). Some of the popular type of recommendation systems under the traditional umbrella are

  • Collaborative Filtering Recommendation Systems : The fundamental principle behind collaborative filtering systems is that, two or more individuals who share similar interests tend to have similar propensities for buying. The similarity between individuals are unearthed using the ratings they give, their browsing patterns or their buying patterns. There are different types of collaborative filtering systems like user-based collaborative filtering, item-based collaborative filtering, model based methods ( decision trees, Bayesian models, latent factor models ),etc.
Figure 2 : Collaborative filtering Recommendation Systems
  • Content Based Recommendation Systems : In content based recommendation systems, attribute descriptions of the items are the basis of recommendations. For example if you are a person who watched the Jason Borne series movies and haven’t given any ratings, content based recommendation systems would infer your tastes from the attributes of the movies you watched like action thriller ,CIA , covert operations etc. Based on these attributes the system would recommend movies like Mission Impossible series, as they follow a similar genre.
Figure 3 : Content Based Recommendation Systems
  • Knowledge Based Recommendation Systems : These type of systems make recommendations based on similarity between a users requirements and an item descriptions. Knowledge based recommendation systems are usually useful in context where the purchases infrequent like buying an automobile, real estate, luxury goods etc.
Figure 4 : Knowledge Based Recommendation System
  • Hybrid Recommendation Systems : Hybrid systems or Ensemble systems as they might be called combine best features of the above mentioned approaches to generate recommendations. For example Netflix uses a combination of collaborative filtering ( based on user ratings) and content based( attribute descriptions of movies) to make recommendations.

Traditional class of recommendation systems like collaborative filtering are predominantly linear in its approach. However personalization of customer preferences are not necessarily linear and therefore there was need for modelling recommendation systems for behavior data which are mostly non linear and this led to the rise of deep learning based systems. There are many proponents of deep learning methods some of the notable ones are Youtube, ebay, Twitter and Spotify. Let us now see some of the most popular types of deep learning based recommendation systems.

  • Multi Layer Perceptron based Recommendation Systems : Multi layer perceptron or MLP based recommendation systems are feed-forward neural network systems with multiple layers between the input layer and output layer. The basic setting for this approach is to vectorize user information and item information as the basic inputs. This input layer is fed into the feed forward network and then the output is whether there is an interaction for the item or not. By modelling these interactions as a MLP we will be able to rank specific products in terms of the propensity of the user to that item.
Figure 5: MLP Based Recommendation System
  • CNN based Recommendation Systems : Convolutional Neural networks ( CNN ) are great feature extractors, i.e. they extract global level and local level features. These features are used for providing context which will aid in better recommendations.
  • RNN based Recommendation System: RNNs are good choices when there are sequences of data. In the context of a recommendation systems use cases like recommending what the user will click next can be treated as a sequence to sequence problem. In such problems the interactions between the user and an item at each session will be the basic data and the output will be what the customer clicked next. So if we have data pertaining to session information and the interaction of the user to items during the sessions, we will be able to model a RNN to be used as a Recommender system.
  • Neural attention based Recommendation Systems : Attention based recommendation systems leverage the attention mechanism which has great utility in use cases like machine translation, image captioning, to name a few. Attention based recommendation systems are more apt for recommending multimedia items like photos and videos. In multimedia recommendation, the user preferences can be implicit ( likes, views ). These implicit feed back need not always mean that a user liked that item. For example I might give a like to a video or photo shared by a friend even if I really don’t like those items. In such cases, attention based models attempt to weight the user-item interactions to give more emphasis to parts of the video or image which could be more aligned to the users preferences.
Figure 6 : Deep Learning Based Recommendation System ( Image source : dzone.com/articles/building-a-recommendation-system-using-deep-learni)

The above are some of the prevalent deep learning based recommendation systems. In addition to these there are other deep learning algorithms like Restricted Boltzmann machines based recommendation systems , Autoencoder based recommendation systems and Neural autoregressive recommendation systems . We will explore creation of recommendation systems with these types of models in a future post. Deep learning methods for recommendation systems have tremendous abilities to model non linear relationships between user interactions with items. However on the flip side, there is a severe problem of interpretability of models and the hunger for more data in deep learning methods. Off late deep reinforcement learning methods are widely used as recommendation systems. Deep reinforcement learning systems have abilities to model with large number of states and action spaces and this has made reinforcement learning methods to be used as recommendation systems. Let us explore some of the prominent types of reinforcement learning based recommendation systems.

Since this series is about the application of reinforcement learning to the application of recommendation systems, let us first understand what reinforcement learning is and then get into application of reinforcement learning as recommendation systems.

Primer on Reinforcement Learning

Unlike the supervised learning setting where there is a guide telling you what the right action is, reinforcement learning relies on the environment to discover what the right action is. The learning in reinforcement learning is through interaction with an environment. In the reinforcement learning setting there is an agent ( recommendation system in our context) which receives rewards ( feed back from users like buying, clicking) from the environment ( users ) . The rewards acts as an indicator as to whether the course of action taken by the agent is right or wrong. The agent ultimately learns to take the right action through feed backs received from the environment over a period of time.

Figure 7 : Reinforcement Learning Setting

Elements of Reinforcement Learning

Let us try to understand different elements of reinforcement learning with an example of a robot picking trash.

We will first explore an element of reinforcement learning called the ‘State’. A state can be defined as the representation of the environment in which a task has to be performed. In the context of our robot, we can say that it has two states.

State 1 : High charge

State 2 : Low charge.

Depending on the state the robot is in, it has three decision points to make.

  1. The robot can go on searching for trash.
  2. The robot can wait at its current location so that some one will pick up trash and give it to the robot
  3. The robot can got to its charging station to recharge so that it doesn’t go off power.

These decision points which are taken at each state is called an ‘Action‘ in reinforcement learning parlance.

Let us represent the states and its corresponding actions for our robot

From the above figure we can observe the states of the robot and the actions the robot can take. When the robot has high charge, there would only be two actions the robot is likely to take as there would be no point in recharging as the current charge is high.

Depending on the current state and the action taken from that state, the robot will transition to the next state. Let us look at some possible states the robot can end up based on the initial state and the action it takes.

State : High Charge ,Action : Search

When the current state is high charge and the action taken is search, there are two possible states the robot can attain, stay in its high charge( because the search was quickly over) or deplete its charge and end up with low charge.

State : High Charge ,Action : Wait

If the robot decides to wait when it is high on charge, the robot continues in its state of high charge.

State : Low Charge ,Action : Search

When the charge is low and the robot decides to search there can be two resultant states. One plausible scenario is for the charge to be completely drained making the robot unable to take further action. In such circumstance someone will have to physically take the robot to the charging point and the robot ends up with high charge.

The second scenario is when the robot do not make extensive search and as a result doesn’t drain much. In this scenario the robot continues in its state of low charge.

State : Low Charge ,Action : Wait

When the action is to wait with low charge the robot continues to remain in a state of low charge.

State : Low Charge ,Action : Recharge

Recharging the robot will enable the robot to return to a state of high charge.

Based on our discussions let us now represent the states, different action choices and the subsequent states the robot will end up

So far we have seen different starting states and subsequent states the robot ends up based on the action choices the robot makes. However, what about the consequences for the different action choices the robot makes ? We can see that there are some desirable consequences and some undesirable consequences. For example remaining in high charge state by searching for trash is a desirable consequence. However draining off its charge is an undesirable consequence. To optimize the behavior of the robot we need to encourage desirable consequences and strictly discourage undesirable tendencies. How do we inculcate desirable tendencies and discourage undesirable ones ? This is where the concept of rewards comes in.

The sole purpose of the robot is to collect as much trash as possible. This purpose can be effectively done only when the robot searches for trash. However in the process of searching for trash the robot is also supposed to take care of itself i.e. it should ensure that it has enough charge to go about the search so that it doesn’t drain of charge and make itself ineffective. So the desired behavior for the robot is to search and collect trash and the undesired behavior is to get into a drained state. In order to inculcate the desired behaviors we can introduce rewards when the robot collects trash and also penalizes the robot when it drains itself of its charge. The other actions of waiting and recharging will not have any reward or penalties involved. This system of rewards will imbibe right behaviors in the robot.

The example we have seen of the robot is a manifestation of reinforcement learning. Let us now try to derive the elements of reinforcement learning from the context of the robot.

As seen from the robot example, reinforcement learning is the process of learning what to do at different scenarios based on feed back received. Within this context the part of the robot which learns and decides what to do is called the agent .

The context within which an agent interacts is called the environment. In the context of the robot, it is the space where the robot interacts in the process of carrying out its task of picking trash.

When the agent interacts with its environment, at each time step, the agent manifests a certain state. In our example we saw that the robot had two states of high charge and low charge.

From each state the agent carries out certain actions. The actions an agent carries out from a state will determine the subsequent state. In our context we saw how the actions like searching, waiting or recharging from a starting state defined the state the robot ended up.

The other important element is the reward function. The reward function quantifies the consequences of following certain actions from a state. The kind of reward an agent receives for a state-action pair defines the desirability of doing that action given its state. The objective of an agent is to maximize the rewards it gets in the long run.

The reward function is the quantification of the consequences which is got immediately after following a certain action. It doesn’t look far out in the future whether the course of action is good in the long term. That is what a value function does. A value function looks at maximizing the rewards which gets accumulated over a long term horizon. Imagine that the robot was in a state of low charge and then it spots some trash at a certain distance. So the robot decides to search and pick that trash as it would give an immediate reward. However in the process of searching and picking up the trash its charge drains off and the robot become ineffective, getting a large penalty in the process. In this case, even though the short term reward was good, the long term effect was harmful. If the robot had instead moved to its charging station to get charged and then gone in search of the trash, the overall value would have been more rewarding.

The next element of the reinforcement learning context is the policy. A policy defines how the agent has to behave at different circumstances at a given time. It guides the agent on what needs to be done depending on the circumstances. Let us revisit the situation we saw earlier on the decision point of the robot to recharge or to search for trash it spotted. Let us say there was a policy which said that the robot will have to recharge when the charge drops below a certain threshold. In such cases, the robot could have avoided the situation where the charge was drained. The policy is like the heart of the reinforcement learning context. The policy drives the behavior of agents at different situations.

An optional element of a reinforcement context is the model of the environment. A model is a broad representation of how an environment will behave. Given a state and the action taken from the state a model can be used to predict the next states and also the rewards which will be generated from those actions. A model is used for planning the course of action the agent has to take based on the situation the agent is in.

To sum up, we have seen that Reinforcement learning is a framework which aims at automating the task of learning and decision making. The automation of the learning and decision making process is achieved through the interaction between an agent and its environment through its various states, actions and rewards. The end objective of an agent is to maximize the value function and to learn a policy which maximizes the value function. We will be diving more deeper into some specific types of reinforcement learning problems in the future posts. Let us now look at some of the approaches to solve a reinforcement learning problem.

Different approaches using reinforcement learning

  • Multi-armed bandits : The name multi-armed bandits is derived from the context of a gambler who tries to maximize his/her returns by pulling multiple arms of a slot machine. The gambler through the process of exploration has to find which of the n arms provide the best rewards and once a set of best arms are identified, try to exploit those arms to maximize the rewards he/she gets from the process. In the context of reinforcement learning the problem can be formulated from the perspective of an agent who tries to get sufficient information of the environment ( different slots ) based on extensive exploration and then using the information gained to maximize the returns. Different use cases where multi armed bandits can be used involves clinical trials, recommendation systems, A/B testing, etc.
Figure 8 : Multi Armed Bandit – Exploration v/s Exploitation
  • Markov Decision Process and Dynamic Programming: Markov decision process falls under a class of algorithms called the model based algorithms. The main constituents of a Markov process involves the agent which interacts with the environment by taking actions from different states in which the agent finds itself. In a model based process there is a well defined probability distribution when going from one state to the other. This probability distribution is called the transition probability. The below figure depicts the transition probability of the robot we saw earlier. For example, if the robot is at state of low charge and it takes the action search, it would remain in the same state with probability and attains high charge with transition probability of 1-. Similarly, from a high state, when taking the action wait, the robot will remain in high charge with probability of 1.
Figure 9 : Markov Decision Process for a Robot ( Image source : Reinforcement Learning, Sutton & Barto )

Markov decision process entails that when moving from one state to the other, the history of all the states in which an agent was, doesn’t matter. All that matters is the current state. Markov decision processes are generally best implemented by a collection of algorithms called dynamic programming. Dynamic programming helps in computing the most optimal policies as a Markov decision process given a perfect model of the environment. What we mean by a perfect model of the environment is where we know all the states, actions and the transition probabilities when moving from one state to the other.

There are different use cases involving MDP process, some of the notable ones include determination of number of patients in a hospital, reducing wait time at intersections etc.

  • Monte Carlo Methods : Monte Carlo methods unlike dynamic programming and Markov decision processes, do not make assumptions on knowledge on the environment. Monte Carlo methods learns through experience. These methods rely on sampling sequences of states, actions and rewards to attain the most optimal solution.
  • Temporal difference Methods : Temporal difference methods can be said as a combination of dynamic programming methods and Monte Carlo methods. Temporal difference methods can learn from experience like Monte Carlo methods and they also can also estimate the value function based on earlier learning without waiting for the end of an episode. Due to its simplicity temporal difference methods are great for learning experiences derived from interaction with environment in an online mode. Temporal difference methods are great to make long term predictions like predicting customer purchases, weather patterns, election outcomes etc.
Figure 10 : Comparison of backup diagram for MC,TD & DP ( Image source : David Silver’s RL Course, lecture 4 )
  • Deep Reinforcement Learning methods : Deep reinforcement learning methods combine traditional reinforcement learning and deep learning techniques. One pre-requisite of traditional reinforcement learning is the understanding of states and making decisions on what actions to take from each state. However reinforcement learning gets constrained when the number of states become very huge as in the case of many of the online data sets. This is where deep reinforcement learning techniques comes in handy. Deep reinforcement learning algorithms are able to take large input sets, which has large state spaces and make decisions on what actions to take to optimize the end objective. Deep reinforcement learning methods have wide applications in robotic, natural language processing, computer vision, finance, healthcare to name a few.
Figure 11 : Deep Reinforcement Learning

Having got an overview of the types of reinforcement learning systems, let us look at how reinforcement learning approaches can be used for building recommendation systems.

Reinforcement learning for recommendation systems

User interactions with items are sequential and it has a rich context to it. For this reason the problem of predicting the best item to a user can also be viewed as a sequential decision problem. In the primer on reinforcement systems, we learned that in a reinforcement learning setting, an agent aims to maximize a numerical reward through interactions with an environment. Bringing this to the recommendation system context, it is like the recommendation system (agent) trying to recommend an item ( an action ) to the user to maximize the user satisfaction ( reward ).

Let us now look at some of the approaches in which reinforcement learning is used as recommendation systems.

  • Multi armed bandit based recommendation systems : Recommendation systems can learn policies or decisions on what to recommend to whom by broadly two approaches. The first one is the traditional offline learning mode which we explored at the start of this article. The next approach is the online learning mode where the recommendation system will suggest an item to the user based on the users context like time of day, place, history, previous interactions etc. One of the basic type of systems which implement the online system is the multi armed bandit approach. This approach will basically treat the recommendation task like pulling the levers of an armed bandit.
Figure 12 : Multi-Armed Bandit as Recommendation System
  • Normal reinforcement learning based recommendation systems : Many of the reinforcement learning approaches which we explored earlier like MDP, Monte Carlo and Temporal Difference are widely used as recommendation systems. One such example is in the use of MDP based recommendation systems for recommending songs to users. In this problem setting the states represents the list of songs to be recommended, the action is the act of listening to songs, the transition probability is the probability of selecting a particular song having listened to a song and the reward is the implicit feed back received when the user actually listens to the recommended song.
  • Deep Reinforcement Learning based recommendation systems : Deep reinforcement learning systems have the ability to learn multiple states and action spaces. In a typical personalized online recommendation systems the number of states and actions are quite large and deep reinforcement learning systems are good fit for such use cases. Take the case of an approach to recommend movies based on a framework called Deep Deterministic Policy Gradient Framework. In this use case, user preferences are used to learn a policy which will thereby be used to select the movies to be recommended for the user. The learning of the policy is done using the deep deterministic policy gradient framework, which enables learning policies dynamically. The dynamic policy vector is then applied on the candidate set of movies to get a personalized set of movies to the user.

There are different use cases and multiple approaches to use reinforcement learning systems as recommendation systems. We will deal with more sophisticated reinforcement learning based recommendation systems in future posts.

What Next ?

So far in this post we have taken a quick overview of the main concepts. Obviously the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So we will get to that in the next post.

As this series is based on the multi armed bandit approach for recommendation systems, we will get hands on programming experience with multi armed bandit problems. In the next post we will build a multi armed bandit problem formulation from scratch using Python and then implement some simulated experiments using multi armed bandits. The next post will be published next week. Please subscribe to this blog post to get notifications when the next post is published.

You can also subscribe to our Youtube channel for all the videos related to this series.

The complete code base for the series is in the Bayesian Quest Git hub repository

Do you want to Climb the Machine Learning Knowledge Pyramid ?

Knowledge acquisition is such a liberating experience. The more you invest in your knowledge enhacement, the more empowered you become. The best way to acquire knowledge is by practical application or learn by doing. If you are inspired by the prospect of being empowerd by practical knowledge in Machine learning, subscribe to our Youtube channel

I would also recommend two books I have co-authored. The first one is specialised in deep learning with practical hands on exercises and interactive video and audio aids for learning

This book is accessible using the following links

The Deep Learning Workshop on Amazon

The Deep Learning Workshop on Packt

The second book equips you with practical machine learning skill sets. The pedagogy is through practical interactive exercises and activities.

The Data Science Workshop Book

This book can be accessed using the following links

The Data Science Workshop on Amazon

The Data Science Workshop on Packt

Enjoy your learning experience and be empowered !!!!