We seek to improve information retrieval in a domain-specific collection by clustering user sessions from a click log and then classifying later user sessions in real time. As a preliminary step, we explore the main assumption of this approach: whether user sessions in such a site are related to the question that they are answering. Since a large class of machine learning algorithms use a distance measure at the core, we evaluate the suitability of common machine learning distance measures to distinguish sessions of users searching for the answer to same or different questions. We found that two distance measures work very well for our task and three others do not. As a further step, we then investigate how effective the distance measures are when used in clustering. For our dataset, we conducted a user study where we had multiple users answer the same set of questions. This data, grouped by question, was used as our gold standard for evaluating the clusters produced by the clustering algorithms. We found that the observed difference between the two classes of distance measures affected the quality of the clusterings, as expected. We also found that one of the two distance measures that worked well to differentiate sessions, worked significantly better than the other when clustering. Finally, we discuss why some distance metrics performed better than others in the two parts of our work.
International Journal on Digital Libraries, 2014, Vol 14, Issue 3/4, p. 167-179