Online contextual influence maximization with costly observations
Sarıtaç, Anıl Ömer
IEEE Transactions on Signal and Information Processing over Networks
273 - 289
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In the online contextual influence maximization problem with costly observations, the learner faces a series of epochs in each of which a different influence spread process takes place over a network. At the beginning of each epoch, the learner exogenously influences (activates) a set of seed nodes in the network. Then, the influence spread process takes place over the network, through which other nodes get influenced. The learner has the option to observe the spread of influence by paying an observation cost. The goal of the learner is to maximize its cumulative reward, which is defined as the expected total number of influenced nodes over all epochs minus the observation costs. We depart from the prior work in three aspects: 1) the learner does not know how the influence spreads over the network, i.e., it is unaware of the influence probabilities; 2) influence probabilities depend on the context; and 3) observing influence is costly. We consider two different influence observation settings: costly edge-level feedback, in which the learner freely observes the set of influenced nodes, but pays to observe the influence outcomes on the edges of the network; and costly node-level feedback, in which the learner pays to observe whether a node is influenced or not. Since the offline influence maximization problem itself is NP-hard, for these settings, we develop online learning algorithms that use an approximation algorithm as a subroutine to obtain the set of seed nodes in each epoch. When the influence probabilities are Hölder continuous functions of the context, we prove that these algorithms achieve sublinear regret (for any sequence of contexts) with respect to an approximation oracle that knows the influence probabilities for all contexts. Our numerical results on several networks illustrate that the proposed algorithms perform on par with the state-of-the-art methods even when the observations are cost free.