Comparing the Predictive Capability of Social and Interest Affinity for Recommendations
The advent of online social networks created new prediction opportunities for recommender systems: instead of relying on past rating history through the use of collaborative filtering (CF), they can leverage the social relations among users as a predictor of user tastes similarity. Alas, little effort has been put into understanding when and why (e.g., for which users and what items) the social affinity (i.e., how well connected users are in the social network) is a better predictor of user preferences than the interest affinity among them as algorithmically determined by CF, and how to better evaluate recommendations depending on, for instance, what type of users a recommendation application targets. This overlook is explained in part by the lack of a systematic collection of datasets including both the explicit social network among users and the collaborative annotated items. In this paper, we conduct an extensive empirical analysis on six real-world publicly available datasets, which dissects the impact of user and item attributes, such as the density of social ties or item rating patterns, on the performance of recommendation strategies relying on either the social ties or past rating similarity. Our findings represent practical guidelines that can assist in future deployments and mixing schemes.