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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Computational social influence : models, algorithms, and applications Lu, Wei


Social influence is a ubiquitous phenomenon in human life. Fueled by the extreme popularity of online social networks and social media, computational social influence has emerged as a subfield of data mining whose goal is to analyze and understand social influence using computational frameworks such as theoretical modeling and algorithm design. It also entails substantial application potentials for viral marketing, recommender systems, social media analysis, etc. In this dissertation, we present our research achievements that take significant steps toward bridging the gap between elegant theories in computational social influence and the needs of two real-world applications: viral marketing and recommender systems. In Chapter 2, we extend the classic Linear Thresholds model to incorporate price and valuation to model the diffusion process of new product adoption; we design a greedy-style algorithm that finds influential users from a social network as well as their corresponding personalized discounts to maximize the expected total profit of the advertiser. In Chapter 3, we propose a novel business model for online social network companies to sell viral marketing as a service to competing advertisers, for which we tackle two optimization problems: maximizing total influence spread of all advertisers and allocating seeds to advertisers in a fair manner. In Chapter 4, we design a highly expressive diffusion model that can capture arbitrary relationship between two propagating entities to arbitrary degrees. We then study the influence maximization problem in a novel setting consisting of two complementary entities and design efficient approximation algorithms. Next, in Chapter 5, we apply social influence into recommender systems. We model the dynamics of user interest evolution using social influence, as well as attraction and aversion effects. As a result, making effective recommendations are substantially more challenging and we apply semi-definite programming techniques to achieve near-optimal solutions. Chapter 6 concludes the dissertation and outlines possible future research directions.

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