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A Variational Approximation for Topic Modeling of Hierarchical Corpora

Do-kyum Kim, Geoffrey Voelker, Lawrence Saul
JMLR W&CP 28 (2) : 55–63, 2013


We study the problem of topic modeling in corpora whose documents are organized in a multi-level hierarchy. We explore a parametric approach to this problem, assuming that the number of topics is known or can be estimated by cross-validation. The models we consider can be viewed as special (finite-dimensional) instances of hierarchical Dirichlet processes (HDPs). For these models we show that there exists a simple variational approximation for probabilistic inference. The approximation relies on a previously unexploited inequality that handles the conditional dependence between Dirichlet latent variables in adjacent levels of the model’s hierarchy. We compare our approach to existing implementations of nonparametric HDPs. On several benchmarks we find that our approach is faster than Gibbs sampling and able to learn more predictive models than existing variational methods. Finally, we demonstrate the large-scale viability of our approach on two newly available corpora from researchers in computer security–one with 350,000 documents and over 6,000 internal subcategories, the other with a five-level deep hierarchy.

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