Priors for Random Count Matrices Derived from a Family of Negative Binomial Processes

<p>We define a family of probability distributions for random count matrices with a potentially unbounded number of rows and columns. The three distributions we consider are derived from the gamma-Poisson, gamma-negative binomial, and beta-negative binomial processes, which we refer to generically as a family of negative-binomial processes. Because the models lead to closed-form update equations within the context of a Gibbs sampler, they are natural candidates for nonparametric Bayesian priors over count matrices. A key aspect of our analysis is the recognition that although the random count matrices within the family are defined by a row-wise construction, their columns can be shown to be independent and identically distributed (iid). This fact is used to derive explicit formulas for drawing all the columns at once. Moreover, by analyzing these matrices’ combinatorial structure, we describe how to sequentially construct a column-iid random count matrix one row at a time, and derive the predictive distribution of a new row count vector with previously unseen features. We describe the similarities and differences between the three priors, and argue that the greater flexibility of the gamma- and beta-negative binomial processes—especially their ability to model over-dispersed, heavy-tailed count data—makes these well suited to a wide variety of real-world applications. As an example of our framework, we construct a naive-Bayes text classifier to categorize a count vector to one of several existing random count matrices of different categories. The classifier supports an unbounded number of features and, unlike most existing methods, it does not require a predefined finite vocabulary to be shared by all the categories, and needs neither feature selection nor parameter tuning. Both the gamma- and beta-negative binomial processes are shown to significantly outperform the gamma-Poisson process when applied to document categorization, with comparable performance to other state-of-the-art supervised text classification algorithms. Supplementary materials for this article are available online.</p>