Jinchao Li


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Soloist: Building Task Bots at Scale with Transfer Learning and Machine Teaching
Baolin Peng | Chunyuan Li | Jinchao Li | Shahin Shayandeh | Lars Liden | Jianfeng Gao
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 9

Abstract We present a new method, Soloist,1 that uses transfer learning and machine teaching to build task bots at scale. We parameterize classical modular task-oriented dialog systems using a Transformer-based auto-regressive language model, which subsumes different dialog modules into a single neural model. We pre-train, on heterogeneous dialog corpora, a task-grounded response generation model, which can generate dialog responses grounded in user goals and real-world knowledge for task completion. The pre-trained model can be efficiently adapted to accomplish new tasks with a handful of task-specific dialogs via machine teaching, where training samples are generated by human teachers interacting with the system. Experiments show that (i)Soloist creates new state-of-the-art on well-studied task-oriented dialog benchmarks, including CamRest676 and MultiWOZ; (ii) in the few-shot fine-tuning settings, Soloist significantly outperforms existing methods; and (iii) the use of machine teaching substantially reduces the labeling cost of fine-tuning. The pre-trained models and codes are available at https://aka.ms/soloist.

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RADDLE: An Evaluation Benchmark and Analysis Platform for Robust Task-oriented Dialog Systems
Baolin Peng | Chunyuan Li | Zhu Zhang | Chenguang Zhu | Jinchao Li | Jianfeng Gao
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)

For task-oriented dialog systems to be maximally useful, it must be able to process conversations in a way that is (1) generalizable with a small number of training examples for new task domains, and (2) robust to user input in various styles, modalities, or domains. In pursuit of these goals, we introduce the RADDLE benchmark, a collection of corpora and tools for evaluating the performance of models across a diverse set of domains. By including tasks with limited training data, RADDLE is designed to favor and encourage models with a strong generalization ability. RADDLE also includes a diagnostic checklist that facilitates detailed robustness analysis in aspects such as language variations, speech errors, unseen entities, and out-of-domain utterances. We evaluate recent state-of-the-art systems based on pre-training and fine-tuning, and find that grounded pre-training on heterogeneous dialog corpora performs better than training a separate model per domain. Adversarial training is also proposed to improve model robustness against noisy inputs. Overall, existing models are less than satisfactory in robustness evaluation, which suggests opportunities for future improvement.


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Is Your Goal-Oriented Dialog Model Performing Really Well? Empirical Analysis of System-wise Evaluation
Ryuichi Takanobu | Qi Zhu | Jinchao Li | Baolin Peng | Jianfeng Gao | Minlie Huang
Proceedings of the 21th Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

There is a growing interest in developing goal-oriented dialog systems which serve users in accomplishing complex tasks through multi-turn conversations. Although many methods are devised to evaluate and improve the performance of individual dialog components, there is a lack of comprehensive empirical study on how different components contribute to the overall performance of a dialog system. In this paper, we perform a system-wise evaluation and present an empirical analysis on different types of dialog systems which are composed of different modules in different settings. Our results show that (1) a pipeline dialog system trained using fine-grained supervision signals at different component levels often obtains better performance than the systems that use joint or end-to-end models trained on coarse-grained labels, (2) component-wise, single-turn evaluation results are not always consistent with the overall performance of a dialog system, and (3) despite the discrepancy between simulators and human users, simulated evaluation is still a valid alternative to the costly human evaluation especially in the early stage of development.

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ConvLab-2: An Open-Source Toolkit for Building, Evaluating, and Diagnosing Dialogue Systems
Qi Zhu | Zheng Zhang | Yan Fang | Xiang Li | Ryuichi Takanobu | Jinchao Li | Baolin Peng | Jianfeng Gao | Xiaoyan Zhu | Minlie Huang
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics: System Demonstrations

We present ConvLab-2, an open-source toolkit that enables researchers to build task-oriented dialogue systems with state-of-the-art models, perform an end-to-end evaluation, and diagnose the weakness of systems. As the successor of ConvLab, ConvLab-2 inherits ConvLab’s framework but integrates more powerful dialogue models and supports more datasets. Besides, we have developed an analysis tool and an interactive tool to assist researchers in diagnosing dialogue systems. The analysis tool presents rich statistics and summarizes common mistakes from simulated dialogues, which facilitates error analysis and system improvement. The interactive tool provides an user interface that allows developers to diagnose an assembled dialogue system by interacting with the system and modifying the output of each system component.

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Conversation Learner - A Machine Teaching Tool for Building Dialog Managers for Task-Oriented Dialog Systems
Swadheen Shukla | Lars Liden | Shahin Shayandeh | Eslam Kamal | Jinchao Li | Matt Mazzola | Thomas Park | Baolin Peng | Jianfeng Gao
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics: System Demonstrations

Traditionally, industry solutions for building a task-oriented dialog system have relied on helping dialog authors define rule-based dialog managers, represented as dialog flows. While dialog flows are intuitively interpretable and good for simple scenarios, they fall short of performance in terms of the flexibility needed to handle complex dialogs. On the other hand, purely machine-learned models can handle complex dialogs, but they are considered to be black boxes and require large amounts of training data. In this demonstration, we showcase Conversation Learner, a machine teaching tool for building dialog managers. It combines the best of both approaches by enabling dialog authors to create a dialog flow using familiar tools, converting the dialog flow into a parametric model (e.g., neural networks), and allowing dialog authors to improve the dialog manager (i.e., the parametric model) over time by leveraging user-system dialog logs as training data through a machine teaching interface.

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Few-shot Natural Language Generation for Task-Oriented Dialog
Baolin Peng | Chenguang Zhu | Chunyuan Li | Xiujun Li | Jinchao Li | Michael Zeng | Jianfeng Gao
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

As a crucial component in task-oriented dialog systems, the Natural Language Generation (NLG) module converts a dialog act represented in a semantic form into a response in natural language. The success of traditional template-based or statistical models typically relies on heavily annotated data, which is infeasible for new domains. Therefore, it is pivotal for an NLG system to generalize well with limited labelled data in real applications. To this end, we present FewshotWOZ, the first NLG benchmark to simulate the few-shot learning setting in task-oriented dialog systems. Further, we develop the SC-GPT model. It is pre-trained on a large set of annotated NLG corpus to acquire the controllable generation ability, and fine-tuned with only a few domain-specific labels to adapt to new domains. Experiments on FewshotWOZ and the large Multi-Domain-WOZ datasets show that the proposed SC-GPT significantly outperforms existing methods, measured by various automatic metrics and human evaluations.

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Guided Dialogue Policy Learning without Adversarial Learning in the Loop
Ziming Li | Sungjin Lee | Baolin Peng | Jinchao Li | Julia Kiseleva | Maarten de Rijke | Shahin Shayandeh | Jianfeng Gao
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

Reinforcement learning methods have emerged as a popular choice for training an efficient and effective dialogue policy. However, these methods suffer from sparse and unstable reward signals returned by a user simulator only when a dialogue finishes. Besides, the reward signal is manually designed by human experts, which requires domain knowledge. Recently, a number of adversarial learning methods have been proposed to learn the reward function together with the dialogue policy. However, to alternatively update the dialogue policy and the reward model on the fly, we are limited to policy-gradient-based algorithms, such as REINFORCE and PPO. Moreover, the alternating training of a dialogue agent and the reward model can easily get stuck in local optima or result in mode collapse. To overcome the listed issues, we propose to decompose the adversarial training into two steps. First, we train the discriminator with an auxiliary dialogue generator and then incorporate a derived reward model into a common reinforcement learning method to guide the dialogue policy learning. This approach is applicable to both on-policy and off-policy reinforcement learning methods. Based on our extensive experimentation, we can conclude the proposed method: (1) achieves a remarkable task success rate using both on-policy and off-policy reinforcement learning methods; and (2) has potential to transfer knowledge from existing domains to a new domain.


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ConvLab: Multi-Domain End-to-End Dialog System Platform
Sungjin Lee | Qi Zhu | Ryuichi Takanobu | Zheng Zhang | Yaoqin Zhang | Xiang Li | Jinchao Li | Baolin Peng | Xiujun Li | Minlie Huang | Jianfeng Gao
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics: System Demonstrations

We present ConvLab, an open-source multi-domain end-to-end dialog system platform, that enables researchers to quickly set up experiments with reusable components and compare a large set of different approaches, ranging from conventional pipeline systems to end-to-end neural models, in common environments. ConvLab offers a set of fully annotated datasets and associated pre-trained reference models. As a showcase, we extend the MultiWOZ dataset with user dialog act annotations to train all component models and demonstrate how ConvLab makes it easy and effortless to conduct complicated experiments in multi-domain end-to-end dialog settings.