The DialPort project (http://dialport.org/), funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), covers a group of tools and services that aim at fulfilling the needs of the dialog research community. Over the course of six years, several offerings have been created, including the DialPort Portal and DialCrowd. This paper describes these contributions, which will be demoed at SIGDIAL, including implementation, prior studies, corresponding discoveries, and the locations at which the tools will remain freely available to the community going forward.
To facilitate zero-shot generalization in task-oriented dialog, this paper proposes Language Models as Data (LAD). LAD is a paradigm for creating diverse and accurate synthetic data which conveys the necessary structural constraints and can be used to train a downstream neural dialog model. LAD leverages GPT-3 to induce linguistic diversity. LAD achieves significant performance gains in zero-shot settings on intent prediction (+15%), slot filling (+31.4 F-1) and next action prediction (+10 F-1). Furthermore, an interactive human evaluation shows that training with LAD is competitive with training on human dialogs.
Dialog system developers need high-quality data to train, fine-tune and assess their systems. They often use crowdsourcing for this since it provides large quantities of data from many workers. However, the data may not be of sufficiently good quality. This can be due to the way that the requester presents a task and how they interact with the workers. This paper introduces DialCrowd 2.0 to help requesters obtain higher quality data by, for example, presenting tasks more clearly and facilitating effective communication with workers. DialCrowd 2.0 guides developers in creating improved Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) and is directly applicable to the workflows used currently by developers and researchers.
The ultimate goal of dialog research is to develop systems that can be effectively used in interactive settings by real users. To this end, we introduced the Interactive Evaluation of Dialog Track at the 9th Dialog System Technology Challenge. This track consisted of two sub-tasks. The first sub-task involved building knowledge-grounded response generation models. The second sub-task aimed to extend dialog models beyond static datasets by assessing them in an interactive setting with real users. Our track challenges participants to develop strong response generation models and explore strategies that extend them to back-and-forth interactions with real users. The progression from static corpora to interactive evaluation introduces unique challenges and facilitates a more thorough assessment of open-domain dialog systems. This paper provides an overview of the track, including the methodology and results. Furthermore, it provides insights into how to best evaluate open-domain dialog models.
Instruction tuning is an emergent paradigm in NLP wherein natural language instructions are leveraged with language models to induce zero-shot performance on unseen tasks. Dialogue is an especially interesting area in which to explore instruction tuning because dialogue systems perform multiple kinds of tasks related to language (e.g., natural language understanding and generation, domain-specific interaction), yet instruction tuning has not been systematically explored for dialogue-related tasks. We introduce InstructDial, an instruction tuning framework for dialogue, which consists of a repository of 48 diverse dialogue tasks in a unified text-to-text format created from 59 openly available dialogue datasets. We explore cross-task generalization ability on models tuned on InstructDial across diverse dialogue tasks. Our analysis reveals that InstructDial enables good zero-shot performance on unseen datasets and tasks such as dialogue evaluation and intent detection, and even better performance in a few-shot setting. To ensure that models adhere to instructions, we introduce novel meta-tasks. We establish benchmark zero-shot and few-shot performance of models trained using the proposed framework on multiple dialogue tasks.
Automatic evaluation metrics are a crucial component of dialog systems research. Standard language evaluation metrics are known to be ineffective for evaluating dialog. As such, recent research has proposed a number of novel, dialog-specific metrics that correlate better with human judgements. Due to the fast pace of research, many of these metrics have been assessed on different datasets and there has as yet been no time for a systematic comparison between them. To this end, this paper provides a comprehensive assessment of recently proposed dialog evaluation metrics on a number of datasets. In this paper, 23 different automatic evaluation metrics are evaluated on 10 different datasets. Furthermore, the metrics are assessed in different settings, to better qualify their respective strengths and weaknesses. This comprehensive assessment offers several takeaways pertaining to dialog evaluation metrics in general. It also suggests how to best assess evaluation metrics and indicates promising directions for future work.
In transfer learning, it is imperative to achieve strong alignment between a pre-trained model and a downstream task. Prior work has done this by proposing task-specific pre-training objectives, which sacrifices the inherent scalability of the transfer learning paradigm. We instead achieve strong alignment by simultaneously modifying both the pre-trained model and the formulation of the downstream task, which is more efficient and preserves the scalability of transfer learning. We present GenSF (Generative Slot Filling), which leverages a generative pre-trained open-domain dialog model for slot filling. GenSF (1) adapts the pre-trained model by incorporating inductive biases about the task and (2) adapts the downstream task by reformulating slot filling to better leverage the pre-trained model’s capabilities. GenSF achieves state-of-the-art results on two slot filling datasets with strong gains in few-shot and zero-shot settings. We achieve a 9 F1 score improvement in zero-shot slot filling. This highlights the value of strong alignment between the pre-trained model and the downstream task.
Developing mechanisms that flexibly adapt dialog systems to unseen tasks and domains is a major challenge in dialog research. Neural models implicitly memorize task-specific dialog policies from the training data. We posit that this implicit memorization has precluded zero-shot transfer learning. To this end, we leverage the schema-guided paradigm, wherein the task-specific dialog policy is explicitly provided to the model. We introduce the Schema Attention Model (SAM) and improved schema representations for the STAR corpus. SAM obtains significant improvement in zero-shot settings, with a +22 F1 score improvement over prior work. These results validate the feasibility of zero-shot generalizability in dialog. Ablation experiments are also presented to demonstrate the efficacy of SAM.
It is important to define meaningful and interpretable automatic evaluation metrics for open-domain dialog research. Standard language generation metrics have been shown to be ineffective for dialog. This paper introduces the FED metric (fine-grained evaluation of dialog), an automatic evaluation metric which uses DialoGPT, without any fine-tuning or supervision. It also introduces the FED dataset which is constructed by annotating a set of human-system and human-human conversations with eighteen fine-grained dialog qualities. The FED metric (1) does not rely on a ground-truth response, (2) does not require training data and (3) measures fine-grained dialog qualities at both the turn and whole dialog levels. FED attains moderate to strong correlation with human judgement at both levels.
The lack of meaningful automatic evaluation metrics for dialog has impeded open-domain dialog research. Standard language generation metrics have been shown to be ineffective for evaluating dialog models. To this end, this paper presents USR, an UnSupervised and Reference-free evaluation metric for dialog. USR is a reference-free metric that trains unsupervised models to measure several desirable qualities of dialog. USR is shown to strongly correlate with human judgment on both Topical-Chat (turn-level: 0.42, system-level: 1.0) and PersonaChat (turn-level: 0.48 and system-level: 1.0). USR additionally produces interpretable measures for several desirable properties of dialog.
This paper discusses the importance of uncovering uncertainty in end-to-end dialog tasks and presents our experimental results on uncertainty classification on the processed Ubuntu Dialog Corpus. We show that instead of retraining models for this specific purpose, we can capture the original retrieval model’s underlying confidence concerning the best prediction using trivial additional computation.
Defining action spaces for conversational agents and optimizing their decision-making process with reinforcement learning is an enduring challenge. Common practice has been to use handcrafted dialog acts, or the output vocabulary, e.g. in neural encoder decoders, as the action spaces. Both have their own limitations. This paper proposes a novel latent action framework that treats the action spaces of an end-to-end dialog agent as latent variables and develops unsupervised methods in order to induce its own action space from the data. Comprehensive experiments are conducted examining both continuous and discrete action types and two different optimization methods based on stochastic variational inference. Results show that the proposed latent actions achieve superior empirical performance improvement over previous word-level policy gradient methods on both DealOrNoDeal and MultiWoz dialogs. Our detailed analysis also provides insights about various latent variable approaches for policy learning and can serve as a foundation for developing better latent actions in future research.
We propose BeamSeg, a joint model for segmentation and topic identification of documents from the same domain. The model assumes that lexical cohesion can be observed across documents, meaning that segments describing the same topic use a similar lexical distribution over the vocabulary. The model implements lexical cohesion in an unsupervised Bayesian setting by drawing from the same language model segments with the same topic. Contrary to previous approaches, we assume that language models are not independent, since the vocabulary changes in consecutive segments are expected to be smooth and not abrupt. We achieve this by using a dynamic Dirichlet prior that takes into account data contributions from other topics. BeamSeg also models segment length properties of documents based on modality (textbooks, slides, etc.). The evaluation is carried out in three datasets. In two of them, improvements of up to 4.8% and 7.3% are obtained in the segmentation and topic identifications tasks, indicating that both tasks should be jointly modeled.
Neural dialog models have exhibited strong performance, however their end-to-end nature lacks a representation of the explicit structure of dialog. This results in a loss of generalizability, controllability and a data-hungry nature. Conversely, more traditional dialog systems do have strong models of explicit structure. This paper introduces several approaches for explicitly incorporating structure into neural models of dialog. Structured Fusion Networks first learn neural dialog modules corresponding to the structured components of traditional dialog systems and then incorporate these modules in a higher-level generative model. Structured Fusion Networks obtain strong results on the MultiWOZ dataset, both with and without reinforcement learning. Structured Fusion Networks are shown to have several valuable properties, including better domain generalizability, improved performance in reduced data scenarios and robustness to divergence during reinforcement learning.
The aim of this paper is to mitigate the shortcomings of automatic evaluation of open-domain dialog systems through multi-reference evaluation. Existing metrics have been shown to correlate poorly with human judgement, particularly in open-domain dialog. One alternative is to collect human annotations for evaluation, which can be expensive and time consuming. To demonstrate the effectiveness of multi-reference evaluation, we augment the test set of DailyDialog with multiple references. A series of experiments show that the use of multiple references results in improved correlation between several automatic metrics and human judgement for both the quality and the diversity of system output.
This paper examines various unsupervised pretraining objectives for learning dialog context representations. Two novel methods of pretraining dialog context encoders are proposed, and a total of four methods are examined. Each pretraining objective is fine-tuned and evaluated on a set of downstream dialog tasks using the MultiWoz dataset and strong performance improvement is observed. Further evaluation shows that our pretraining objectives result in not only better performance, but also better convergence, models that are less data hungry and have better domain generalizability.
Neural models of dialog rely on generalized latent representations of language. This paper introduces a novel training procedure which explicitly learns multiple representations of language at several levels of granularity. The multi-granularity training algorithm modifies the mechanism by which negative candidate responses are sampled in order to control the granularity of learned latent representations. Strong performance gains are observed on the next utterance retrieval task using both the MultiWOZ dataset and the Ubuntu dialog corpus. Analysis significantly demonstrates that multiple granularities of representation are being learned, and that multi-granularity training facilitates better transfer to downstream tasks.
This paper introduces zero-shot dialog generation (ZSDG), as a step towards neural dialog systems that can instantly generalize to new situations with minimum data. ZSDG requires an end-to-end generative dialog system to generalize to a new domain for which only a domain description is provided and no training dialogs are available. Then a novel learning framework, Action Matching, is proposed. This algorithm can learn a cross-domain embedding space that models the semantics of dialog responses which in turn, enables a neural dialog generation model to generalize to new domains. We evaluate our methods on two datasets, a new synthetic dialog dataset, and an existing human-human multi-domain dialog dataset. Experimental results show that our method is able to achieve superior performance in learning dialog models that can rapidly adapt their behavior to new domains and suggests promising future research.
When creating a dialog system, developers need to test each version to ensure that it is performing correctly. Recently the trend has been to test on large datasets or to ask many users to try out a system. Crowdsourcing has solved the issue of finding users, but it presents new challenges such as how to use a crowdsourcing platform and what type of test is appropriate. DialCrowd has been designed to make system assessment easier and to ensure the quality of the result. This paper describes DialCrowd, what specific needs it fulfills and how it works. It then relates a test of DialCrowd by a group of dialog system developer.
The encoder-decoder dialog model is one of the most prominent methods used to build dialog systems in complex domains. Yet it is limited because it cannot output interpretable actions as in traditional systems, which hinders humans from understanding its generation process. We present an unsupervised discrete sentence representation learning method that can integrate with any existing encoder-decoder dialog models for interpretable response generation. Building upon variational autoencoders (VAEs), we present two novel models, DI-VAE and DI-VST that improve VAEs and can discover interpretable semantics via either auto encoding or context predicting. Our methods have been validated on real-world dialog datasets to discover semantic representations and enhance encoder-decoder models with interpretable generation.
Generative encoder-decoder models offer great promise in developing domain-general dialog systems. However, they have mainly been applied to open-domain conversations. This paper presents a practical and novel framework for building task-oriented dialog systems based on encoder-decoder models. This framework enables encoder-decoder models to accomplish slot-value independent decision-making and interact with external databases. Moreover, this paper shows the flexibility of the proposed method by interleaving chatting capability with a slot-filling system for better out-of-domain recovery. The models were trained on both real-user data from a bus information system and human-human chat data. Results show that the proposed framework achieves good performance in both offline evaluation metrics and in task success rate with human users.
DialPort collects user data for connected spoken dialog systems. At present six systems are linked to a central portal that directs the user to the applicable system and suggests systems that the user may be interested in. User data has started to flow into the system.
While recent neural encoder-decoder models have shown great promise in modeling open-domain conversations, they often generate dull and generic responses. Unlike past work that has focused on diversifying the output of the decoder from word-level to alleviate this problem, we present a novel framework based on conditional variational autoencoders that capture the discourse-level diversity in the encoder. Our model uses latent variables to learn a distribution over potential conversational intents and generates diverse responses using only greedy decoders. We have further developed a novel variant that is integrated with linguistic prior knowledge for better performance. Finally, the training procedure is improved through introducing a bag-of-word loss. Our proposed models have been validated to generate significantly more diverse responses than baseline approaches and exhibit competence of discourse-level decision-making.
This paper describes metaTED ― a freely available corpus of metadiscursive acts in spoken language collected via crowdsourcing. Metadiscursive acts were annotated on a set of 180 randomly chosen TED talks in English, spanning over different speakers and topics. The taxonomy used for annotation is composed of 16 categories, adapted from Adel(2010). This adaptation takes into account both the material to annotate and the setting in which the annotation task is performed. The crowdsourcing setup is described, including considerations regarding training and quality control. The collected data is evaluated in terms of quantity of occurrences, inter-annotator agreement, and annotation related measures (such as average time on task and self-reported confidence). Results show different levels of agreement among metadiscourse acts (α ∈ [0.15; 0.49]). To further assess the collected material, a subset of the annotations was submitted to expert appreciation, who validated which of the marked occurrences truly correspond to instances of the metadiscursive act at hand. Similarly to what happened with the crowd, experts revealed different levels of agreement between categories (α ∈ [0.18; 0.72]). The paper concludes with a discussion on the applicability of metaTED with respect to each of the 16 categories of metadiscourse.