Creating and deploying customized applications is crucial for operational success and enriching user experiences in the rapidly evolving modern business world. A prominent facet of modern user experiences is the integration of chatbots or voice assistants. The rapid evolution of Large Language Models (LLMs) has provided a powerful tool to build conversational applications. We present Walert, a customized LLM-based conversational agent able to answer frequently asked questions about computer science degrees and programs at RMIT University. Our demo aims to showcase how conversational information-seeking researchers can effectively communicate the benefits of using best practices to stakeholders interested in developing and deploying LLM-based chatbots. These practices are well-known in our community but often overlooked by practitioners who may not have access to this knowledge. The methodology and resources used in this demo serve as a bridge to facilitate knowledge transfer from experts, address industry professionals' practical needs, and foster a collaborative environment. The data and code of the demo are available at https://github.com/rmit-ir/walert.
Asking clarification questions is an active area of research; however, resources for training and evaluating search clarification methods are not sufficient. To address this issue, we describe MIMICS-Duo, a new freely available dataset of 306 search queries with multiple clarifications (a total of 1,034 query-clarification pairs). MIMICS-Duo contains fine-grained annotations on clarification questions and their candidate answers and enhances the existing MIMICS datasets by enabling multi-dimensional evaluation of search clarification methods, including online and offline evaluation. We conduct extensive analysis to demonstrate the relationship between offline and online search clarification datasets and outline several research directions enabled by MIMICS-Duo. We believe that this resource will help researchers better understand clarification in search.
Conversational information seeking (CIS) is concerned with a sequence of interactions between one or more users and an information system. Interactions in CIS are primarily based on natural language dialogue, while they may include other types of interactions, such as click, touch, and body gestures. This monograph provides a thorough overview of CIS definitions, applications, interactions, interfaces, design, implementation, and evaluation. This monograph views CIS applications as including conversational search, conversational question answering, and conversational recommendation. Our aim is to provide an overview of past research related to CIS, introduce the current state-of-the-art in CIS, highlight the challenges still being faced in the community. and suggest future directions.
Conversational assistants are being progressively adopted by the general population. However, they are not capable of handling complicated information-seeking tasks that involve multiple turns of information exchange. Due to the limited communication bandwidth in conversational search, it is important for conversational assistants to accurately detect and predict user intent in information-seeking conversations. In this paper, we investigate two aspects of user intent prediction in an information-seeking setting. First, we extract features based on the content, structural, and sentiment characteristics of a given utterance, and use classic machine learning methods to perform user intent prediction. We then conduct an in-depth feature importance analysis to identify key features in this prediction task. We find that structural features contribute most to the prediction performance. Given this finding, we construct neural classifiers to incorporate context information and achieve better performance without feature engineering. Our findings can provide insights into the important factors and effective methods of user intent prediction in information-seeking conversations.
Understanding and characterizing how people interact in information-seeking conversations is crucial in developing conversational search systems. In this paper, we introduce a new dataset designed for this purpose and use it to analyze information-seeking conversations by user intent distribution, co-occurrence, and flow patterns. The MSDialog dataset is a labeled dialog dataset of question answering (QA) interactions between information seekers and providers from an online forum on Microsoft products. The dataset contains more than 2,000 multi-turn QA dialogs with 10,000 utterances that are annotated with user intent on the utterance level. Annotations were done using crowdsourcing. With MSDialog, we find some highly recurring patterns in user intent during an information-seeking process. They could be useful for designing conversational search systems. We will make our dataset freely available to encourage exploration of information-seeking conversation models.