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Solving L1-regularized SVMs and Related Linear Programs: Revisiting the Effectiveness of Column and Constraint Generation

Antoine Dedieu, Rahul Mazumder, Haoyue Wang; 23(164):1−41, 2022.


The linear Support Vector Machine (SVM) is a classic classification technique in machine learning. Motivated by applications in high dimensional statistics, we consider penalized SVM problems involving the minimization of a hinge-loss function with a convex sparsity-inducing regularizer such as: the L1-norm on the coefficients, its grouped generalization and the sorted L1-penalty (aka Slope). Each problem can be expressed as a Linear Program (LP) and is computationally challenging when the number of features and/or samples is large---the current state of algorithms for these problems is rather nascent when compared to the usual L2-regularized linear SVM. To this end, we propose new computational algorithms for these LPs by bringing together techniques from (a) classical column (and constraint) generation methods and (b) first-order methods for non-smooth convex optimization---techniques that appear to be rarely used together for solving large scale LPs. These components have their respective strengths; and while they are found to be useful as separate entities, they appear to be more powerful in practice when used together in the context of solving large-scale LPs such as the ones studied herein. Our approach complements the strengths of (a) and (b)---leading to a scheme that seems to significantly outperform commercial solvers as well as specialized implementations for these problems. We present numerical results on a series of real and synthetic data sets demonstrating the surprising effectiveness of classic column/constraint generation methods in the context of challenging LP-based machine learning tasks.

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