A short overview of Terrier's scoring architecture

Terrier is another Java-based, open source search engine developed at the School of Computing Science, University of Glasgow. It is positioned as a platform for IR research, and as such, has an extensible ranking architecture, with many ranking functions, such as LM, BM25 and the DFR framework already implemented. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to include a short summary and analysis of their architecture here.

The Terrier ranking architecture

The interface Model is top of the model (Similarity) hierarchy.

WeightingModel: abstract implementation of Model. It duplicates the information in the CollectionStatistics and EntryStatistics objects.

• Idf class as a member field

• Query term frequency: keyFrequency

• score() is abstract

• 2 score()s:

• tf, docLen

• tf, docLen, df, tf(Corpus), keyFrequency

What I find strange in this implementation is that they felt the need for the second score() method. In case of e.g. BM25, the two-parameter version takes the required values, such as df, from WeightingModel, while some of these can be supported directly to the five-parameter method. However, the choice of parameters seems rather arbitrary.

There are two classes responsible for providing the statistical parameters to the model. CollectionStatistics stores the collection-level information.

• numberOfFields

• fieldTokens: tokens in each field

• avgFieldLengths

• numberOfDocuments

• numberOfTokens

• numberOfPointers: total number of pointers in the inverted file \$= sum(df)\$

• numberOfUniqueTerms: \$len(lexicon)\$

• averageDocumentLength

EntryStatistics contain some information about the term.

• frequency: the total number of occurences (tf(Corpus) above)

• df

• term id

The models are rather simple: they override the scoring methods with their own formulas. There are also methods for setting the parameters (e.g. b for BM25).

The last class of interest is Idf. All kinds of idf functions are defined in it, such as idfDFR(), idfENQUIRY (seems to be buggy in 3.0), etc. I have two gripes with this:

• For one, it gives the idea that if a new formula is added, its idf part should be implemented in this class. However, someone who just wants to use the library may not feel like modifying a core class.
• Also, even this idea is false. BM25, for instance, does not have its own idfBM25() method in Idf; it is computed in the BM25 class directly.

Idf also has methods that compute the logarithm of number(s). This is because they use log2 instead of logn.

There are several sub-hierarchies under WeightingModel. These will be introduced in the next sections.

The DFR Framework

DFRWeightingModel is the base class for the modular DFR framework. The scoring formula has been divided into three parts, following the original paper:

• BasicModel subclasses represent the basic randomness models.

• AfterEffect subclasses compute the gain.

• Normalisation is applied on the "raw" term frequencies before they are passed to the basic model.

These classes define their own custom interfaces, which have little in common with the interface of the WeightingModel class. It is an interesting question if it is possible to maintain a consistent interface (e.g. Similarity) across scoring components and ranking frameworks.

It is worth mentioning that the basic model, aftereffect and normalization implementations are selected by class name and are initialized via the class loader mechanism. This might or might not be necessary in Lucene.

Per-field Normalisation

Field-aware scoring algorithms are implemented as subclasses of PerFieldNormWeightingModel. Currently two such models are implemented: BM25F and PL2F.

As far as I understand, per-field scoring is the default in Lucene, so this particular sub-hierarchy might not be of little interest to us.

Statistics availability in Lucene

The content of the EntryStatistics class, i.e. the term statistics, is conveniently mirrored by the TermContext class. The relevant fields are

• docFreq corresponds to df,

• totalTermFreq corresponds to frequency.

If I understand correctly, these statistics are extracted from the index on the fly, per field, so they depend on the fields searched in the query.

Also, as far as df goes, there is also IndexReader.docFreq().

Collection-level statistics seem to be harder to come by.

• number of fields: IndexReader.fields(), BUT this statistic is only for normalization, which is performed outside of the Similarity in Lucene; hence, we don't need it;

• no. of tokens in a field: IndexReader.getSumOfNorms(); it's a bit different than the real length; it may be worth to have both, since the more options, the more possibilities to experiment with;

• avg. field length: has to be computed as in MockBM25Similarity.avgDocumentLength() from the no. of tokens in each field;

• no. of documents: IndexReader.numDocs() (for some reason, maxDoc() is used in MockBM25Similarity) from the context;