An Ordinal Data Clustering Algorithm with Automated Distance Learning
Clustering ordinal data is a common task in data mining and machine learning fields. As a major type of categorical data, ordinal data is composed of attributes with naturally ordered possible values (also called categories interchangeably in this paper). However, due to the lack of dedicated distance metric, ordinal categories are usually treated as nominal ones, or coded as consecutive integers and treated as numerical ones. Both these two common ways will roughly define the distances between ordinal categories because the former way ignores the order relationship and the latter way simply assigns identical distances to different pairs of adjacent categories that may have intrinsically unequal distances. As a result, they may produce unsatisfactory ordinal data clustering results. This paper, therefore, proposes a novel ordinal data clustering algorithm, which iteratively learns: 1) The partition of ordinal dataset, and 2) the inter-category distances. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first attempt to dynamically adjust inter-category distances during the clustering process to search for a better partition of ordinal data. The proposed algorithm features superior clustering accuracy, low time complexity, fast convergence, and is parameter-free. Extensive experiments show its efficacy.