Thinking about High-Quality Human Data

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2024-02-09 22:30:02

[Special thank you to Ian Kivlichan for many useful pointers (E.g. the 100+ year old Nature paper “Vox populi”) and nice feedback. 🙏 ]

High-quality data is the fuel for modern data deep learning model training. Most of task-specific labeled data comes from human annotation, such as classification task or RLHF labeling (which can be constructed as classification format) for LLM alignment training. Lots of ML techniques in the post can help with data quality, but fundamentally human data collection involves attention to details and careful execution. The community knows the value of high quality data, but somehow we have this subtle impression that “Everyone wants to do the model work, not the data work” (Sambasivan et al. 2021).

Vox populi(originally “Vox populi, vox Dei”), a Latin phrase, means the voice of people. A short paper named in it, published in 1907 on Nature tracked an event at an annual exhibition where a fat ox was selected and people would guess the weight of the ox in order to win a prize if the guess is close to the real number. The middlemost estimate was treated as “the vox populi” and ended up being very close to the true value. The author concluded “This result is, I think, more creditable to the trustworthiness of a democratic judgment than might have been expected.” This is probably the earliest mention of how crowdsourcing (“the wisdom of the crowd”) would work out.

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