# Identifying parameters for Weibull distribution from research paper

http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/ryenw/papers/LiuSIGIR2010.pdf

I wish to use it to model web dwell time. I am not extremely well educated in the realm of stats. I have spent a few days trying to determine what the lambda and k parameters are for their weibull distributions, but I have not been successful. Would someone either tell me what the parameters are (in the case of their 'content' analysis, particularly), or better yet, educate me as to how I can understand them myself?

As a reference, the hazard function for that same paper's supposedly 'optimal' distribution is referenced here: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-long-do-users-stay-on-web-pages/

Thank you

• I'm not sure if I fully understand your question: Do you want to get the fitted parameters from the paper or do you want to fit the parameters of a Weibull distribution on a dataset of your own? As they fitted the parameters 205'873 times (for each page), they don't provide each estimate in their paper. In Figure 3, they provide the eCDFs of the fitted parameters. If you want to fit a Weibull distribution on a dataset of your own, you might find this tutorial interesting. Jun 1, 2014 at 12:39
• Essentially I am wanting to understand average behavior based on word count, which is one of the parameters they investigate in that paper. I want to build a Weibull distribution that is close to fitting what they've found to match web behavior based on content length, so that I can pull random numbers from it and generate a dwell time for a given page of a given amount of words. Can I use those eCDFs in Fig. 3 to approximate lambda and k? Jun 1, 2014 at 12:45
• I should also mention that I already have a formula that gives an average dwell time when input web page length in words. I just want to fit this formula with a weibull distribution to pull out average wait times. Thank you again Jun 1, 2014 at 12:51

The Weibull distribution (or Weibull probability density function - pdf) with two parameters has the shape parameter ($k$) and the scale parameter ($\lambda$).

The shape parameter models the format (shape) of the distribution. If $k$ = 1 the Weibull distribution reduces to an exponential distribution. If $k$ is between 3 and 4, the Weibull pdf is similar to a normal distribution. See the following picture, which simulates a Weibull pdf with a fixed scale parameter ($\lambda$ = 20) and varies the shape parameter ($k$) from 0.5 to 2, 3.5 and 8: In the study of Liu et al. (2010), the authors fitted 205,873 Weibull distributions (one for each of the 205,873 URLs investigated) using dwell time data.
The picture 3b is an empirical cumulative density function (eCDF) regarding the shape parameter for all the 205,873 Weibull pdfs obtained. That figure shows that in 98.5% of these 205,873 Weibull distributions, the shape parameter ($k$) was smaller than 1. This means that the dwell time frequency drops exponentially.
This is not my area of expertise, but if understood a little bit about that article, the authors explain this behavior claiming that the first thing a user does in a web page is to scroll it down to see if there is something interesting there. In this phase there is a huge frequency (or probability density) of users abandoning the website. If the webpage survives this phase of screening, than the dwell time behavior will be more smooth (makes sense to me).

The Weibull scale parameter ($\lambda$) is the 63.2 percentile of the distribution (McCool, 2012). This means that if, for example, given a Weibull distribution with $\lambda$ = 2, 63.2% of the observed values will be smaller than 2. The following picture shows how the scale parameter varies, holding the shape parameter constant ($k$ = 3.5). In the Liu et al. (2010) picture 3a, they show that 80% of the 205,873 fitted Weibull pdfs, had the scale parameter smaller than 70 seconds. This means that in those 80% URLs the dwell time value was smaller than 70 seconds in 63.2% of all observations.

I hope this can help you start understanding the Weibull pdf parameters.

References

• McCool, J.I. Using the Weibull Distribution: Reliability, Modeling and Inference. Hoboken: John Wiley., 2012. 368p.

• Liu, C.; White, R. W.; Dumais, S. Understanding Web Browsing Behaviors through Weibull Analysis of Dwell Time. SIGIR’10. Geneva, Switzerland. 2010.

Code in R, to reproduce pictures in this answer.

require(MASS)

# Weibull shape
windows()
i=0.5
set.seed(29)
x=rweibull(1000,shape=i,scale=20)
weib = fitdistr(na.omit(x),densfun=dweibull,start=list(scale=1,shape=1))
plot(curve(dweibull(x,shape=weib$estimate,scale=weib$estimate),from=0.1,to=40),ylim=c(0,0.15),type="l",lty=4, xlab="dwell time (t)",ylab = "density", cex.lab=1.35, cex.axis=1.25)
rm(x,weib,i)

for (i in c(2,3.5,8)){
x=rweibull(1000,shape=i,scale=20)
weib = fitdistr(na.omit(x),densfun=dweibull,start=list(scale=1,shape=1))
curve(dweibull(x,shape=weib$estimate,scale=weib$estimate),from=0.1,to=40,lty=i, add=T)
rm(i,x,weib)
}

text(4,0.1,expression(paste("k = 0.5")),cex=1.15)
text(1.85,0.02,expression(paste("k = 2")),cex=1.15)
text(18.95,0.055,expression(paste("k = 3.5")),cex=1.15)
text(19.6,0.115,expression(paste("k = 8")),cex=1.15)

dev.off()

# Weibull scale
windows()
i=5
set.seed(29)
x=rweibull(1000,shape=3.5,scale=i)
weib = fitdistr(na.omit(x),densfun=dweibull,start=list(scale=1,shape=1))
plot(curve(dweibull(x,shape=weib$estimate,scale=weib$estimate),from=0.1,to=40),ylim=c(0,0.3),type="l",lty=4, xlab="dwell time (t)",ylab = "density", cex.lab=1.35, cex.axis=1.25)
rm(x,weib,i)

for (i in c(10,15,20)){
x=rweibull(1000,shape=3.5,scale=i)
weib = fitdistr(na.omit(x),densfun=dweibull,start=list(scale=1,shape=1))
curve(dweibull(x,shape=weib$estimate,scale=weib$estimate),from=0.1,to=40,lty=i, add=T)
rm(i,x,weib)
}

text(4.75,0.27,expression(paste(lambda," = 5")),cex=1.15)
text(9.62,0.15,expression(paste(lambda," = 10")),cex=1.15)
text(14.65,0.1,expression(paste(lambda," = 15")),cex=1.15)
text(19.65,0.079,expression(paste(lambda," = 20")),cex=1.15)

dev.off()

• Thank you for the excellent answer. I was able to match approximately the hazard function shown in the second reference in my question by using lambda=35 and k=0.7, which gave an approx. match for at least low values of x. I wonder why I have this match with 35 and not around lambda=80 as you suggest? Jun 2, 2014 at 12:00
• @horsehair, you are welcome. Not sure if I followed your comment, but unless you are working with the same data/observations (same URLs, same dwell time dataset) as Liu et al. (2010) you should have obtained different Weibull parameters for your own dwell time data. Jun 2, 2014 at 14:29
• I mean from their data set. Jun 2, 2014 at 15:20
• @horsehair, I edited the answer. Please, note that the eCDF for the scale ($\lambda$) parameter (Figure3a, Liu et al. 2010) shows that 80% of all Weibulls had $\lambda$ smaller than 70 (some of them had $\lambda$ = 35). It is hard to tackle exactly what difficulties you might have into your current analysis because the subject can be very broad. Jun 2, 2014 at 17:51