Matroid secretary for regular and decomposable matroids

Michael Dinitz, Guy Kortsarz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

6 Scopus citations


In the matroid secretary problem we are given a stream of elements and asked to choose a set of elements that maximizes the total value of the set, subject to being an independent set of a matroid given in advance. The difficulty comes from the assumption that decisions are irrevocable: if we choose to accept an element when it is presented by the stream then we can never get rid of it, and if we choose not to accept it then we cannot later add it. Babaioff, Immorlica, and Kleinberg [SODA 2007] introduced this problem, gave O(1)-competitive algorithms for certain classes of matroids, and conjectured that every matroid admits an O(1)-competitive algorithm. However, most matroids that are known to admit an O(1)-competitive algorithm can be easily represented using graphs (e.g. graphic, cographic, and transversal matroids). In particular, there is very little known about F-representable matroids (the class of matroids that can be represented as elements of a vector space over a field F), which are one of the foundational types of matroids. Moreover, most of the known techniques are as dependent on graph theory as they are on matroid theory. We go beyond graphs by giving O(1)-competitive algorithms for regular matroids (the class of matroids that are representable over any field), and use techniques that are fundamentally matroid-theoretic rather than graph-theoretic. Our main technique is to leverage the seminal regular matroid decomposition theorem of Seymour, which gives a method for decomposing any regular matroid into matroids which are either graphic, cographic, or isomorphic to a simple 10-element matroid. We show how to combine in a black-box manner any algorithms for these basic classes into an algorithm for a given regular matroid, i.e. how to respect the decomposition. In fact, this allows us to generalize beyond regular matroids to any class of matroids that admits such a decomposition into classes for which we already have good algorithms. In particular, we give an O(1)-competitive algorithm for the class of max-flow min-cut matroids, which Seymour showed can be decomposed into regular matroids and copies of the Fano matroid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 24th Annual ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms, SODA 2013
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9781611972511
StatePublished - 2013
Event24th Annual ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms, SODA 2013 - New Orleans, LA, United States
Duration: Jan 6 2013Jan 8 2013

Publication series

NameProceedings of the Annual ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms


Other24th Annual ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms, SODA 2013
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans, LA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Mathematics(all)


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