Netflix–Give Me What I Want to Watch!!

We are all familiar with recommendations that are “pushed” towards us on e-commerce sites–think, Netflix, Pandora, and even Facebook (who suggests “friends”).  We never seem to receive Netflix recommendations that we like without suffering through a lot of misfires.  For every movie we really love, there are at least 20 duds.  And I have rated over 2580 movies on Netflix. So they should know what I like by now.

In a recent article in USA Today (April 9th) I learned that Netflix is trying desperately to improve its recommendation system, especially for its video-streaming service.  It seems that most subscribers watch the recommendations list provided by  Netflix on  Instant Queue.  (See my top 10 recommendations in my February 6, 2012 post) Netflix even offered a “Netflix Prize” of $1M to the individual or group who could recommend movies that viewers would rate higher than what Netflix predicted.

In the case of Netflix, their five star-rating system is used to determine what movies I might watch.  Netflix filters my past ratings as well as information on my Instant Queue  (knowing I watched only ten minutes of one of their suggested movie recommendations, for example).  With no experience in any of these high-tech algorithms, my husband and I have, nonetheless, become increasingly satisfied with the recommendations we are receiving both in Instant Queue and in the mail.  Why has this happened?  Because we have changed our method of rating movies to only one star or five stars–one star for “awful” and five stars for “wonderful”, with a few four stars “excellent, but flawed” thrown in.  No more waffling with two-star and three-star movies.  A three star vote is the same as not voting at all.

See for yourself how many two- and three-star movies are on the Netflix website–the vast majority of their inventory! Does the three-star movie (which means two stars to the left of the scale and two to the right) suggest it  is worth two hours of my time or does it mean that I didn’t want to rate it as a strong dislike, but  wish I hadn’t watched it anyway?

Get what you deserve–change your rating system to only the extreme likes and dislikes.  Never vote three stars. Then the recommendations will be more closely aligned to something worth watching, not a lot of  “meh”!


Comments (5)

  • What about the whole issue of data being collected
    from groceries, websites, to emotional taste (movie choices)…
    Seems like a lot of personal information…

    • I know–we want the information used only in ways that we approve and so much of it isn’t! I try not to post personal information on Facebook for that reason. I only post my new blog announcements and announcements of short stories I have being published in literary magazines. The incursion into my email when the provider (Google) sees I have written an email about weddings, for example, leads to “pushing” all sorts of ads about wedding dresses, wedding planners, etc. A bit unnerving, if you ask me.

  • Great idea Diana! I also read the USA Today article you mention, and it is very interesting to learn about what type of customer data they are collecting, especially with the streaming movies where no ratings are required from users. I also found the part of the article that says one of the reasons Netflix seeks to improve its recommendation system is to keep customers happy by enticing them to view movies it already has licensing rights to for streaming, rather than have customers seek out newer movies that are more readily available from competitor’s sites, or on dvd, which it wants to move away from, to be very insightful. I personally think they just need to fork over the money to obtain more movie rights

    • Hi Kim,
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, especially about the need to negotiate more movie rights for Netflix members’ taste. Actually, you can rate the Instant Queue movies you see as well as the regular DVDs that come in the mail. We do both–with only a one-star or a five-star rating. Since we have over 400 on our DVD list and almost 100 on our Instant Queue, we never seem to be at a loss for a good movie or TV series to watch. We have eliminated all the 3-star ones from our lists!

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