Saturday, June 2, 2007

Notes, continued...

I'm game.

Shaun, you said "Reviews show up differently than notes; if I write a note, I guarantee my friends will see it. If I write a review, there is no such assurance." What if reviews from your Friends were treated differently. What if it was presented at the top of a page, or column, or highlighted in some way such that it wouldn't be buried in a pile of reviews. In other words, it was presented as a note. For other people who don't know you, who aren't Friends with you, yes it would still be visible but far less likely to be seen (who drills in multiple pages on customer reviews? And if I did drill that far, maybe i am interested in the rather idiosyncratic back-and-forth between another group of people on this topic. i'm just asking.) The other benefit of this is that reviews are both persistent (meaning, new Friends would be able to see them too), and edit/delete-able. How many problems would be solved if this worked for y'all? (AND there is no email that goes out when a review is posted, even...)

I pretty much agree with you about being able to turn off the notes emails. That's not as refined as it should be, and it probably should have a preference setting for it. [Meaning, you can select whether or not you want to send emails.] I had prioritized fixing that, however, after some other of these larger new features, like the avatars and changes to custom lists. Do y'all think turning off emails is more important than completing new features which all of us think will be more interesting? (I'm sort of being rhetorical--of course you'd rather it just work right; how much work could it take?) There are a lot more nifty ways to look for movies and share movie experiences than what we have now, and i personally believe you'll be pleased we prioritized this way, but i certainly don't know for sure. that's kinda why I think it's good to get everyone's feedback.)

one of you said: "i never feel like investing more than 5 minutes "reviewing" a movie. i bet most folks feel the same. a "review" feels more formal, and longer, and thought out. a "note" just feels better between friends. plus, nobody would get most of the inside jokes laced in my notes other than my friends. plus, who cares what i think (other than mom)?"

Why do reviews have to be formal? Some will, of course, be rather serious and educated in their critique. But others are no doubt going to be like talking to my brother, who has a lot of enthusiasm. Why is one better than the other? If I'm looking to get some sense of whether or not i should see a given movie, i like a range of voices. i don't need to "get" your private jokes, and i'll skip it if i don't get it. I suggest it might be okay to make your notes (to all your Friends) into reviews. If it isn't helpful to other folks, the natural process of sorting will pretty quickly drop it from much view -- and if it turns out to be helpful, and really crystallized something about a movie that appeals to other folks, well then, you've inadvertently helped other people.

I'm not suggesting there isn't a place for private correspondence -- that's pretty much what notes were designed for. The private kind of review, or query, or something that kinda demands response. But those notes don't really need to be persistent for all my Friends or future Friends. (Today's Friends may not get last years' private joke between me and the three Friends I had then.)

I miss the mini-reviews, i really do. But i more enjoy not having 3 distinct ways to communicate-- it's redundant, it makes things more complicated for everyone, harder to learn, more junk on the screen. I liked the subtle differences between each, but i think i can pretty much get what i need from just reviews and notes -- as long as new reviews from Friends are presented pretty clearly, and not more buried (as they are today).

Eric, you said you wanted the "ability to leave a note for all friends (including future friends that I might add). As it stands right now, I have no idea if new friends can see notes I've already left or not. I don't leave "notes" to people, I leave general comments about specific movies, so I'd like anyone who is associated with me to be able to read them." It sounds like the above solution might address this. Does it? And your second point, "Ability to leave a note on a movie that is independent of other notes my friends may have already left. I don't want my note to be considered a reply just because someone else left a note first. I just want to leave a comment, not start a conversation." Again, wouldn't sending the "note" as a "review" address this?

Finally: if you could edit/delete notes, how does that work? If I delete a note i sent you, does that mean it is removed from your Notebook? But edits i make on my notes ripple to every person who has that note? Is this correct? If i edit my review today, whenever someone reads that, they get the corrected version. And if i delete it it's gone from everywhere instantly. But if I write a note, and you reply, and I delete my note, what happens to your reply?

I'm not trying to be difficult; this is precisely the kind of questions that have to be answered, and alternatives that have to be debated.


  1. I love that you guys are taking feedback on this stuff. Very Cool. Here are my personal dream requirements for notes/reviews:

    * I don't care what they are called (reviews, notes, whatever).
    * I LOVE the emails being sent to my friends when I review/note something. I beg you, don't turn it off - unless you create a setting or something. In fact, I wish this was feed based as well (scope creep!).
    * %99 of the time I want to leave a note for ALL of my friends to see. I really don't care who else sees it. If someone else does, no big deal. However, (and here's the key part), I want ALL OF MY FRIENDS TO SEE IT (either via email, or when they go to the friends page, or...). As long as it's prominent to them tat it WAS ME then that's the most important thing.

  2. I'm not sure where you guys are getting the idea that we don't like receiving emails when our friends post notes about movies. This is the #1 best thing of all! All of my friends LOVE getting email notifications when I write notes about movies, and I love getting email notifications when they write notes about movies! This is absolutely fantastic! Please do NOT turn off this feature!

  3. I don't use notes specifically because they send mail. At least have it off by default, let the people who think it's a good thing turn it on. Actually, perhaps it should be receiver-side option, somewhat like Orkut does with their various aspects, you get to choose if you get notified if someone sends you a message or signs your guestbook or whatever. I don't want any of that. I'm cool if it notifies me when I log in via the webpage, assuming it's not too overwhelming a part of my front page.

  4. Reviews, notes, whatever they are called - I don't want to write for general public consumption. As it is I don't use notes because of the e-mail it generates. If you change notes to reviews that are published for all of Netflix, I won't use it that way either.

    What I would like is a note to be posted, but with the ability to control e-mail from my end. Reason being that many of my friends share accounts with spouses, and the notes may not be of interest to the person getting slammed with e-mails.

  5. when you comment on the value of future friends reading notes I think you miss the point.. future friends reading 'mini reviews' is valuable (and missed). future friends reading 'notes' you've written to specific friends is lame -- as are the 'notes' concept in general. bring back mini reviews.

  6. What if reviews from your Friends were treated differently. What if it was presented at the top of a page, or column, or highlighted in some way such that it wouldn't be buried in a pile of reviews. In other words, it was presented as a note. For other people who don't know you, who aren't Friends with you, yes it would still be visible but far less likely to be seen

    This would actually be fine with me. My review would show up for my friends at the top of a movie page, much like the mini-review did. All new and old friends alike will see the review when they go to a page, and the review would be editable to boot. Sounds great!

    It also seems obvious that people are very adamant about either sending emails or not sending them. Easily fixed with a check box on the review page. In addition, maybe each user could set an option on their account preferences that either accepted or blocked emails from other users. If I felt those emails were 'spam' I would have the option to turn them off, even if my friends checked the box to send me the emails. I think this would satisfy both sides, yes?

  7. ...addition to my last note about email options...

    Whenever a user choses to send an email to their friends, they're brought to a page to check off the names, much like the notes currently work. If any of the friends have turned off their email notification in their account preferences, their name is simply grayed out and un-checkable. This way the friends know who will get the email and who won't. Simple.

  8. my nickname won't update

  9. I'm a software developer, and one of the most frustrating things about user interfaces, to me, is that users always seem to find new and creative ways to use them. So any time I make a small change that I think is really cool, or any time I get rid of or replace something that I think is useless or outdated, I quickly discover that at least some of my users have a different opinion :)

    I think the real issue with Notes (at least for me) is that I don't use the feature in the way it was intended to be used. Instead, I've tried my best to use it as a replacement for a deprecated feature that I loved (Two Cents reviews). And while I do like some of the auxiliary aspects of Notes (having a recent note on my main page, the notebook, etc.), the core functionality is different from how I actually use it.

    As for the suggestion you made in this post (using reviews to leave my comments, and having friends' reviews show up ahead of other user reviews), that could be an improvement, but I still see several issues with that approach:

    1) After I watch a movie, I usually leave a mini-review to augment my star rating, and my friends do the same. I really like being able to view those comments in the list alongside my friends' ratings. Moving these comments to the reviews section would separate them from the ratings.

    2) While I do put thought into my mini-reviews, I don't necessarily want them displayed to the general public. Call me self-conscious (or just old-fashioned), but when I put something out there for the world to see, I want to always put my best foot forward.

    3) Comments and reviews are different things. Most of my comments are not in-depth enough to provide much value as a review, and as such, they would probably be rated poorly. I don't like the idea of having my words viewed negatively just because I had to post them in a place they don't really belong.

    4) Since comments and reviews are different in nature, there will be some situations in which I'd like to write a comment for my friends, but then also write a more in-depth review for the general public. If I had to post my comment as a review, would I then be able to write a second review?

    5) As I stated above, my biggest gripe with Notes is simply that I'm not using it in the way it was intended to be used. If I started leaving comments in the reviews section instead, I would just be misusing a different feature.

    As my last point, I'd like to respond to something you said in this post: I miss the mini-reviews, i really do. But i more enjoy not having 3 distinct ways to communicate. I completely agree with that statement, but I'd rather have mini-reviews and get rid of Notes than the other way around. All of my Netflix friends are people I can talk to in person, over IM, via e-mail, and on the phone, so I really don't need a 5th way of conversing with them. Notes doesn't add any value to the site for me, but Two Cents was something I used (and now miss) daily.

  10. How about having an option on the Review to mark it "Friends only". That way any Friends you add later would still see the Review, and every Review wouldn't have to be written to a level where you'd want to share it with everyone. Reviews from Friends should be prominently featured.

  11. Michael, I could attempt to answer the question you put to me, but Eric has already done so in a way that expresses all of my same concerns and thoughts, so I will just refer you to his comment above.

    Based on the comments of several posters here, I have the feeling that he and I are not the only two out there who feel that this is the way to use Notes and Reviews that makes the most sense to us.

    Also, with regard to the email issue, it seems that there is enough passionate response on both sides to warrant a property for the receiver to specify whether or not they want receive email when their friends leave notes. This seems to be a win-win for everybody.

  12. Folks: just to be clear -- we're not talking about all notes, we're talking about the difference between NOTES (specifically when SENT TO ALL FRIENDS), and REVIEWS. There is a place for private funky personal notes. But when you send a note to ALL friends, and you would like it to be visible to future friends, the question is, how is this really different from a review, particularly if that review was prominently featured for people who are your Friends.

  13. I see what you're driving at Michael, but I don't see how that invalidate's Eric's points, particularly #3 and #4, which to me are very important aspects to this debate...

  14. "But when you send a note to ALL friends, and you would like it to be visible to future friends, the question is, how is this really different from a review, particularly if that review was prominently featured for people who are your Friends."

    The difference is, notes are visible only to friends, reviews are visible to everyone on Netflix, which I - and apparently some others - do not care for. What is so hard to understand about that?

    I really like the suggestion made by another poster of having the option to mark reviews "friends only."

  15. Great post, Eric. I agree with all your points, especially the one about using notes as a replacement for the two cents reviews. I feel like I've been trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole ever since they got rid of that feature.

  16. I agree 100% with everything Eric said. The Two-Cents mini-reviews were perfect. I would be happy for Notes to just disappear and for the mini-reviews to return because I currently use the Notes feature as a mini-review. I always send notes to "All Friends."

    I actually didn't know that future friends couldn't see my old notes until now. I assumed that "All Friends" meant every friend I ever have had and will have. This was not at all clear and now I'm rather frustrated regarding how to go about updating my new friends.

    The best thing about the notes feature is the "Notebook." But I don't think it's executed in the best way. The one thing I always disliked about the Mini-reviews was that there was no way for me to see all of the mini-reviews one of my friends have written. I had to individually check every single movie they had rated to see if they had left a mini-review, and I have friends that have rated more than 2500 movies. Ideally, I'd like to be able to have a "mini-reviews" tab on the friend detail page. Or alternately, some kind of indication on the list of movies my friend has rated which ones they've written mini-reivews for -- and an option to sort the rated movies by mini-review.

    I honestly think Notes are useless in the way you intend them to be used. As someone above stated, I'll call, e-mail, or IM a specific friend if I want to have a conversation about a movie. Netflix doesn't need to reinvent the conversation.

    Finally, I'd like to reiterate what Eric and others have said about friends-only reviews vs. Netflix reviews:

    I've written hundreds of mini-reviews (or notes), but only 2 Netflix reviews. My mini-reviews are usually something like "Better than I expected," or "I know the acting sucked, but I gave it 4 stars because the concept is hilarious," or "Don't make fun of me for watching this. I know someone who was in it." These are clearly for my friends. My full reviews are FULL reviews, that I would be proud to have published in the newspaper. Get the difference? And yes, there are movies that I've written both full reviews and mini-reviews for and I wouldn't want to give up either one.

  17. I wish you could delete notes you send. I sent a buddy a note about the Man Show Topless Chicks on Trampolines and now he gets in trouble with his wife every time he logs in. I have to delete him as a friend since I can't delete the note! Is there a fix?

  18. All e-mail notification for reviews, notes or any other feature I generate must come with the ability to opt-out by both the sender and the receiver. I don’t want to receive spam, and I don’t want to send spam. My friends don’t want to receive spam, and they don’t want to send spam.

    I’ve done without the friends notes long enough now that I don’t care if they continue or not, though they did have the benefit of brevity, and specificity.

    Reviews and Notes are very different and one can not replace the other.

    If the feature must go or receive low priority that’s fine, but if it can be retained and refined that’s better.

    As for communicating with my friends, via notes, they are just too low functioning and I and don’t want to use them in that way anyway. I was using my notes as mini-reviews specific to my friends, and yes I would like them to persist and be available to all friends because otherwise, and this came up quite often, I was repeating ‘notes’ to newly joining friends. When I actually discuss movies with my friends, e-mail and personal conversation are the only satisfying options. I agree with eric and amanda on this… The point is that no one I can find seems to be using notes to ‘communicate’ in a true back and forth. Because of the low character count you’d be limited to an “It sucks.”/“No, it doesn’t. You suck.” conversation anyway. I think most of us would prefer the option of continuing to share these short, casual, and semi-private ‘2-cent’ reviews with our friends. I love to write them because they are fun and I love my friends. But in my case at least, not at the expense of our public reviews which I also love to write, because I love movies.

    That said, under each movie page is a section ‘What your friends thought.’ If friends reviews showed up in this area, say a top three and the rest in collapsed form, that would be very useful. Except none of my friends really write reviews, so the feature could be there right now and I’d never know it. It would be neat to know they could see my reviews in this manner though.

  19. is it possible to delete the notes that have been sent? thank you