Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Do You Rank?

I'd like to introduce y'all to one of the small, but I think important, new features coming up this summer. Really, two related features. One is "rank" and the other is "influence."

INFLUENCE is how much your movie opinions seem to influence others about the movies they watch. We calculate influence with a complicated algorithm that takes a number of factors into account: perhaps the biggest chunk is simply how many movies you have reviewed. If you write reviews you probably have more influence on others than if you don't. If you have Friends you influence others, and more Friends probably gives you more influence. But it's not this simple. Bad reviews don't give you much (or any) influence. Writing reviews on movies with tons of reviews already also doesn't help that much -- so WHAT you review and that you write good reviews has more weight than sheer volume. (Writing a great review on a movie with very few reviews is a very good thing.)

Having an avatar image helps, as does having a personalized nickname. Having lots of movie ratings helps, but not alone -- it only helps if you have Friends or Reviews such that people look at your ratings. The fact that other people click on your avatar and check out your other reviews is very important. These page views go into the calculation. The more people check you out, the more influence you'd have. And the most weighted element is when other people actually add movies to their Queues from your pages, or from your custom lists. As you can see, it is a complicated series of factors, and we will be refining the weights and factors from time to time, but starting later this month (and I'll alert ya'll once I know a date for sure), we'll put your Influence score in your sidebar (near "Member Since..."). We will update these ranks every week or so (not nightly, like most stuff on the site), so numbers will drift around relatively slowly.

RANK is simply an ordered list of who among you has the highest INFLUENCE value. Which means, if you think about it, someone out there is going to be the Number 1 Movie Influencer at Netflix. At first we won't present the ranks as a scoreboard (that is, you can't just go and find #1) because i want to do some adjusting first. But eventually we'll make these lists of high ranking Netflixers available.

What do y'all think of this?


  1. I gotta say that the netflix experience is very cool. Ever since you told us that the ratings help personally for the number of recommendations, I've been voting a lot of 3->4's and 4->5's and the number of recommendations have skyrocketed.

    Therefore, I think that the ratings help me a lot personally, and not so much I care about whether people look at my reviews or not.

  2. I think the rank idea is really neat.

    You ready for the TONS of people who are gonna hate the idea? Here they come...

  3. Here I come indeed...

    The thing that bothers me about the influence idea is that I feel like it gives a lot of attention to someone who is only prolific, as opposed to informative, useful, etc. Then if you have a lot of influence, it seems that you'll stay that way, because you'll get lots of clicks from having so much influence. If you could possibly add in a factor of whether people added a movie to a queue after reading a review, that would be spiffy.

    Maybe there's some information that I'm missing about the back-end side of this feature, but at this point it seems like a bad idea to me.

  4. And the most weighted element is when other people actually add movies to their Queues from your pages...

    @Anon - I believe this is here. I also believe it says that writing tons of reviews and being prolific IS NOT going to game this.
    It sounds well thought through to me and I, for one, am interested.

  5. What measures are there to stop a group of friends from gaming the system by adding movies to their queue from another's profile, then removing them and starting the process all over again?

  6. I'd like to see more emphasis on leaving notes rather than writing reviews. Those are what my friends and I look at more. The idea of the ranking does seem rather cool.

  7. This is unrelated to the ranking question - I'm hoping Michael can answer this for me because I called Customer Service with this question and the woman who helped me knew NOTHING about Community/Friends... regarding Movie Privacy, if I have marked a movie as private, should it still show up in my slider (that is, my own slider at the bottom of the Friends Home page)? Recently several (but not all) of the movies I have marked as private, which were previously not showing up in my slider, are now visible again. I went back into Movie Privacy and checked what I had marked and everything that I want to keep private is still marked. I'm wondering if this is just a bug, or if something was changed so that private titles will still show up in my slider, but not my friends'.

  8. michael, from netflixAugust 15, 2007 at 8:23 AM

    @priv8pete - this is exactly why I am rolling this out slowly. We have a lot of anti-gaming stuff going in for this, but i'm sure we'll miss some, and it will take a little time to clean the loopholes out.

    @PTD - hidden movies still show up in YOUR sliders, but not those of your Friends. You will always see your own movies, hidden or not.

  9. Depends. If someone's very competitive and ends up with a high number they'll be very happy. But see how you feel about the idea when you find that despite your 256 reviews your influence is zilch. Not sure I like all this judging of each other and ourselves. I joined to watch great movies, and this is beginning to feel very much like school all over again.

  10. I think it's a great idea. And @Anonymous who complained about the competition, well, the Community features are totally *optional*. You can still use Netflix just for renting/watching movies. Nobody is forcing you to participate!

  11. Fair enough. It just means that people who don't want to participate have to erase all their reviews so they disappear from the radar screen. But that's fine if everyone else likes the idea. I'm just concerned that you'll end up with 10 happy people and 6.7 million unhappy ones. Maybe get back to me in the Fall on this?

  12. I like this idea better than some of the ones you already have. For instance, I couldn't care less about the top-rented movies in my community. Same with that weird top-10 reviews list.

    I've rated more than 11,500 films, but I doubt my ego is big enough to worry about how influential I am.

    The most important community feature is finding similar members and looking at their queue for movies I haven't seen.

    I'm patiently waiting for better suggestions. I hope Netflix has a prize-winner soon.

    Great job, guys!!!

  13. It's an interesting concept... but it doesn't particularly interest me. I'm not entirely sure, but I think the motivation and the "spirit" of it is what bothers me about it. It seems like a ploy to get people to write more reviews just to get their rank up, rather than to write more reviews for the purpose of sharing their opinions about film. I don't think I want people writing reviews just for the sake of writing them. I generally assume people write reviews because they strongly felt they had something to say about the film. This would kinda negate that.

    It seems to take the whole focus away from a community of people who want to share their love of film. It shifts the focus to competition -- getting people to add a movie to their queue, not because you think they might actually love it, but because you convinced them to, since it will improve your numbers. I don't actually think many people will use it with malicious intent, but I do think it waters down the significance of what a user says, since the motivation for saying it is uncertain. I dunno, though. I suppose I'll just have to wait and see... or think about it some more.

  14. I'm cool with this. People who really dig it will do their best to be influential, the people who don't give a rats won't worry about it.

    Sometimes I think everybody gets too caught up on what they think is best for them personally and don't really take into account all the millions of other Netflix users. So I say, Michael and gang, keep listening to us and our suggestions and keep adding stuff that we ask for and what you think is cool and do-able. For those of us who enjoy these new features great, for those who don't, well then you have a choice not to participate and just watch some great movies. I think the very small group of voices on this page don't represent a great cross section of the acutal users.

    I do applaud the Netflix team for doing such a great job though and I look forward to each new thing that rolls out.

    Now if someone could just explain to me how to delete movies from my Top 10 lists and make it stick I would be a happy person.

  15. Oh, also... I don't see how knowing how influential some other user is in any way benefits me. Why would I care if ___ is the most influential if he's nothing like me? And if I do find a user who is a lot like me, why does it matter how influential he is to the Netflix community at large? I would only care about how influential he is to me, personally.

    Again... still trying to think all this through. :)

  16. Not sure I like all this judging of each other and ourselves. I joined to watch great movies, and this is beginning to feel very much like school all over again.

    I agree with this. Seriously, influence and rank? Why? It really does seem high-school-ish. How cool are you, based on your rank and influence? Please.

    There are already several places where one can find recommendations and reviews: Scrolling reviews, the similar-to-you ratings, viewership in whatever town, top 10 lists, not to mention Friends and the Netflix recommendations in several places ... what really is the point of ranking and influence? How many avenues to recommendations do we really need?

    As for not having to participate ... doesn't look like there is an option other than just not paying attention. Or perhaps if we choose not to make our profile public? Sorry, but I can't see any added value in this feature.

  17. This might seem unappreciative of their tireless efforts, but I'm already mighty sick of seeing certain names cropping up again and again on just about every movie page like their life depended on being taken notice of, and this is just going to make that "look at me, Mommie : no life!" syndrome worse.

  18. The idea of ranking costumers is pretty cool...But the way in which Netflix is going to go about it is weak. Because its like one person said-

    "Ever since you told us that the ratings help personally for the number of recommendations, I've been voting a lot of 3->4's and 4->5's and the number of recommendations have skyrocketed."

    So in other words... Get ready for alot of false 4-5 Star Movie ratings! WEAK!!!!!!

  19. Amazon has long had a feature like this, and it has never bothered me there, nor, I would suggest, has it bothered any of their millions of consumers. I think that if it motivates people to review movies that don't have many reviews, it would help me. That's just my 2cents.

  20. Quote: I've rated more than 11,500 films, but I doubt my ego is big enough to worry about how influential I am.


    I have a new goal now. Heh. Seriously, the rating vs. rank and reviews are totally two different things. One could rate movies and be satisfied on a personal level.

  21. hmmm.. interesting discussion! i am looking forward to the new commuunity features-and seeing it evolve. i personally love to make recommendations to my friends and to hear what they've got to say about movies, here and other places. i have a yahoo 360 where i like to share movie news and whatnot. so to have netflix add more features that allow us to communicate with other movie lovers is really neat to me. for those who aren't interested in these features-you can always ignore them-to me-it's a plus feature! keep up the great work!

  22. This is going to be a great feature

  23. I think it's crazy to focus on the 4 and 5 star ratings/reviews: a great many fans give purely average films 5 stars just for the hell of it. It will cause many to rate films higher than they otherwise would have. I personally am much better informed when warned about a bad movie by a Member whom I trust, having read many of their reviews.

  24. Not really sure what this feature will do for me personally, besides give me a complex about how popular/unpopular I am. :)

    But again I have to ask... is this a feature that users wanted in the first place? Did people email Netflix and say "wouldn't it be great if we were all ranked somehow?" Or is this a case of the company's president seeing rankings on another completely unrelated site and deciding it would be cool and not thinking about how it would or wouldn't benefit the customers?

  25. michael, from netflixAugust 15, 2007 at 7:19 PM

    nope. no one emailed. why would you think the president had anything to do with this. you're talking to the dude who decided this would be good. It's based on many pieces of information, alas, emails from customers demanding it wasn't one of them. If it turns out to be bad for our customers, i'll remove it. but it is my contention that it will be good for lots of people. not everyone perhaps - but it's easy to ignore if you really don't care about it.

    so you'll see it soon, you'll have an experience of some kind, and i'm certain y'all will write me here to let me know what it's like for you. that's all i ask.

  26. "So in other words... Get ready for alot of false 4-5 Star Movie ratings! WEAK!!!!!!"

    Once again, someone commenting on something without completely understanding... the movie ratings are only to affect the recommendations you receive from the system. They will not have anything to do with the influence. Where did you get the idea that rating movies with a 4 or 5 will increase your influence? Influence will come from reviews, friends, etc. not from ratings.

    I think this is a great idea.

  27. Sure, no harm in giving it a whirl, and plenty of people seem to be into it (all Alpha Males/Females, I suspect!). But one question : will the privacy option take us out of the voting pool even if we write reviews? Because although I'm not particularly competitive I still wouldn't particularly enjoy being publicly branded 'a loser' if my 'influence rating' turns out to be real low, as most people's inevitably will be. Isn't that kinda hard to ignore, however far along the Road to Enlightenment one is?

  28. I'm sorry, but I think the rank idea is one of the dumbest things I've ever read. Why in the world do we users need a hierarchy? Let's face it, that is what you're talking about. It's simply ridiculous. We're talking movies and entertainment not high school. I come here because I love movies and Netflix fits best in my lifestyle not because I need a new clique. I don't come here for a social net and I can't believe that many of your users do. Don't try to turn your business into myspace, friendster, or wherever else. You may find yourself losing more customers than aiding.

    One of the Anonymous commenters asked some great questions. Is this a feature your users have asked you for? I don't believe it is. I know you guys are working hard, but please stop trying to make a community and work harder on the features we've asked for that would make it easier for us to rate and rent our movies.


  29. It's amazing to me how the people who aren't interested in this feature, or who are scared by it are the ones who are most vocal for it not to happen. Listen if you don't like the idea you don't have to pay any attention to it. Just ignore it.

  30. I've had experience with and other forums, and I'm not really questing for general rank. My viewing really centers around animation and I seldom have an interest in general movies. I like to find a few people that have my same viewing interests and would like a way to make a small circle of friends that relate to what I watch.

  31. This isn't an all or nothing deal: I usually just do a search to find the movies i am looking for, and rarely need help. But sometimes I'm just curious about what else is out there, and I will look at the Movies You'll Love or sometimes my Friends. Now I guess I can look at people who are similiar (or might be similar) to my tastes. I like the variety of options, depending on my mood. I think this is the really great thing about what Netflix is doing. I will probably ignore the Community section most of the time, but I think I will like checking it out and it might even be particularly interesting. Anyway, kudos Netflix for the range of options!

  32. I've had experience with and other forums, and I'm not really questing for general rank. My viewing really centers around animation and I seldom have an interest in general movies. I like to find a few people that have my same viewing interests and would like a way to make a small circle of friends that relate to what I watch.

  33. Michael, I'm a big fan of the Top 10 lists (custom lists worked fine as a title for me), but why is it the same lists show up again and again? I probably just need to go back and read a previous this based on influence at all--do these lists crop up based on how many people click "add" after reading them?

    My two cents--I don't particularly care one way or another if there's a hierarchy. It could swing either way--the people at the top could have too much time on their hand and really lousy taste in film, or they could turn me on to some new titles. The latter is a plus for me, the former I can ignore.

    But similarly, I'd like to see the Top 10 lists show more variety rather than less...

  34. Just my opinion. Won't be caring about either of these things.

    zzzzz ...

  35. I'm interested also in faster delivery service of movies after I put it into the mailbox. Why if I put a movie in the mailbox on Sunday, I have to wait till Thursday?

    My understanding: Monday for returning DVD to be sent, Tuesday for it to be received, and Wednesday for the new one to be shipped. Then finally, Thursday for it to be received.)

    Is netflix planning on having Sunday or Saturday as a sixth day instead of only having 5 days? Return a movie on Thursday, won't get it till monday.

  36. Michael, I wish the programmers and designers of the queue page would ask us what we would like to see on it. To me the Queue is the most important feature and could be so much better if it showed whether or not a movie is available to Watch Instantly, a comment area to identify why we put movies in the queue, multiple pages so we can have more than 500, etc. These things would affect every Netflix customer every time they log in.

    But you asked about the improvements (?) planned for the Community page. I like reading the reviews of movies I'm interested in and I have written reviews - both good and bad. Personally I want to know if someone with similar taste hates a movie or loves it. I like negative and positive reviews.

    I agree with some of the comments that rank will be important to a small group of people who will try very hard to write tons of great reviews for obscure movies to get their rank high and once the rankings are posted the competition will really begin. Since anyone can write reviews whether or not they actually saw the movie it seems pretty easy to scam the system. Kids with a lot of time on their hands might love to do just that. Yahoo game ratings are scammed all the time. Right now I feel pretty good about the reviews because people have no incentive to write one other than to let others know what they thought of the movie. Ratings seem fair also because there is no incentive to rate differently from true feelings. Since I love little odd independent and foreign films I suppose those could be affected by kids writing reviews just to get a high ranking but I see reviews where some idiot has given a 1 star to a 5 star foreign film and in the review wrote something like "Why didn't you tell us it wasn't in English - I don't rent DVD's to read the script".

    But possibly Netflix wants to see mostly positive ratings and reviews and ranking could be an incentive toward that end.

    I add movies by checking customer lists that include movies I love. I've found many that way. The Influence of random members probably won't influence me.

    To me the influence and ranking sounds like a lot of very hard work and fun for the programmers but will probably not add a lot of interest for the majority of your customers other than the top 20 or so who vie for #1.

    You are terrific to let us in on what's happening in your world and your work is really great. Again, can you get a Queue programmer to check in here?

  37. "Again, can you get a Queue programmer to check in here?"

    First they have to get through letter C for "Community" before they can get to Q. (Sarcasm)

  38. How about a thread where we can rank our most desired enhancements for Netflix? Mine:

    1. Improve the recommendations (yes, I know this is being worked on...).

    2. Improve the queue (see chawk's suggestions above): a flag indicating watch now availability; a holding-place; etc.

    3. Bring back mini-reviews or find a better solution than Notes.

    Close to the bottom of the list: user rankings.

    Thanks for listening!

  39. "Listen if you don't like the idea you don't have to pay any attention to it. Just ignore it".

    Hmmmmm. Seems like we've been told to ignore rather a lot of things that we don't much care for lately! Sure we can, but each time we have to ignore something the site feels that much less 'user friendly' to us, and we're thus one step closer to the exits. Especially when so many items on our wish list ('Your Suggestions' July 17th) still haven't been addressed (whether yea or nay), and when something considerably more rankling is also in play, like being told that "our operating system is not compatible with [Watch Now]" and that we should "try again from a computer with Windows XP Service Pack 2 or Windows Vista" (whoops, silly me, only buying the one computer). We're just getting a bit steamrollered here, Team.

  40. "My understanding: Monday for returning DVD to be sent, Tuesday for it to be received, and Wednesday for the new one to be shipped. Then finally, Thursday for it to be received.)"

    So, is this a complaint about the postal service or about Netflix? Or just complaining in general?

  41. I'm not really interested in this feature, and it strikes me as wasted effort. What is interesting about Netflix is its movies, not its members.

  42. "Seems like we've been told to ignore rather a lot of things that we don't much care for lately!"
    Since when is ignoring something an active feat?

    "each time we have to ignore something the site feels that much less 'user friendly' to us."
    Instead of "us" did you mean "you."

    "Especially when so many items on our wish list ('Your Suggestions' July 17th) still haven't been addressed"
    You have been told over and over again why some items on people's wish list can't be instituted. If you don't want to listen, then you can't be helped.

    "like being told that "our operating system is not compatible with [Watch Now]" and that we should "try again from a computer with Windows XP Service Pack 2 or Windows Vista" (whoops, silly me, only buying the one computer)."
    Again, you were told that it has nothing to do with Netflix but rather with drm. If you want to watch it that bad on your mac, load windows on it.

  43. "I'm not really interested in this feature, and it strikes me as wasted effort. What is interesting about Netflix is its movies, not its members."
    Netflix has always been about the movies and the movies will not stop being there. But what sets Netflix apart is its community.

  44. "If you want to watch it that bad on your mac, load windows on it".

    Only the very latest 'Intel chip' Macs can be dual loaded. More snide and ill-informed advice from the 'haves' to the 'have nots'. Well done. And the rest of the issues you quote?

  45. Hey, don't we already know who the reigning champs are? Talltale, Lytelite, Larry # MD, The Colonel, Sosumi, Ol' Jimbo.. (for a full list just read the 'most helpful' reviews for any 5 top notch movies). Couldn't we just call it a 10 way tie to avoid any hurt feelings, and move on? Way on.

  46. @Dan

    I think the idea of a thread/page to rank the most desired changes is a great idea. It would let the designers as well as the community see which features are most requested, and could even include a little blurb from Netflix regarding the status of each.

    I applaud the design team for trying new things, and this influence/ranking idea sounds interesting. However, I'm not really sure I understand the logic behind spending time and effort to roll out features that no one (out of millions of members!) actually requested.

  47. I wanted to clarify my earlier statements. I think it's a cool idea, though perhaps a bit out-of-place. If I don't like it, I have no problem ignoring it if other members enjoy the feature.

    My concern is that the influence and ranking system could actually harm the current review system by giving people an alterior motive for writing lots of good reviews.

    I'm all for adding new features (even if I don't care for them) and improving old ones. But when adding a new feature makes an old (and good) feature worse (or less reliable, in this case), that's where I begin to worry.

  48. @ Amanda - I know ad hominem remarks are discouraged, even when they're positive, but I must say that your comments are consistently smart and thoughtful. Thank you.

  49. michael, from netflixAugust 16, 2007 at 10:40 AM

    @ Amanda (and others)

    This is the most important point I've heard: if this makes the quality of reviews worse in any way, that would be bad. I strongly believe that encouraging people to write helpful reviews, in particular on movies that don't have many reviews, will benefit everyone. If they write crappy quick reviews they will find it hurts their ranking, and i would imagine that would get discouraged. Being the 1000th review on "Pirates of the Carribean" isn't really helpful to anyone, but being the third review on some independent film is really important for us. If this doesn't create the desired effect-- that is, getting more reviews from good reviewers on less often reviewed movies, i won't keep the feature.

  50. Tho I don't need yet another social networking site, I am intrigued by one that is exclusively devoted to pix. I feel I'm somewhat prolific in leaving reviews - frankly it's fun, and I'm interested in meeting others who rate and review regularly (constantly?) as well. My thing I most want to see now is: would it be possible to call up a list of members who have the closest percentage rating to mine? At this point I get random numbers (60s, 70s percentiles) and this means little to me. I want to meet some of the super-raters, etc. My last comment would be about reviews: I pride myself on doing a review in 80 words, or with just 4 lines, and still making it helpful. I read books OFFLINE and prefer my reviews on Netflix to be to the point; is there a fixed limit to how much one can write? It might be an incentive to read them more...

  51. I'm really not sure I understand why this is important--to be ranked, I mean. Why does it matter if someone is the #1 ranking reviewer? Do you receive a special prize or reward or something?

  52. @Julie, your question perfectly illustrates why women should run the world. And this from a guy, but one who's all too familiar with the history of 'civilization' under our stewardship. And now we return you to the thread in progress....

  53. "Do you receive a special prize or reward or something?"

    There's not a prize to be won per se. But won't it be cool to know if you are actually helping others pick movies? That all your ratings and reviews are actually doing something? That your movie opinions count for something? I don't look at it as a race to see who's number 1, but more as a meter to gauge the quality of my feedback. And of course Netflix, looks at it as a way to get more movies and recommendations in front of more people.

  54. I hadn't stopped to consider that user ranking would be employed in service of ". . . getting more reviews from good reviewers on less often reviewed movies . . . ." (@michael) That would be most welcome.

    I'm often surprised at the thoughtfulness and depth that many put into their Netflix reviews; I myself have only dared venture into mini-reviews (current Notes) which feels daunting enough.

    Per Julie's question, I wonder if there couldn't be some real incentive behind the rankings to encourage those fence-sitters among us to take the plunge and write? Perhaps a month's credit for the top ten ranked review writers?

  55. I guess the idea behind this is to get more people to review and rate the movies. Has it been a problem with not getting enough people to do that the way thing stand right now? In my opinion, just let it be the way it is.

  56. michael, from netflixAugust 16, 2007 at 5:10 PM

    It's not that we weren't getting enough reviews, or good reviews -- we've got more than a million reviews, and most are very good. But i wanted to explore ways to give small signals to encourage reviewing those movies that benefit the most from having good reviews. As it is now, people review whatever moves them - which is fine - but we get hundreds of reviews of popular movies and few on less popular movies. In a way, i'd prefer it the other way around. Now people will just naturally review the popular movies, but i wanted to see if I could help us all by having those people who watch those rare gems actually to write about them. Writing crappy reviews simply isn't going to help your rank, so it's not as though people will go spam-crazy to up their number of reviews. It might not work, i recon. But it will definitely help us learn more about the movies in the "long tail."

    UPDATE: I've decided not to confuse everyone with their "influence" number. It's an internal value (for now) and we'll start simple, with a rank. But between you and me -- i was very interested to see who was the most influential reviewer. He had more than double the influence rank of the number two person, and it wasn't someone i had been seeing on all the movie pages (precisely because the really high quality reviews being written were often on less reviewed films. I also checked out my own ranking (somewhere around 36,000), and in all, i thought the whole thing was pretty interesting.

    As for giving some reward to folks for being at the top - that, i'm afraid WOULD actually compromise the situation, with people trying to figure ways to game this to win the prize. The honor (or whatever you'd consider it) of being highly ranked at netflix with just points, i think, keeps it rather honorable in the non-pro sports sort of way.

  57. "Now people will just naturally review the popular movies, but i wanted to see if I could help us all by having those people who watch those rare gems actually to write about them. "

    As I am one of those "rare gem" watching folks, but also a viewer who doesn't really care too much about writing reviews, I'm afraid I still don't understand the value of this rating system.

    I choose movies based upon the movie bio and also based upon my recommendations-not on reviews. I do rate every movie that I watch, though. This way I get, so far, very accurate suggestions of what I might like.

    It seems that naming the top rated reviewer creates unnecessary competition and creats an aura of "we only want those people who review and do it alot to partake of our services".

    Just my thoughts...

  58. How about a compromise? Allowing people to check their influence quotient on their accounts page if they want to? After all, it's only important to them. No-one else gives a flying rat's u-no-wot. In fact, some people would probably resent the hell out of them and never act on their advice again just to bring them down a notch, may we be forgiven!

  59. That's perfect! That way, I don't feel pressured and those folks who want to see these things, can!

  60. You wrote "Bad reviews don't give you much (or any) influence."

    Why is that? I have read a lot of reviews, and the ones that give insightful reasons as to why the person does not like a particular film have been just as helpful to me as the reviews that are positive. Please clarify. Do you mean negative reviews or just badly written ones?

  61. michael, from netflixAugust 18, 2007 at 12:15 AM

    Not negative reviews. Badly written reviews, as estimated by the "unhelpful" vote.

  62. The real shame is that for many people 'unhelpful' just means "you gave it too many/too few stars and must be punished". I often read fabulously insightful and informative reviews that have been absolutely hammered with 'unhelpfuls', especially for controversial movies. But nothing we can do about that, I s'pose (oh relax, Mr Welker). Btw, we vm enjoy your breezy yet hyper-literate style. Although of course in Noo Yawk we say 'yous'.

  63. "The real shame is that for many people 'unhelpful' just means "you gave it too many/too few stars and must be punished"

    Then let's change that right now. "Helpful" or "not helpful" does not mean that you agree or disagree with the rating of the film or what was said about the movie. It asks whether or not you found the posted review to be helpful in you making a decision about whether or not to add that movie to your queue.

    I think you are somewhat right though that many of the younger and more immature raters, don't like it when someone gives a negative review of Fantastic Four and they think they need to punish that reviewer. But hopefully that mindthought can be tempered by the more mature raters.

  64. "Helpful" or "not helpful" does not mean that you agree or disagree with the rating of the film or what was said about the movie. It asks whether or not you found the posted review to be helpful in you making a decision about whether or not to add that movie to your queue".

    Beautifully said, and thanks for completing my thought. Maybe your summation could be posted somewhere on the site, since anyone reading this blog will know it already. But I don't think that kids are the problem (unless you use the word very loosely) so much as the Holier Than Thous who seem to go through systematically damning any positive reviews of movies that contain any 'disgusting' material. And unfortunately no amount of written instructions is going to deter those tightly wound folk, since they answer to a much Higher Power than Netflix.

  65. michael, from netflixAugust 18, 2007 at 11:53 AM

    So beautifully said, in fact, that i've just now added an FAQ to the site about "helpful" and "unhelpful" that captures your comment. Thanks!

  66. Perfect! How about a link to that great bi-authored FAQ answer ("helful/unhelful?") right before the reviews start , since most people have already decided what they think they mean and won't be looking for instructions unless nudged? I think this a major problem with reviews, the indiscriminate and cavalier use of 'unhelpful'.

  67. The problem being, by the way, not the hurt feelings of the writer, but the fact that many really great and TRULY helpful reviews get exiled to the Siberia of the back pages, never to be seen again unless some high sim% is lucky enough to stumble across them.

  68. You guys are a self-selected, usually advanced, relatively technical, pretty dern smart, movie-loving group. (this is what I like about you).
    Aw shucks! You make me blush. How's a bout a free movie or some Mike n Ike's? What?! You can't blame a girl for trying.

    Netflix doesn't "hate you"
    Are you sure? I've been getting calls with lines from Japanese horror movies playing before it disonnects. I wonder about you people.

    So thank you
    You're welcome. Wait, was this post just for new readers? Dangit! I'll still take those Mike N Ikes.


  69. I don't know if I've missed the deadline for posting in this entry, but I was browsing today and it occured to me that your Ranking algorithm should also include the number of reviews you have voted as helpful/not helpful. This would encourage people to vote for others reviews and help them make themselves more influential.

    Was that discussed already? man...I hate being late to the good parties...

  70. Sounds good, as long as people aren't too free and easy with those h/u's just to get ahead - always a problem with incentives. And I still think that only releasing the results to each individual would be good. The motivation is still there for those that want or need it, while the rest of us won't feel that we've been entered into a contest very much against our will. Just knowing that Netflix wants more reviews for the lesser seen gems has spurred me to focus on those instead of more popular movies. Not for accolades but as a public service to 'my community'. For some of us that works too, you know! It doesn't all have to be carrots and sticks.

  71. why aren't my reviews being published? they completely follow guidlines. i have not had a review published after over a month of trying every other day.

  72. You know what? I don’t think I care about ranks. And frankly any time you introduce some form of competition into it there are always going to be people who will do whatever ridiculous and disruptive thing they can come up with in order to see their name up at the top.

    But it would be nice just to see the raw data… How many hits to my reviews page, how many people queued/watched a movie from my page, I don’t need or care to know how I ‘rank’ against other subscribers. Plus, how will it show up… How many millions of members are going to be reminded by Netflix every day that they have absolutely no influence what-so-ever?

    Here’s another thing, how do you judge what a good/bad review is? I don’t understand how you can measure this.

    You can’t use “helpful” or “not helpful” numbers because it’s clear that hardly anyone rates reviews that way. “Helpful” becomes “Agree.” “Not Helpful” becomes “Disagree.” Not quite the same thing. Reviews are being rewarded or punished because people agree or disagree with them, or worse because they don’t like what they perceive about the reviewers politics or life-style. And actually I’ve seen evidence that they are being punished/rewarded on the star rating alone in many cases. I rated a DVD low in stars because the quality was very poor. (bad transfer of degraded stock) But my review for the actual content was glowing and should have risen with all the similar positive reviews… instead it got pushed further and further down because people didn’t like seeing so few stars. No amount of instruction in an FAQ or elsewhere is going to keep that from happening.

    Then there is the issue of maintaining honesty in our reviews.

    Like my review for a sappy movie I rented to watch with my Grandmother. (Sometimes I get lucky sometimes I don’t.) I gave it a thorough review, one that pointed out the good and the bad, but one that wouldn’t pander to the average tastes most of the people who would usually rent that movie. I expected and got mostly negative votes, not because it wasn’t a good review, or helpful, but because it pissed off all the people who didn’t like me calling something they like, corny. Try rating any Anime film honestly, mention one small negative point, and a huge wave of gushing Anime-fanatics hit you with ‘not-helpfuls’ even though you gave the film the same 4 stars as everyone else and essentially loved everything else except that one moment of weakness. I could easily raise my ‘influence’ by pandering to the prevailing sensibilities, and confirming the collective brilliance of the majority who hate or love a film. But that wouldn’t be good.

    From another angle… That review is extremely helpful to anyone like me who has high standards but wants to find something they can watch and enjoy with their 83 year old Grandmother. (Get this, she thought it was corny too.) In my review I suggested a different but similar and far superior film. But even if someone does read my review and skips a movie they wouldn’t have liked then go and rent the movie I suggested there instead, I will never get credit for being ‘influential’ in either case.

    It’s not going to motivate people to write more and better reviews. It’s going to motivate people to write more reviews that people will like. Huge difference. All you have to do is get people to vote and rent, you don’t have to be honest, and it’s not like if they were duped and just hated the movie that they will come back and let anyone know.

    Then there is the multi-voting thing… What happens if someone has used your review pages to attack all your reviews with a flood of ‘Not Helpful’ hits? I’m almost certain that’s what’s happened to me… I can’t think of any other explanation. I popped into my page one day several weeks back and suddenly every single review was hit with virtually the same number of ‘not helpfuls.” It didn’t matter what the disc was… Reviews of bonus discs and exercise videos with no other activity for weeks or months… Reviews that had been lost for months deep under a pile of hundreds of other reviews of a popular movie and not gotten one single vote. Suddenly they all have gotten the same number of ‘not helpful’ hits. Now I’m lucky to have any of those older reviews standing at 50/50, most were plunged well below 50/50. Until people can’t do this anymore, “measuring” influence and ranking reviews is useless and a potential disaster community wise.

    All I really want to see anyway are the numbers of people who read my review and liked it. Surly Netflix doesn’t intend to inflict us with all this negative stuff all the time. It could really bum you out if you let it.

    Frankly, I’m wondering why you need those helpful/not helpful measures anyway. I thought I read that the reviews we see were going to start showing up in order of their similarity to us. So I would see a totally differently ordered list of reviews than the next guy. Or did I misunderstand? It seems to me that would be more useful than what we have now.

    I like writing reviews and I’m not going to delete them just because a few people think it might be cool to turn all this into some kind of competition.

    I’m sorry but as expressed so far ‘ranking and influence’ is a very unappealing.

    I just don’t understand how “good reviews” can be defined and measured for this undertaking. If you are using helpful/not helpful then the only “good reviews” are the ones that loaded first into the top of the movie page and haven’t moved for years because for the most part, those are the only one’s people bother to look at.

  73. Once again can the watch instantly movies be categorized by date so people my age don't have to search through all those movies I've already seen to find a current movie?

  74. FORGET ABOUT ranking! I ONLY read negative reviews. (Any moron can say a movie is great.) I look for one or two star ratings, I see if the reviewer thinks like I do, and then I use this to make my decision. PLEASE KEEP GIVING NEGATIVE REVIEWS or I'll end up with junk.

  75. Not sure I understand how the ranking can be based on overall influence, and still have an incentive for folks to write reviews for more obscure, lesser reviewed films.
    It seems to me that the more sought out, highly reviewed films would still reach (and therefore influence) a much wider audience than the film that has 3 reviews.
    I already tend to write more reviews for the films that are lacking attention, mainly because I see no point in writing something about a film that already has 1200 reviews.

  76. michael, from netflixOctober 4, 2007 at 8:43 AM

    In general, writing a review on a movie with 1000 reviews, unless it ends up in the top 3 on that movie, will confer very little influence. Writing a review on an obscure movie with 3 reviews is bound to far more influential. It might seem like having a review on a movie that "everybody" is checking out (ie, a popular film or a new release) would confir more influence, it isn't the case - each additional review beyond the first bunch adds relatively less and less value for other members. I think ths system is well-designed to take these factors into account.

    I know it seems like your reviews sometimes come and go, or don't get posted when you think they should. It takes at least a day and sometimes two (depending on when you post) to see them on the site. We're not thrilled about this, but it is currently how the site works.

  77. But aren't reviews that generate a large response of helpful/not helpful seen as having more influence?
    An Example: I have a friend who has written 4 reviews, all short but succinct. One of his reviews was for Crash, a film that was the #1 most rented disc for awhile (Still is). The review was negative, among a sea of positive reviews. This review certainly struck a nerve, since within a few weeks it was listed as 112 of 118 found this helpful. His reviewer rating is currently 17,120.
    Conversely: I've written 29 reviews, mostly for films that had few folks writing for them. None of my reviews have generated such large responses. In fact only one is as high as, 11 of 17 found this helpful. And most of my reviews are in at least the top 5 for any given film, since they are for more obscure films. (The friend's "Crash" review example I give above is actually buried about 10 pages deep.) Yet my reviewer rating is 4,938. (I assume a higher number means more influence)
    I see no other major difference between our account's influence. We both have an equal amount of friends and fans. We are also 99% similar.
    I'm not complaining about my friends review of Crash, as it has struck a nerve among readers, and most found it overwhelmingly helpful. (A good example of how sometimes negative reviews can be very helpful)
    It just seems to me that the engine is demonstrating exactly what I'm describing.
    I'm not ruling out the possibility that there may be other influence factors I'm not aware of. I just don't know what they might be.
    I honestly don't care too much about competing against others, I just would like to understand this new system better. I agree their should be incentives to write reviews for lesser reviewed films, I'm just not too sure this is it.
    When I look at what is listed in Netflix's top 100 most rented, It looks to me like it is a list of mostly run-of-the-mill mainstream Hollywood movies that you'd have to be living under a rock not to have heard of. Foreign, Independent and obscure titles are just not represented at all. I realize you have no control over what is getting rented the most, and should not. I just cringe at the idea of members who write reviews for movies that everyone is already aware of being treated as being more influential.
    Someone who can point me to movies I've never heard of is far more influential to me.

  78. One last word: The very fact that there is a place where members can interface with the folks who are striving to improve this web-site, (movie-rental community) shows that Netflix does care about customer input. Let us all rejoice that this is a company that provides great service, awesome customer support, listens to member input, has streaming technology that puts it's competitors to shame, and all at a value price.
    Overall, this company is great, and nearly every web-community improvement thus far has been well received by this customer.
    Keep up all of the good work guys!

  79. Wow this is crazy cool. I am in the top 5,000 in rank regarding reviews. I didn’t think that was so great till I saw someone ranked # 451,612

  80. Just wondering if anyone knows who number #1 is... or even better who the top ten are.

  81. I'd like to know precisely when these ranks are updated every week. My rank has stayed the same for at least the past nine days, and in that time I've had three new reviews posted, two of which were for movies that had less than 50 reviews already, and the third for a movie that only had four other reviews. I would have thought that my rank would have risen because of my recent activity, and yet it hasn't. So, when does it update?

  82. ATTN Netflix

    For the love of God...would someone at this company email or call me back! I had problems - they were supposed to have been resolved and I still cannot log in and I don't feel like paying for two memberships.

    Patiently waiting to rent movies for over 11 months now.

    Heidi Calaway

  83. Two words...half stars. Some movies just deserve 3.5 stars, and I hate having to choose between 3 and 4. The Facebook Visual Bookshelf application has half stars, and I love it!