Friday, August 17, 2007

Let's talk about Search (baby)

Hi, Meghan here. I've been looking at ways of making search better. Way better. There are some obvious frustrations, like how hard it can be to find the specific episode of a tv series you want or if you don't know the title of the movie you're looking for and it can't find it by description. But I'm wondering if there are other things you've noticed that could be improved.

76 comments:

  1. Brave Lady, addressing the rabble! Three things I'd love : 1) a more forgiving spelling hoop to jump through, inc. "did you mean ----?", 2) a list of all the movies a director has made so we can rate those too, not just the ones Netfix carries or can be 'saved', and 3) an alphabetical inventory of ALL the titles you carry - that way we could not only re-discover movies we'd forgotten about, but also sit down one day and rate a whole slew of movies in one sitting to get our recommendation volume and accuracy way up. Good luck, and again, many thanks for venturing forth.

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  2. PS. These can wait until the end of next week if you're busy.

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  3. Some things I'd like to see (in no particular order):

    1. Movies starring Mr. Blank & Mr. Blank. Allowing me to see what movies Robert DeNero and Al Pacino have done together.

    2. When search results arrive now for an actor/director Netflix offers some suggestions. How about listing the movies based on the average rating (higest to lowest)?

    That's it. Thanks!

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  4. It'd be nice to add some "lists" that people often want to watch, such as:
    1. "Criterion" brings up all DVDs in the Criterion Collection
    2. "1001 movies you must see" brings up DVDs from the list of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
    3. "AFI 100 Drama" brings up DVDs from the list of AFI Top 100 dramas

    and so on. I know people makes Lists for these things, but then you have to rely on people to keep their lists up to date.

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  5. I'm not sure on how to make it better, but trying to find a movie you don't exactly now the title of in the Watch Now is bad. I was looking for "A life without pain". I just knew it was about a girl who was born with out being able to feel pain. After searching various words like "girl with out pain, no pain, etc. and browsing all the categories I couldn't find it. I had to do a Google search to find the exact name of the movie to look up.

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  6. The most important thing for us would be for Netflix to understand our typos & misspellings, just like Google currently does. The "did you mean...?" feature.

    Next is a minor cosmetic issue: ever since the website redesign of this month, the search box is too vertically small on Safari 3.x for Macs. Whenever we type a character that hangs beneath the text baseline (i.e. g, y, p, q), the character gets visually cut off by the search box).

    Thanks!

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  7. Why can't we do a general "word search" on the entire Netflix website, like Google and many other search engines do, instead of being limited to Title, Director, Actor??? I have sent some version of this question to Netflix many times and have never received a response. This readily available tool would be the best way for those of us who are looking for unique groups or types of filmes. In my case, I want to see all DVDs that have portuguese language or subtitles.

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  8. A listing of all Criterion movies, or a way to search Criterion movies, would be really helpful.

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  9. I'd like to see a "Now in Theatres" section. We all see previews and say to ourselves I'll see it when it comes out on DVD, but by the time that happens you've forgoten about the movie all together. So if there was a section that was updated every friday with new releases that would be wicked pissah.

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  10. Copy IMDb's search functionality (where possible)... it's pretty extensive...

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  11. Glad to see the addition of Languages as a subgenre (under Foreign). Would also like to see an option to search for specific languages and subtitles (e.g. English movies with Korean dubbing and/or subtitles).

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  12. Have you thought about tags? I would love to be able type "post-apocalypse" and receive a list including Mad Max, Omega Man, A Boy And His Dog, etc. Entering "boat" could display Lifeboat, Titanic, Towering Inferno, etc.

    IMO, tags should not be user editable, but I think they are essential.

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  13. I'd also like to see a "Now in Theaters" section.

    Another feature that would be helpful is adding other ways to sort. Like when you are at a page that has a list of movies, it only has sort by Title, MPAA, and Star Rating. But what about also the year it was released. This might be helpful so that you can quickly 'jump' to the recently released movies for that page you're viewing.
    Maybe even a filter option so that you can sort movies by star rating and then title or year released.

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  14. I'd love to be able to save searches. When I hear about a movie, it's often not yet in the Netfix system at all. For example, I'd like to save the first season of "This American Life", but it's not out on DVD yet. If I could save the search, I wouldn't have to remember to keep checking back - I'd just check my saved searches periodically.

    -Basconserker

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  15. I like Anonymous guy #1 of #1,000. I agree that we need:

    "A more forgiving spelling hoop to jump through" Because I hate it when I am off by one letter on some stupid titled movie like Pan's Labryinth, AKA Labyrinth. Help me out just a little here Netflix!

    Also, his other suggestion was very good too:

    "An alphabetical inventory of ALL the titles you carry"

    That would be great, because some times I have trouble remembering a title, and I'd just need to browse around till I found it.

    Please implement these... they'd really make for a better experience.

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  16. Searching a movie to add to a custom list doesn't allow apostrophes or other non-letters. It would help to allow that.

    Also, from any page the ability to add a movie to a custom list, from a pull down menu and skip the need to go to through these steps - movie page, scroll down to add to custom list, then typing or pasting movie title and adding.

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  17. Listing exact matches to the query would help. As an example, I just did a search for "Big". The Tom Hanks movie was #4 in the list under Popular Matches. Not too bad, but what if the short, one word titled movie I was looking for isn't so popular? The 2002 movie, Bait, doesn't even show up as a popular match. It's #6 on the Movie Matches tab.

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  18. Meghan, Thank you for asking! All the above are great suggestions.

    I'd love that "alphabetical inventory of ALL the titles you carry". You carry so many but it seems I always see the same movies over and over as recommendations. It would be so much fun to look at lists of all your inventory.

    Searching by language and year would be great. I'd like to search by "B-movies from 1966". Or "Drive - in favorites" or by "the south" and get movies about the south not just movies with south in the title. I'd actually like to see B-Movies and Drive-in Favs in the Browse section as sub lists.

    Totally agree that giving us some options if we happen to spell something wrong would be helpful.

    As nuuuu mentioned it's really difficult sometimes to get the correct movie in a custom list from the add if it has symbols in the title. Also to add the correct movie if 2 have the same name. I've given up trying on some movies.

    Meghan, what kinds of search improvements have you thought of?

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  19. pj (nightflyer on netflix)August 17, 2007 at 6:54 PM

    why doesnt this blog site have a link to get back to my netflix page?

    thanks

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  20. There was one time I rented a series of disks regarding dining in California to get ready for a road trip. Netflix did not offer the specifics of each disk, so I didn't know what order I wanted to receive the disks. Well, I put them all at the top of my queue and wouldn't you know it I got the one for the specific place I traveled to AFTER my trip.

    Is this the type of stuff you were referring to?

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  21. As Nuuu and Chawk mention, there are problems with the search for film titles to add to the custom lists. I've actulaly given up on making my list because I was simply unable to add a lot of titles (with symbols or with the same title as another movie).

    I think tags are a great idea (maybe with an option to search with this feature on or off, so it doesn't get too annoying when you're actually looking for a movie with the title "Boat").

    Thanks for listening to the input!

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  22. this is a bit tangential to search... I'd like to be able to run a search or flag an actor and be alerted automatically when there are new dvds available for that search/actor. Like ebay's favorite searches/favorite sellers, where they alert you to "new items listed by..."

    It could be an email alert or it could just be a place I could go in the Netflix website. Just a thought.

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  23. I'd like to be able to create a list my favourite actors and directors so that when new DVDs become available (or at least savable) they are displayed somewhere obvious (above queue or in a pop-up) in Netflix with a link to add to my queue. Allocine.fr has a similar feature where whenever the page of anyone on your list is revised, an e-mail is sent. The obvious flaw with relying on Allocine.fr is that it doesn't necessarily apply in North America.

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  24. I've had issues searching for movies with one-word titles, especially if the title is a common word, more so if it's a foreign film. I often get titles containing the word, and have to wade through everything to find what I'm looking for. Shouldn't exact matches come up first?

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  25. hola, I would like to see the search form textbox be AJAX'ified. For example, how words start to auto-fill when you type in Google textbox in Google toolbar.

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  26. I love that we can do searches on the Watch Instantly feature but it drives my crazy that we can't add movies straight to our custom lists from the movie page when we find it in Watch Instantly. Since we don't have an indication in our Queue showing which movies are available to Watch Instantly I use a custom list for them. It's great to browse through the Watch Instantly recent additions, genres, etc. and find movies that I want to Watch in the future but here's what I have to do to add it to my custom list:

    Find movie under the Watch Instantly search, copy the title, go to a new page that isn't in Watch Instantly, paste in search to find the movie in the regular search (not WI section), click on the movie and then add it to my list.

    It would be so helpful to just have that ability on the movie page of Watch Instantly.

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  27. Everyone has posted excellent ideas. I'd really like to be able to add The 'Burbs to a couple of my lists & haven't been able to because of the '.

    The first thing that popped into my head when reading the original post was Plot Keywords, or tags, or some way to search for a movie based on plot alone. I've been using that feature alot over at IMDB.

    Knowing when a fav actor/actress has a movie come out would be awesome-otherwise I have to look them up and see what's new. The actor/actress lists is something i'd like to see also!

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  28. Tagging!

    Let users tag movies with certain words and set a threshold for the amount of users tagging each word to ensure accuracy. Then, we can search for movies and have the search ranked by number of matching tags. The hardest part would be for people to go through each movie and tag like crazy. But I'm sure there are a lot of us Netflixers willing to do that!

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  29. First, could someone please change one line of your user agent code to allow linux users with flash installed to view movie trailers. I use linux and I have to use a user agent switcher right now to make netflix think I'm using firefox on a windows machine before the trailers will come up.

    As for searching, someone at netflix should take a walk down to your local public library and talk to a librarian. Here are some things that most library catalogs can do that netflix can't.
    Subject searches, genre searches, author (or actor, director, etc.) searches, summary searches (plot), boolean searches, cross index searches (show me all movies with dog in the title with a genre of horror movie), limits--(show me only movies released after 2004), sorting results by date, by title, etc.

    Thanks

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  30. Please, please, please, sort by year. Or at least better sorting options altogether. Browsing films is such a pain... I normally have to go to IMDB to find what movies I want to watch and THEN add them to my queue.

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  31. What I would find most useful is a thorough and regularly updated new release schedule for upcoming DVDs. The current New Release section is useless to me since I need to have movies in my queue BEFORE the week that they're released. Most of us pass on a lot of movies in the theaters knowing that we'll catch them on Netflix down the road and it's hard to try and remember and search them out one by one. A thorough schedule for upcoming new releases would greatly ease the amount of searching I have to do.

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  32. I like the idea mentioned above of being able to see new releases by week. www.videoeta.com has a cool feature where you can see optional lists of movies that were released 2 weeks ago, last week, this week, next week, 2 weeks from now etc. Very helpful as it allows you to actually keep tabs on what has been released, and what is forthcoming.

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  33. In contrast to those who asked for a more forgiving search, I'd like Netflix to take into account that sometimes I do know the exactly what I'm looking for and for it to automatically forward me to an exact match, if one exists.

    For example, a search for "dogma" it brings up every movie that has "dog" in the title. Dogma is the first result, but that extra click shouldn't be necessary.

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  34. Search by spoken language should be easy...

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  35. One thing I would really like is the inclusion of recent movies - not only ones that are Now in Theaters, but also any and all, say, with trailers out.

    The one negative of Netflix as opposed to something like Spout is that Netflix seems to be designed for "DVD lovers" whereas it really should be for "movie lovers."

    It would be great to be able to make Netflix my one and only movie site - a place where I can keep track of movies both in and out of theaters.

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  36. Currently each movie has only the topline actors associated with it. If the database could include all the actor credits, sort of like an IMDB, that would be useful.

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  37. How about including the IMDB id as a tag that can be searched on?

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  38. @Milo - I was fascinated by the platform and browser camouflage you speak of to trick the enemy-in-the-camp sniffer into letting you watch trailers. If that works for Instant Watching you could make yourself a wealthy man by charging us less technically adept fellow exiles $10 each for it! At least think about it, eh?

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  39. I would also love to see a now in theaters list also. I currently use the Yahoo now in theaters list then click on the Netflix save to rent later icon on the right side every week to add the newest movies to my saved que

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  40. Hello, I have stated this previously to no avail, but I am sure you have heard this many times before. I think adding a tab under say "new releases" that has movies "coming soon" would be huge. Since Netflix adds movie titles even before they hit theatres sometimes, I think it would be great if you compile movies either in theaters or in the 3-4 month window before coming to dvd in a special tab where users can mass add movies to there queue without worry of forgetting the title of a movie. Then when it comes out on dvd, it can be taken out and added to just the regular genre it would fit in. I really hope this change goes in, I just don't know what kind of massive undertaking this would cause you.

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  41. They probably don't want to help us out too much as far as finding out when new releases are coming out. This would increase the demand, which they can't always meet as it is.

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  42. I would like to see sequels listed for more movie series. It's easy to find every Star Trek movie, as they're listed on each Star Trek Netflix page. However, sequels to "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and "Mad Max" aren't listed on the page for the original. Just two examples I noticed.

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  43. When searching through recommended Instant Watch movies, why are there movies that I rated? Is it possible to have on the Instant Watch page when searching through my Queue, a way to view them by list instead of having to scroll through them page by page?

    Suggestion to all those who can't figure out which movies in their Queue are Instant watchable:

    All non instant watch movies - move to the top and remember which movie is on the bottom of your non-instant watch movies, works for me, and when in doubt and find a non-instant watch - I move it to the top and then to where I want it to be after. It's confusing at first, but then you'll get the hang of it (at least till something better is done, this works for me).

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  44. 1) Would like to sort search results by year

    2) Would like to only list search results of movies that I have NOT rated

    3) Would like to search by release date

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  45. Only a few things to comment on. Firstly, alot of things mentioned so far can already be done on the webpage. Just not in the search feature.

    Secondly, before adding more usability to search, i'd like to see the search code cleaned up. Sometimes while searching, especially one word searches, it can take an awful long time.

    And lastly, I like Eric's #1 idea of doing boolean searches. Its great for finding movies.

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  46. Can you not remove movie pages if the dvds are no longer available, and rather state it as such? I use netflix not only to rent dvds, but also learn about movies in general and also in creating movie lists.

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  47. I would love to see live-search implemented.

    see:

    http://www.newegg.com
    http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en

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  48. Listing director, actor, etc. movies in chronological, not alphabetical, order.

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  49. "...alot of things mentioned so far can already be done on the webpage".

    Not sure what you meant by 'the' webpage, but it does seem that a lot of the really abstruse searching with only fragmnentary info can be done on Google/Ask/Yahoo... whose sole purpose is to search, saving Neflix's crunch power for exclusively on-site tasks, like sim%, queue, friend info, recommendations, etc.

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  50. A lot of good suggestions here, to which I would like to add the Internet Movie Database reference number.

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  51. Agree with Basconserker.

    Often I read a review about an obscure film just being released in New York or LA that I know I will never see in my market and will want to get from Netflix. Would love to find a way for the Search function to allow me to either save the search or to automatically re-call the search and send me an email when the dvd comes in {and ask if I want to add it to my queue - yeh right!}; you could charge $1.00 for the service. heh! Like putting a newly released book on reserve at the library.

    Amazon does something similar when it lets you know when a book not yet published becomes available. This is a way to distinguish yourself from your competition, also.

    -

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  52. I would like to see a massive list of options in an advanced search section. Since there are so many different criteria people search and watch movies by I think it would be best to include all search options imaginable. For example, I know some people who like movies that are 90 minutes or shorter and it would be nice if they could limit their search based on running time. Another option could be to search for movies by not only the year they were released, but also the month. There are too many ways to search to list here, but I think if Netflix included as many different search options as possible then it would benefit the most people.

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  53. A few things --

    1) When searching for a particular season of a show it would be nice to find it immediately. i.e. typing in Lost 2 or Lost season 2 should take you directly to that page.

    2) Maybe a recent searches that saves the searches you've made over the last month or so

    3) searchable options by studio or dvd manufacturer and year (i.e. 20th century fox movies 2006 or criterion collection 2003)

    4) a more extensive recent release section or a way to search by a release date, such as week of August 20th...

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  54. I'd like to be able to search the custom lists. For example, look for lists people have done about locations (Chicago, San Francisco, etc.) or subjects (ghosts, basketball, etc.), you name it.

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  55. It might be nice to search by writer, so I can find movies written by Paddy Chayefsky, for example.

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  56. The biggest problem I have is that hen I type something and search it, the exact match doesn't come up first.
    For instance, if I wanted to search a movie called "The Hit" (just making something up for the example) then instead of any and all titles coming up called "The Hit", I might get a movie called "Hitting It" or "Hit The Ball" or an actor named "Mark Hittenburg" before I acutally get to any movie called "The Hit". I hope that makes sense.
    I also co-sign for asking "were you looking for" if something is typed wrong...

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  57. Oh yeah, also, this isn't directly relating to searching but I think it would help.

    If in any given title, you should have a tab that lists any and all sequels to a movie or any movie with the same character in it.

    For instance, Freddy Krueger. Under nightmare on elm street there would be a tab for related movies and it would list all nightmare sequels, the tv show (if it were on dvd) the movie Friday The 13th Jason Goes To Hell, where Freddy has a cameo, Freddy Vs Jason, etc.

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  58. hello.
    something that i thought would be helpful if we were able to search only award winning movies. I know there is a tab where you may do that, however, it's really hard to search for movies that way.
    Maybe, we should have the choice right below the search bar whether we want the whole database searched or just award winners.
    The way that would work is if you checked the award winners search, and if you only typed the year in the search bar that it would be able to pull up any award winning movies for that year, and I think that would be great. I know it sounds like a lot of work but just a thought...

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  59. 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.

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  60. Darkko, you seriously need to get a life. You clearly have wayyyy too much time on your hands. Maybe you could go shopping for a new hat or something.

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  61. So, someone recommends 'Uzak', which I search for and get 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' (hu-LLO!). Try 'Ceylan', the director, and get 'Climates' and 'Distant'. Pull up both of those, and find that the Turkish title for 'Distant' is .... all together now : 'Uzak'. Very tiring. Surely both the original and the translated titles of foreign movies should be in the database?

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  62. Some alphabetized search options would be very helpful. For instance, I'm now going through all my ratings to re-assess them. So, say I have to log-off when I'm up to the 'Ts' because my boss is coming....I mean to check the latest hurricane reports. When I get back to it I then have to click through a dozen pages to get to where I left off, unless I happen to have remembered to bookmark it. Makes no sense, when one could just click on a 'T'. And I'm sure everyone has their own examples from different areas of the site.

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  63. Follow up. Yes, I found the 'jump to T', just not within the 3 star block I was looking at. Question withdrawn, with my apologies.

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  64. I posted a comment the other day and it was deleted. I said that the search possibilities listed here are interesting, but Netflix should prioritize more important issues, like getting "Watch Instantly" to work on the Mac. I tried to call about this and other account problems tonight, but could not speak to anyone due to "system upgrades". And I can't email you about anything anymore, either. So my only recourse is to post to a blog. Until my comment gets censored again. Blockbuster's looking better and better, folks.

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  65. michael, from netflixAugust 22, 2007 at 9:33 PM

    @Michelle.
    I run this blog and i've only deleted one comment, and that was spam. There is ample disucssion and debate about search or Mac-based Instant Watching. I have no idea what you're talking about.

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  66. Give me the option to advanced search by genre, title, actors/actresses, release year, ratings, etc. I rarely ever find what I'm looking for the first time through a search on Netflix, I always have to browse through things. The advanced search option would be a very nice and simple way to bypass the extremely annoying "popular matches", "actors/actresses", or "titles". If you gave me the option to advance search, I wouldn't have to weed through these annoying (and pointless) tabs to find my search results.

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  67. Search by Year the title was originally released. For example, show me all titles originally released in 2007. Additionally, grouping years would be great as well. For exmaple, show me all titles released between 1999 thru 2006. Or, show me titles released in 1981 and 1991. Thanks.

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  68. search in "instant viewing" should be able to sub-sort by star rating (or other standard sorts) within a genre.

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  69. Thanks for asking,

    Best-match verification for misspelled/typoed searches. Accurate handling of special characters.

    More advanced search features including broader key word searches and searches restricted by title/keyword, actor/director/screenwriter/studio, rating, language, dubed/subtitle/c.caption, watch now/rent only, country, genre, series, season and episode, time range, (movies of the 30’s or 80’s etc) release date, outstanding awards, whatever else seems useful…

    Prioritizing searches of one-word or single-character titles so that only all the matching one-word or single-character titles are listed at the top. More accurate weighing of search results by likely relevancy.

    Off topic suggestions that sorta relate in at least they help to find movies to rent:

    Access to the entire library for browsing.

    More ease to adding movies to custom lists, starting with link prominence on the movie pages and from anywhere else people are starting this from, and making it a smart one-click process wherever possible.

    previous comment: “I'd like to be able to create a list my favourite actors and directors so that when new DVDs become available (or at least savable) they are displayed somewhere obvious (above queue or in a pop-up) in Netflix with a link to add to my queue.”

    Make it easier to find sequels even if they have dissimilar names as well as movies that don’t quite fit as sequels but feature characters in cameo rolls. (see william)

    PS: To add to what Michael said Michelle… I believe that issue was covered several places in earlier posts. It is something that they are working on and place great importance on. I’m sure when there is a change to the situation they will update all you guys on the Mac. If you haven’t seen those entrees please go find them, they are very informative and might relieve some of your anger. You’re not alone but you don’t come off well with these posts.

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  70. I've added a comment like this before, in one of the earlier posts. But I think tags are in order. I love Brooklyn-themed movies, and I'm on a quest to list all Bk movies on netflix "brooklyn favorites". It would make my quest easier, if I can just type brooklyn, and all movies tagged brooklyn would come up.

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  71. Is there anyway to search within a genre...like search within documentaries? I can't figure it out, and if I search for river(s) it gives me so many river movies I can't find the documentaries about rivers...
    thanks

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  72. Hi, I would like to be able to select the MPAA rating in a search. Looking thru a list with my kids it would be nice to only display ones that I will let them watch.

    Thanks, Tom

    PS, lots more hits per page also.

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  73. I agree, we have movie night with the kids every Friday and we very much base our selection on the MPAA ratings. Also I would like to have the MPAA rating show up on the Q.

    Also It would sure be great if Netflix would include a "Comming soon" and a "new in theaters" category to make it easier to add the latest movies to the Q.

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  74. a more forgiving spelling hoop to jump through, inc. "did you mean ----?", 2) a list of all the movies a director has made so we can rate those too, not just the ones Netfix carries or can be 'saved', and 3) an alphabetical inventory of ALL the titles you carry - that way we could not only re-discover movies we'd forgotten about, but also sit down one day and rate a whole slew of movies in one sitting to get our recommendation volume and accuracy way up

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