Sunday, August 19, 2007

Moving the Needle

When I add something to the site — like the Latest Reviews block or the Members Top 10 Lists, I am looking to see how many of our subscribers use it, and come back to use it again. For whom does this feature add value? My goal is to add lots of value for as many people as i can. A new feature doesn’t have to appeal to everyone, of course. We have a lot of subscribers, after all, and you all have a very wide range of needs and preferences. Some things we do might be useful to everyone (say, improving the way the Queue works) and some only impact a subset of users (for instance, changing the way you see your Friends). We do both kinds of features, and are always looking to balance the efforts creating each of them.

When I look at features on the Netflix site (and in the Community area in particular) I have two buckets that everything falls into: moving the needle and polishing the apple.

What I want is to move the needle: I want to make a change or add a feature that materially improves our site. Maybe it makes it so much easier to manage your queue or find exceptionally good movies that it totally changes the way you use and enjoy Netflix. That would be good. That would be “moving the needle.”

Often times I’m just polishing the apple: it’s good to make this thing better, easier, clearer, whatever – but it really isn’t going to change how many people use it or enjoy it – at least not in a meaningful way.

The drag and drop queue – that was a needle mover. It makes the queue much easier to work for every one of our subscribers. Good feature. Adding the Friends Activity headlines to the Community Home page? Well, it was a good thing to do, but it was only for Friends users, and quite possibly was only a bit of apple polish. Removing the dates from the Top 10 Lists block? (releasing next week) Definitely apple polish. I wouldn’t have done it at all except it only took about 10 seconds and it was driving a few of us crazy. We call this “opportunistic” improvement. You’re fixing something anyway and it is easy to do. So make the thing better even if it doesn’t move any needles.

There is a general sense that you have to do a little bit of polish or in time the site just isn’t that good, it isn’t easy to use or it slowly irritates y’all to the point of distraction. Search is an example. It works. But it could be so much better. Most of us are sure this is a needle mover. I think the entire Community effort – comprised of many many little interlocking features – could be a needle mover. I am trying to discover if that is the case.

The problem often comes when me and my teams’ natural desire is to polish apples – make the things we have much smoother or better (think the sliding of the Latest Reviews or the adding of movies to Top 10 Lists), but then realize that the small bits of work to improve these things adds up and the big new features that are certainly more likely to move some needles are getting postponed.

Anyway, it’s a balance. Like a stock portfolio. Some high risk stuff, some slow growth but low risk stuff, a few wildcards… but all adding up to a strong healthy portfolio that weathers short fluctuations and delivers good results in the long haul.

The features I want, and that you guys often suggest, are almost always good things to do and would results in genuine improvement of the site. The question I ask – and you can ask yourself if you want – is will it make a difference, and if so – how much? For whom? I could change the font on all the tabs and it would certainly make the site nicer looking and perhaps even easier to read – but would it change our business? (Maybe that’s too extreme an example). Perhaps better: let’s make it easy to sort the movie reviews on all the movie pages – by helpful ratings, by similarity percentage to you, by recency, etc. Seems like a no-brainer. It certainly would be great. It’s already on my list of things to do. But let’s step back for a moment. Will it help more people find better movies? If you don’t read movie reviews (and many people don’t, actually), will it get you to try it? Most people ask for these options, but rarely use them. If we provide the ability to sort in a dozen ways, how many people will use the feature? Simplicity would say: discover the most useful of all the ways to sort these things, and make that the default – because that’s what most people will see. Then add the sorting later, opportunistically. And what are the thresholds? If I told you only 1% of our users would sort, would you make this a top priority? How about 10%? What would it take – 20%? 50% (Complicate this with the effort: what if it took a day to build, or a month? How would that affect your decision?) The question is rhetorical, but the issue is very real. It’s not a bad feature. In fact it is a brilliant and obvious feature. But should it be the first thing I build? Or is there something else that is also brilliant but that will be “game changing” – a needle mover! Because if you were given a choice, you’d probably tell me to do that.

I’m reminded of a bit of business advice I got when I was raising money to start a company back in 1993. It went something like this: “Just because something is a truly great idea does not necessarily mean it will make a good business. And just because something would be a terrific business does not necessarily mean it is a good investment.” You guys offer us ideas – often great ideas. Our job is to decide if they are worthy investments. There is often no question they are good ideas.

That’s why I really absorb all of your suggestions, and that’s also why you don’t see all of them getting implemented right away. It is without question the hardest part of this job.


  1. Question: When will we see drag-and-drop queues in the Safari web browser?

  2. I think you guys are doing a great job! Netflix is a very easy site to navigate. I would just like to be able to search for titles more easily in the Watch Instantly feature. BTW loved the NY times article on the customer service in Hillsboro.

  3. What's the link to the article?

  4. Drag and drop queue is not available in Safari (the default browser on Macs, and now available on PC's too). It really bothers me. Us Mac users don't have Instant Viewing, the least Netflix can do is give is a usable queue. Pretty ridiculous.

  5. Not sure where to put this, but I have a suggestion. You know when you watch the preview that you think looks really good, only to return the rented movie and go "what was the name of that movie I wanted to rent?". Could there be a note under movies that says what previews are on that disc??

  6. Very interesting ruminations, as always. It would be very illuminating to know how many mins/hrs/days/wks it would take to implement each of our suggestions. Like, would providing paginated and multi sortable queues (up to 1000 movies!) take a week, but re-sorting reviews any which-way take a month? Or the other way round? Most of us don't have clue. But I did did figure out that since the names of the movie trailers aren't on the DVD cover, it would take somewhere in the region of 100 person weeks to check all their DVD's one by one. Notgonnahappen!

  7. NY Times link . Paste-in both lines separately (was hanging out of the box). And you might have to register with NYT).

  8. Thank you, link works.

  9. I'm pretty new here to netflix. I signed up about 2 months ago. I was with Vongo, and had satellite TV. I wasn't very happy with either. When guys rolled out the Watch Now commercials I thought that is Really Cool. We have our living room set up so the computer is hooked up to our TV so we're able to watch videos from the net on our TV. Any way just to let you know I love the friends part of this site. I have my sister, cousin, and a couple friends on it and we all leave each other notes about good/bad movies. After talking to my mom about it she signed up for netflix last week. I wish there were more ways to interact with our "Friends" The notes we leave can only be 200 characters and there isn't a "Home" page for people to check out our profiles. That would be a lot of FUN. Every one likes to talk about movies, and trying to convince others to like what they like. The watch now needs a lot of work (and better movies) but I know that will come in time.

  10. This is all wonderful (for some people), but as long as Mac users continue to be marginalized and continue to pay the same monthly fee as people who get all the cool new features, I am not going to be an very satisfied customer. I was completely satisfied with Netflix when it didn't have all the bells and whistles -- at least I felt that I was paying for the same service as everyone else. Now, I feel like a am getting screwed every month when I pay my bill since people who use Windows are getting much more for their money (which certainly isn't true of their OS :-) ).

    With this said, when you post stuff like this, please comment on the Mac side of things (as was done with someone's recent posting about the Watch Instantly feature) or we just walk away feeling bad.

  11. Just so's you know that all your loving polishing and needle nudging are appreciated, I'm dumping BB, which I'd also signed up with to take advantage of their too good to be true (clearly!) in-store exchange, and will be shifting up a couple of plans with you guys. It certainly didn't help that they tried to move me to a more expensive plan for LESS DVDS without my permission, but their site is a real snooze compared to yours. And I bet there are plenty more defectors right behind me.

  12. I'm on a Mac and drag-and-drop queue works for me!?

  13. Gary L. Gray,

    As has been mentioned in many of the other topics, I'm fairly certain that it is not that the features are not being made available to you because you are on a a mac. It is because some of the features are being made available on a roll-out release. The only one I'm certain is not available to Mac users is the Watch now feature and that is because of DRM licensing, rather than platform issues.

  14. all angry mac users... drag 'n' drop queue *does* work in Firefox for Mac, so you do have an option. Safari is not the only Mac browser.

  15. "all angry mac users... drag 'n' drop queue *does* work in Firefox for Mac, so you do have an option. Safari is not the only Mac browser."

    Actually I'm on a mac and I use Firefox as my browser but I still do not have drag n drop queue. It just hasn't been rolled out to me as a user yet.

  16. Priorities were mentioned. Here are some top ones, as far as I am concerned:
    1) Instant viewing for Mac.
    2) Other ways to search and/or sort films (language, genre, tags).
    3) Make the Top Ten List feature wAY better (fix the bugs, make it easier to add titles, allow us to search for top ten lists, allow us to "bookmark" other people's Top Ten Lists).
    4) Allow a way to "queue" movies for instant watching.
    I think all of these items are definite "needle movers."

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. "The drag and drop queue – that was a needle mover. It makes the queue much easier to work for every one of our subscribers."
    Every one? I still don't have drag and drop. No I don't use a Mac and no I don't use Safari. Feature unavailable for me in IE or Firefox. What gives?

  19. same here. no drag and drop. sounds like a good idea though! :)

  20. I have to agree with Laura's 1st, 2nd, and 4th 'needle mover' points. I'm not a Mac user, but fair is fair.

    I'm trying to "get" the point of this post. I got the feeling we were being scolded passive aggressively, which ticks me off. (Being told off doesn't thrill me, but I despise passive aggressive bs.) My best guess is that the rating system wasn't received as well as was hoped and too many of us asked why that instead of this.

    We all know you guys are doing your best and any of us that have ever built a site know it's not easy on a small scale let alone this one; however I believe the issue is giving us options you want vs. those your users are requesting. And for some (apparently mostly mac users) not understanding why.

    We're all aware that we are a small sampling of Netflix's membership, albeit a vocal one. However, if, as you say, you have other ways of finding out what members want, I've yet to see it. In all these years I've never once received an email asking me if I like this feature or that, if I use this feature and how often or why/why not, etc. etc. The only thing I've gotten is the occasional "Has _____ arrived yet?"

    So, we get the needle moving vs. apple shining. We get that we're just making suggestions and ultimately it's your decision. Next time I think you should either curb your need to post something like this or address everything (which would be a hair pooling improbabiltiy). The same goes for post about a new bell or whistle that has never been hinted or requested when so many of us are hoping for something else to finally be available.

  21. Drag and Drop queue IS long as you're changing movies in your top 100. :) I'm not complaining, my queue is just too big. Moving disc #494 to #1 on the queue still requires changing the numbers the old fashioned way.

  22. Idea:

    When I click on a movie cover in Netflix (When I am on the individual movie's page), how bout popping up a slightly larger image of the cover? Say about 300t x 150w. Or even better, make the cover images bigger, because some of them, like THIS ONE -> HERE are so pixelated and crappy looking that I can't decipher what is on the cover.

    Covers do mean something to us Netflix. That's why we used to look at them on the wall at Blockbuster.

  23. @Philly - My understanding is that every time we click on something we are, in effect, voting. So, if 78% of us are clicking on Community and then going straight to Friends without lingering there, that's a thumbs down for C. and a thumbs up for F. And so on with every feature on the site. Yes/no? But an e-mail survey would seem to be a great idea WHILE everything is being built rather than when it's a fait accompli/done deal.

  24. michael, from netflixAugust 19, 2007 at 8:05 PM

    btw: i stand corrected - the drag'n'drop Queue was more apple polish than needle mover. It's nice for the stuff at the top of the queue, but of lesser use for longer queues. We all wanted it, but i don't believe its of as much real use as other features. Still, we know many people were asking for it. Anyway, i probably should have checked before using it as an example.

    @Laura - i agree with you. I'm pretty sure most of your priorities... are our priorities.

    @drew - strange. it should be rolled out to everyone. i'll check and see if I can learn anything useful for you.

    @ the last anon - good instincts. you are pretty much right. asking people what they want is good research, but the best indicator is always what really happens. know this: nothing is ever a done deal: in the world of "web2.0" - websites are sort of in perpetural beta. if we find something isn't working, we cut it. again, it's why our site is generally considered pretty good.

    anyway, sorry i misspoke in the posting. but my point was the same.

  25. What netflix needs is a discussion forum.
    That way users can really meet and interact with other users, and form friendships based on movie interests that will make the community features really useful.

  26. Tell Netflix to hire some "fresh" blood and trash the homegrown "search" & "recommendations" engine before it falls over from it's own weight !!

    Try Google in a box, or ATG's wonderful personalization engine.

    Stop trying to make everything yourself. You've reached a wall. This is what happens when software engineers run a company. Why else would they offer $1,000,000 for help.

    Anyone win yet? Noooooo

  27. Why is the instant viewing feature only available with Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Microsoft's Media Player? Does Netflix have some kind of exclusive relationship with Microsoft? As a Mac user this really disappoints me... to the point where I've started looking at other services. Netflix has to realize that many of their users and many of us in the film-making community use Macs.

  28. "Why is the instant viewing feature only available with Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Microsoft's Media Player"

    Brandon, this has been discussed ad nauseum in this blog. Instant viewing is not available to Mac yet because of DRM limitations. There is no agreement with Mircrosoft, and there is no conspiracy. Perhaps you do need to look at other services, or perhaps start reading the blog berfore posting

  29. So that no one else requests Instant Viewing for mac, here's the reason:"there's not yet a studio-sanctioned, publicly-available Mac DRM solution (Apple doesn't license theirs). I can promise you that, when an approved solution becomes available for the Mac, we'll be there"

  30. Philly, me thinks you took Michael's post completely the wrong way. And perhaps even are taking this whol blog thing the wrong way.

  31. I would caution all of us who use this blog to have a little discretion with our displeasure. On my "list of companies that get on my nerves" netflix is probably in the bottom third. The fact that I have an opportunity to respond in this kind of a forum is valuable, and I wouldn't want it to lose its value because too many people just use it to demonstrate their displeasure and not be productive with their feedback.

    I get the difference between apple-polish and moving the needle, and I appreciate the need to weigh resources in both situations. That being said, although we who use these forums are the minority of your users, please give our feedback the credit it is due.

    The only way the vocal community here will grow is if those of us who are vocal are satisfied with the level of responsiveness given to our feedback. That doesn't mean that you do everything we ask, but it does mean that the "not enough people use that feature" response is only good for a limited time.

  32. I actually don't use a lot of the features. Not only for Netflix but for most of the software I use. I use the search function and user reviews most of all. I rearrange my queue by the numbers and only occasionally drag and drop. The recommendation section is pretty worthless to me; for whatever reason, it rarely recommends something I'm interested in. Friends is something I don't have much interest in and even online viewing isn't that big of a sell (especially since I moved to iMac this year).

    Basically all I want is to be able to find a movie based on cast or title and get it quickly and in good condition and occasionally rearrange my queue. Keep sending the DVDs quickly and I'll be happy.

  33. Jim, I bet you represent a huge proportion of the customer base. Certainly the 3 other Netflix members with whom I'm in regular contact, But not through Friends, I should add, since they all find it, and I quote 2 of them : 'absolutely ridiculous'. They barely even read customer reviews, so all this gnashing of teeth of ours is definitely not universal. They are VERY happy with the site, with or without all the bells and whistles. Hence the likely skewing of opinion towards all this technical tweaking rather than just the basics - fast and error free delivery - ideally with a 7 day a week operation to facilitate both of those.

  34. I suggested this in another post :) though I may have misspoke when I said it would be nice to have a chat forum. Didn't mean a live chat, but a simple forum where like minded videophiles can post back and forth.

    Something else that would be nice. 1.) Not allowing people to review movies prior to their DVD release,and 2.) Not allowing people to post reviews when they haven't seen the movie yet. A prime example of this can be found at "High School Musical 2". People rating it 5 stars and saying right in their review that they haven't seen it yet, but just KNOW it will be good because they loved HSM.

    Reason for #1.) The big screen theater experience is completely different from the home theater experience, also if folks who go to the theater review and rank, they will get a higher influence score then those who watch the DVD.

    Reason for #2.) is self evident. You cannot rate nor review a movie that you haven't seen. HSM2 was terrible. ;-) Sorry…

  35. Polish the apple: The notebook is excellent. If it told me what someone rated the movie along with what they said about it I might just die and go to heaven.

  36. Does it take a rocket scientist to realize that, when we return Disc 2 of Season 2 of The Closer because the wrong disc was in the sleeve, you should send us Disc 2 again rather than move immediately to Disc 3? That seems obvious IF anyone on your end is reading the complaint filed online, or the complaint slipped into the Disc sleeve. Some idiot (or some computer) has just mailed us disc 3; we don't want to watch that until we see Disc 2. We just signed up; we're not happy.

  37. If the drag-and-drop queue makes it easy for "every one of our subscribers," then why has it STILL not been activated on my account? (Yes, I've called customer service a couple of times.)

    It doesn't matter what browswer I use - Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Netscape, MSN, AOL - I DO NOT have the drag-and-drop option. Why? It seems that since you've had the option available for the last two months, and it seems to be working, it's about damn time you roll it out to all customers. I've been waiting for this feature forever.

  38. After seeing a movie I like, I rate it 4 or 5 stars and wait for it to influence my "Movies You'll Love." In the meantime, I look at the movies under "Enjoyed By Members Who Enjoyed" but there's only 5 on that list, most of which I've usually seen. I'd like a "More..." link at the bottom of that list so I could see more than the top 5.

  39. @Jim, don't know if you did this, but in the 'at home' section of your queue you'll see "Mislabeled, lost or damaged DVD? Report a problem and order replacements". Or if you click 'Help' at the top of the screen you'll see a page that says "help with movies at home" on the right side. Unless you use either of those the info won't get entered into the system since it's pretty much automated using bar codes.

  40. One feature we would like to see.
    Store a list of upcoming but un-released films which are yet to show on the Netflix system. Then periodically run that list against available titles and auto add to the queue.

  41. I know there was talk of moving the 'language and sound' info further up the left column of the movie page, but since the complaint "Why weren't we told that this movie was in Forin?" has now become almost epidemic in the reviews maybe it's time to move that plan way up the priority list??? The language(s) first, below that the subtitles, and then the sound? The very best place, of course, would be in the movie description itself, but that would obviously entail an insane amount of re-writing.

  42. @ all who cannot get the drag and drop quene feature to work. What operating system/ version of various browsers are you using?

    Certain older versions of browsers may not support the version of java script used to perform the drag and drop feat, or if you do not have java support installed most recent version of the JS2E runtime environment is

    Microsoft does not by default install java support after version 5.0 (I believe or possibly version 4) of internet explorer.

  43. I think you guys are doing really well with the site design. I have to admit though, that I was disappointed with the drag & drop queue, which I've turned off.

    It probably works fine for most people, but if you click on a rating or a text box for the queue order before the page finishes loading, the whole thing breaks and you have to reload the page before you can modify anything. I don't know if I'm the only one that this happens to, but I could be, since I have over 300 movies in my queue.

    Speaking of which, a paged queue might be nice!

    I actually prefer the old queue management anyway, so I don't mind just turning it off. For the record, I typically use the latest version of Firefox on Linux, although it also happens in the latest version of Firefox on my Windows machine as well.

    Anyway, here's a suggestion. I don't know how many people would use this, but personally I have a "movie night" each week where I invite a few friends over and we watch two movies with a common theme. I think it would be really neat to have a section of the site devoted to creating these themes, and maybe having people rate them based on how well the movies work together. As far as I'm concerned, this would definitely be a "moving the needle" type update, though I'm not sure that a lot of people would use it.

    Some examples to help you see what I mean:

    Steve Martin is a Dentist!: Novocaine and Little Shop of Horrors
    Scoobies: Alexander and Willow (for Buffy fans)
    Movies Named for Guns: The Mexican and Dear Wendy

    You get the idea. I hope you'll consider it!

  44. Barely even an apple polisher, but what's with those 3 dorky tabs on the left? If you can read the others (with or without glasses) you can read those. And with so much to distract you already on each page it's important to keep everything as simple and as integrated as possible, and those deformed dental anomalies jump right out at you. If it ain't broke don't fix it, guys, much as we luv ya for caring so much.

  45. 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.

  46. I followed someone's advice on this blog and changed many of my 3 stars to 4, and my 'suggestions' literally tripled overnight - and mostly pretty good ones, too. So maybe either lower the recommendation trip-wire to 3 stars, or re-word the star descriptions to read '3 stars = indifferent, 4 stars = liked it, 5 stars = loved it' (or words to that effect). Thanks for providing this open forum.

  47. Hey Darkko, posting on every thread just makes you seem demented. we can't help, and these guys are too busy to deal with our individual problems, so just insist on going up the customer service chain of command until you get this resolved.

  48. "2McAbre" - I had Java installed but it was broken somewhat, since I was getting a registry error when attempting to load it from the Control Panel. I upgraded to the latest release and Java runs fine. I did this for both IE7 and FF on WinXP. Drag n Drop DID NOT work before or after. My friend who has had Drag n Drop for months now just checked his XP install and he didn't have Java installed so he installed the latest. Drag n Drop DID WORK before and after his Java install. So I don't think that has anything to do with it.

  49. For those that don't know, you CAN still e-mail suggestions to Netflix. If you click on 'Contact us' at the bottom of any page you'll find -

    'Tell us how we can improve our website or service'.

    It's a bit more 'message in a bottle' than this, but at least that way the issue will be funneled straight to the right dept if it's not directly related to the topic of the thread.

  50. I'm not for turning the site into a gab-fest, but leaving brief notes for reviewers could perhaps be very productive. Not only to tell them where to report disc problems and how to check what language a movie is in, but also to let certain people know that their reviews are good but too long to get through, or too snide (one person only seems to review movies he/she hates), and others that we really appreciated their take on a particular movie, and so on. Might help improve the overall quality if people got more feedback than just yes/no.

  51. "Drew42" Hmm well it was just a possibility, its hard to diagnose general browser issues over the internet. So many things could do it.

    Such as, are you connecting at work, Is scripting support turned on, perhaps try adding Netflix to your trusted site list, do you use XP's firewall, an external modem/ router…

    Personally the novelty of drag and drop wears off quickly, you cannot select a group of movies (like an entire series) and can only grab a line that is visible on your screen.

    So if you have a huge Quene you couldn't drag a movie from page two to the number 1 spot. I even tried opening multiple widows to see if I could grab from window one's visible quene and drag it to window 2's visible quene, didn't work :(

  52. I have something that would sure move my needle even if not yours. Often the same godamn movies sit on my Browse page for ever. If I've seen any of them I obviously rate them, but if I haven't I don't want to say 'not interested' and have them - and all movies similar to them - disappear from my dance card forever. Couldn't there be some kind of 'refresh' button to get some new faces in there without affecting 'suggestions' in any way? Or maybe there is, and I just don't know about it? Anyone?

  53. Move the needle: I am one of the many who doesn't read reviews, but I *do* pay attention to the "star ratings" from people with high similarity in my movie ratings.

    In fact, I find that, rather than pay attention to the global rating for a movie, and *even more than* the "average of raters like you" [which is NOT predictive of the delta of my tastes from "the average", let alone predictive of my absolute interest level in such a movie], I find myself more and more skimming down the list of Reviews, looking for those with a high "similar to you" rating (e.g. 70%+), and see whether they rated the movie highly (4 or 5) or low (1 or 2).

    For me, even though it's more anecdotal evidence, and even though it's skewed/not statistically valid, this seems to be the MOST predictive of my potential interest in a movie. If I find the majority of the 70%+ reviewers found the movie really enjoyable (4 or 5), then I'll add it to my Queue.

    SO: what would make this more useful for me? What would MOVE THE NEEDLE? To provide:
    (1st choice) A condensed list of reviewers & non-reviewers, with just their "similar to you" %age and the "star rating" they assigned to the movie. [Polishing that apple would include a link to an AJAX fly-out with the review text for each listed person's review, if any.]
    (2nd choice) An ability to sort the "Reviewed by" list by similarity to me
    (3rd choice) A way to see only the reviews of those subscribers whose "similar to you" %age is above 70%.

    Thank you for listening.

  54. No cut-off threshold for the sim%s we see, please. Because I'm finding, after many side by side comparisons, that even though there's usually a lot of overlap in the movies high sim%s and I have seen, I often find 5 star movies on there that I couldn't stand, and movies MIA that would be high up on my list of "the 'best movies ever made", so now take the whole compatibility assessment -- clever and fun as it is -- with a large grain of salt. Besides, isn't there something rather disturbing about shutting out any ideas that don't precisely conform to our own? Not ringing any very loud historical bells......?

  55. Re red stars - It seems odd to show Netflix' guess of how many stars we might award a movie rather than the 'customer average', as used to happen. Fine to add the estimate, but not have it be the only star rating we see until the description box opens up. I'd rather trust the facts on the ground rather than a computerized algorithm, which might well not know that we can't abide a certain actor, or whatever. Anyone agree?

  56. Quite often a movie pops up that sounds interesting but which one doesn't always have time to research there and then. Any chance of some kind of bookmarking or holding-pen system for these? Of course if the queue held 5000 instead of 500 titles we could use that, and then just erase them if they turn out to be likely duds!

  57. One of my biggest problems with Netflix is the effect of suggestions, which is that my watching is highly patterned.

    You get a spurt of Harrison Ford movies, leading to Blade Runner, followed by a spat of scifi movies. The same is true for TV series. I like Heroes but 7 discs in a row is not what I want.

    So manual manipulation of the queue is tedious and annoying. Drag and drop? Great I've got 192 movies in my queue and I don't want to handcraft a playlist. What I'd like is a moderately intelligent randomize. A randomize that understands that disc 2 of House Season 1 should come before disc 4.

    I think this is a pretty large "needle" mover. I've talked to lots of other people who have the same problem. We've never seen the movies in the middle of our queues. We bump recently added movies to the top. We occasionally move a few movies around. But bottom line we don't want to be online for hours managing a list. We want to see movies, we just don't want to see patterns.

  58. Here's a great way to Move the Needle:
    Create a 'Watch it Now!' MS Vista Media Center PlugIn that works with a Media Center Extender.

    Case study:
    I have a Vista PC (comes with Media Center)
    I also have an XBox360 (works as a Media Center Extender)
    I can currently watch shows & movies, and listen to music that is stored on my PC. However, I cannot watch NetFlix movies because the software you install only works with my IE Browser.

    If this is the wrong palce for this, please forward it to be an Enhancement.
    If this ever works, I'll pay a buck an hour and you never have to mail me a disk.

  59. @Michael - Would it be possible for you to revisit the 'Your Suggestions' post (July 17th) at some point to see where we are are or aren't on some of those? I notice that quite a few have already been implemented, with or without fanfare, but it would be interesting to know which of the remainder are 'in the works' and which have been nixed - for now, at least, as you always emphasize, this being a fluid and activity-rate driven process. Thank you.

  60. i am really starting to despise netlflix. i've been writing reviews for over 2 months without a single one being posted. for no reason either, as i stayed within the netflix guidlines. not to mention, having to wait a week to get a common movie such as 'payback' from across the states in maryland. i'm just about to switch to blockfuster.

  61. From the original post “Often times I’m just polishing the apple: it’s good to make this thing better, easier, clearer, whatever – but it really isn’t going to change how many people use it or enjoy it – at least not in a meaningful way.”

    Not sure I agree with that… polishing can immensely improve my enjoyment of a feature or tool. That is extremely meaningful to me. I appreciate both types of effort. But I think I get your gist…

    “The question I ask – and you can ask yourself if you want – is will it make a difference, and if so – how much? For whom?”

    I think we do ask these questions in as much as we can with our limited perspective. At least I know I do.

    Michael, I guess I really don’t understand what’s going on with your post here though, and the others that are much like it. You seem to be saying ‘stop asking for stuff,’ sometimes in the same breath you also say ‘you’re making a great contribution, keep it up.’ It’s really confusing. I get the impression sometimes, that you have the impression, that the bulk of us are clamoring for every single change we’ve suggested and expecting it yesterday. I don’t see that for the most part, I see people who’ve often been invited specifically to come up with ideas or issues who are simply putting them out there. The only real clamor I see is occasionally from the stress people are trying to relieve when they haven’t found the answer they were searching for… which is in the least, understandable… And even if the answer was given last week that doesn’t mean it is any easier for anyone to find… (Forums are much better at that kind of thing than blogs) And ofc the trolls with the repetitive off-topic complaints… They just can’t be helped. But all that is inevitable to some extent…

    We all need to think duck… keep focus on what’s really important here and let the other stuff roll off our backs. Easier said than done… I know.

    Now off topic: There are a lot of tech support questions cluttering the blog much of which can’t be answered by the people running or using this blog. Maybe the customer service tech support department needs to open their own customer support forum to take the pressure off over here.

    Jim: Did you use the “Report a problem and order a replacement link?” When I did on a disc lost in the mail it prompted me to get a replacement or send the next film in the queue. I got the replacement and everything worked just fine for me. Sorry you had a problem there, I was very relieved and happy with how Netflix helped me with my problem.

    Anon who wants to review reviews: Are you serious? I knew that request was only a ploy to harass people, I’m glad someone admitted it. The only option you really need is the one you have now. Don’t like it? Ignore it. I guarantee the million or so reviewers don’t want you or anyone else telling them how to write a review. Talk about making a request without thought to how it affects everyone else.

    (sometimes being a duck is just too hard I guess)

  62. I must say I was very disappointed after upgrading to the more expensive plan that includes the "instant view" feature, only to find out that it only works on windows! What a bore! Lots of people have Macs (like myself) and would really love to use such a great feature! Pllllease consider adding a program that would allow Mac users to use instant viewing. It seems like Netflix is really limiting the market by only making it available to windows users. THANKS!!

  63. I really like Netflix most of the time - but a needel mover would be to let the customer decide if he next movie sent should be the highest available movie in the customer's queue at any Netflix distribution center or the highest available movie in the customer's queue that is available in the distribution center nearest to the customer.

  64. I am a current customer and have seriously considered switching to NetFlix (especially with Blockbuster's recent price "increase," but I have a Media Center (and an XBox 360) and apparently the Watch Now feature doesn't work through Media Center natively. If it did, you would most likely have a new customer.

  65. I have set up my preference for Blu-Ray in Netflix. I put a fair number of movies in my queue before they've been released as DVDs and every month or so I have to dig through a list of Blu-Ray upcoming releases to find out which ones I should delete from my queue and re-request, so that the Blu-Ray version is put into my queue instead of the regular DVD version.

    It sure would be nice if Netflix did this for me automatically, whenever a Blu-Ray became available or even if it could check this ever y 2wks and update my queue.

  66. Several suggestions:

    EVERYWHERE you see a queue, you should be able to set PRIVACY for movies; this means: (1) the main queue; (2)_rental history; (3+) anywhere else the queue is viewable.

    Especially important in the main queue so you can set privacy as soon as you add a movie.

    If you fear that users will find it "confusing," make the column header ("Private?" with Y/N in the column) BLUE and have a mouseover and/or popup that says "'Private' means your FRIENDS cannot see this movie in your queue or history. [NOTE: If 'private' is set to 'N', no one except your FRIENDS can see it anyway.]"--or something to that effect. People ARE lazy, but they're not stupid. (Most folks probably don't use the 'privacy' feature partly because they CAN'T FIND IT; it's so well hidden at the moment that doing a search in 'help' for the term "privacy" doesn't even explain it!! Particularly problematic because setting privacy has now (a) moved, and (b) moved to a MORE OBSCURE place.)

    (Actually, you should be able to set it BEFORE you add the movie to your queue. Folks should have an account default [that they can change] RE: whether movies they add to their queue are visible or not. Set it to 'public' at first; only those who understand it will change it.)

    Whew... enough rants for tonite!

    (Thanks for [e-]listening!)


  67. it would be nice if netflix emailed you a warning when the movie at the top of your queue is unavailable, and gave you a chance...maybe with a time check to make sure that the next movie in your queue is what you want instead. our queue has movies for both adults and kids (i don't want to set up a separate kid queue), so the next movie in line is not always of the same genre. so if i was counting on a kid movie for the weekend, and it gets bumped without me knowing, all of a sudden i don't have a movie for my kids since the next movie in my queue happened to be an adult movie. anyway, would be a nice feature.

  68. Re: Polishing the apple...

    Sorry to go off-topic but I can't find a place to lodge a complaint with Netflix and you don't take e-mail from customers!

    I have an issue re the condition of NetFlix DVDs. No problem most of the time but about 5-6 times in the last couple of years, I have gotten damaged or dirty DVDs. I am not that concerned about scratches but the dirt is unforgiveable. I have photos of one with some goo and a big old HAIR stuck to it. Immediately obvious.

    Can't you clean the DVDs? An in-line cleaner in the assembly line?

    And how do you complain to Netflix online? You seem to have a moat around them to protect against those pesky customers.

    Don't get me wrong -- I -love- Netflix but think you can do better on dirty and cracked DVDs.

  69. What I’ve love to see is the option of selecting ‘not interested’ in the previews, because I often find myself re-watching previews I didn’t enjoy, and I know I can click next but it gets sort of frustrating when ten times in a row you are clicking next and all you want to see is a new preview plus I rather have it remember that I don’t like those types of movies.

  70. Another BB defector here - already liking the features of Netflix and haven't received my first movie yet! How you compare - BBO does NOT have these features: drag/drop queue, movies you've watched category, or instant movie recommendations when you add to the queue. Also, as my first adds, I took the movies from my BBO Q that were listed as "long wait" and added to my Netflix - all show available now.

    I suspect I'll be cancelling BBO permanently and switching to Netflix.

  71. I am really curious as to why there is still no option to view subtitled anime in instant viewing. Has anyone actually done a study that shows how popular it would be? There is absolutely no one out there offering subbed anime like Netflix can. It could be argued that anyone that wants to watch subbed anime already just downloads or streams it illegally, but that's where we use the age old counterargument that cable companies use. The quality of their viewing experience pales in comparison to what Netflix can offer. Is it a format issue? You could just stream in .mkv or .ogg format and force people to download a plug-in to play it. Plus, you would get tons of brownie points with the online community if you started using an open media format. Seriously, there is no reason not to offer subbed anime, unless it's "We're working on it."

  72. Can anyone tell me WHY they went with a more net-intensive "new release" format?

    I have a very slow network at work, and it is excruciating to wait for the popups or scrolling to there any way to opt for the previous list format?

    And where did the "releasing this week" feature go? It's a lot easier to scan through a list (on a single page!)....and I don't have to download a whole bunch of graphics (DVD covers) that I don't care about.

    Can you at least allow the OPTION of viewing the no-graphics list format for new releases and releasing this week?

  73. Maybe this is the place to mention that I just can not seem to use the site anymore because I did almost all my ordering from the New Release section, by going to RELEASING THIS WEEK.

    That being changed has just wrecked the whole thing for me after using it for 3+ years now.

    I hate the New Release screen change, and how hard would it be to provide a link to the LIST VIEW that was available before that sorted ALL the NEW RELEASES at once sorted by stars.

  74. I'm not sure how you've made the instant viewing feature (and drag and drop) work, but perhaps re-writing it so it's not so "buggy" and touchy would help?

    That feature worked for me until about 2 weeks ago. (I have Vista with IE7).

    I've checked every possible reason-- uninstalled and re-installed Java, shut down any virus/anti-spyware/firewall program I have, disabled one at a time (until I had NO)Active X running (in Tools)...all to no avail--it simply won't work now.

  75. After commenting just a couple days ago about the missing NEW RELEASE feature, I see it appearing on the BLOG page.

    THANK YOU!!! At least I can continue using Netflix like I have for the last 3 years.

    Please keep that link available SOMEWHERE.

  76. If this has been posted before please excuse the repetition.

    I think a fantastic improvement to the Netflix experience would be to add one more state to the RED "add" button for every movie. ->

    "viewed" as in previously viewed or shipped and returned.

    Currently there are only three states for the button,

    * "add" in RED with WHITE font
    * "in Queue" in WHITE with RED font
    * "saved" in GREEN with WHITE font

    * "viewed" or "returned" could be BLACK with WHITE font.

    This would quickly show all possible states for every movie.

  77. I DESPISE that we must use IE for instant viewing. I'm so angry about it I may cancel my account on principle!

  78. interesting...for all this self important babble about polishing the seem to have forgotten the BASIC service: providing movies! I just cancelled my netflix subscription after several years...why? Well over half the movies I have been sent in the last 3 months failed to play well enough to watch!

    Perhaps more frustrating as that it is IMPOSSIBLE to contact netflix....why have a "contact us" page....with no contact route for CUSTOMERS!

    The competition won....

  79. "NETFLIX"
    Review hoax
    Ok you want to move the needle right over the scale to the full side try this idea...........
    First take the information from us we are already giving you and use it to actually show us movie suggestions we would actually want to watch!
    by that i mean the obvious take my personal likes and dislikes from my ratings of movies! ok i know how the curent system works it takes rental activity from me and the surrounding 100 miles of customers and compiles them into a number that number is then cross referenced with the Ratings and then your system figures out the probability of wether or not i would want to see that is a very complex system.
    i know i have three degrees and i could not figure it out!
    what i am suggesting is to simplify the system.
    ok that being said i can explain my frustration like i said it takes my ratings and puts them into a pile with thousands of others from the demighaphic populus and shaves off the oddball numbers and figures out what i like......
    again wrong! this is not acurate because i live in an area close to another town 32 miles away but your system thinks i would like the same things as they do....
    not true you see the towns surrounding me are 92% populated by mormans who abhore violence and cursing and the thought of the living dead is as close to the devil as they can imagin.
    me on the other hand i love action movies i like to see nudity and things blowing up i do haunted houses and thus love to watch horror flicks.. your system cancels me out because i am among the select few or the minority...
    there is a word for that????? oh yeah Predjudice..................
    the point i am trying to make is the one i stated earlier you have a competition going on worth a million bucks pluss 50 thousand a year for the top contenders what if it is not another system you need but a new idea on how to compile all the data you already have you ask me to rate every movie i return and i volenteer my own on those movies i have already watched and all it seams to do is work against me because the ones i am interested in are removed before i have a chance to see them and then i have to write them down and go to the search icon to find them i have had to search for more than 46 movies just this year and more than a hundred and twenty in the time i have been a member if you ask me the system is flawed and you are missing ahuge number of targeted clicks and satisfied see most of the movies i rent are a wide veriety my mother sometimes asks me for movies she wants to see well she likes a totally different type than me and my children do too they are not on a seperate queue than me because that is just a hastle i do not want to deal with but "ALL" the ratings i submit are from me and what i like because i thought as i am sure do most people that it actually got me closer to the type of movies i liked.
    i had more than three thousand reviews on my account when i discovered the problem with having to search for movies i liked.
    i have removed them all in an effort to diagnose how the system works when i discovered your contest it confirmed my suspitions.
    i do understand the need to streamline your site but lets face facts if you use the reviews we as customers submit against us as individuals to try and passify the masses you end up cutting your gains in half your contest says you want to improve the system efficincy by 10% weell there you go impliment the queue as the deciding factors not against them .
    netflix user Jacque Bishop

  80. I am really, REALLY irritated that Netflix does not seem to have thought of some very basic features on the website to make it easier for users, and oh by the way, if they would make the changes, would probably earn Netflix more money.

    1. Don't make me jump through a million hoops to recommend a title. Have a "Recommend a Title" button on the main site.

    2. Bring back customer service email, and just give me general categories to code the nature of my question or comment, no multiple steps. Give me an "Email Us" button on the site. A number is fine if I have a problem nothing else will address, but generally I just have comments like these and don't feel like waiting to talk to someone who may or may not pass my message along accurately, or to the department head that can actually DO something about it.

    3. Don't make me search through your "for sale" tabbed site to look for the movies I want to buy, which is a pain in the a** to use, and so, I don't. (Read: MANY LOST POTENTIAL SALES). The rent and buy features should be integrated on the site, and I am stunned that they aren't. The movies I want to buy are somewhat obscure anyway, not blockbusters, and I would love to get them at the reduced price of a used DVD. I would like the option to just keep the ones I have rented and have that deducted from my account, or, if that is impractical for Netflix, I would like a "buy" or "request to buy" button under the "add" button of each movie that I can click. This way, you will get feedback on how much demand there is for different movies, and if there's one you don't have enough stock of, you can tell the requester what the wait time would be.

    Thank you, and I hope this is actually read by someone so that I haven't spent my time in vain... -- The Liberal Media

  81. Someone here commented about movie previews on Netflix discs, and asked if Netflix could note what they are. I find that I MUST write them down when I have the rental, because I can guarantee you, they'll never show up in recommended titles in Netflix. EVEN WHEN NETFLIX HAS THEM AVAILABLE. I honestly don't know what is up with the recommendations. I rent a fair amount of Gay cinema titles, and at one point I thought I would shoot the computer screen if I saw Brokeback Mountain -- which I had already rented AND purchased from Netflix months before -- as a "recommended title." What the F??? The tons of other obscure titles, which I got from previews on other discs, never showed up.

  82. i don't know if this is the place to rant, but i will anyway. (since there is nowhere to email a "user rant" to customer service). i purposely did not return a movie for 2 full weeks (i have 3-at-a-time) in order to not generate the netflix turnover thing where they stall your shipments because you're using it too much. i finally returned one, got the first disc of a 5-disc series. i returned another, it was received on Monday, the federal holiday. i got a notice on Monday to expect Disc 2 on Wednesday (which made sense to me with the holiday). i returned another Tuesday, prompting Disc 3 to be sent. i didn't receive Disc 2 yesterday or today, but got Disc 3 today. am so annoyed that now i can't watch because i still don't have disc 2. i know i'm being irrational because i will prob get it tomorrow, but basically i can't watch anything without disc 2. ANNOYED. ~cranky, irrational and probably completely blowing it out of proportion girl.