Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Future of Friends

When Favorites push out in a few weeks a couple interesting things will happen to Friends - and i wanted to explore them with you. First is this Friends & Faves page. It's not just that I added the Faves part - it has an inward facing (what you see) and outward facing (what other people see) state. Right now, there is only an inward facing part of Friends -- that is -- only you can see your friends. But shortly, there will be an outward facing version, and it will have a more anonymized version of the Friends page. It won't have sliders, and you won't be able to see rental history or queue info or notes... but you will be able to see that I have 5 friends. You'll be able to see them the same way you see reviewers: similarity %, nickname, avatar, 5-star ratings. And their friends. And while you cannot send these people notes or bug em, you can save them as your favorites, if you wanted. Just like a reviewer. This way, you can surf around from reviewer, to reviewer, to their Friends, to their Faves, and so on, checking out what people are enjoying, and so on.

(Draft of outward Friends and Faves page; no % on people means they haven't rated enough. Ignore the typo in the header...)

Now if you add someone to your Favorites list, they see you too, but in a different pile -- of FANS. You can always see your fans, check 'em out if you want (or ignore them; you could have hundreds if you're a great reviewer or make cool Top 10 Lists). On the inward facing version, these categories are separate -- but to the outside world, Friends, Faves and Fans are what you see. The similarity % are the similarity of these people to YOU, not to the person to whom they are connected. (I believe this is harder to write than to demonstrate, but i hope you can sort of visualize this).

The outward facing Friends & Faves page makes no distinction between Friends, Favorites (and fans). Just one big pile of people through which you can explore.

This is a very different proposition than the old Friends - where you have these very finite 1:1 connections. Favorites changes this, and seeing your Friends' friends changes this. Because of the anonymous profiles no one is really exposed, so it's a safe place to play and explore and look for movies.

And finally, these are just steps along a path of functionality. But this mid-September update will do some radical new things to the entire system. I count on you to tell me what you think - pro and con: let's hear it.

58 comments:

  1. This sounds great! I'm looking forward to it.

    Michael, Suddenly, today, all my lists have disappeared. Friends are gone also but there is a notice on the page that they will return. I notice that other members still have their lists. Does this mean that mine are gone forever?

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  2. michael, from netflixSeptember 2, 2007 at 10:42 PM

    chawk - you're the second person to mention missing lists. (you and cynder66.) must be some odd glitch, but no - they are not gone forever. they're probably not going to appear for a day or so - but if they're still missing on tuesday, i'll have a better timeline for you. sorry y'all.

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  3. My lists and reviews are gone as well. And my friends are missing too. Says I have -1 ratings.

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  4. Anonymous, that's exactly what mine says. I think all our friends (yours, mine and cynder66's) went to one of Michael's movie nights and we weren't invited. :-)

    Thank's Michael for the reasurance that they are safe somewhere and will eventually return.

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  5. michael, from netflixSeptember 2, 2007 at 11:40 PM

    Our teams have been alerted and i believe things should be better shortly.

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  6. Heya, Michael. This all sounds very cool. My one thought would be that the outward-facing page should indicate who is a Friend, Favorite, or Fan. I like that they're all included, but I'd want to know who is who.

    If I really find a reviewer's opinion helpful, I'd most want to know whose opinion they find helpful (their Favs). Much lower in importance would be Fans, because they "agree with me" that this is a good reviewer. At the bottom, for me, would be Friends, because they don't really have any kind of connection regarding movie taste... they're just people the reviewer personally knows.

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  7. Friends

    Temporarily Unavailable

    We're sorry, some parts of the Friends feature are temporarily unavailable.

    We apologize for any inconvenience. If you've previously added Friends, don't worry — we've saved all of your friend information for you and it will be back in no time. In the meantime, please enjoy the rest of the site.

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  8. I am looking forward to the Faves option as I've run across a few list creators and reviewers that are interesting!

    I do like the idea of knowing who my Fans are-if I were to have any and that kind of thing. What's the point in reviewing and creating favorites lists if people aren't reading them?

    lol @chawk, sure our friends got to go but not us! not fair ;).

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  9. Quote : "The outward facing Friends & Faves page makes no distinction between Friends, Favorites (and fans). Just one big pile of people through which you can explore".
    ______________

    I agree with Amanda that each of the 3 would seem to have slightly different values. For instance, I love all my Netflix friends dearly, but one or two are pretty much of a dead loss cineastically speaking and really shouldn't be let loose on an unsuspecting public without some kind of warning next to their tragically misguided evaluations!

    As for 'fans', I'm getting those same 'Influence Evaluation' qualms, but will try not to be a baby about it and just add one more therapy session a week if it turns out that I don't have any (gulp!).

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  10. Netflix = MySpace? I am stunned. I think this is both cool and appalling at the same time. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

    I say this sincerely, I hope that my dire predictions do not come to pass. I will leave those arguments behind in order to reduce the chance of inciting someone else to action. I do this because its obvious that my words had no effect, and I truly do not wish doom on Netflix. Let us move onward in bliss.

    In that spirit, how about having the option of inviting Fans to be Friends? The Fan has already made the first step by showing interest, so the Friends Invite would not be coming from a complete stranger. So in effect, by adding someone to your Faves, you opt-in for an invite from that person, and still have the option to decline invites. Though I do think our real names should not be showing in the friends section. If you wish to really claim anonymity, our real names and nicknames should never appear together.

    And FYI, most of my community features have been down since yesterday, noticed it around noon (PST).

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  11. michael, from netflixSeptember 3, 2007 at 4:24 PM

    Netflix will not become a social thing like MySpace. I Swear. We are committed to helping people discover great movies, not interesting people. On the other hand, MySpace or Facebook might at some point be able to include more of Netflix... but that's a different matter...

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  12. I agree with baff regarding anonymity. With all this linking back and forth, who will have access to my real name and who will see only my nickname? This concerns me greatly. Yes, I know I can set my profile to private, but I'd like to play with all the friends features, too; I just want to do it anonymously.

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  13. michael, from netflixSeptember 4, 2007 at 7:11 AM

    who will have access to my real name and who will see only my nickname?

    Only your Friends will be able to see your real name. We'll NEVER show any name but your anonymous nickname to people you haven't explicitly selected. Friends see your rental history and queue, too. No one else can see anything but some ratings (currently 5-star only), and as I said, that is attached to this nickname.

    While it can feel like we're pushing things, the intent is to keep this pretty private and pretty simple.

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  14. All I want is for the friends basic feature to work. It has been down for 3 days now. Any idea when it'll be working again?

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  15. Yes, you and 2 million others of us! Michael assured us that they're working on it, and we all know that tracing a glitch takes as long as it takes. Maybe someone who doesn't like all the proposed changes has demonstrated 'malicious intent'!

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  16. woohoo-my stuff is back! thank you for the fast fix!

    As for anonymity, i can't really say that anything i've done on the web has been anonymous, so that is not an issue with me, but i can see why some would be worried about it. It does sound like the whole world will not be given our personal information, which i thought was pretty clearly stated in the original post.

    Do i recall someone mentioning an Invite this user as a friend? I'd like something like that also.

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  17. My ratings, reviews, and lists are back... but now all my friends are gone. And unlike when friends is usually down and there is a note explaining that friends features are down, I'm getting a page introducing me to the friends feature as if I've never used it before. Should I be worried?

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  18. michael, from netflixSeptember 4, 2007 at 12:05 PM

    @amanda -
    naw, don't be worried. i've never seen data actually disappear from the database, although these weird glitches do occur where something is invisible on the site for some (usually short) period of time. I think this is just a sideeffect of the fix going on (I believe one of the servers is being rebooted). It shouldn't cause this, but, for some reason, it is. No fears. Should be fixed up soon.

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  19. ... I should be vocal about things more often, apparently. It's already fixed, not 10 minutes later. Thanks, Michael. :)

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  20. Still no friends as of 5:51 PM ET. I even tried logging out and back in again. No dice.

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  21. Whatever's going on with Friends is actually rather amuzing...when I was able to log in and see my Friends page once, it claimed I had -1 ratings. That's NEGATIVE ONE folks....that made me chuckle.

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  22. I think more than "friends" is down...I think Netflix is having a meltdown. I had TWO movies in my shipping que this morning which were "processing" but have now disappeared entirely! Listen guys, let's keep our eyes on the basics. If I can't even order a movie, do you think I really care about some friends list???

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  23. This is insane. The one time I really, really need to access my Netflix account, and the whole website is down. This is not right. I am paying you to keep your website running, fix it right now.

    Not cool.

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  24. whammer...
    stomp your little feet a bit harder. It'll make it come back quicker.

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  25. I see that the Netflix site is down again. I honestly wish that you guys would just put the site back where it was when your uptime was 99.999%. Netflix seems to have so many outages now, and that's even a bigger deal now with the Watch Instantly feature in place. I like a lot of the new community feaures, but I'd rather go back to friends version 1.0 if it will help keep the site up.

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  26. michael, from netflixSeptember 4, 2007 at 10:09 PM

    I like a lot of the new community feaures, but I'd rather go back to friends version 1.0 if it will help keep the site up.

    That's very kind, Lori, but it's not necessary. When the community stuff has a glitch, like it did this past weekend, the community area is the only part affected. ("Friends Temporarily Unavailable"). This evening's site outtage was wholly different, and from my skimming the chatter from engineering, they've got a handle on it and things should be better soon.

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  27. Anonymous with shipping issue - The same thing happened to me. I discovered it tonight.
    #1 I've had a movie at the top of my list for a long time because it was releasing today. Around 10 this morning I checked and it was showing processing. Tonight not only didn't it ship but it disappeared completely from my que. I'm putting it back but I do wonder why it was removed.

    #2 A movie was showing returned and I received an email that Netflix had received it but it's now showing it's Home.

    On a brighter note, I called customer service about a different issue (at the time I didn't know about #1 and #2) and reached a very helpful rep named Carl. I got through to him quickly, he was super helpful and sounded happy to help me. So if these little snags persist I'd recommend calling Netflix service. I think their Customer Service Dept is tops!

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  28. @Chawk - Happy to finally hear something good about Customer Service! Did you read the NY Times article about their new facility in Portland, OR?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/16/business
    /16netflix.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

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  29. I read your article from an earlier post and I can say my experience was exactly what Netflix wanted to provide. A pleasant helpful knowledgable rep who handled my call quickly.

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  30. OK, so the site is finally back up, but it's now showing that I have 0 reviews. Have been trying to correct a typo since Saturday morning, but, like Seth, am fortunately more amused than incensed. Life really is too short, guys!

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  31. Like the new Friends/Community home that launched today. Puts MY community up front and at-a-glance, rather than opinions of strangers. I trust the system's own recommendations over users at large, and My selected friends even more.

    I don't mind all the experimenting with the page (very much), but I do worry a little that when it finally lands on a view I like that it won't last very long.

    Sit10

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  32. My Community and Friends pages are exactly the same (in NYC). Is this new layout being 'rolled out' region by region for pro or con feedback, Michael?

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  33. Just to let you know that all this "new and improved" stuff is cool, but there is something to be said for "simple and reliable."

    For instance, yesterday I had -1 ratings reported when last week there were over 1000 and it often seems that my reviews come and go. So far, all those errors have recovered, but I wonder for how long that will keep happening.

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  34. jim-of-oz,

    There will always be hiccups in the system. Unavoidable. But as Michael has stated over and over, beefing up the Community section does not cause the system go down.

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  35. I don't like this idea at all.
    Will there be a way to keep your friends list private from the rest of Netflix? There should be privacy options. And please, "relatively anonymous" isn't good enough for me. I'm looking for a way to keep this feature private. Thanks.

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  36. John,

    Your name will not show up as your name and neither will your friends' name. In other words, no one will know who you are and no one will know who your friends are.

    That sounds pretty private to me. Agree?

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  37. so what if your significant other is your netflix friend, and so is your ex-significant other, and they both use easily indentifiable nicknames...does this mean that Netflix will infringe upon your privacy and let your friends know who your other friends are? why is it anybody's business who my friends are? nicknames aren't always anonymous enough. would it also show your friends' ratings and favorites? i see lawsuits coming out of this. doesn't seem like a useful enough feature to be worth it.how about chat rooms and message boards for each genre instead?

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  38. michael, from netflixSeptember 6, 2007 at 9:54 AM

    well, if your two significant others are your Friends, and if they both use nicknames that make it clear who they are, then yes - it is possible they will see each other and be angry with you.

    I cannot deny that there are some cases that might be uncomfortable. But i will say that it won't be clear if y'all are friends -- you could tell your S.O. that your ex just added you to her Favorites list and there's nothing you can do about it. No one can tell the difference between a Friend and a Fan (and this is partially why we don't make the distinction externally).

    Anyway, it's probably not crossing any legal lines since you can opt not to participate and you can keep yourself totally anonymous if you want.

    But it's true and i think about it often: in the balance of ease/simplicity vs. user control, i have opted toward making this fun/interesting AND simple - and the casualty is that some users will just not want to participate. But this is an experiment and i will be watching and listening to y'all and reserve the right to improve it as required. I'll be watching for cases like the ones you describe.

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  39. In all fairness to Netflix I think a lot of these pyscho-social traumas really shouldn't have to be their concern. For instance, I think it's pretty amazing that they'd set it up so we can hide certain movies from certain 'friends'. If I have have to hide who I really am from someone (if only not to offend their religious or otherwise moral sensibilities) then I'm sure as hell not going to sign them up as a 'friend' and then have to worry about something slipping past the electronic gatekeeper. MUCH too tiring. But bravo to Netflix for accommodating those that want to. As for ex-girlfriends/wives..... now there's a problem we REALLY can't expect Netflix to protect us from!

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  40. Michael said:
    "Anyway, it's probably not crossing any legal lines since you can opt not to participate and you can keep yourself totally anonymous if you want"

    How would one go about opting not to participate? Would one have to remove all current friends? Would there be an option to keep current friends, but not allow friends (or anyone else) to see your other friends?

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  41. @anonymous (above me) I believe that you could opt out of having a public profile and it would have no effect on the current friends aspect of the site.

    (P.S. this is "amanda"... I just figured out how to update my blogger profile)

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  42. michael, from netflixSeptember 6, 2007 at 2:05 PM

    AngelMonkey/Amanda is right, mostly. If you select a "private" profile, no one can click on you, see your Friends, see your Ratings...

    But if you look at a public person, say a Reviewer, even private folks will show up in the pile of Friends/Faves/Fans... you can't click on them, but they still have that avatar/nickname.

    Making yourself Private doesn't affect your relationship with your Friends.

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  43. But even if you opt out of having a public profile, wouldn't your current friends still be able to see your other friends?

    Would there be a way to still enjoy the friends feature without allowing your friends to see your other friends?

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  44. Would there be a way to still enjoy the friends feature without allowing your friends to see your other friends?

    No. Netflix owns that information, not you, so they will hand it out to whoever they feel like. If you don't like it, too bad. If you are one of them privacy wusses, cancel your account and go to Blockbuster where they actually care about such things.

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  45. Seriously though, I can't believe Netflix would even consider putting in all these new features without making them fully customizable. Its lame, unethical, and quite possibly illegal (by the letter of the law its legal, by the spirit of the law its illegal, a court would have to decide).

    Having it as an opt-out of the entire community is extremely lame. Why all or none??? If you are going to add all these features, let us at least pick and choose the ones we want, otherwise don't bother. Your laziness is no excuse for our lack of privacy.

    (I know I said I was stepping out of this, but its just too important that if this is done, its done right.)

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  46. What if I don't want one of my Friends to see this movie history information?

    The Netflix Friends feature is all about sharing. The only people that can see your ratings and Queue information are those you've connected with. If you are uncomfortable with someone seeing this movie information, you can easily remove them from your list, or decline an invitation from someone not already on your list.

    Can anyone other than my Friends see my ratings and Queue information?

    No. Only the people you have explicitly connected with can see this information.


    It looks like the Learn More About Friends page needs to be updated to reflect the fact that non-friends can see your queue and ratings. (And while you're at it, it's "The only people who can see your ratings".) :)

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  47. You are misreading these posts. Non-friends will not see queue information, they won't see your real name, they won't see your rental history. It looks like they WILL be able to see some of your ratings, so that should be fixed.
    Anyway, it sounds like Friends is being improved, which means new features, which means I imagine these information items will be updated when they are relevent. Yes, Michael?

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  48. There is clearly a lot of misunderstanding going on here.

    1)Only your Friends will know your real name and can see your queue and rental history. Fans cannot see this. People browsing your public profile (if you have one) cannot see this. The friends of your friends cannot see this.

    2)As it is currently proposed, your Friends will not be able to know who your other friends are. The anonymous usernames of your other friends will show up in a list along with those of anyone you have marked as a favorite reviewer (you "Favs") and anyone who has listed you as one of their Favs (your "Fans"). People won't know which ones are your Friends, your Faves, or Fans... so even if your friend does recognize someone's username on your profile page (e.g. Your ex-girlfriend's), they have no way of knowing if you are actually Netflix Friends with them or if they just added you as a Fav (which you have no control over). And I'm not even sure your Friends can see this list of connected users if you select to have a private profile.

    Michale, please feel free to correct me if I have any of this wrong.

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  49. michael, from netflixSeptember 9, 2007 at 6:25 PM

    you got it right, angelM.

    all this chatter has convinced me of one thing, though -- which i'll create a full posting about: if you select to be private -- you will be invisible as a fan or fave (or Friend, to anyone but the person to whom you are connected.) This is the right thing to do.

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  50. All I want is to keep my friends list private. I don't want to completely withdraw from the community.

    Apparently that's not an option.

    Not all friendships are circles. You extroverts need to learn that introverts aren't like you.

    This is an AWFUL development. You've forced me to abandon my Friends.

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  51. All I want is to keep my friends list private. I don't want to completely withdraw from the community.

    Apparently that's not an option.

    Not all friendships are circles. You extroverts need to learn that introverts aren't like you.

    This is an AWFUL development. You've forced me to abandon my Friends.


    Yes. This. Exactly.

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  52. I’m a little late to the conversation and though I’m discouraged by the cavalier attitude about privacy protections so far all this seems to have closed on a positive note where concerns were finally taken seriously. I hope that continues.

    Baff said,

    “I think this is both cool and appalling at the same time. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.”

    I’m getting in late but at least on the privacy thing I’m right there with you. I want all the cool features and fun too but I’m really appalled and distressed by a lot of what I’m seeing so far.

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  53. Anonymous too: it's good to see that someone else gets it.

    I just wish that someone at Netflix would get it.

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  54. It would be great if I could click on a link and see people who rated movies 100% (or close to) similar to me. Especially to add them to my friends/favorites list.

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  55. My lists and reviews are gone as well. And my friends are missing too. Says I have

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  56. dünyada ölümden baskası yalan

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