Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Netflix Privacy

Alright folks. Gather 'round. I've been thinking about this for the few days everyone has been discussing it; I've been reading your debate and really impressed with the depth of interest and considerate listening.

So first I will cut to the chase: Effective with the release of Faves (and everything else this weekend), if you select “Private” on the Profile page, it will not only hide your presence to outsiders, but if you are a Friends user, it will hide your Friends from view. It’s as if they are all invisible. This is a compromise of sorts, but it maintains the type of privacy you currently experience using Friends. I seriously hope y’all will not opt for this, but I don’t see anything wrong with providing it. I certainly hope this solves most of your issues. (And I understand it certainly cannot solve all of them – but you only convinced me at 3pm...) You guys made a very good case. If you’re interested in the logic behind this, read on.

The thing you said that struck me was about the nature of sharing Friends information. I believe there is a clearly established relationship between Friends: full disclosure. You're naked there -- queue, rental history, full name -- I honestly saw little difference between this current state and adding in the list of your Friends (particularly with them as anonymous as each of those individuals self-select to be); I simply didn't agree that there was any ethical reason to keep them more private, and having them public served the common good of movie discovery. But this openness is all about movies. And y’all made the interesting point that who my friends are, that I have friends at all, is not relevant; and while it might be fun for some people, it isn’t fun for everyone. I guess I could imagine that it could cause angst for a very small minority, and that it is something that each person should be allowed to control. For their own reasons.

One reason I was not implementing this degree of control over privacy was due to the complexity it could potentially insert for everyone to protect a small few who desire this. But in thinking through the current user interface, it was apparent that the existing “private” setting could be co-opted for this with little or no penalty. For reviewers, it hides your details; for Friends users, it hides your Friends. I wanted to have a very simple and clear option: you’re either here to play, or you’re not. But it’s okay if you’re not. Select Private. I hope that does the trick.

Now about your comments: as I’ve said, I’m very impressed with the depth of thinking on this issue, and the passion with which many of you presented your cases. It is very hard to change the direction of the ship this quickly, but it just so happened that your voices coalesced – not in quantity (this isn’t a vote), but in calm intelligence. And in the end I agreed that it was the right thing to do. If this blog serves no other purpose for the remainder of its existence, it was the right forum for this dialog and it worked for y’all and for me. Amazing. (Trust me: not everything will work out this way.) Anyway, check it all out this weekend. Save some Faves. Tell people about it. I'd like to see if Faves cannot be more impactful than Friends. It’s a work in progress. I know I can count on y’all to send me your mind. Cheers.

119 comments:

  1. Just need some clarification here, as your post wasn't 100% clear to me (might be my fault, it's late and i'm tired).

    Are you saying that we will indeed be able to hide our friends from our other friends?

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  2. michael, from netflixSeptember 12, 2007 at 10:24 PM

    Yes. If you select the Private option, your Friends cannot see your other Friends. It also means you won't be visible to other strangers surfing. There is no grey zone.

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  3. ...or just those who aren't friends?

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  4. thanks for that clarification, Michael...have a good night.

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  5. Was never a big issue for me, but was also struck by the degree to which it was for others, so this seems to be an excellent and respectful compromise. Let's just hope they agree!

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  6. Thanks Michael. I'm glad to hear that you were able to get that small (but important) modification to this weekend's release in. I'm glad that I'll be able to bounce around exploring people's connections to find great movies, and I'm happy for those with privacy concerns that they can now continue to use Friends the way have always have.

    Woo hoo!

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  7. Bravo and great thanks for not only listening, but more importantly hearing. Woo hoo indeed!

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Forgive the off topicalness, but is there a reason why the 'members' latest reviews' have gone missing on the community page?

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  10. Bravo, for listening, for coming up with a solution, and for getting it done quickly.

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  11. Becky Glass (alias for post identification)September 13, 2007 at 10:05 AM

    Michael,

    I’m glad us privacy advocates are starting to have a positive and useful impact.

    Your fix will have to do I suppose as a quick fix… But I wish I knew for sure that you understood that privacy is an important issue and your fix doesn’t truly protect everyone’s privacy, in that there will be thousands of people affected who will remain unaware that their privacy levels have now changed to any degree. We can’t presume to know what changes in privacy are significant to all the individuals that use Netflix. Which is why it’s so important to preserve privacy to the highest standard and never do anything to compromise that standard. To my mind, it would be best if new features were added as an additional option that we then opt-into, rather than be integrated into existing features in a way that changes how our information has been used in the past, all unbeknownst to us.

    I am still a little worried, and hope you’ll consider the following thoughts as well.

    First, it worries me that you have referred to privacy advocates as a small minority. We may very well be a small minority within this smaller group of ‘power users.’ I don’t know. But I’m not so sure we can assume that we are a small minority when you consider the larger number of subscribers who only want to rent movies… Subscribers like… Well, each of my friends, who just don’t, and will never, be interested in spending a lot of time on the site or using all the features we power users enjoy so much… And though they don’t, or may never, use any of the existing community features heavily, I’m not so sure they would want to trade much of their privacy so that those features can exist. I think they would even resent the fact that they would even have to consider how these features might impact their privacy. I know that at least one of them does.

    So, I hope you’ll consider this point carefully. I hope you will help establish a much higher threshold for subscriber privacy than exists now and that you will work to adjust the Netflix site to reflect that higher standard as soon as is feasible. I hope you will then make it your department’s policy that no new feature will be allowed to undermine this higher standard. I really believe the bulk of your customers would expect this.

    Second, I’m really bummed out that I have to give up using the features I already use and enjoy in order to recover privacy levels I will lose with this roll out. I want to share reviews and custom lists, and I’d even allow access to all my ratings given the option, but I don’t want to give access to my friends. Complete and total opt-out is no fun at all to me. The value I get from the site has now been significantly reduced.

    Please, consider making community features a world apart from basic Netflix functionality. I really think doing so would vastly improve the site for all users. Basic users would remain protected, and happily unconcerned and unconfused by what goes on in community. At the same time they would still benefit from all the advanced content and support being offered by community users. Community users could then have an even broader range of interaction with each other, by simple virtue of the fact that they will clearly be opting in to participation in the community when they sign up for those features. Power users will be much more likely to understand and accept responsibility for relinquishing some privacy in order to participate in each new community feature. They would also be gathered together with other power users who are each just as enthusiastic and involved as they are. I think that would be a very good and useful thing.

    Thank you, and your entire team, for all your hard work and innovation. It really is appreciated.

    And thank you too for taking these issues seriously.

    Becky

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  12. Juan, jeff, and others with off-toppic questions. On the side bar you can find a link to the “Ask Mike” thread. That would might be a better place to post.

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  13. Sorry, you're right. It's just that 'Mike' has been 'on vacation' for some while now!

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  14. True, but I'm sure he'll get back there when he has time.

    The link can be found if you expand August btw...

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  15. @Becky Even if you choose Private, all your reviews are still public. I still agree with everything else you said though.

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  16. Thank you, Michael and Netflix, you have saved my Friends. I have to give up the visibility of my profile, and I'd rather not have to -- I want to participate and share my love of movies -- but at least now Netflix has closed a privacy loophole and my loss of functionality is acceptably small in the current scheme.

    Netflix has proved itself as an organization that has empowered good people who care for their customers.

    (Excuse me now while I gargle out the taste of corporate-speak...)

    Seriously, great save. I hope Netflix now understands the breadth and depth of the information entrusted to it and that privacy implications are not black/white or one-dimensional.

    More importantly, I hope that Netflix and its customers can appreciate that privacy is not a minority issue, but one that affects us all, even if only a few speak up.

    Becky Glass is right -- the work is not done.

    An up-to-date bullet-point or FAQ covering the impact of "public" and "private" seems needed, as many of the comments in these discussions show a misunderstanding of how things work.

    And yes, future developments should allow better management of privacy; the all-or-nothing approach is dangerous and ultimately compromises value to customers. Sure, it's a problem of managing complexity, but so is everything else that Netflix does.

    Thanks again for listening, responding, and adapting.

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  17. Baff,

    If I understand correctly, our reviews still appear under member reviews on the movie pages, but no one can link back to the page where they can see all our reviews collected together, or our lists. (That’s how it worked last time I was playing with this setting.) And unless I’m mistaken other users can’t therefore see anywhere, our ratings as compared to theirs. Anyway, I enjoy those features as well, and personally wouldn’t mind if my ratings were to continue to be shared in that way. But now my contribution, if I bother to continue writing reviews and refining lists at all, will be less accessible to others because they can’t reach my collected reviews/list/ratings. Assuming ofc that they were useful in anyway to begin with, I can only hope so. I enjoyed contributing and I wanted to continue, but don’t like the idea of now exposing my friends with the new addition of ‘friends and faves.’ Aside from the broader privacy implications what with moving goal posts… that loss of participation to me is disappointing.

    Becky

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  18. I’m really bummed out that I have to give up using the features I already use and enjoy in order to recover privacy levels I will lose with this roll out.

    sounds like someone wants to have her cake and eat it too.

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  19. Becky, I really appreciate your excellent post. I agree 100%, and thank you for taking the time to articulate what I would assume a lot of us are concerned about.

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  20. @Becky Ahh, I see now. I hadn't thought about that.

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  21. "sounds like someone wants to have her cake and eat it too."

    No, she wants to have her cake and eat the pie.

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  22. Nude beaches?... cake and pie?

    Netflix is a lot sexier and tastier than I had formerly thought. ;)

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  23. that loss of participation to me is disappointing

    In reality, the loss of the ability to participate has not been taken away. In fact, there is now a greater opportunity for you to participate. If you choose not to participate, should you be disappointed? If we continue to wish for things the way they were, we'd all still be on dial-up internet access.

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  24. AngleMonkey,

    LoL :)

    Becky

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  25. private friends, public profilesSeptember 13, 2007 at 3:56 PM

    Participation and privacy do not have to be mutually exclusive -- indeed, Netflix has allowed them to coexist quite effectively. We're disappointed that this latest change makes us choose between them, indeed requires that we sacrifice one for the other to a greater extent than before. For all the improvements, that's still a step backwards.

    Of course, the privacy situation is much better today than it was yesterday -- we're no longer faced with having to lose the Friends feature completely simply to maintain our level of privacy -- but we're still having to choose between participating less or exposing more, because there's one global privacy switch. It's a small setback, but a setback nonetheless, and one that I hope is an aberration and not indicative of future development.

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  26. As a teacher at a strict private school, I need and appreciate the privacy. I have just a couple friends (my best friend and a few family members). I can not risk being identified by friends, etc. on Netflix as movies are looked down upon.

    (And yes, someone figured out my identity on another (totally unrelated) site once.... so I'm VERY careful now.)

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  27. Michael,

    I'm not concerned about privacy for the most part. What I don't care for is my first and last name and city/state being seen by anyone, which means they can get my phone number & street address in ten seconds. Perhaps, on our profile, there could be a way to edit that? I don't understand the desire for privacy beyond that. I'd just rather not be fielding calls from well-meaning Christians and not so well-meaning right-wingers who don't care for my gay & left-wing views--which I'd rather not edit. Unless you've a short memory, you know I speak frankly, though I like to think that I'm very rarely vulgar.

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  28. michael, from netflixSeptember 13, 2007 at 5:51 PM

    Mort - your first and last name are visible only to you and to your Friends who you have explicitly connected with. No one -- NO ONE -- outside of that will see your name. Everyone else will see an anonymous randomly generated nickname (not your initials, but random initials - in all but a couple cases)and the generic avatar. They will see a city/state associated with the nickname. But no real names.

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  29. Why is it when I go to the "profiles" page and select "private", the page does not change the selection to "private" but still records "public"?

    My concern is each person I have enlisted as a "friend" will be able to see all the information of all the people I have enlisted as friends.

    The people I signed up as friends did not give me permission to share their views and selections, in any form, with people they do not know.

    Netflix should not take it upon itself to reveal this information.

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  30. Meh, as long as I have a user name different from anything people can track through government files, I can't see any reason to hide my friends list.

    I'm still not able to really gather a friends list here because I can't interact with people who share my interests without wading through parts of their interests, I'm not interested in. (If you follow?)

    I've checked a few people that are "close" to my references, but find many of their likes still outside my preferences. I'm also a forum user. So I don't really count people as "friend" unless they have posted comments to my posts, and I like their ideas.

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  31. As I understand it, only your mutually signed-up friends will see your real name, etc. All that friends of your friends will see is what's revealed for sim%'s and reviewers, namely a nickname + avatar, which will be mixed in indistinguishably with those of 'saved faves' and fans. Yes/no?

    I've never understood why our city and state needs to be revealed alongside our nicknames. If there's a glaring and unnecessary privacy chink, it's that. I think that if that were removed many people who want to 'play' but feel uneasy about it would feel considerably less vulnerable to deductive discovery.

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  32. "friends... which will be mixed in indistinguishably with those of 'saved faves' and fans. Yes/no?"

    At first, no. Eventually, yes.

    "I think that if (city/state) were removed many people who want to 'play' but feel uneasy about it would feel considerably less vulnerable to deductive discovery."

    Yes, I think that is the biggest 'tell' that can give away people's identity.

    "Everyone else will see an anonymous randomly generated nickname (not your initials, but random initials...)"

    Glad to hear they are random now, wasn't aware of that. That removes one of my big concerns.

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  33. ""Everyone else will see an anonymous randomly generated nickname (not your initials, but random initials...)"

    One of my friends has a 'randomly assigned' prison inmate tag that happens to start with her 2 initials. Will that change automatically with the weekend roll out, or should I tell her to change it herself?

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  34. PS re the inclusion of City/State on our anonymous ident - I'm sure it's not an issue for someone living in NY or LA, but I note that the population of Somerset, Vt is 5. I can only imagine how thrilled any flixers up there might feel about having their location revealed.

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  35. I can only imagine how thrilled any flixers up there might feel about having their location revealed.

    So someone is worried about others discovering that they use Netflix?

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  36. “"friends... which will be mixed in indistinguishably with those of 'saved faves' and fans. Yes/no?"”


    My bet is that actually the majority of ‘friends and faves’ pages will remain ‘friends only’ for the duration. You won’t collect fans if you don’t write good reviews. You won’t collect faves if you don’t create them. How many review writers out there only have one review… I know I’ve seen A LOT of them. All of those I-wrote-a-review-three-years-ago-when-I-was-drunk-one-night people… People who probably deleted the Netflix privacy notice the other day as soon as they saw it… assuming it made it through the spam filter… Those people won’t know until it’s potentially too late that who they associate with is now open to the public.

    And agreed on the city/state info as well… Why show that at all? I always wondered…

    Anon 6:00pm,

    I’ve been trying to get the privacy setting to stick all day. I didn’t have this problem when I was trying to see how it works a couple days back. I hope it’s just temporary.

    Becky

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  37. Anon said : "So someone is worried about others discovering that they use Netflix?"

    -------------

    Try to pay attention! Since some people have expressed great concern about their identity being discovered despite having a nickname, it would seem obvious that the smaller the community they lived in the greater the chances of their 'cover being blown'. That's why I suggested removing our city and state from our nicknames.

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  38. michael, from netflixSeptember 14, 2007 at 12:24 AM

    Strange: i've now heard a couple of you mention something odd with the privacy radio button. I'll have the team check on this asap. It worked fine through testing...

    couple points.
    1) the city/state was originally just state... but honestly, with all the anonymous info, it was feeling a little... thin. It almost didn't feel like a real person behind the anonymous name and avatar. The city/state seems to land everything better. I understand it can feel a little exposing, but again, combined with a random anonymous nickname, i felt it was safe to do.

    2) the anonymous nicknames were computer generated and look like your initials. for a very very small percentage of you, it probably is your real initials -- left over from some early incarnations of code; but for pretty much everyone, these were re-generated a few months ago. Look at yours and if it feels too close to real, just change it. We won't be automatically changing them again.

    3) Friends/Fans mixed together - yes, right from the start. Becky is right that many of your wont have fans to dilute how this list looks, but you can go grab some Faves immediately, if you want. Find some highly similiar folks and Fave em and see what the experience is like. If everyone did this on day 1, you'd see that the system works nicely to maintain a good degree of anonymity. (Becky's concerns notwithstanding; i hear your point. Netflix in general and me in particular - we have no plans to systematically reveal any more info than we are now. And while i see your point, fears that it is a slippery slope between your movie ratings + anonymous nickname to your creditcard numbers and street address... i just think this is fearmongering. I do take your privacy seriously.

    4) Very very small towns don't show up in the city listings. I'm not looking at the specifications, but i'm pretty sure that it is based on zip codes of regions that have some minimum population - so towns of 6 wouldn't be listed... but towns of X thousand probably would. I can check on this if you'd like. But i believe these cities are not teeny.

    So be prepared to add a ton of FAVES right away, and you'll see -- you're friends list is buried to everyone but you.

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  39. Thanks Michael. Although I think that being less 'real' would make a lot of people happy! Re the privacy button, I noticed that if you click 'private', then privacy kicks in (i.e. people can't see your review page), but the black dot jumps to 'public' (cocked for a possible future change back, I assume) which might be confusing people; it did me, till I figured it out.

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  40. Btw, was just testing and changed it back to 'public' the next day. Wouldn't want to miss the Grand Unveiling! I'm far more concerned whenever I hand a waiter my credit card than who knows that I can't stand 'The Wizard of Oz' (gasp!).

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  41. Michael,

    ‘The city/state seems to land everything better. I understand it can feel a little exposing, but again, combined with a random anonymous nickname, i felt it was safe to do.”

    Do you still feel safe to do so though? More importantly do you feel it’s safe to dismiss those who don’t feel it’s safe to do so? Please, let the user decide these kind of things. When you sign up here for blogger for example, or any of the forums I use for that matter, you fill in your ‘location’ field, or not, as you wish. I really hoped to see evidence that you might be thinking more along these lines in the future. Privacy protection, more user control and privacy options. It could save a lot of head-ache and give better results in the long run.

    “Becky is right that many of your wont have fans to dilute how this list looks, but you can go grab some Faves immediately, if you want.”

    That does nothing to protect the people who don’t know what’s going on and won’t know for days, weeks, months. Hope they won’t mind or feel let down in any way too when they do find out.

    “And while i see your point, fears that it is a slippery slope between your movie ratings + anonymous nickname to your creditcard numbers and street address... i just think this is fearmongering.”

    It doesn’t look like you do see the point though. Every time I think this might be getting better, it just gets worse.

    “I do take your privacy seriously.”

    Any reason you gave me before to believe that you might have, was just seriously undermined by the fear mongering thing. I’m not trying to work up fear in others, I’m looking for any meaningful indication that my actual fears, or those of others here, are being taken seriously. Especially by the people who matter most, the one’s at Netflix. You.

    “So be prepared to add a ton of FAVES right away, and you'll see -- you're friends list is buried to everyone but you.

    I hope you do have fun with faves, if you ever take friends out of there I hope I’ll be able to join you.

    Take care,


    Becky


    BTW, the privacy setting finally stuck, for me at least. Took all day to update but it finally did. I actually checked the reviews on the movie page through the day to be sure the link-back to the reviews & lists page was not there. It finally vanished this morning.

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  42. How do I get rid of friends I don't want anymore?

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  43. Why not just have a checkbox option under the account settings for "expose my friends" and let the default remain unchecked (as it is now)?

    That would seem to be the path of least resistance for implementing any new feature... one that respects privacy and allows users to opt-in as they so desire, while retaining the current functionality if one does nothing.

    I wish that the default for note-leaving, for instance, were not to receive friends' notes as emails.... that feels too intrusive. I know each user can turn that off (opt-out), but I can't opt out of sending them as the note-writer, and I hate knowing that most of my friends aren't even aware they have this choice (so I am unwittingly spamming them every time I leave a note).

    Like Becky (I suppose), I'm a firm believer in opting-in rather than -out when it comes to privacy issues; seems to me the choice (and therefore the power) should always reside in the hands of the individual. It's his or her privacy, right? That's why it's called private.

    Dan

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  44. Privacy nice, but still seeking a Friend FinderSeptember 14, 2007 at 6:25 AM

    While the privacy policies are definitely important (you can't build a trusted network without them), the real issue for me and for others I know is how I find my friends that are using Netflix in the first place.

    Facebook's Friend Finder is the best on the web at this in my opinion and Netflix should simply emulate that functionality and approach (Linkedin also is pretty good here). I really won't find the friends feature particularly useful until I can quickly find my real-world friends that are using Netflix and add them to my list of virtual world Netflix friends.

    Thanks again for all your hard work on the social dimension of the site -- I think it's one of the best things that's happened at Netflix.

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  45. the community they lived in the greater the chances of their 'cover being blown'

    And the discovery is that you use Netflix. Wouldn't want that cover to be blown. That would be horrible!

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  46. It doesn’t look like you do see the point though. Every time I think this might be getting better, it just gets worse.

    Becky, I must say we haven't encountered someone as blatantly unwilling to accept the facts as you seem to be. When will you understand that you can either play or not. Plain and simple. If you don't want to play by the rules, then perhaps this game is not for your kind. We don't make a hybrid for you or for anyone else.

    You anonymity is important in banking, not movie watching. Even so, it has been stated over and over again (with numerous examples) that your fears of loss of anonymity are unfounded. I am signing this note with an anonymous nickname so that you can discover who I am.

    GH567F9

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  47. Anon said : "And the discovery is that you use Netflix. Wouldn't want that cover to be blown. That would be horrible!"

    ------------

    Since you don't/can't/won't get it, I suggest you check the anon post time-stamped September 13...4:16 PM. Everyone's situation is different, and if even one person's life is seriously disrupted by this change then I think the price paid by that person just so others may or may not end up discovering more movies will have been too high (although it sounds like we might lose more people to the privacy option than we're going to gain!). Especially since the current combination of Sim% and Netflix recommendations works pretty darn well : my current list will take me more than 2 years to watch. I hardly even want to find more!

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  48. even one person's life is seriously disrupted by this change then I think the price paid by that person just so others may or may not end up discovering more movies will have been too high

    Actually I think you meant to say "if the wishes of millions of Community users are disrupted by just one questionable example, then the price was too high". Am I right ? The desires of the majority are not ruled by the wishes of the minority.

    And in response to that post on Sept 13, I say - then if movies are looked down upon in your community, why are you watching them? Don't come to us wanting protection from something you shouldn't be doing.

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  49. Fair point, in that his situation is particularly extreme. But I don't see how having our city/state removed would 'disrupt the wishes of millions of users'. I'm just advocating increasing our anonymity, not modifying the imminent expansion of the community featues, which seem to have been very well thought through. I think we're arguing at cross-purposes, so won't waste any more of anyone's time on this.

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  50. @anon September 14, 2007 7:55 AM:

    I've tried to stay out of the privacy flame war as much as possible, but I think there's an unspoken yet obvious truth that needs to be laid out there pretty blatantly for the several people who seem to be missing it. This isn't about protecting some guy who likes to sit at home alone and watch the soft-core porn he rents from Netflix. This is about protecting people whose social, political, or religious viewpoints differ from "the norm," to the degree that they're afraid of the wrong person finding out. One specific example is gay people who would rather not be outed because of their movie viewing history, but there are plenty of other people with equally valid claims.

    Personally, I'm willing to use the new features with the privacy settings (or lack thereof) that are in place, but I do understand and sympathize with Becky and the others who are not.

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  51. This is about protecting people whose social, political, or religious viewpoints differ from "the norm," to the degree that they're afraid of the wrong person finding out.

    Eric, great point and that's why the protective measures of complete anonymity have been instituted. So no one will find out.

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  52. Hey all, I totally understand that there are people out there who want more privacy than they feel the anonymous nickname provides. And prior to this post by Michael, enabling users to opt out entirely to being exposed or having their Friends exposed was not an option if you participated in the Friends feature... because your Friends could see your Friends even if you selected a "private" profile. Though I, and apparently Netflix as well, felt that Friends was a "full-disclosure" type of relationship, I can certainly understand scenarios in which someone might want to share their movie tastes with their Friends, but not those connected with them.

    But this has been fixed now. If you choose "private" you can't be exposed at all to anyone in any situation. I understand that it's disappointing to many that they can't be both public and private at the same time for different aspects of the site... but I don't understand why you think that Netflix owes you that option.

    Clearly, in its current state, participating in Community features just isn't for you. That's too bad. I'm sure there are people who don't participate in the Friends feature (I actually have a real-life friend who is like this) because he doesn't want to expose his queue, even though he'd like to share ratings/notes/etc. But that's his choice to make. He isn't comfortable with the exposure the Friends feature offers, so he doesn't participate in it. So if you aren't comfortable with the exposure that having a "public" profile offers, then don't participate in related community features. And maybe some time down the road, if the community features are successful enough, Netflix will add enough customization to the privacy flags that you will feel safe enough to come out and play. And that will be a great day.

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  53. "Any reason you gave me before to believe that you might have, was just seriously undermined by the fear mongering thing."

    Yes, he would have been much better off not making that statement, but he was probably largely referring to me rather than you. It was that sort of dismissive attitude that got me started on this. I was the one who first mentioned law suits and credit cards and such. I was drawing extremes in order to get the point across to people who couldn't even grasp that privacy could possibly be a concern.

    I will say that some of my statements were based on false assumptions (or things that used to be true, but have since changed). Of course, Michael didn't rush to correct me, even when I asked for clarification.

    Due to changes at Netflix (both current changes and past changes that I just became aware of), I feel my concerns have have gone from Serious/Major down to Medium/Minor.

    I do apologize for not getting my main concerns across sooner, but they had felt pretty self evident to me at the time and I got sidetracked convincing people that privacy itself is important to some people.

    I do still have concerns but they are now significantly less than I felt them to be last week.

    As it stands, I am happy to see this new feature going in, but still very much hope that Netflix will give us more control over all these new features.

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  54. Anon,

    Getting rid of friends you don’t wan’t anymore…

    Load the Netflix home page, got to the ‘community’ tab. Then go to the ‘preferences’ tab.

    You should see your friends listed there. At the end of each of their little rectangles is a ‘remove’ button.

    Unless I’m mistaken that should get rid of any friends you don’t want anymore.

    Dan & Eric,

    Thanks for jumping in there. I hear ya…

    Baff,

    I still hope we’ll get better options later too. That would be nice.

    Michael,

    I hope your roll-out goes better than this discussion has been going. Maybe, once you’ve had a breather… you can post a new video for us, those were fun.

    Becky

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  55. Angel,

    It's not that we feel that Netflix OWES us the ability to have a public profile, we just feel that as customers it's the right step for a service that we subscribe to. It's a good suggestion, I think. I suspect that it will be implemented sooner than we think, if only because it'll create a better experience for Netflix customers. Netflix didn't create their community features as a gift to its users, they did it to advance their product. It was a smart move on their part, just as it will be a smart move when they allow users to have public profiles while keeping friends hidden. I don't feel that the "Show Your Friends" feature will ultimately do much for Netflix. Message boards for each genre would have been a smarter move, IMO.

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  56. "Getting rid of friends you don’t wan’t anymore…
    Load the Netflix home page, got to the ‘community’ tab. Then go to the ‘preferences’ tab."

    The problem is, Michael said:

    "Friends-related items are on the Friends & Faves page. Preferences is gone (yes, gone). Although you can still type in the URL and get to the page. We're phasing it out entirely, starting now."

    This has been causing a lot of confusion. Presumably it will all be plain once the new layout is up.

    Has Michael mentioned a day?

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  57. It's on the other thread now, Monday.

    I was able to get to my preferece page today... tho I didn't try to remove a friend. I'd forgotten the issue of it being harder to find at some point.

    Becky

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  58. private friends, public profilesSeptember 15, 2007 at 4:41 AM

    angelmonkey said, "I understand that it's disappointing to many that they can't be both public and private at the same time for different aspects of ths site... but I don't understand why you think that Netflix owes you that option."

    How quickly you forget...

    Because we had it before. Until Friends-of-friends becomes visible, one can be Public, revealing everything about movies while revealing nothing about relationships.

    Now, while we've at least recovered the ability to keep our relationships private, we must do so at the expense of sharing our Netflix Profile. It'd be nice to get that back.

    It'd be really nice to stop having mud flung at us by rude people like gh567f9 who feel their blatant failure to grasp the issue is license to belittle others, but I know that's asking too much.

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  59. "....Until Friends-of-friends becomes visible,...."

    There's that phrase again! Please forgive the rudeness, but it's awfully frustrating when we've made ourselves hoarse trying to explain that, should you decide to remain 'public', your friends-of-friends will be no more 'visible' than any of the other adopted names and number sequences on the site. And if someone is ... uhm .... how to put it nicely ... ill-advised enough to include clues in their nickname that creates a nexus to the real world, well, you know, people occasionally leave the keys in their car by mistake - would it make any sense to blame the dealership? Although I'm surely just another that 'doesn't get it'. But, cry you mercy, would that someone could really articulate what there is to 'get', aside from some general disquiet about privacy - which we ALL ought to have, but about credit card fraud and identity theft, not about the 'scary' revelation of how many pseudonymed friends we might or might not (scream!) have.

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  60. private friends, public profileSeptember 15, 2007 at 10:03 AM

    x.asperated: please forgive the confusion my errors of verb tense and brevity created. It probably should have read "until Friends-of-friends was to become visible to Friends."

    To ease exasperation, I'll try to summarize:

    PROBLEM: Netflix was going to reveal all of your friends' nicknames to all of your other friends. These are nicknames that may or may not be anonymous, they are nicknames that you cannot control, they would be revealed to people who know you, and even the "Private" setting would not prevent this. Even if the nicknames were completely anonymous, the existence of a friendship is in and of itself personal information about relationships, NOT about movies. The only option was to withdraw from Friends entirely -- a valid option, but one that resulted in reduced functionality.

    SOLUTION: Netflix extended the "Private" setting to prevent showing friends' nicknames, even to other friends. Those who'd enjoyed the one-to-one private nature of the Friends feature could continue to do so.

    Several customers expressed a desire to maintain the privacy of their relationships and the one-to-one sharing of movies with Friends; Netflix 'got it' and made an adjustment to satisfy their customers.

    By the way, if I tell a woman she's fat, she's probably not going to appreciate me following that up with "but it's no big deal." Understand that you've done the same thing.

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  61. @anonymous who said "It's not that we feel that Netflix OWES us the ability to have a public profile, we just feel that as customers it's the right step for a service that we subscribe to. It's a good suggestion, I think."

    OK. Then you and I agree completely. But I believe there are other people in this thread who do think Netflix owes it to them.

    @private friends, public profiles: "How quickly you forget... Because we had it before."

    I didn't forget. Just because Netflix was offering free cake (or cheese or whatever) last week doesn't mean they don't have the right to start charging for it next week. Just because it's a good idea (and I agree that it is) doesn't mean Netflix owes it to us.

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  62. private cake, public moviesSeptember 15, 2007 at 10:47 AM

    angelmonkey -- technically, Netflix doesn't owe any of us anything, except maybe a few DVDs in the mail (and if we're going to be technical, I'm not even sure about that). But if Netflix began giving us movies and cake, and we liked the cake, and Netflix later said "we're switching to pie," those who were really liking the cake might think of it as a lesser value -- and a few cake-lovers might even think that cake was part of what they were paying for every month, and in the sense that they'd paid for cake with their movies they were owed the cake. Netflix is of course free to substitute pie or biscuits or Fig Newtons (fruit and cake!), as they are free to stop offering anime titles or start offering hardcore porn, but these changes may cause other than positive reactions from paying customers. Netflix has responded to its customers who were unhappy with the cake-pie substitution, and now those who like cake are getting Boston cream pie which is still cake.

    And if I haven't thanked you for making the suggestion that was ultimately implemented, thank you.

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  63. But if Netflix began giving us movies and cake, and we liked the cake, and Netflix later said "we're switching to pie," those who were really liking the cake might think of it as a lesser value

    Except that Netflix didn't switch to pie, they just added icing to the cake.

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  64. Boston cream pie is still cake

    LoL :)

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  65. private cake, hold the icingSeptember 15, 2007 at 12:03 PM

    curious: fine, if you don't like my analogy, I'll use yours... some people were allergic to the icing, and were faced with losing the cake they so enjoyed with their movies. Netflix took our needs into consideration and decided to continue offering cake without icing.

    You're still getting your icing. What's the problem?

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  66. Zowzer! This is getting really REALLY silly, people. I'm pretty sure we all 'get' where each camp stands on this by now, but clearly no amount of words are going to get anyone to change their positions. Besides, the only position that really matters is Netflix', and they've already, to their great credit, shifted theirs by at least a foot -- mainly because of the great case that was made in the previous thread. But rehashing it (no analogy intended!) ad nauseam just has us going round in ever decreasing circles.

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  67. You're still getting your icing. What's the problem?

    That's the point. Those who like icing are fine, but those are allergic to icing insist that netflix change the icing. As if it's Netflix's fault they are allergic. If you're allergic you can't play.

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  68. private cake, public moviesSeptember 15, 2007 at 1:23 PM

    No, we didn't insist that Netflix change the icing. We did ask if we could keep getting our cake without icing, because we rather liked it, and they said yes. We didn't want icing banned. Your icing was never in question.

    We'd also like our icing preference to be separate from our movie preference -- does that negatively affect you in some way? If Netflix gives us that too and those of us with private friends can again share our movie profiles, is that a bad thing?

    Does anyone seriously think that Netflix is going to stop delivering enhancements? It sounds to me like Michael is far from finished. Really, what's the problem?

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  69. I personally love the idea of the new friends concept but i can understand others not feeling the same-- thanks for the compromise-- thats good biz and good c/s.

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  70. does that negatively affect you in some way Actually it does very much - Weren't we supposed to get our cake with icing this weekend? Where is it?

    GH567F9

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  71. It was delayed because of the requested icing change.

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  72. "Sometime this weekend" became "Monday." This affects you very much? Michael will be thrilled to hear that.

    I know the wait seems unbearable, but just imagine how great that icing is going to be. Once it's here, you'll have forgotten this whole sordid affair.

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  73. Once it's here, you'll have forgotten this whole sordid affair

    Now that you mention it, it may indeed be worth the wait. Come Monday, there will be no more whining for further privacy protection. And no more wishing for additional privacy options to hide friends or identities.

    All this privacy complaining will be over and we can get on with complaint-free enhancements.

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  74. Actually, this Monday's release is only a small step in the right direction. There will need to be additional tweaks and twinges to get the privacy aspect just right so everyone can play.

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  75. To those of you at netflix, thanks for understanding those of us with privacy concerns. I appreciate it.

    I will say this though. I am concerned with this whole "community" thing you seem obsessed with. I am not a member of myspace, facebook or any of those type of sites. I do not want to be. I joined netflix to rent movies, and I am in favor of whatever you can do to that will help me find more movies that I will enjoy. Sharing likes and dislikes with specific friends is one of those. But not at the expense of my privacy.

    I happen to think netflix is the currently the best online movie rental site. But if I find that netflix has decided to turn itself into some kind of social networking site that just happens to rent movies at the expense of my privacy, I will have to leave and go elsewhere.

    I consider my rental history, tastes, and relationships to be personal information, and any feature that exposes that information to others should be strictly opt-in. Am I being overly paranoid, maybe. But respecting that desire for privacy is the only way you'll keep me, and plenty of other people's business.

    thanks,

    DW

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  76. @DW. Eloquently and persuasively put. And even though my rating history (etc.), when merely attached to an abstract cyber entity doesn't happen to bother me, I understand and respect that it bothers you. And if Netflix didn't before, I believe that it does now.

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  77. addendum : ...I believe that it does now, but only time will tell.

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  78. Am I being overly paranoid

    Definitely

    I consider my rental history, tastes, and relationships to be personal information, and any feature that exposes that information to others should be strictly opt-in

    Then you are definitely in the right place as it is totally opt-in. You have the option to not participate.

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  79. @ Becky Glass from September 14, 2007 7:20 PM

    Re: deleting friends... when I had checked yesterday the Preferences and all the other buttons except the first were gone from the Community tab. I thought they had made the change early and I was wondering where they moved the delete/rename friends links. Now I see they're all back. Thanks for answering, though.

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  80. So - if I mark myself as private, that protects my friends from being seen by my other friends, and me from random surfing. But what if one of my friends stays "public" -- am I then visible to all their other friends and faves, or does my privacy selection prevent me from being seen entirely?

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  81. Most of you just do not understand. It is all about finding movies-- it has nothing to do with finding or meeting people. This is not a Myspace deal it is helping people find movies they would not be able to find otherwise. With over 85k movies and growing. Personally I am excited to see more queue's and get more movie ideas. As far as privacy is concerned-- seriously what personal information is going to get out there beyond a nickname? Seriously, I am not bashing anyone here but I think some people need a reality check. Instead of having people focus on what "NEW" release they are not getting they can find some great older films that are much much better and no one has to wait on. Again, I am really excited for monday. Oh and the people complaining on here are a very very very very small minority of Netflix members.

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  82. Actually, this Monday's release is only a small step in the right direction. There will need to be additional tweaks and twinges to get the privacy aspect just right so everyone can play.

    Jeesh! That's what I'm afraid of. Do they ever stop?

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  83. @anonymous 8:01PM (three comments back) - If you choose a "private" profile, you will not show up at all on your Friends' pages. YES, your privacy selection does prevent you from being seen entirely.

    Which is kind of an interesting thing, actually. Some people have said that maybe some people don't want to expose their lack of Friends. I have 21 Netflix Friends, but if they all chose to have private profiles, it would look like I didn't have any Friends (at least until I add some Favs).

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  84. @ yet another anonymous poster from September 15, 2007 9:02 PM

    Oh and the people complaining on here are a very very very very small minority of Netflix members.

    Just curious... how do you know this?

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  85. Download Free MoviesSeptember 16, 2007 at 6:47 AM

    why would I not want my friends to see my other friends?

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  86. why would I not want my friends to see my other friends?

    Can of worms = open!

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  87. why would I not want my friends to see my other friends?

    Because people will be embarrassed when exposed that they have no or few friends.

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  88. You know what I love about all this? It’s that so many of you are so smart, creative, and funny… and so willing to do the very hard work of understanding where other people are coming from even if you don’t particularly share their perspective.

    I can’t think of a more awkward medium for debate than a blog. It can be so frustrating. I wish this were a forum instead. Threads would more likely stay on topic, and be easier to find. People could debate the finer points to their hearts content with private messaging and without taking over a thread. The medium itself is frustrating enough to raise tempers, even without particular controversy. But most of us hung tough, made a genuine effort to actually communicate, and that was just great to see.


    Becky :)

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  89. Just curious... how do you know this?

    Because if the majority of internet users were so afraid of identity exposure, there'd be no on-line banking, and no on-line shopping. There will always be identity theft, but one must also consider the downside of having that identity stolen. Theft of your on-line banking identity could result in financial loss. Theft of your on-line Netflix identity could result in loss of....well, I'm not real sure. But I don't think it would be that bad.

    There's a downside to everything one does on-line, but the worrying and fretting being done here seems largely unfounded, and is indeed probably held by a vast yet vocal minority.

    Bottom-line: If one is uncomfortable using an on-line venue, one can always choose to not participate.

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  90. How come there was never a poll on this divisive issue? e.g :

    1. Opt-out of the larger community (if you even know that you're about to be opted-in automatically).

    2. Keep the site and revelation of personal info as they are now, and opt-in to 'play' with a larger community if you want to.


    Why can't we all be kept happy with #2? There's obviously no 'right' or 'wrong' here, just opinions. Or, as a certain particularly cerebral (if indecisive) young Dane once put it very much more elegantly : "...there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so".

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  91. How come there was never a poll on this divisive issue?

    Because multi-million dollar companies are not run by blogger polls.

    Keep the site and revelation of personal info as they are now, and opt-in to 'play' with a larger community if you want to.

    This is how it will be. There will be an option to "not play" for those who wish not to. But apparently that's not good enough for some. Some want to change the rules and THEN play.

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  92. Michael wouldn't post polls if he didn't find the feedback instructive -- and you're absolutely right, Netflix is VERY unusual and deserves great applause for doing so. But it might give us a better idea of the relative proportion of yeas vs. nays (or vice versa!) than all these arrogant pronouncements that this or that MUST be so just because someone table-thumpingly declaims that it is.

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  93. And, anon #87, if you don't understand the difference between 'opt-in' and 'opt-out' it's rather hard to take your arguments seriously.

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  94. Hmmm, interesting. Between the 2 threads there are now 288 posts on this privacy issue. I'm just amazed at the amount of pressure there turns out to have been in this particular cooker! But it seems to be almost more about demanding respect, and rightly so, from people with differing views than it is about privacy. And that one's going to be pretty hard to resolve in a blog when so many people are still being systematically 'cleansed' for not sharing the 'prevailing wisdom'.

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  95. Random anonymous poster: This is how it will be. There will be an option to "not play" for those who wish not to. But apparently that's not good enough for some. Some want to change the rules and THEN play.

    Wow, you've got that exactly backwards. Let's try and clarify:

    Up till now we've all been able to add people to our friends list and share our queues and ratings with friends. The list of friends has been secret both from the public and the people on our friends list.

    Suddenly netflix announces here, that our list of friends will public to the whole world, so we can look at our friends' friends and random strangers' friends.

    Some of us say whoa! I don't like that! The response of you and initially from netflix is, if you don't like it, then don't use the friends feature.

    So you see, we're not asking to change the rule, we're asking to be able to keep it like it was, but still let other people share their lists of friends if they want to.


    And everybody who keeps going, "but it's anonymous, who cares?" you really don't get it. So here's one of those examples you keep complaining that nobody gives:

    Let's say I have two people on my friends list.

    1. My ultra-religious conservative grandmother.

    2. A gay friend who rents nothing but borderline soft-core porn and slasher movies.

    I'll point out that my grandmother does know who I am, this is a surprise to many of you, but just try and accept it and bear with me.

    Now up until now I had two things going for me, first, that grandma can't see my other friend's list, and second, if I rent something that I know would offend her, I can mark just that movie private and avoid the lecture on my loose morals and sinful ways. Then along comes Michael and says hey, we're going to show grandma your friends list so she can look at everything he's watching. What? Why's that a problem? Well if you don't like it you'll just have to remove them from your friends list.

    Fortunately the people that count have seen the light and realized that for this, and numerous other reasons, making our friends list public without our consent might be a problem for some portion of their customers. To those who still don't get it all I can say is thank god you're not in charge.

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  96. This whole argument - takes the cake!

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  97. It's unfortunate that we can't play in the community without showing who our friends are, but I'm glad we don't have to delete our friends to keep them private from each other. Here's hoping that Netflix soon allows us back into the community without forcing us compromise our privacy.

    I'm wondering what will happen with those who didn't bother to read the email advising those who want privacy to opt-out. Will the poop hit the fan?

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  98. Michael, I know you've got a kinda full plate of cake, icing, pie and cheese right now but is there any way for someone to monitor and delete spam like this? :(

    ReplyDelete
  99. michael, from netflixSeptember 16, 2007 at 7:58 PM

    @Spamaphobe

    Yes... i do what i can. Fortunately, or unfortunately, on Friday the Netflix Community Blog was selected as a "Blog That Matters" and was featured prominently on the Blogger site -- effectively tripling our already robust readership. Before this, we rarely had any spam here. Now I've been deleting one or three a day. It should subside soon.

    On other notes, tomorrow is the release. I hope this is fun for those who want to participate, and i apologize to those who feel they must be private and cannot. remember, even if you're private, you can still save folks as "Faves" and you can navigate around through other less private folks. See if it makes you feel better about things; you can always change from private back to public if you start to feel safe in the community. You can still have Friends just like now, and you can still write reviews, just like now. People who like your reviews won't be able to save you. That's about the worst of it. If you change your mind, it'll be great to have you join us. And it is your prerogative.

    This, by the way, has been the most amazing online discussion it has ever been my pleasure to participate in. It's true it might have been easier to explore if it was in a forum-type format, but don't forget, this blog itself is only an experiment, 3 months old. And it has been appropriate given the limitations. I'm enjoying it, find it useful, and i hope y'all do to.

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  100. that grandma can't see my other friend's list, and second, if I rent something that I know would offend her, I can mark just that movie private and avoid the lecture on my loose morals and sinful ways. Then along comes Michael and says hey, we're going to show grandma your friends list so she can look at everything he's watching.

    But you can mark all your friends as private. That's the point.

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  101. Well, I won’t be going public again until I regain privacy for my friends. It’ s good to know I can still collect faves and give some good reviewers a boost out there when I run across them. Hope the cake is good and tasty.

    Meanwhile, I’ll be… *gasp*

    Watching movies. ;)

    Becky

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  102. Bye, bye Becky. Some of us at least will miss your quietly fierce yet gracious presence. And Michael, thanks for being so startlingly on the ball re spam, and for your kind words despite the occasional unkind incomings.

    And now let's all just cross our fingers that there are no stories on tomorrow's evening news about some bible and shotgun toting grandma that's gone on the rampage after discovering that her grandson's friend's friend of a friend rented 'The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.' ;)

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  103. if I rent something that I know would offend her, I can mark just that movie private and avoid the lecture on my loose morals and sinful ways.

    So, in other words, you want Netflix to protect you from something you perhaps shouldn't be doing.

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  104. Hey buster, you really don't have any friends or relatives who's feelings you care about, but who are rather, shall we say, 'behind the times' in their thinking? If any of them were on your Friends list you'd really not rent any movie that might offend them even if that meant only ever renting PG 13 movies -- doesn't have to be soft porn, just any movie that has any sex, drugs or violence it it? How much sense does that make? Netflix' making it possible to rent any movie you want without upsetting people you care about was a truly brilliant and socially conscious addition to the site.

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  105. FYI: (for interested late comers)

    In order to see all the posts on privacy so far, you need to also take a look at “This Weekend’s Release.”

    Becky

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  106. So, in other words, you want Netflix to protect you from something you perhaps shouldn't be doing.

    Hi Grandma!

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  107. Hi Grandma!

    You have no way knowing if that was Grandma or not. This is all anonymous! It's anonymous I tell you! No one will ever in a million billion years be able to figure anything out!

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  108. Hello, my dears. My, how you’ve all grown so. Maybe you should cut back on all the cake.

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  109. It's over, guys. Let it go, and move on.

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  110. It's over, guys. Let it go, and move on.

    You are no fun. You can't tell when people are playing.

    No cake for you!

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  111. @The Cake Nazi. Yes dear, we all got that, but - just like cakes - jokes eventually get REAL stale.

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  112. The Cake Nazi. Yes dear, we all got that, but - just like cakes - jokes eventually get REAL stale.

    So, you are the big dictator of thread topics now? Every blog has one, I suppose.

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  113. Fair point, and my apologies. We all sometimes wander off topic and need someone to get the blog back on topic so that it's of some use to Netflix -- our sponsor, if you will. But it's all in how you say it, and I don't like being TOLD what I can and can't talk about by some self-appointed blog traffic cop either, so please, the floor is all yours.

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  114. Movie Privacy has become an issue for me because my conservative cousin is now a friend of mine. I have over 4000 movies rated and when I go to the movie privacy page it does not show them all. For movies I rated years ago but now want to mark private it is very difficult. I had to add it to the queue and then go back to the privacy page, wait for it to load mark it private and then go back and remove from my queue. I would like a way to get to all my movie (not just 1,490 of them), the problem is that page takes a good 5 minutes to load as it is now. What I would like to see is an option at the movie at a glance page to be able to choose a mark private check box or link or something. I would also like to see a feature that allows me to mark private from some and not from others. What I tried to do to get around this resulted in a bug. Yes, I found a BUG in your system. I marked a movie private, a few would be protected from it but then sent a note about it some other friends. Well here is the bug: When I left a note about "XYZ" my friends saw a part of the note (the highlight) on the MemberHome page when first logging in but then could not read the rest of the note when they went to the movie at a glance page. I later figured out the the note did show up in their note book but my friends didn't know how to get there and the link they clicked that said "read more" directed them to the movie at a glance page where there was no note. I would like to be able to share a note with certain friends on a movie marked private to others. This should be easy enough to fix so the 'Leave a note' overrides the privacy. Another option would be a "Privacy applies to XYX friend" choice. An option to choose which friends the privacy applies to and which it does not. Thanks for your help and for all the additional features.
    Thanks again!
    Matt

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  115. I'd love it if we could someday see the notes left my our faves on a movie page when we visit it as well. This is my favorite feature of Netflix for the friends area too.

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