Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Predict the Oscar Winners

(this is a snapshot)

I wasn't sure if y'all would be interested in this, but I was playing with it myself and thought some of you are well-informed enough about such things and might have a "winning" opinion.
What's Your Oscar Vote?

Click on: www.netflix.com/Oscars

Friday, January 18, 2008

Sundance 2008

While many of my co-workers will continue diligently working next week, some of us will be in Park City watching about 15 movies in 5 days. It's not part of my job to be at Sundance, but if you love movies Netflix has a tradition of letting you go. Consequently, blog updates will go on hiatus next week. (I may blog about the festival, but it will be on my personal blog, for those interested.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Nouveau Netflix Lexicon

I have to alert y'all about a very cool blog posting I just saw called "Terminology for the Netflix Fanatic" - where Ryan Sims (and his readers) present some terms for Netflixers, for instance:

- the act of Netflixing a movie, watching 15 minutes of it, deciding you don't like it and thus, promptly return it.

Notflixing - the act of Netflixing a movie which sits on your coffee table for at least a week (if not much, much longer) and you send it back without watching it.

Netflux – the period between movies, for those of us on the 1 DVD at a time plan.

- Recieve movie, start watching movie, becomes a bit boring, or not what you expected but you still want to know what happens in the end so you watch the movie in fast forward, occationally watching portions that look halfway intresting.

Read his entire set and the comments for the full entertaining flavor. (thanks to Andrea for sending this in)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Message Board v.2

Wow. That certainly didn't take long... 2 pretty good days and then a pile of spam...

okay, for those just tuning in, i've temporarily removed the link to the message board system we were messing around with. It was a good start, and i'll look into this some more -- and find a better system. In the meantime, THANK YOU for participating. I'll see what controls i have to prevent that sort of thing from going haywire like that.

Missing Reviews on Community Home

A few of you noticed this already, and frankly - i'm seeing it on my account too - so i've asked the team to dig in and see if they can figure out whatsup. I'm sure this is pretty widespread, but i'm also confident no data is being lost, and it's a presentation issue. More when I know more.

We have identified the source of the problem and will be working on the fix today.

I believe this is fixed. If you don't see this working shortly, please post. Thanks for your help, everyone.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Message Board?

I'm really not sure about this, but i found this site and thought i'd try it:

<[LINK REMOVED 1/13/07 10PM PST]>

Let's try a little 2-week experiment and see if this works. Is this the kind of thing you were asking for? Is there a better site than "boardhost" to try it out?

UPDATE: I totally agree-- the phpBB.com solution is far better than the boardhost. Okay. I'm going to explore phpBB, and in the meantime, i'll leave the link there, but i expect it's only to see how this might be used -- this in all likelihood will NOT be our long-term solution. Just a conversation starter for the next couple weeks. Thanks Able-x!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Community Effects

It's friday night and i should be doing something else, but the kids are finally asleep and my wife is downstairs having tea with a friend. And i'm wondering if you'll allow me to think outloud.

Netflix has got almost 100,000 titles.* A lot of content. Some of it has been seen by lots of folks and some by few. Some is quality and some is crappy. I've watched a lot of it -- some of y'all have watched TONS -- but as individuals we've still only scratched the surface... having seen about 2-4% of this catalog would make you fanatical. And more comes in all the time.

You're the "community" at Netflix. The people who like movies, watch a lot of movies, and talk about movies with some frequency. I wonder how you can help us find movies to get, help us identify the good stuff, and then help spread the word to other (less exploratory) people? What is the best way to do this? Really. How would you propose we maximize our collective wisdom about movies and get that in front of other people? The studios pay a fortune to generate interest in their super expensive movies. It's easy to find those. The new releases, as current debates would indicate, have plenty of interest in them. The question is how to discover hidden gems and generate interest in them.

Sophisticated searching tools will help some people, certainly. But most people don't use them, and instead rely on either netflix's predictions, or other people, to help them find something good to watch. While Todd and team work to make the predictions better -- my bet is that a community of people can be a better tool to find, vet, and recommend movies. So how can we do a better job of that? Help me prove this is a more powerful recommendation tool.


(*I'm not trying to overstate this; it was 85K, then 90K, it will sometime be 100K and soon after that even more. The point is this is a big number.)

Reporting Problems

Just a quick note.

When you post comments that involve a problem you are having on your Netflix experience, or something odd that is happening, or anything you think we should investigate, we need to know who you are in order to look into it. It is unwise to post your email address in this public forum, and it doesn't really help us that much anyway. What we need is your customer ID. You can grab an encoded version of this by (a) go to the Community tab, then (b) click on your Profile tab in the sidebar. The URL includes the info we need. It's suitably useless to anyone else such that it doesn't jeopardize your privacy or security by posting it (and messing with these only makes for some odd screen anomalies, but no data risk). The full URL should look something like this (this is mine):


What we need is the prid=30381689 part.

Just to manage your expectations, this is no guarantee that we will be able to help -- and remember, the blog is NOT customer service, we're the engineering teams, but since many of you find bugs for us, this would really help in the research. It's up to you.

This has come up periodically over the past many months and i hope this will be the definitive source here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

This Weekend's Release

I'm only going to address some of the smaller items that the Community team has opportunistically tweaked on the site.

The first is simply a very prominently presented link to the blog (the link is on the far right):

The second is a simple re-ordering of the movies in actors/director's filmographies. It may not seem like much, but this has been somewhat irksome to many of us here for some time. On the left/top is the presentation today (movies sorted alphabetically), on the right/bottom is the new presentation (sorted by release date).

We've cleaned up some of the logic on the Movie Lists page, which should make this more useful -- although the improvements may not be so obvious. Most of the work in Community these days is behind-the-scenes: a larger effort that will take some time to roll out. I promise to alert you to what is coming as it approaches release later this quarter. In the meantime, my team will only be releasing smaller tweaks (some might not even be noticable) to the site you use.

These changes were live on the site beginning at 6pm Friday evening, Jan 11. Check 'em out.

(I will let some others around here blog post news about the New Release pages, which i believe will be shortly.)
UPDATE 1/11/08 - I've just been told that the more official update won't be posted to the blog until mid-next week, I'm sorry to report.
UPDATE 1/17/08 3pm - All the teams here continue to read your comments and work on this issue, but there is nothing new to report.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year.

What follows are the observations of a Netflix subscriber of 7 years, who has been an employee for 2. Me. I don’t know what “the company” is going to do about this situation, but I do know that lots of people up and down the ranks have been following your comments and petition with sincere interest, (also watching carefully the internal data we have about the use patterns surrounding these pages) and that it really wouldn’t surprise me if something changed on the site vis a vis this issue, but I really wouldn’t know what, or when, or even if it would be satisfactory.

At the risk of oversimplification, I will offer the following notes.

(1) A lot of people are unhappy with the loss of the Releasing This Week page. For a number of people it was one cornerstone of your Netflix site experience, and the loss of this page is serious and for many, painful.
(2) Netflix has very good data that shows that regardless of what you might believe to the contrary, the majority of members do not like to add movies to their Queues that cannot be shipped out immediately. “Short wait” or even “Long Wait” is bound to happen once in a while to everyone, but the more it happens, the worse we know it is. Internally, Netflix measures our success in terms of the percentage of members who get the first movie in their Queue in one day. This is our goal.
(3) It goes without saying that Netflix could up the supply of movies in demand so that waits were shorter (or non-existent). But doing so would require spending more on movies, which might result at some point in higher prices – and we work very hard to find the right balance to keep prices fair and inventory good. I believe Netflix does a remarkable job at this, but that is neither here nor there. The fact is that we buy what we buy, and there will always be discrepancies between supply and demand for individual movies from time to time.

When Netflix presents movies on the pages of the site, these are by definition customized for each individual member, based on our best guess about the kinds of movies you watch and enjoy. We won’t promote a movie that we cannot deliver. This is, however, a generalization.

There are many pages on the site where we have no option but to show you a movie whether it is available or not. Search results, for instance. You want to find movie A, and we present it with no regard to its availability. You look up a director and want to see their filmography. Ditto.

These are cases that are clear, but still somewhat challenging: but we feel that a member’s desire to find what they are looking for outweighs our knowledge that it might bum them out by not having it in stock tonight.

Which brings us to the old New Release pages. They were fundamentally like Search pages – just lists of movies. Certainly very convenient for people who come to the site often. Not pretty but understandably efficient.

For those of you who are upset (which I guess is most of you), the loss of this very efficient page would seem pretty moronic. But we know that some of the titles on this page each week are not deliverable right away. And while many clearly miss the page, when it was online this aspect was upsetting many people and therefore causing us a problem.

In testing (which was done on lots of people with a range of use habits), the sliders were really appreciated. All the movies presented are immediately available, and for people who were not addicted to the old page, it was (and continues to be) a very satisfying way to find movies. The number of movies added to member’s Queues from this new page truly exceeds the old page--ie., more people are adding more movies from this new page. And since everything on it is available now, it works nicely for us too. In theory this is a win-win.

Of course, you understand the problem: the old page was great for you. And the new page utterly fails to replace it for you.

Now I am not here to convince you that you should love the new page. I miss the old page too. But I would like you to see that the change was not capricious, nor the product of meddling by designers, or product managers who are brainless (this last point just hurts). But that also doesn’t excuse us for messing up your previously pleasant use of the site.

I have no idea if this short essay helps, nor if the somewhat simplified explanation does the complexity justice, but I thought I’d give it a shot. I know from personal experience that when I’m super angry there is little that can be said that will provide solace short of giving in to my demands. And if that is the case, so be it.

But, as I said earlier: this is a first step. And your feedback is helping us iterate on the work as well as to try to construct other alternatives that balance members' somewhat mutually exclusive desires. We are exploring a range of possibilities, and as I can talk about them (or if I need to make corrections to my explanation) I’ll keep you posted.