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Build a Better Netflix, Win a Million Dollars?

CmdrTaco posted about 8 years ago | from the trumps-our-redesign-contest dept.

197

An anonymous reader writes "In a quest to better movie recommendations, Netflix is opening their database (nytimes, registration and first child required) to users to try to craft a better recommendation technology. The problem is not easy. Says one researcher: 'You're competing with 15 years of really smart people banging away at the problem.'" Recommender systems are really an interesting problem, and that is likely very interesting data to play with.

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database? (0)

Franio (964631) | about 8 years ago | (#16276969)

"Nothing for you to see here. Please move along."

Have they now?

Re:database? (1)

NoTheory (580275) | about 8 years ago | (#16277115)

I saw this last night in the wee hours of the morning (EST), and still can not find a link to the contest on the netflix site for the life of me.

Anyone else have better luck?

Re:database? (1)

curtisk (191737) | about 8 years ago | (#16277267)

Not even a mention in their press releases section [netflix.com] ....hmmmmmm?

Re:database? (1)

mkosma (878701) | about 8 years ago | (#16277269)

http://www.netflixprize.com/ [netflixprize.com]

I submitted this to /. with a link, but apparently wasn't the first.

Seems like a free gift for Netflix to me... (2, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | about 8 years ago | (#16276999)

If no one wins within a year, Netflix will award $50,000 to whoever makes the most progress above a 1 percent improvement, and will award the same amount each year until someone wins the grand prize.

But if someone does win within a year they will still have the ability to use others' code, free of charge, as part of their product.

The article doesn't say but how will you know if your code is making choices better than their existing system? I wouldn't be submitting my code unless I was sure I was going to win. Then again I'm not a gambler or a coder ;)

Challenge Accepted (1)

bigattichouse (527527) | about 8 years ago | (#16277011)

I officially announce I will be entering BigAtticHouse's Vectorspace Database into the melee. At least to see what might come of it.

So, we can then conclude (3, Funny)

jimstapleton (999106) | about 8 years ago | (#16277015)

Says one researcher: "You're competing with 15 years of really smart people banging away at the problem."


So, the professionals have been working at it for a long time. Is it safe to assume some teenage to early college hacker will find a success within two weeks.

Re:So, we can then conclude (1)

no_pets (881013) | about 8 years ago | (#16277469)

Who knows? But one thing is for sure, the teen or college hacker won't be worried about continued employment.

Simple (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16277023)

if(user.getGender()==Person.MALE)
recomendation=MovieGenre.PORN;
else
recomendation=MovieGenre.CHICKFLICK;

And of course, slashdot must have sensed my post as my image word is "pervert"

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16277993)

And of course, slashdot must have sensed my post as my image word is "pervert"

That, or maybe it sensed you are a former Florida Congressman.

Re:Simple (4, Funny)

kelzer (83087) | about 8 years ago | (#16278055)

Old Version:

if(user.getGender()==Person.MALE)
recomendation=MovieGenre.PORN;
else
recomendation=MovieGenre.CHICKFLICK;

New Version, sure to win the million bucks:

if(user.getGender()==Person.MALE && user.getOrientation()==Person.STRAIGHT)
recomendation=MovieGenre.PORN;
else
recomendation=MovieGenre.CHICKFLICK;

Re:Simple (1)

gambit3 (463693) | about 8 years ago | (#16278121)

ahh.. but what if the user is gay?

Gay porn? or chick flick?

--
Go where Web Thinkers gather [webcogito.com]

Bah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16277025)

A lot of ppl is going to waste mucho time on this one. I recommend watching the movie Syriana instead.

I had a thought like this a while back... (4, Interesting)

AceCaseOR (594637) | about 8 years ago | (#16277031)

..except, instead of making it open to the community (which is not a bad idea, I must say) I thought of having Google do it. This is, perhaps, IMHO, a much better idea. Now, what we really need is a Movie Genome Project, much like the Music Genome project that lead to Pandora.

Re:I had a thought like this a while back... (1)

Boone^ (151057) | about 8 years ago | (#16277127)

Pandora's recommendations are really spot on. I rarely have to give one the thumbs down.

go see porn sites (3, Interesting)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | about 8 years ago | (#16277035)

They have decent tech for building similar/recommended alternative pages.
Especially the newer blogish type pages where theres a gallery and a small selection underneath.

Not that I would know of course.

Re:go see porn sites (1)

MustardMan (52102) | about 8 years ago | (#16277633)

What kind of horrible person are you, to make a statement like this and not link to an example of the tech in action... you know, for illustrative purposes.

Suggestion (5, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | about 8 years ago | (#16277045)

As a NetFlix user I have one suggestion for their recommendation system that can make it much better. Make it aware of the connection between series. That is to say, If you rent season 1 of something, suggest season 2, not season 4 (even if season 4 has better review ratings). If I mark season 1 of something as "not interested" instead of giving it a user rating, don't suggest every other season of that same show at the top of my recommendations. I mean how many times do I have to tell you I don't want to see any season of "Friends" ever, even if you pay me?

Re:Suggestion (1)

Xentor (600436) | about 8 years ago | (#16277271)

Just a nitpick... If I mark, say, season 1 of series X as Not Interested, maybe it means I already own it and have no need to rent it, but still might want to see season 2.

Of course, if I marked it as 1-star (Which I assume means "Utter crap"), then as you said, it should shut the hell up about the rest of the series.

Re:Suggestion (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | about 8 years ago | (#16277339)

Just a nitpick... If I mark, say, season 1 of series X as Not Interested, maybe it means I already own it and have no need to rent it, but still might want to see season 2. Of course, if I marked it as 1-star (Which I assume means "Utter crap"), then as you said, it should shut the hell up about the rest of the series.

I disagree. If you have it, you presumably have watched it and should give it a rating. You do have interest in it, or you would not have bought it. So things you mark as 1 star should probably reduce the chances that you want to see later seasons, but marking it is not interested should reduce it even further.

Re:Suggestion (1, Funny)

955301 (209856) | about 8 years ago | (#16277501)

I didn't like Star Wars:Episode I very much. Episode 4 was great though.

Re:Suggestion (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | about 8 years ago | (#16277739)

I didn't like Star Wars:Episode I very much. Episode 4 was great though.

Right, so you might mark episode I, (technically number 4 by release order and prequels generally suck so I think this should be the ordering mechanism) as 2 stars or even 1. You wouldn't mark it as not interested, since from your comment you were interested enough to watch it. If, however, you were so disinterested in episode I so as to mark it as not interested (meaning you did not watch it and don't ever want to) then the chances are you probably would not be very interested in seeing episode 4 either.

Re:Suggestion (1)

mmalove (919245) | about 8 years ago | (#16278141)

Funny, Star Wars was the first thing to pop in my head too.

Damn prequels.

I think this is an awesome idea for development - let the whole world offer solutions and spend only a million dollars. Most companies would spend that much just on a consultant team to tell them their current system sucks.

Re:Suggestion (3, Insightful)

Xentor (600436) | about 8 years ago | (#16277537)

Hmm, I see your point.

I was about to mention that I mark things as Not Interested when I own them, to avoid being reccommended the rest (Usually because I prefer to buy series I like, and rent actual movies), but then I realized that fits into what you said perfectly.

Point conceded.

Re:Suggestion (4, Funny)

truthsearch (249536) | about 8 years ago | (#16277861)

Point conceded.

For the record, this is a turning point in slashdot history. I'll forever remember where I was when I first saw those words in a slashdot comment. (Which of course is at work, sitting through a boring meeting.)

Re:Suggestion (1)

borgboy (218060) | about 8 years ago | (#16277977)

I for one welcome our civilized /.-posting Overlords.

Re:Suggestion (1)

blugu64 (633729) | about 8 years ago | (#16278225)

Kinda reminds me of that moment in 2001 when the ape threw the bone into the sky....

Re:Suggestion (1)

rthille (8526) | about 8 years ago | (#16277563)

Right, the way I think of it is that I had to be interested enough to watch the movie to see that it was a 1-star. 'Not interested' means that just based on what I heard about it, I knew I didn't want to see it. I could be a fantastically done movie, say 'Remains of the Day' or something, but it's not something I'm interested in. It's more indicitative of the kind of movies I'm interested in than a 1-star rating. After all, it could be that the premise/plot-line of movie that I wanted to see, but the writing/direction/acting sucked. That's less likely to match up between two movies than premise/plot-line.

Re:Suggestion (1)

LordNimon (85072) | about 8 years ago | (#16277883)

Then the real problem is that "not interested" means two completely different things. Like you said, one way around that is to check whether the TV series was voted on, but I have a different angle. If I say I'm not interested, but I rated it, that means that I've seen it. If I haven't rated it at all, it means I'm really not interested in it.

Re:Suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16277593)

I would be happy if they didn't ask me to rate movies that I returned as physically defective without asking for it to be sent again

"I never saw the movie...you want me to rate it?"

Re:Suggestion (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | about 8 years ago | (#16277773)

Well, their records indicate that you rented it twice, so you clearly enjoyed it a lot. : p

Privacy issues? (3, Interesting)

Vultan (468899) | about 8 years ago | (#16277063)

How will they handle privacy issues? Don't the same issues appear here that appeared with the AOL data this summer? With enough ratings you can narrow down to a specific person, and then find out about all the pr0n that this person has been getting as well.

Re:Privacy issues? (1)

Violet Null (452694) | about 8 years ago | (#16277217)

The AOL search ratings were different because the searches could include things like cities, proper names, phone numbers, and other such pieces of identifiable information. The movie ratings have none of that. You might be able to dig through the list and find the person who rated "Goat donkey pr0n" highly and laugh at them, but there's no information there that'll tell you who it was.

Re:Privacy issues? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16277557)

No porn from netflix. I'm wondering about your concern too though. Even though they might not publish the indentifyable information AOL has, it still makes me wonder if rating movies is such a good idea in light of this.

Re:Privacy issues? (3, Informative)

Cruise_WD (410599) | about 8 years ago | (#16278097)

From http://www.netflixprize.com/ [netflixprize.com] :

To prevent certain inferences being drawn about the Netflix customer base, some of the rating data for some customers in the training and qualifying sets have been deliberately perturbed in one or more of the following ways: deleting ratings; inserting alternative ratings and dates; and modifying rating dates.

Plus all the usual replacing of IDs and such you'd expect. Looks like they're trying to avoid a repeat of the AOL debacle at least.

Re:Privacy issues? (2, Insightful)

Shihar (153932) | about 8 years ago | (#16278101)

The AOL search was an issue because you could look at search requests for places and figure out where someone was very quickly. If I use Google to plot the rout to the nearest IKEA or porn store, it is a pretty simple matter to trace back who someone is. Short of some serious stupidity, I couldn't imagine Netflix giving away any valuable information in identity theft. A list of movies is highly unlikely to lead to anyone's address or identity.

Re:Privacy issues? (1)

bahbar (982972) | about 8 years ago | (#16278267)

From the netflix rules [netflixprize.com] :
"To protect customer privacy, all personal information identifying individual customers has been removed and all customer ids have been replaced by randomly-assigned ids. The date of each rating and the title and year of release for each movie are provided. No other customer or movie information is provided."
Sounds familiar...

And later:
"To prevent certain inferences being drawn about the Netflix customer base, some of the rating data for some customers in the training and qualifying sets have been deliberately perturbed in one or more of the following ways: deleting ratings; inserting alternative ratings and dates; and modifying rating dates. However, the Cinematch RMSE measured on the final, perturbed dataset does not differ significantly from the RMSE measured on the unperturbed dataset for the purposes of Grand or Progress Prize qualification described below. The RMSE values reported below represent the RMSE measured on both the perturbed and unperturbed datasets to the precision specified above."

Not sure how much that actually protects end users, but they tried a bit more than AOL.

RSSTimes (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 8 years ago | (#16277065)

In a quest to better movie recommendations, Netflix is opening their database (nytimes, registration and first child required)...
Not quite, you can find it here [nytimes.com] (or the minimalist version [nytimes.com] for anyone sick of ads).

Why is it that the Slashdot editors are just too damn lazy to look up the RSS feed links to these pages?

The problem is not easy. Says one researcher: "You're competing with 15 years of really smart people banging away at the problem."
While this may be true, I wouldn't let it deter you. Collaborative filtering is a field that is far from dead. The interesting thing about collaborative filtering is that on the surface, it seems pretty straight forward but once you dig into the mechanics of it, there is actually a lot of playing you can do. Ironically, the way you display the data to the end user is often what determines how well of a job you did.

Allow me to take a naïve approach at this topic and say we generate a movie index of each person. I would have A Clockwork Orange and Koyaanisqatsi at 5 while The Ring 2 would be at the very low end. My friend might have similar movies. If he has A Clockwork Orange up there, you might be able to compute a Euclidean distance between us. However, this approach falls apart because no one has seen Koyaanisqatsi and of the 20 movies I've ranked highly, they are hard to find.

You don't have to stop there, however. You could also database the movies I marked as "uninterested" or the movies that were presented to me but I didn't vote on. Like if I had seen the offer to mark J-Lo's latest flop but didn't, wouldn't that tell you something about me?

So these caveats present themselves all along the way and, at the end computation, you have many different strategies for this data. For example, while you might not be able to link my friend an I through movies, how far apart are we on a nod network? What I mean is, if you plotted every user in their own dimension depending on the movies they ranked and attempted to compute as good a distance as possible between all users, how far would I be away from my friend by hopping on these nodes? There's a lot of information to be gleaned in this sort of friend-of-a-friend collaborative approach.

Now you need to present this information to the user. Do you just up and recommend him a movie? Do you take Amazon's approach and say "Other people did this -- so should you."? Or do you give them some sort of three dimensional flash plotting of you versus the people nearest to you? Do you allow the user to contact those closest to them? Those farthest away?

My point is that while 15 years of research has been done, it doesn't mean there's been 15 years of testing and implementation which, in the end of creating products, is where most of the importance lies.

About no-login links on /. (2, Insightful)

Ilgaz (86384) | about 8 years ago | (#16277233)

You can trick the NY Times personally but you can't do it from a front page of a widely popular commercial site.

I think it is the reason.

Slashdot can't send thousands of users with a fake referrer to NY Times. That link you provided is for people using RSS readers and subscribed to NY Times RSS feed.

I think they should talk with NY Times web team to allow slashdot readers with referrer=slashdot without needing login. They can arrange it for sure, this isn't a "no name" site.

It would be nice for NY Times for statistics too. I bet they currently have to tweak the statistics for "fake" RSS links from Slashdot.

About "no ads" version: It would be like NY Times mentioning Slashdot and sending people to some other domain (slashdot sux? I forgot) which doesn't have Slashdot ads which makes this site work/pay for the costs. That also means hundreds of thousands users.

I am not apologising for NY Times or trying to start a discussion about advertising, I just say my end user point of view and plain guesses.

I know...credit reports! (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about 8 years ago | (#16277069)

Link everyone's credit report into their movie preferences; I'll bet your complete credit history would give them a 5-10% better chance of picking your movies. But seriously...why isn't this just a regression exercise?

Re:I know...credit reports! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16278285)

Because the problem is not always linearly separable. This is not to say that a linear classifier wouldn't do a decent job (given appropriate slack variables or underlying probability distribution), but to do a really good job - one where you wouldn't be laughing at the recommendations - rule-based techniques (such as association rules, RIPPER, etc) seem to do better. They aren't perfect, of course, and that's why it's an open problem.

You could win smaller amounts too (0, Redundant)

gambit3 (463693) | about 8 years ago | (#16277083)

According to the article, if no one wins within a year, Netflix will award $50,000 to whoever makes the most progress above a 1 percent improvement, every year, until someone wins the grand prize.

--
Go where the Web Thinkers gather [webcogito.com]

Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16277177)

Constructing a perfect recommendation system is easy.

I have discovered a truly marvelous demonstration of this proposition that this post is too narrow to contain.

Copy the Music Genome Project (5, Interesting)

Zaphod-AVA (471116) | about 8 years ago | (#16277179)

The problem with recommendation systems is that they use too little information to catagorize their subject.

What they need to do is copy the methods of the Music Genome Project (www.pandora.com), and list a larger set of attributes for the films. This way it can recommend films by checking many more characteristics, such as director, tone, writer, or subject.

Re:Copy the Music Genome Project (4, Informative)

vontrotsky (667853) | about 8 years ago | (#16277447)

The problem with recommendation systems is that they use too little information to catagorize their subject.

What they need to do is copy the methods of the Music Genome Project (www.pandora.com), and list a larger set of attributes for the films. This way it can recommend films by checking many more characteristics, such as director, tone, writer, or subject.


In this contest, you run your own code and submit the results to NetFlix to be scored. This means that you can use any other data (e.g. A Movie Genome projct) you can compile to enhance your rankings. Netflix apparently specifically designed the contest to allow this.

Re:Copy the Music Genome Project (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16277455)

Just be careful about Planet of the Apes recommendations ...

http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/01/07/09 42205 [slashdot.org]

Re:Copy the Music Genome Project (1)

philipmather (864521) | about 8 years ago | (#16277609)

The other factor is quality of categorisation, SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT AHEAD, I work for a company that's just finished witting a search engine for the British Film Institute (http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/searches.php [bfi.org.uk] ) and I've had the opportunity of trawling through their reasonably extensive database. It's not just the quantity of data that makes this database interesting it's also the quality, their looking at implementing a feedback system to accept corrections and additions (only a very simple system has been implemented to start with) and they've taken the wise decision to to build researcher review into the plans from the start. The BFI has taken on board the lessons that others have had to learn in the past.

Not just the movie characteristics. (1)

khasim (1285) | about 8 years ago | (#16277613)

Yes, they need more characteristics of movies.

But they also need ways to identify the characteristics of people's choices. Right now, one NetFlix account can be used by a whole family. So instead of getting 1 person's characteristic choices (teenage emo goth girl), you get those combined with the other family members (Dad's action films, Mom's chick flicks, Jr's teenage sex comedies).

Eventually, you'd end up with a movie genome cross indexed to a sub-culture.

Movie folksonomy (1)

RomulusNR (29439) | about 8 years ago | (#16277825)

Encourage end-user tagging, compare on popular tags for matching a la LJ "people who have the most in common" search.

Or leech off of IMDB's recommendation system, which seems to be quite good.

Who will win the $$$$??? (1)

pfz (965654) | about 8 years ago | (#16277187)

Recommend Death to Smoochy and Date Movie, please! I hope Richard Stallman enters the contest and wins. I bet he would make good use of the one million dollar prize.

ALTERNATIVE FREEDOM
A documentary about the invisible war on culture.
Features RMS, Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley and the Grey Album), Lawrence Lessig, and more...

http://alternativefreedom.org/ [alternativefreedom.org]

Re:Who will win the $$$$??? (1)

fotbr (855184) | about 8 years ago | (#16277777)

Yeah, another 1,000,000 dollars worth of Stallman doing damage to open source adoption by making a fool out of himself and insisting everyone follow his ideology.

Thanks, but I'm hoping the winner is a couple of smart college guys or girls, and not Stallman

only a million? (2, Interesting)

StandardDeviant (122674) | about 8 years ago | (#16277219)

If you can beat "15 years of really smart people", then your work product probably has more than a million dollars in value if you were to license it out to places like Amazon, eBay, Netflix, etc. Even a 1% improvement in revenues from a 1% improvement in recommendation accuracy is probably worth more than 50K, if sold to the major e-tailers. On the other hand, if you just want an interesting problem to screw around with in your spare time and don't want to go through the bother of forming a company in order to monetize that work, this is a pretty cool opportunity.

Re:only a million? (2, Insightful)

illegalcortex (1007791) | about 8 years ago | (#16277463)

To win and take home either prize, your qualifying submissions must have the largest accuracy improvement verified by the Contest judges, you must share your method with (and non-exclusively license it to) Netflix, and you must describe to the world how you did it and why it works.

So, you could take the money from Netflix, use it to start your business, then license it to the other players, too.

Same as all jobs (1)

suggsjc (726146) | about 8 years ago | (#16278039)

All jobs work this way (or at least they should). Return on Investment. In order for a company to make money, they will pay you a wage. Hopefully you will produce work that is at minimum equivalent to the amount that they pay you. If not, then they will be losing money employing you and if they have decent reporting/management will probably fire you.

Many companies do offer incentive programs (more likely for upper level positions), but is still just a percentage of the actual "value" that you created, not all of it.

Sidenote. We all like to complain about how overpaid execs are. They usually don't have earth shattering ideas. However, if they find a way to increase efficiency by 10% but it is for a $100 million dollar project, then they essentially create $10 million worth of "value." If they only get a 10% cut, then they get a paycheck of $1 million, even if they didn't do any of the work to actually realize the improved efficiency.

Fix the problems with what they send me first (5, Interesting)

Jimmy King (828214) | about 8 years ago | (#16277227)

I wish they'd fix the problems in the logic determining what they actually send me from my queue before fixing problems with what they recommend to me. If I've got season 1 of a show in my queue prior to season 2, don't start sending me season 2 because some disc of season 1 is unavailable (which has happened to me multiple with both netflix and blockbuster online), send me something else completely. They've got the tech to keep one season of a tv show in order, it can't possibly be that difficult to extend that to keeping multiple seasons of a show in order.

On top of that, don't show me that it's available in my queue but send me something else instead. While I haven't asked netflix about this, I have asked blockbuster online, and I imagine they are both doing the same thing. The disc is "available" just not at the warehouse used to ship to me personally. Instead of basing one piece of information off of total stock and one off of local stock, base them both on the stock at the warehouse shipping to me.

Re:Fix the problems with what they send me first (2, Funny)

nine-times (778537) | about 8 years ago | (#16277611)

They've got the tech to keep one season of a tv show in order, it can't possibly be that difficult to extend that to keeping multiple seasons of a show in order.

I thought Netflix users just ripped the movies to their hard drive for later viewing anyway?

Re:Fix the problems with what they send me first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16277779)

Simple solution.

I put all my 'series' sets at the very bottom. I only move one to the top of the queue when I send back the prior one. With ~100 movies on my queue, that keeps #5 of a series from shipping before I have seen #4. #5 languishes around position 96 on the queue or so until I send back #4, then I pop #5 up to the top of my queue.

Re:Fix the problems with what they send me first (1)

Moofie (22272) | about 8 years ago | (#16278045)

There is a fix for that. It's called http://greencine.com./ [greencine.com.] I find the service is a little slower than Netflix at its fastest, and I think it would get less good the farther you get from their base in San Francisco, but after getting burned by Netflix I find these guys to be a very adequate replacement.

And you can hard-code the order in which you'd like to receive certain discs.

Re:Fix the problems with what they send me first (1)

kaizokunami (982824) | about 8 years ago | (#16278551)

We use Greencine [greencine.com] as well, and we've been with them about four years now. We used to live in New York and it would take about three to four days each way for discs from Greencine; now that we're in Seattle, it's only a day or two. It was actually not a bad time delay because we'd watch things on the weekend, drop them in the mail Monday morning, and often our new discs would arrive in Saturday's mail.

That said, it should be noted that Greencine caters more toward independant and niche films, and doesn't carry as much of the mainstream stuff as Netflix, so YMMV depending on your film tastes.

Anal refuse of the world unite (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16277249)

This makes me feel so much better, rather than some half arsed piece of code masquerading as an intelligent program telling me what films to watch, I also get the input of some fat arsed martini swilling new york transsexual and some cheeto addict slashbots telling me films to see. Never trust the critics and never trust the computers. What next Malda and Zonk: the movie (ie the frist non porno one?

Hmm... (1)

severdia (745423) | about 8 years ago | (#16277287)

If they wanted users to rent more DVDs, they should stop throttling them first...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11262292/ [msn.com]

Now some 12-year old will come up with a great systems and NetFlix will rape them for theor code and call it a day...

Remove Artificial Supply Limitations (2, Insightful)

dduardo (592868) | about 8 years ago | (#16277301)

If Netflix doesn't have the movie in stock it should burn the movie on demand.

Re:Remove Artificial Supply Limitations (1)

(A)*(B)!0_- (888552) | about 8 years ago | (#16277747)

Also, with this system, they'd only have to buy one copy of each movie! Brilliant! Think of the savings!

Yeah, I don't see the MPAA complaining about that...

Re:Remove Artificial Supply Limitations (1)

dduardo (592868) | about 8 years ago | (#16278043)

Netflix and the MPAA should agree on a percentage of sales instead of a flat fee per copy.

First born? (1)

qmaqdk (522323) | about 8 years ago | (#16277311)

> ...Netflix is opening their database (nytimes, registration and first child required)...

In order to view the article sacrifice your first born on the AJAX altar to the right. Use drag-n-drop pentagrams as necessary.

Difficulties on the data-gathering end (4, Interesting)

jfengel (409917) | about 8 years ago | (#16277319)

Any marketer will tell you that what people tell you they want and what people actually want are very different things. Even if people answer honestly, the data you gather is often unreliable: people simply don't have as good a handle on what they want as they think they do.

Not that marketers have a better handle, but simply that people will swear up and down that they would buy a peanut-butter-filled hot dog, that they loved the one they tried, and then don't actually buy any.

Don't believe me? Go see Snakes on a Plane. Nobody else did. (Sure, $33 million seems like a lot, but that's chump change for a major studio release these days.)

The best improvements will come from insights gained between the lines. You may have rated The English Patient eleventeen stars, but if your next seven rentals were all episodes of The Girls Next Door, which you only rated 3 stars, it certainly looks like you want more Hugh Hefner and less Ralph Fiennes.

The best data is the data that the subject doesn't realize he's giving you. Once you start imposing conscious choice on the ratings, you get only what they say they like, not what they really like.

Re:Difficulties on the data-gathering end (1)

hoggoth (414195) | about 8 years ago | (#16278473)

> what people tell you they want and what people actually want are very different things

It's the difference between scientists and engineers trying to decide what activities seem more dangerous, and actuarians using real historical data to rate activities. Guess which method insurance companies use when their money is on the line...

Re:Difficulties on the data-gathering end (1)

speculatrix (678524) | about 8 years ago | (#16278557)

this is a little bit off-topic, but...

an excellent book which covers, amongst many other things, how people do behave over how they say they'll behave is Freakonomics [amazon.co.uk] .

for example, they cover how people behave about race and dating, whilst people SAY they have little preference, analysis from dating agencies shows the opposite. Even some game show stats are used to prove people are prejudiced.

Intractable problem - liking the movie, not genre (3, Interesting)

OakDragon (885217) | about 8 years ago | (#16277383)

I stopped rating movies after I found that I got recommended a lot of crap. Say I rent a slasher movie that, for its genre, is artfully done. I rate it high. Now I have recommendations for a bunch of worthless, straight-to-video stuff that I really don't want to see.

This is the real nut to crack, IMO. How do come up with an algorithm that rates 'quality,' an elusive concept that means different things to different people?

Not to mention, I'm fickle.

Re:Intractable problem - liking the movie, not gen (1)

EatHam (597465) | about 8 years ago | (#16277725)

How do come up with an algorithm that rates 'quality,'
Phaedrus did this ages ago.

5 star rating is flawed (3, Insightful)

BMonger (68213) | about 8 years ago | (#16277413)

I personally weigh movies on a number of different factors. I might give 3 stars to a movie because it has 4 of my favorite actors in it even if I didn't care for the plot. I might give 3 stars to a different movie with horrible acting but interesting camera angles (From Dusk Til Dawn 2). I tend to average out my ratings dependent on many things a movie has to offer.

The problem is is that that is my rating system. It works for me. But it does little good to anybody else because they are rating based purely on something else.

I think they need to implement the ability to rate more aspects of the movie. I'm sure some people out there rate the movie poorly if their disc is scratched or the transfer quality is poor even. A simple 1 to 5 system doesn't cut it. People rate things that aren't "Was the (romance) plot good?", "Do you like this director?", "Do you like these actors?". People rate things that aren't on the box.

Re:5 star rating is flawed (1)

SamSpectre (412989) | about 8 years ago | (#16277723)

You've probably answered your own question. The rating system needs to be revamped to make the ratings more specific. They should have a toggle for advanced ratings, and let people rate (1 to 5 is fine) on cinematography, directing, music, storyline, acting, suspense, etc. Not sure if people would want to rate 20 items per movie, but if it meant getting better recommendations...

Re:5 star rating is flawed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16278075)

1> You stated that he answered his own question. Note: he did not ask a question.
2> You basically repackaged exactly what he wrote using different words. Bzzzt! Try again.

whew!! (1)

bjk002 (757977) | about 8 years ago | (#16277849)

"The problem is is that that is my rating system."

I re-read this 5 times and then gave up!!

Re:whew!! (1)

penguinwhoflew (904673) | about 8 years ago | (#16278035)

I can't even say "is is that that is" out loud when reading the whole sentence... my tongue just gives up...

Re:5 star rating is flawed (1)

AceCaseOR (594637) | about 8 years ago | (#16278001)

Personally, I wouldn't mind if NetFlix added a 1/2-star rating to their user ratings. They do half-star ratings for their reccomendations, after all.

Why bother with the prize? (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | about 8 years ago | (#16277477)

If I had a way of greatly improving the current Netflix system, I wouldn't bother with the prize; it'd start up a competitor. If it's that much better than Netflix, it'll be worth way more than $1 million.

Re:Why bother with the prize? (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 8 years ago | (#16277821)

I think I'd take the million and run. Better designs don't always win (reference: Microsoft).

Re:Why bother with the prize? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16277893)

I have a patent on a pill that cures AIDS and also turns water into beer. I am offering a $1000 prize for anybody
who can implement it, but remember, it was my "idea".

Yes, it's because (and I'm pulling this out of my ass here, but it's more than likely) Netflix have a patent on "movie reccomendation systems" or somesuch nonsense.

What they don't actually have is an implementation.

They want you to provide that for them.

Just another reason why the so called "patent" system is pure bullshit and should not be recognised, acknowledged or
entertained by anybody with a modecum of intelligence.

Just add racing stripes! (2, Funny)

capitalj (461890) | about 8 years ago | (#16277573)

And some macaroni pieces.

Define "better" (1)

EatHam (597465) | about 8 years ago | (#16277661)

SELECT TOP 10 title
FROM tblMovies as m, tblAdvertisers as a
WHERE m.studio = a.studio
ORDER BY a.adRevenue DESC

I win.

How about stuff I already bought? (1)

HepCatA (313858) | about 8 years ago | (#16277687)

Just a simple suggestion. A lot of the DVD's that NetFlix recommends I already own. So I can't put "not interested" because it'll filter out those types of movies for me. How about something like "I own it" as an option, and it can pick recommendations based on those as well?

Re:How about stuff I already bought? (1)

popeye44 (929152) | about 8 years ago | (#16278201)

I am with you. I guess I didn't understand how they were sorting them. I put not interested on almost every thing I already own. Which is my case is quite a bit. Fortunately I keep a fairly accurate account of what I like and know and already have. I rarely go looking for their recommendations on movies. I go there looking for a specific actor/acresses's work,or a specific genre. I do use the fact they will add more movies with the same person into recommendations. My wife just puts up every kids movie ever made so I don't have to worry about that part of the queue!

Re:How about stuff I already bought? (1)

LMacG (118321) | about 8 years ago | (#16278305)

There's a discussion about this in another comment thread, but if you already own something, you should rate it appropriately. Why would own something that you are "not interested" in?

how to enter the contest? (1)

Kinlan (138030) | about 8 years ago | (#16277813)

Does anyone know how to enter the contest?

Adapting their business model (1)

kernel_pat (964314) | about 8 years ago | (#16277831)

Yahoo has just done it and now netflix is, these companies are not hiring programmers anymore but asking hobbyists to write them code in their spare time and the hobbyist with the best code wins. Which really eliminates the need for programmers.

I rekkon this will bite us all in the ass in the future because if everyone does this there will be no jobs left and therefore people will not learn because there is no money involved and then the companies will have no hobby programmers left.

Job Application (1)

Shihar (153932) | about 8 years ago | (#16278289)

If you truly and honestly believe that the winner of these contests are not then promptly offered jobs, you are missing the point fo the contests. These contests are generally more glorified job interviews then anything else. I doubt they even expect anyone to win. What they DO expect is for people to send in some innovative solutions. They will then go out and try like hell to hire the people with the best submissions.

If you are looking for a job, I wouldn't view this as a competition to make you obsolete. This is a competition to find a new employee and offer him a sweet sign on bonus.

Re:Adapting their business model (2, Insightful)

arachnoprobe (945081) | about 8 years ago | (#16278379)

I don't think this is a "programmers problem". From thinking about it, and reading the approaches discussed here, it looks more like a mathematical problem. Finding a good strategy for linking the data and making suggestions seems far more important than hacking a good (my)SQL-query.

Here's how to improve the system (1)

alohatiger (313873) | about 8 years ago | (#16277837)

- Collect more data from the person: age, region ("The South" "Northeast" etc.), education level, etc. As far as privacy goes, if you don't want to enter it that's fine--but your recommendations will suffer

- Analyze rental activity with ratings. If I've rented a movie 3 times, I probably like it more than the movie I've never rented but gave 5 stars

- Analyze queue transactions. What movies did I add to my queue together? What did I move up or down? What movies did I delete from the queue (and ask why: saw it already, changed my mind, etc.)

- Analyze how long I hold movies versus what I rate them. Upon return ask if I watched the movie or not.

- Find more ways to group movies together (genre, subgenre, actor, theme, director, writer, etc.). Figure out which actors I love/hate

Re:Here's how to improve the system (1)

alohatiger (313873) | about 8 years ago | (#16278071)

Also: Enlist celebrities to publish their queues. Lots of people will rent movies just because their favorite actor/athelete/whoever just rented it.

And the winner is .... (1)

argoff (142580) | about 8 years ago | (#16277989)


BitTorrent!!! :)

Here's a problem to solve with much larger impact (3, Interesting)

Yogs (592322) | about 8 years ago | (#16278065)

Disclaimer: I subscribe to the same sort of service, except through blockbuster... maybe Netflix does have this feature. My wife and I share a queue... I imagine many, many of these queues are shared. We have very, very different tastes in movies. Instead of getting recommendations that suit us both (which is next to impossible), the recommendations just get very, very confused. If I could just keep my and her recommendations from tangling, we would both have an easier time.

Re:Here's a problem to solve with much larger impa (1)

LMacG (118321) | about 8 years ago | (#16278265)

Netflix allows you to have up to five profiles, each with separate queues. According to the site, "Each profile has its own ratings, recommendations, Friends and MPAA levels."

Re:Here's a problem to solve with much larger impa (2, Informative)

The Darkness (33231) | about 8 years ago | (#16278295)

Disclaimer: I subscribe to the same sort of service, except through blockbuster... maybe Netflix does have this feature. My wife and I share a queue... I imagine many, many of these queues are shared. We have very, very different tastes in movies. Instead of getting recommendations that suit us both (which is next to impossible), the recommendations just get very, very confused. If I could just keep my and her recommendations from tangling, we would both have an easier time.

This problem is already solved.

With Netflix you can have multiple queues (up to one per disc-at-a-time out) and reassign the "number of discs out per queue" from 0-#out as long as the total isn't greater than #out. It also handles reassignment with discs outstanding well.

The result in my family is that we end up with independant queues and independant recommendations. If Blockbuster offers the same feature you could split your queue up and get what you want. On top of that you won't have to keep organizing your queue to get the correct movie next if someone takes time to get around to watching their movie.

Common data (2, Informative)

Mike Hicks (244) | about 8 years ago | (#16278217)

I see that the NYT article linked to just about everything except MovieLens [umn.edu] . I've used the site, and folks might like to try it out. It looks simple, but it's fairly nice, having some of those fun dynamic pages that are all the rage these days. One neat thing in comparison to Netflix is that it will give a projected star rating for you, rather than simply saying "Recommended".

Of course, I'm biased since I had John Riedl as a professor in a few easy classes. I think he tried to spin off this research as a new company, but I'm not sure if it ever got off the ground.

One thing I'd really like to see has little to do with the quality of ratings, though. I'd like to be able to keep a common database of my ratings across multiple sites. At the moment, I've rated a number of movies at Netflix, MovieLens, and IMDb, but they aren't entirely consistent. Unfortunately, two of the sites use a ten-point system (IMDb has a ten-point scale, MovieLens goes up to 5 stars, but in half-star increments), while the other uses a five-point one (maybe six if you say "Not Interested"..).

Well, I'll have to poke around a bit with this stuff. I wouldn't be able to do much, though, since my level of knowledge in this arena is very limited...

Once again... (1)

NetRoll (666397) | about 8 years ago | (#16278275)

Residents of the province of Quebec in Canada are ineligible to participate. :(

The Gamble of Lifetime (1)

Admin_Jason (1004461) | about 8 years ago | (#16278279)

So now developers should gamble their knowledge and skills at this in hopes of the payoff and publicity instead of getting a contract for 1/100th of that to accomplish the same objective over likely the same time frame? Hmmm....let me consider that one for a while...

goldcorp now worth billions with similar contest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16278329)

They had a large property where they just couldn't find gold. They made all of their geology data public and then held a $575k contest for the best suggestions. Using this Open (Gold)Source technique, they found numerous deposits and dramatically increased their market capitalization.

http://www.intelligententerprise.com/showArticle.j html?articleID=159907864 [intelligen...rprise.com]

Why ratings? (1)

gravyface (592485) | about 8 years ago | (#16278511)

Maybe the problem with Netflix is good old classification. For some reason, the movie industry feels compelled to call everything "Action" "Drama" or "Comedy" -- add some tagging, use the Dewey Decimal System, I don't care, but make an effort at some descriptive categorization and see if that increases repeat buys.

I just can't trust a user rating without reading their anecdotal description -- I want to know why something was rated only 2 stars before I pass judgement. Maybe Sally was a first-time buyer and decided to rate everything she rented as 1-star because they double-billed her credit card. Who knows? And Personally, I never rate stuff. I just don't care and can't be bothered; I'm sure I'm not alone either.

The software security experts always say, "never trust user data" -- maybe this applies to recommendations as much as SQL injections.

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