Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Gyllenhaals in Evidence" Metric: There's your ten percent

I thought this Wired article about Netflix crowdsourcing the algorithm it uses to recommend movies was sort of interesting. Because it applies to me.

I recently re-joined NetFlix to give myself an excuse for not writing in case the cable goes out (or there could be another Writer's Strike!)*, so I've been going through and rating a bunch of movies, so that the k-nearest-neighbor algorithm can tell me what to do. ALL I WANT IS SOMEONE OR SOMEONE'S ALGORITHM TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO BECAUSE EVENTUALLY I WILL RUN OUT OF DVDS OF THE WIRE AND WHAT THEN?

But wait, existential crisis (crap!), because what if a movie was just OK, but I want to acknowledge admirable creative impulses behind it? What do you rate interesting failures? Maybe the answer is to expand beyond a straight five stars for "is it good (or not)" and add some phantom meta-categories?

So maybe like for Donnie Darko:

Actual Good-ness: ˜˜
Interestingness: ˜˜ ½
Likability: ˜˜˜ ½
Gyllenhaals in Evidence: ˜˜˜˜˜

I was talking to a co-worker and he said he takes all this into account and ranks movies that are ungood (but still have these positive, more nuancy aspects) artificially higher, so he can continue to [hope to] be surprised by movies he hasn't seen.

Which is sort of what I was thinking I would have to do, but then I don't want someone to look at my ratings and say, "Wow, you really liked [any Tim Burton movie, ever] that much?"
Which I totally didn't. I found [that Tim Burton movie] to be totally self-indulgent. Why did I even watch it? Please let me know when his remake of Frankenweenie comes out, NetFlix, thanks.

So OK the algorithm is clearly working on levels I'm not (e.g., it recommends Fitzcarraldo because I enjoyed Annie Hall, Blue Velvet and Brazil) (which Venn diagram is more perfect than anything yet on VSL), but I don't care if the algorithm is assuming I'm averaging these out, or taking into account that I'm gaming the system; I just want people in my "social network" who happen to be looking at how I'm ranking these movies to know what I was thinking at the time..?

[My septuagenarian landlords in Brooklyn taking discarded couches from the street and storing them in the hallways of my apartment building] : [there might be another war] : : [I rejoined NetFlix] : [there might be another Writer's Strike]

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