When Databases Attack! Netflix Personalization Vs. Simple Common Sense

It’s clear that my NetFlix account is taking WAY too many liberties with what I see or don’t see featured under their “New Releases” heading. In other words, I’m missing new releases unless I take the time to seek them out.

After a few visits that left me scratching my head about obvious omissions and then finally taking two minutes to actually compare my percpetions and reality side by side, my greatest couch potato fears were realized. It was in fact true–of the top 10 rentals (for that week, via IMDB), only one appeared on my NetFlix New Releases home page. The NetFlix feature that allows me to flag movies I’ve seen and liked/disliked and thus make targeted recommendations is the obvious suspect.

Data driven content that’s tailored to the users needs and preferences is a great tool–when it works. But in this case, it’s seems to be trying too hard and in turn trimming down my selections to the point of negligence. So instead of  the Oscar winner and #1 rental of the week, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” I’m instead offered the instant classics like “Walled In” or “Drillbit Taylor”.

Being the smart (deleted) cookie that I am–I logged out to see what the general public saw when investigating NetFlix for the first time. Just as odd and equally as inexcusable, I found that they offer only a snap-shot of what’s available in their library. Instead of impressing me the the breadth of the entire collection, they’ve seen fit to only share 21 titles (filed as New Releases). This is more of a marketing mis-step than a techical shortcoming.

This sort of unwieldy database driven results/content isn’t unheard of. It’s especially easy to find on news pages like MSNBC where I regularly see text-advertisements for something like a “Tropical Paradise Vacation”  sitting adjacent to a story outlining horrific terrorist attack on a South Pacific Island (I’m making that up–there’s been no attack!).

TiVo offers a similar feature that makes programming suggestions but it too isn’t without issue. I’m reminded of Spence Olchin line from the classic comedy, “The King Of Queens”

“Oh my God! My TiVo thinks I’m gay!”

Which brings to mind a second topic. Why is there a Gay/Lesbian movie catagory in the first place? What’s that about?

And for the record–NetFlix is an excellent service. It’s not my intention to diss’ anyone

By | 2016-10-26T07:13:14+00:00 May 20th, 2009|Technical|Comments Off on When Databases Attack! Netflix Personalization Vs. Simple Common Sense

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Mike began tinkering with websites in the days of the Macintosh Performa 6300 as a way to wind-down after a swing shift gig. His very first site was a public bathroom review website (you're welcome, YELP!)