Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Netflix list project


I started the year with the best intentions of the Netflix list project, I talked about in My list sets the rules.

So far, including February being a slow movie watching month for me this year, I've cheated on my list 7 times and followed it 6 and watched 10 movies that I did not watch on Netflix Instant (or watched on Netflix Instant with Kim, who I am not dragging into my silly movie watching game with me).

Part of the reason I cheated as much as I did was there were a number of movies listed as leaving Netflix Instant in January that I wanted to make sure to see, so those were reasonable cheats. If I continue to find the project interesting, and so far I do, despite what it might seem, this will be a continuing concern that I'm not sure how I'll approach.

My other concerns with following "My list" literally as a long-term project are somewhat contradictory, and yet both genuinely stand out to me.

The first is that, while "My list" continues to update to reflect what I'm watching, it is only able - and interested - in how the things I watch on Netflix Instant affect what I'm watching. As I do not currently have a DVD/Blu-ray rental account, it does not even give me an option to rate or note movies I watched that are in Netflix's catalog, but not available for streaming, even less some obscure gems.

So, let's say I go on a streak of watching poliziotteschi. I don't think any are available on streaming right now, and whatever there are, would not be enough to fulfill the needs of said "streak". So if, the last things I'd watched on Netflix Instant was a brief run of Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker comedies, then my list is "predicting", or attempting to affect, my viewing based on a very different type of movie than I've actually been watching.

Whereas, if they had something like Letterboxd set-up to reflect the greater whole of my viewing, it could integrate all of my viewing, so that the top choices best reflected what I'm currently watching. This would also, perhaps more importantly, make it better able to predict my ratings of the movies it has available, as well as make better and better suggestions for later viewing. I would, in fact, be interested in knowing why Netflix doesn't have anything like this, and, as I said, seems to be discourage using their service in such a manner, at least for streaming only customers, as it would seem not only a good source of data on customer interests, but also data on what movies outside their catalog are popular among their customers.

Of course, from the other side, it could be interesting if one's Letterboxd Watchlist offered a "suggested" order of the same type as Netflix's "list", which could indeed include a much deeper catalog of what one has been watching, as well as what one intends to watch at some point, although admittedly somewhat less practical.

The other issue is, of course, the other side. As I mentioned in my original post, the whole point of this experiment was to diversify what I watch and the basic fact that "My list" continues to adjust to meet the needs of my viewing, wonderful though that is, means it does the exact opposite of what I set out to use it for...

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