Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Who does NETFLIX think I am?

As a Netflix subscriber, when I go to my home page it offers me suggestions based on what I’ve watched. And this is fine.

Tivo used to do that too. I think seven sitcoms did the story where the blue collar dad watched something that lead Tivo to conclude he was gay so he came home to find all these gay-themed shows waiting for him.  (Credit goes to the first of the seven, whoever that was.) 

But at least you could understand Tivo’s thought process. With Netflix I’m at a loss.

Here are some of my suggestions:

Because I watched WEST WING Netflix suggested I watch FULLER HOUSE, THE RANCH, ARCHER, FIXER UPPER, TURN, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, COOKED, DAREDEVIL, and ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN.  Really? FULLER HOUSE?

Because I watched BETTER CALL SAUL they say I'd also like FLAKED, COSMOS, DEXTER, CALIFORNICATION, AN IDIOT ABROAD, TRAILER PARK BOYS, THE COBBLER, TRICKED, and IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA.

Because I watched HOUSE OF CARDS they know I'd love FIXER UPPER, THE BARKLEY MARATHONS, DOPE, WORLD WAR II IN COLOUR, and GILMORE GIRLS (although it's essentially the identical show to WORLD WAR II IN COLOUR). 

Because I watched LOVE: SHELTER, COOKED, THE RANCH, and JESSICA JONES.

Because I watched THE MAKING OF A MURDERER they suggest the similarly-themed  UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT, SCANDAL, FAMILY GUY, and of course FULLER HOUSE.

I thought the whole idea of marketers being able to track your preferences allowed them to more accurately pinpoint your likes and dislikes. Suggesting I watch FAMILY GUY because I watched THE MAKING OF A MURDERER says they think I’m Steve Avery. I hope my Netflix consumer data isn’t distributed to other marketers. I’ll start getting Ted Cruz newsletters, applications to join the Peace Corps, and a free subscription to BRIDES magazine.

I should start watching CHEERS and see if they want me to also check out JOSEPH FRITZL: STORY OF A MONSTER.

25 comments:

B.A. said...

Please don't disrespect the ad cookies! They only wish to help you make wise consumer choices, or so I've been told by sites that want me to turn AdBlock off when "visiting".

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I tend to doubt that Netflix made those recommendations based on any one single thing you watched, but on the totality of what they know about you - which includes your age, gender, location, a guess at your income, and the entire history of everything you've watched on the service, PLUS the list of things other people who watched what you've watched also watched and liked. My guess is that you watch a lot of things to keep current that you don't necessarily like, and that therefore Netflix's recommendations for you are less effective than they would be for others who just watch the things they actually like.

wg

Gene P. said...

Good example of data analytics run amuck. Forget about the suits taking over the world. Beware of the bots!

Richard Y said...

Comcast's new 'box' we had to get as they stopped servicing the older one does the same thing. Obviously computer generated but still suggesting things I am already watching to some of the most bizarre and outlandish programs/movies that I would never consider viewing.

Jason said...

I have this tiny suspicion that they recommend their own shows (Fuller House, Kimmy, Jessica Jones) a wee bit more than is called for. And maybe some companies pay them a little to boost their shows as well?

Other than that, I believe they basically correlate with what others watch, not with the type of show like Tivo does. So if 10% of people who watched West Wing also watched Daredevil, it shows up. Although that's another of their shows, so maybe it only takes 5% :/

Covarr said...

I think it's based on what other people who liked those shows watch, rather than classifying types of shows. It's the only thing that makes sense.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

YouTube is just as bad. It's not uncommon to get unrelated recommendations, mainly because YouTube has an agenda to push these partner channel videos to reel in more views and make more money. I mean, when I watch a few videos related to Alvin and The Chipmunks and a couple of Nostalgia Critic episodes, how in the hell does YouTube somehow think I want to watch any video with that hoe Amy Schumer?!

Even weirder still: for a while, YouTube was pushing recommended videos at me that featured some preteen girl, who apparently had a channel with millions of subscribers, and each of her videos evidently had millions of views . . . I'm not sure how, or why, YouTube somehow thinks I want to watch some preteen girl's content, but what's more disturbing to me is why are there that many people subscribed to this one preteen girl? I'm sure a majority of those subscribers may be other preteen and young girls out there, but . . . who else would possibly be watching her? And how did she even get that many subscribers in the first place? I've been producing content for YouTube for almost nine years, and I hardly get any activity on any of my cotent - especially how YouTube continually sweeps smaller channels under the rug so more and more of these big partner channels get all the attention.

Oh, and on occasion, my own videos will show up in the my recommended.

David said...

If they're as data-driven as they say they are, then this isn't the result of a coked-up marketing guy going nuts. It's simply flagging up correlations between what Netflix users watch. So people who watched, for instance, the West Wing, were more inclined to watch the other shows it listed. There isn't any particular reasoning beyond observed behaviour.

Mike Botula said...

My Netflix screen has gotten so cluttered with "suggestions" that I've taken to using the "search" function right at the start. And rather than rely on Netflix' suggestions, I mull over what I might want to see before I click on the Netflix icon. And I purge my "Watch List" regularly. I finally understand what the term "direct to cable" really means!

Boomska316 said...

If it were up to me everything would be listed A-Z by category and that's it. Trying narrow down people's preferences just makes a mess.

Neal Grinnell said...

Friday question.

Hi Ken,

I see that a stage adaption of "Cheers" is coming to Boston in September. Were you or David Isaacs involved at all?

Pat Reeder said...

Since I write topical humor for radio for a variety of clients from conservative talk hosts to shock jocks, I sometimes feel sorry for any poor marketers who are tracking my constant websurfing to try to figure out what I'm interested in. Just so far today, I've had to look up info on transgender bathroom laws, the West Virginia political primaries (both parties), Budweiser's new Olympic beer cans, World War II fluid-drive tanks, leaked celebrity sex tapes and some Japanese pickled squid guts-flavored potato chips that smell like dead fish.

Quick, Netflix! What movie do you think I want to see? Whatever they come up with, I bet it will star Mickey Rourke.

Ellen Di Giosia said...

One quick correction - it's "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," not "Unsinkable." Although, honestly, I'd pay to watch Ellie Kemper sing about the Titanic.

YEKIMI said...

AS I've said in the past I am not going to subscribe to cable until they let me pick the channels I want to watch. Now with these stupid set top boxes and Netflix, Tivo, HULU and other services that will track an "recommend" crap for me to watch makes it even LESS of an incentive for me to sign up. It's just a matter of time before they start noticing that "You seem to get up and go the the bathroom a lot and judging by the screams we're picking up we can tell that you're constipated. We recommend Miralax, Dulcolax or an industrial strength vacuum." Magazines are just as bad as selling your info to marketers. Years ago signed up for a subscription to "Details" magazine and purposely misspelled my first name. Within a month I was getting crap from companies I had never heard of....all with my first name misspelled so I know they sold my info. Within a year I was getting so much junk mail....all with my first name misspelled... that I am surprised that there are any trees left in the Amazon rain forest. Now that I am at a certain age, I keep getting crap from AARP, death benefit companies [really, the only benefit I'll get from dying is that I won't have to keep getting their junk mail], retirement homes, etc.

Cap'n Bob said...

I would order movies from Netflix that didn't even make it to my queue. They'd sit in some limbo and stay there for years. Obviously, Netflix never had these titles in the first place, but still listed them. I finally canceled Netflix.

Unknown said...

What's wrong with The Peace Corps?

blinky said...

Just as absurd is the Trending Category. Is Pulp Fiction really trending?

Ted said...

The problem with Netflix is that for all its massive amounts of content, there's seldom all that much that's new, good, and you haven't already seen. That's why the "What's New" and "Recently Added" and "Selected for You" categories always seem to be filled with the same 2-star indie movies, TV shows you either watched when they were broadcast or didn't want to watch, and whatever they decided to import from England or Canada this month. (That's also why it's so easy to get jaded about this remarkable service that didn't even exist a few years ago.)

Johnny Walker said...

Netflix's recommendations can be eerily great. They're definitely the best I've ever seen -- although they do seem to have some off days. No idea why that is -- but there's definitely times when I've been recommended documentaries on Hitler because I watched Arrested Development, or something like that. I assume they're just trying new algorithms on days like that, because they usually improve the next time I go in.

Igor said...

@ Ellen Di Giosia - I've done the slip of Unsinkable Kimmy instead of Unbreakable Kimmy because somewhere in my brain sits the movie title, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown"

As for website suggestions, Amazon's can be weird, too: "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought..."

Barry Traylor said...

I'm with you Ken with being puzzled by NETFLIX. I stopped grading the movies I watched because if I said a hated a film they would give me suggestions for others like that one. That is a real head scratcher for sure.

MikeN said...

Pat Reeder, You might be interested in The Art of the Deal.

Breadbaker said...

Facebook for some reason gives me ads to attend college, even though Facebook knows not only what college I attended but when I got my degree.

And it was quite scary when I had to look for incontinence products for our aged cat to realize I'd start seeing some really exciting ads for them whenever I looked at something that got its hints from Google.

Mike said...

@Breadbaker: incontinence products for our aged cat
A cat nappy.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

Do a video of you putting on makeup, those are the videos getting millions of views.