A Netflix experiment

     Ever since I signed up for Netflix streaming I have been really frustrated with their recommendation system, I know I am a pickyperson and hard to please but they make it impossible to find what I like because my tastes are all over the place and just because I watched a season of some anime with subs off to brush up on my Japanese does not mean I am interested in other shows with similar themes. The show was called Black Butler so what do they recommend? Cake Boss, really? That was just the “Top Pick” which made no sense because they should know by now that I HATE reality TV. Anyways since they introduced accounts I have been experimenting and I found a system that I think mostly works but it has a flaw.

 

     I have four accounts out of five, one is my main account that I messed up and will never get fixed, I call it the junk account but I am trying to train it to like comedies and such but not having any luck it keeps bringing up that crap I accidentally clicked on and didn’t stop in time so it still thinks I liked it among other flaws. Seriously it is getting annoying. My other three accounts are mostly trained perfectly to match their intended moods, I have an animation and family account for the cartoons, anime, super hero, and occasional Transformers relapses I might have from time to time. This lets me have an account where I don’t mind it suggesting Hanna Montana as long as it also shows me some X-Men and some good anime from time to time. It also has learned me pretty well and has gotten good at knowing what to recommend and what to hide.

 

     My third account is dedicated strictly to science fiction stuff, that one is harder to train because some science fiction, well most in fact, can also be classified elsewhere like Ghostbusters is also horror and comedy, which gets difficult especially with Event Horizon also being horror and dark so it keeps suggesting off the wall stuff like American Psycho or Hell Raiser IV because it takes place in space apparently. I am making progress but it has a long ways to go. The fourth account is dedicated to horror movies and slasher films and that one can literally read my mind, which is not hard to do because its hard to make a bad horror movie, they are all b movies to begin with. 

 

     That leaves one account open to play with. I have tried action movies but realized that is redundant because most of the ones I would like show up in one of my other accounts, action comedies under my comedy account, sci-fi action in the sci-fi, the super hero stuff under my super hero account and the darker stuff in sometimes in the horror account, so I was never getting anything I didn’t already have elsewhere. I tried a second theme that also did not work out because it wasn’t one I was in the mood for enough to want to see more than occasional movies which also showed up elsewhere. And it quickly devolved into late night comedies anyways. So I tried a new experiment, this was the one I was working on this week, no manipulating the system just being honest and letting it recommend me movies based on viewing habits only. This was going to be hard because I opted NOT to fill out the taste profile period and opted NOT to rate movies I already have seen. Just watch a movie rate it and see what happens. I am hoping that it will just learn my tastes without me trying to interpret their hard to crack vague code words they use in their taste profile. They let you rate individual movies on a five star rating system but you can only rate a TV show as a whole, what if I ONLY liked season one of Heroes? Or what if I only liked seasons 2-7 of Everybody loves Raymond? Or better yet what if I only like certain episodes of a show like Doctor Who where it is very hit and miss? Also Netflix should have a better taste rating system, Never, Sometimes, Often are too narrow. I would not like five options that is too hard to keep track of so I suppose it is the best they could do but I think four could be okay, like Never, Rarely, Sometimes (or occasionally might be better), and Often (or almost always for some)

 

     The rating system is not perfect but I can say it is not too terrible. It isn’t as smart as Pandora is about finding exactly what I am in the mood for but if you take the time to train it just right and don’t over think it, eventually the ratings start to get better. Of course if their BROWSE feature and SEARCH feature were not so broken then it wouldn’t matter as much but as it currently is when you browse it HIDES the stuff it thinks you won’t like already and when you search it can get stupid at times, I searched for Home Improvement and it didn’t even register their is a sitcom by that name it was all reality home building, home repair shows. I searched for King Of the Hill a show I used to watch regularly on Netflix, it took me straight to the page of this movie, it bypassed the normal landing page where it says “not available to stream, here is other stuff you might like” and then show that other movie, nope it just took me right to that movie. I hate that because it used to take you to a search page with similar stuff, so when I typed in Star Trek it brought up ALL their different offerings, instead now it just takes me to the original series page and stays there, what about that 2009 film? It was JUST called Star Trek and that was the one I was looking for, it didn’t even show me it for DVD anymore which it used to do.

 

     So with the search and browse features so broken it is very important to get the taste profile just right otherwise I will never know when they DO finally add that movie or TV show I keep waiting for. I did stumble into the Walking Dead by a recommendation and actually enjoyed it so I know it does work from time to time I just hate how I search for something and it gets so stupid because other titles might have the same or similar name and it doesn’t even try to sell me on the DVD’s anymore, which I guess is a good thing because the DVD side is going downhill anyways.

 

     I will keep trying for now but I am still looking for a replacement. For the money the amount of shows they have alone makes it work it, I added it up it would cost me ten years of Netflix to get all the shows I watch on DVD and that is just what they have right now. I used to be all for owning stuff on DVD but those days are gone, DVD is a waste of space and I am all in to digital only mode now. I went all digital before and then relapsed into physical when Blu Ray came out, which lead me right back to DVD when blu rays became too expensive and their offerings were not worth it and the DVD collections were often better than the Blu Ray sets. Then I realized I was back into an endless cycle of spending all my money on stuff I will never watch, for $8 dollars a month I don’t mind all the piles of crap as long as the few good shows and movies they do have outweigh the cost of buying DVD anyways. Take Psych, that show now has 8 Seasons at roughly $25 a season, used is slightly less but not much. That 70’s Show also had eight Seasons and Doctor Who and Star Trek ALONE make Netflix a STEAL. ONE Season of Doctor Who, 13 Episodes, is usually $60 or more. The Christmas Specials usually run $30 on their own. Netflix doesn’t have anything past season 6 but still that’s a lot of money to get just those six on DVD, plus the classic Doctor Who specials go for a lot more and are much harder to find. ONE Season of Star Trek TNG goes for almost $100 on Blu Ray and the DVD set goes for $75 per season, you can get them slightly cheaper used IF you want the bare bones discs no packaging because Star Trek sets are collectors items so if you just want to watch the show your options are pay a small fortune for the damn discs, pay a smaller fortune for cable to watch them once a week with commercial interruptions or just pay the eight bucks to get them ALL. That price above was JUST for one show. Netflix has Buffy, Angel, all the Star Treks, The Walking Dead, Psych, Bones, Transformers G1 (another collectors nightmare to get on DVD), Doctor Who, Last Man Standing, Melissa and Joey, Everybody Loves Raymond, How I Met Your Mother, Family Guy, and Futurama. Try getting ALL of those for the same price as one YEAR of Netflix I dare you. That alone makes it a bargain Add to that all those obscure but still great horror classics or a whole bunch of really cool but not worth paying for cult sci-fi films and anyone who thinks Netflix is not a good deal is blind.

 

    Will it ever have everything ever released no and sure they lose shows from time to time but they tend to get them back eventually, no different than TBS or other cable channels which also rotate their shows but then bog them down with endless commercials. Now I admit I would be willing to pay more for the service if it allowed them to get more content, especially more shows from the 80’s and 90’s that they are neglecting, but until then I will stick with it and enjoy my endless sea of content for next to nothing while those who can’t see a good deal spend their life savings on DVD’s because somehow that’s supposed to be better? Also Netflix still offers the DVD by mail option for that stuff they don’t stream, so there is always the temptation to just add DVD’s to the plan. My other thought has always been to add Hulu Plus but for now money is tight so I will keep that on reserve.

 

Right now I will conduct my experiment of just watching and rating without filling in the taste profile to see how that works, I will report back my results once I have enough data to make a reasonable conclusion. I tried the totally honest approach with ratings and it didn’t find me anything I DIDN’T already have in my list so that was a bust.

 

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