Thursday, 16 January 2014

A philosophy of recommendations

One of the things we've been proud of for a while is our ordering algorithm - the bit of code that decides what order to put the films in your list.  We've spent quite a lot of time looking at the ways different services present their selections, and developed two strong principles.

  • A single list is best.  If you know there are other lists elsewhere, you can get "fear of missing out" - what if there's something even better that's not included in the list you're looking at?  While this principle obviously applies to combining the content from lots of services into one place (as we do on Tank Top Movies and Tank Top TV), it also applies to things like genre lists.  We've often seen this when observing people using different movie services. Faced with a massive list, from which nothing good immediately leaps out, people feel compelled to narrow down their options.  Someone who has picked, say, Romantic Comedies knows they might be missing out on films they'd like to watch from other categories.  What if there is something better listed under Drama? 

Mood selections for moviesThose two principles are fundamental to the way that we basically show you one big list of movies and one big list of TV shows.  (Well, OK, there are two lists because you've got the watchlist, but you know that's made up of items you've already selected.)  If we do it right and put "good" content at or near the top of the list, you'll find it and we've done our job.

That said, users have often told us they'd like to be able to get different recommendations depending on what they're in the mood to watch. So we've recently introduced a new Mood control and we'd love to know what you think of it.

The difference compared with genre filtering is that you're getting exactly the same list of films, but they are ordered so that you're more likely to see something that matches the Mood filter towards the top of the list.

So let's say you've selected "Funny & feelgood".  You might still see some gritty dramas in the list, but (if we've got it right) they'll need to be very good films to make it towards the top. The list should be predominantly heartwarming or funny movies, but occasionally something different might catch your eye.

We'll be keeping an eye on how the orderings perform and no doubt we'll be tweaking the algorithm based on your feedback - so let us know what you think!