Stephen Baker at BusinessWeek has a recounting of his experience with Amazon and Barnes & Noble throwing him wildly different recommendations in relation to his new book, The Numerati. He suggests, in his attempts to explain the variations, that B&N’s suggestions are based on associated keywords and tags whereas Amazon’s are thematically related books that presumably sell well and are likely to be popular with the same crowd that’s looking for his book.
In some manner, though I’m not sure as to the extent, both of these are also probably driven by human behavior such as purchasing patterns.
While algorithms play a role in what movies are recommended to you by Spout, it’s also largely driven by the intelligence and movie tastes of the community that’s writing reviews, rating movies and assigning tags themselves. The more people you know on Spout the deeper knowledge well that’s being drawn from to build those recommendations. You also need to participate by listing the movies you’ve seen and enjoyed so those who are following you there can know what you did or didn’t like.
Is that community wisdom going to be perfect 100 percent of the time? Not by a long shot. The wiki that is your movie tastes profile is one that’s going to evolve over time. Eventually, though, you’ll be able to see what others are recommending and make a gut call because your sphere of experience will be broader. The Spout community will, in that time, have reinforced some of your tastes and maybe even broadened your cinematic horizons a bit, leading you to movies you might not have otherwise tried out or seen.
Not only will your experiences be changed, but by participating in the community yourself – recommending, rating, reviewing and otherwise discussing – you’ll be making friends and making sure others have the opportunity to benefit from your wisdom. Think of Spout as the “take a penny, leave a penny” tray of movie recommendations.
SpoutBlog and the FilmCouch podcast are great places to start, but don’t be afraid to dive into Spout itself. Setup a profile and drop me an email at chris-@-spout-.-com with the Subject line, “Recommend some movies, darnit!” and the last five movies you’ve enjoyed and the Spout team will put their collective heads together to give you five more movies you should check out. These might be ones you’ve already seen and if so just let me know. I want to make sure you’re seeing worthwhile as well as enjoyable movies so this may require a leap of faith. I’m confident, though, that once you begin seeing what sorts of recommendations you wind up getting you’ll be hooked and start contributing to the conversation around these movies yourself.