Netflix Wants PS3 Users to "Let Max Be Your Guide"

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Netflix Wants PS3 Users to "Let Max Be Your Guide"

Netflix's Max will help indecisive viewers choose their content.

These days there are nearly limitless options for entertainment. Heck, with just a wireless device and Netflix you can pretty much count on never having to be alone with your thoughts ever again. After all, who needs self-contemplation when you have all the various Star Treks at your finger tips? The problem that often arises from having so much entertainment, however, is choosing what to watch. Someday the history books will likely commit pages to the countless hours people wasted picking movies for their Instant Queues.

Perhaps recognizing the dangerous indecisiveness of its users, Netflix is endeavoring to make the process of choosing all the easier. Today, in a blog post, it announced the introduction of Max, a new feature debuting on PS3s designed to help viewers find content. "Max, rumored to be the child of Siri and HAL 9000, asks a few questions about your mood or movie and TV show tastes to arrive at a suggestion, of course based on your tastes and taking advantage of the Netflix algorithms that predict what you'd enjoy watching," said Todd Yellin, vice president of product innovation at Netflix.

A video accompanying the announcement demonstrated Max in action, using several different methods to suggest content. In the first users were asked to choose a genre and then rate several related films/shows. After a few brief computations Max then picked a piece of content it found to be a good fit. In the "Celebrity Mood Ring" option, users had to pick between a pair of actors. Depending on whom they chose Max would make a decision. A similar option will ask users to pick between random, highly specific content tags. Finally, "Max's Mystery Call" simply selects something for you based on your previous viewing habits.

While Max will likely be a useful tool for many people, there's just unsettling about putting your choices in the hands of a piece of software. Sure, the PS3 is aging and probably not powerful enough to be the foundation of a machine insurrection, but with next-gen consoles on the horizon, it may be only a matter of time before Max becomes self-aware and starts selecting our dooms instead of our movies.

Source: Netflix

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Indecisiveness about what to watch on Netflix comes from their streaming selection being absolutely terrible, not because we lack some gimmicky AI telling us what to watch. They should be putting resources into expanding their selection, not wasting money on crap like this.

cidbahamut:
Indecisiveness about what to watch on Netflix comes from their streaming selection being absolutely terrible, not because we lack some gimmicky AI telling us what to watch. They should be putting resources into expanding their selection, not wasting money on crap like this.

This goes double for anyone in Canada, since we get a vastly reduced selection of titles in comparison to the US version due to licensing issues.

StewShearer:

While Max will likely be a useful tool for many people, there's just unsettling about putting your choices in the hands of a piece of software.

Doesn't Netflix already track what you've previously viewed and make recommendations on the top of the page? And it has you rate the movies/shows you've already watched and adjusts accordingly right now. I'm not sure if this is necessarily any more or less disturbing than what they already do, to say nothing of Google, Youtube, Apple, or the American government (hey hey, topical jokes). For real though, they're basically just putting a fresh coat of paint on an existing algorithm and trying to associate it with Siri in order to...well, I'm not really sure what their end-game was on this to be honest.

Give me a random button, and I'll be just as fine. It's perfect, how else can you watch stupid and ridiculous animes if you actually see the title? How will I find the next Queen's Blade without it?

I also recommend that they not work on gimmicks like this. I've never found any use in suggestions since:

1.) If I'm going on Netflix, I already have decided the type of movie or TV show I want to watch, if not already the exact one.
2.) Beyond number 1, if I'm not quite sure, it's not that hard to take five or ten minutes to decide. I mean seriously, how impatient with deciding does on have to be to let a computer calculation program decide what to watch. If you are that pressed for time, you obviously don't have the time to be watching anything.
3.) The suggestions, the vast majority of the time, end up being things or watched, or things that aren't related to my interests, though it somehow thinks they are.

Like the first comment, I suggest they work on their selection. There are some categories that have only around forty or so selections, when out in the world there are tens of thousands. With their selection lists, I usually end up with many one or two watchable programs, then I end up reverting to watching shows I've watched before because there is nothing left to watch. I also would like them to try and at least hold on to the items on their service for far longer than they have been. I've had a few run-ins with finding series that I had watched not more than a few months ago, no longer available.

It doesn't help them either that Warner Bros. is going to start up it's own service, which means that Netflix will lose anything that is Warner Bros. on the service. I have a bad feeling that Netflix will end up dead in a few years or so when other companies do the same as Warner Bros. then we will be stuck with several subs from different ones, which will mean paying more than we did with Netflix.

Ah, yet another download to sit through when I get home? *sigh*

Doesn't all of Netflix function this way? Sorting all my most viewed genres to the top and then recommending movies based on my already established preferences? Maybe I'd have to be less decisive to understand why this is a good or bad thing?

Max won't do anything for me, largely because the moment I want to watch something it's taken off streaming. Netflix is boasting about it's limitless options, but recently everything has been way sub-par. Except for Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers (which just came on last week :D ).

My point being that Max may intimately know my tastes, but when your entire bucket is pretty much filled with crap best case scenario is to recommend slightly better sh*t. Either stop taking off all the classic TV shows I can't get anywhere else or try getting rights to play current seasons of running shows.

They should really try improving the console versions of Netflix version. I have it on Wii U and PS3, and both show barely any of the films in any category because there's no seperate genre sections. So if it's not on the front page selection and you don't know it's there then you won't know anything about it.

klaynexas3:
Give me a random button, and I'll be just as fine. It's perfect, how else can you watch stupid and ridiculous animes if you actually see the title? How will I find the next Queen's Blade without it?

Animes, that is a laugh. That relates to my comment above. Netflix just is not where to go to find anime, because like I mentioned, it is one of the genres that has only 40 or so to chose from. It also relates to my previous comment because two animes I watched on it last year are not on it anymore(Baccano!, and Spice and Wolf).

Hulu apparently got a hold of Baccano!, which is sad because that means if I want to re-watch it, I'll have to sit through annoying commercials, which every year or so gets bumped up in the number one has to watch to watch their show. I remember when it was two to three 15 to 30 second commercials in every hour show, now we are up to nine or more and some commercials end up being a minute to a minute and a half long. Sooner or later, there will be just as much commercial time on Internet show streaming that it will be like TV. Then well end up buying TiVo like computer programs and we'll end up recording our shows and fast forwarding though the commercial(doubt that would work, but it is a scary/funny while stupid thought).

....I have not seen something this useless and annoying in a long time. Netflix, are you TRYING to drive away customers?

And the other posters are correct. Instead of using your "ill-gotten gains" to increase your library, you have "researched" the asinine factor

I would have preferred Max Headroom

You know, if this is at least somewhat limited in scope to your more immediate viewing session I might actually like it. I normally hate these sorts of things. But the ability to tell Netflix "I'm in the mood for something actiony and mindless but no Tom Cruise" could be a useful tool.

Sonic Doctor:
Then well end up buying TiVo like computer programs and we'll end up recording our shows and fast forwarding though the commercial(doubt that would work, but it is a scary/funny while stupid thought).

Fraps. You're thinking of fraps. Or any screen capture software. Start fraps, run your show, and watch the recording later fast forward through the ads.

I agree though, there's not enough anime and other shows on Netflix which is why I stopped subscribing. Not to mention none of its available until after a show or movie is on dvd. I'll probably make a few streaming accounts, but even paying for 2 of 3 services would be cheaper and more useful than cable. I wish Netflix would make a come back but I won't hold my breath

I'd probably enjoy a feature like this.

IF and only if, they give me an option for a voice that isn't a crushingly annoying, braying idiot.

Am I going to have to play devil's advocate here and say that I might actually like this? I don't use their current suggestion system very often since my diverse taste in their programing leads to some weird suggestions (No Netflix, just because I marathoned every episode of Dexter's Laboratory and Johnny Bravo and am now halfway through Courage the Cowardly Dog does not mean I want to watch My Little Pony). That combined with my actual non-Netflix induced indecisiveness I might actually get some miles out of this.

I'm not saying it isn't going to suck horribly. Heck let's be honest, it probably will. But on the off chance it ends up working it could be cool.

cidbahamut:
Indecisiveness about what to watch on Netflix comes from their streaming selection being absolutely terrible, not because we lack some gimmicky AI telling us what to watch. They should be putting resources into expanding their selection, not wasting money on crap like this.

Yes! More selections, please. And can you give us some of the damn movies you have on the 'mail only' version? I'm not asking for ALL of them, but some of them would be nice.

I don't see the point of this. Do people really get caught up not knowing what to watch so badly that they need a program to make suggestions?

On an related note: If I piss it off enough though, will it suggest Mad Max?

StewShearer:

While Max will likely be a useful tool for many people, there's just unsettling about putting your choices in the hands of a piece of software. Sure, the PS3 is aging and probably not powerful enough to be the foundation of a machine insurrection, but with next-gen consoles on the horizon, it may be only a matter of time before Max becomes self-aware and starts selecting our dooms instead of our movies.

Hey, if an alien species that may or may not be the Borg can patch up one of our aging space probes and turn it into a borderline God destined to meet its creator, I think there's plenty of hope for the Playstation Apocalypse.

...Though even the Borg may not be able to handle the complexity of Sony's proprietary hardware.

But quips aside, I like the idea of suggesting things to watch. Normally, I know what I'm going for but sometimes I'm just in the mood to watch something and not sure what. This could potentially stop me from turning off the TV and reading a book.

...And nobody wants that.

The major down side I see here is that Netflix already kind of sucks with their recommendation channels. Well, sort of. It's uncannily accurate with their top ten recs for me. It's just a shame that top ten is usually 100% stuff not only that I've already seen, but seen on Netflix and rated 4 or 5 stars.

That and the Sonypocalypse, but I for one welcome our new console overlords.

Alar:

Yes! More selections, please. And can you give us some of the damn movies you have on the 'mail only' version? I'm not asking for ALL of them, but some of them would be nice.

Given the licensing needs, you're unlikely to see it without a fairly substantial increase in the price of the streaming plan.

JamesBr:
I don't see the point of this. Do people really get caught up not knowing what to watch so badly that they need a program to make suggestions?

On an related note: If I piss it off enough though, will it suggest Mad Max?

This is a very real phenomenon that impacts most elements of life. Especially commercial ones. Too many options, even bad ones, overwhelm most people.

Somehow I see this apocalypse coming as a mixture between the Robot Chicken TiVO episode and terminator. Except instead of a nuclear holocaust we all become hypnotized by Max into wasting away on our couches/beds/what-have-you.
Death by media. Hulu+ will merge with it to become an unstoppable juggernaut of movies, TV Shows and resurrected "I wish they'd never cancelled" shows. If Firefly becomes a Netflix "Original" we're all doomed.

bearlotz:

StewShearer:

While Max will likely be a useful tool for many people, there's just unsettling about putting your choices in the hands of a piece of software.

Doesn't Netflix already track what you've previously viewed and make recommendations on the top of the page? And it has you rate the movies/shows you've already watched and adjusts accordingly right now. I'm not sure if this is necessarily any more or less disturbing than what they already do, to say nothing of Google, Youtube, Apple, or the American government (hey hey, topical jokes). For real though, they're basically just putting a fresh coat of paint on an existing algorithm and trying to associate it with Siri in order to...well, I'm not really sure what their end-game was on this to be honest.

Yes, but it is absolutely useless if you have kids that watch a lot of cartoons. When I sit down to watch TV after my kids go to bed Netflix recommending a selection of shitty 80s cartoons does not do it for me. Unless they recommend He-man I am always in the mood for He-man.

JamesBr:
On an related note: If I piss it off enough though, will it suggest Mad Max?

I wanted so badly to work a Mad Max reference into the article, but my brain failed. Thank you!

I don't know... it's like giving Clippy an annoying voice.

image

Maybe it'll work better for the Netflix For Kids or something.

YES! I'm getting Max back! I got to try out the beta and it was AWESOME!

Did they screen people for the most annoying voice they could find and hire the one they could stand the least for Max?

Zachary Amaranth:

This is a very real phenomenon that impacts most elements of life. Especially commercial ones. Too many options, even bad ones, overwhelm most people.

Actually, my Netflix queue is filled with movies and tv shows I genuinely want to watch. These run from recent mainstream dramas to British crime shows to documentaries on FDR and Trudell to Korean romance shows to goofy/bad 80's horror and sci-fi. My problem is a major case of indecisiveness. I even have my queue of 221 titles sorted by genre (when I go Netflix-weeding, I usually can pare it down to about 135). The problem is that I usually have to be in 'the mood' for different things. Last weekend, it was Scream 4. This weekend, it might by Albert Nobbs or Surf Nazis Must Die. It takes me 15-45 minutes just to figure out what to watch.

So, if Max can be limited to what's in my queue, I'd probably get a lot of mileage out of it. As it is, most of the Netflix suggestions are only suggested because I've either already watched it, or I don't want to watch it.

I was not aware the max I tried was a beta thing, because I had it about a year ago and it was kind of obnoxious. If at any point while browsing videos I accidentally pushed circle (which I often did to back out of things) it would start up max and force you to watch his intro video and let him jabber to you for a good minute or so before you back out to the original select screen. I really hope they fixed that.

Max is kinda like booting up a game of you don't know jack (complete with witty-ish host and silly think fast mini games) with the prize being a random selection of about 6 movies you might want to watch. I used it intentionally twice and both times it couldn't find me anything I wanted to watch, but it was at least mildly amusing.

Overquoted:

Actually, my Netflix queue is filled with movies and tv shows I genuinely want to watch.

Unless you are "most people," then there's no "actually" about it.

"Consumers are stupid and must be treated as such"

Is this what marketers being told nowadays? It's feeling like a trend.

The statement is a bit more loaded than that folks, you took it way too literally.

Also Netflix isn't worth what it gives in the UK. Not even close. Especially when most our TV Cable providers offer all those shows inclusive. They gotta go big or go home here, and it's looking worryingly close to that.

Zachary Amaranth:

Unless you are "most people," then there's no "actually" about it.

*stares at you* Your reading comprehension could use some work. Here, let me rephrase.

I am often unable to choose what to watch, in spite of really good choices (rather than your assumed bad ones). [This was me partly agreeing with your suggestion that too many choices leads to indecisiveness.]

But hey, if you think 'most people' are only afforded bad choices...remind me again, why are they paying for the service? Last time I looked, Netflix was optional. Unless of course, you think 'most people' are paying for Netflix just in case something awesome is added around the corner? Preemptive streaming plan?

So yes, actually, I am most people in this instance.

Back on-topic: Personally, I think a better alternative to Max would just be a way to arrange my queue into lists or being able to sort what's in my queue by genre/keyword.

Charli:
"Consumers are stupid and must be treated as such"

Is this what marketers being told nowadays? It's feeling like a trend.

The statement is a bit more loaded than that folks, you took it way too literally.

Also Netflix isn't worth what it gives in the UK. Not even close. Especially when most our TV Cable providers offer all those shows inclusive. They gotta go big or go home here, and it's looking worryingly close to that.

Think most places outside the U.S. has that problem. I know licensing is problematic once it crosses borders. Kind of like how here, we can't get a lot of European and South American tv shows. Sorta depends on the popularity (and whether or not BBC America ported them over already).

Do they manage to at least license local content for streaming there? With exceptions for the licensing brawls with Amazon and Hulu, they manage it for the most part here. Exceptions for certain cable channels with original dramas, of course (HBO, Starz, fX, etc). Those guys have a vested interest in not allowing their content to stream right now.

Overquoted:

But hey, if you think 'most people' are only afforded bad choices...

You probably shouldn't question my reading comprehension if you're then going to make a statement that isn't what I said at all.

Incidentally, the problem with your statement is it could be read two ways, I read the larger context instead of the narrower one. The use of "actually" still makes me believe this was the correct one and you are perhaps trying to retcon yourself, but whatever. The thing I'd point out here is that your question shouldn't be aimed at me as such, as I don't think most people are "only afforded bad choices." Unless were talking politics, but I'm pretty sure we're not.

With regards to Netflix, I am a long-time subscriber who has a queue that's hundreds of choices deep and growing faster than I watch stuff. You can at least verify the consistency of that by previous comments in this thread about this plan. Why would I subscribe to a service that only affords bad choices?

Well, I wouldn't.

One can reasonably conclude I don't believe Netflix only affords bad choices.

Now, I know you're probably trying to form a counter-argument because I said "even bad ones." That was a direct reference to what Alar said, when agreeing with Cidbahamut about the selection being terrible. But then, even if you don't want to look at the context and history of the comments, saying "even bad ones" is not an automatic statement of poor quality of Netflix.

So....

Charli:

Is this what marketers being told nowadays? It's feeling like a trend.

Nowadays? When were they not told that?

Overquoted:

Think most places outside the U.S. has that problem. I know licensing is problematic once it crosses borders.

Actually, licensing is only "problematic" for these other countries because most industrial nations give better rights to the content producers. That makes it cost more.

Kind of like how here, we can't get a lot of European and South American tv shows. Sorta depends on the popularity (and whether or not BBC America ported them over already).

In fact, one could argue (correctly) that the lack of popularity of these titles is the only issue here.

Those guys have a vested interest in not allowing their content to stream right now.

Considering there's lag in qhat's streaming on Netflix, they really don't. In fact, allowing them to stream old episodes would very likely increase their subscribers. But more than that, HBO already has a streaming service they could provide for a fee if they wanted to, and instead lock people out of that service unless they're already subscribers through their cable.

Really, HBO is just backwards, like a lot of content providers. At a time where more and more people are "cutting the cable," HBO went and added more restrictions to their premium cable service (that requires you already have a costly cable package).

wait a minute, who turns on thier netflix and THEN starts looking for thingsto watch? i got a lnog list of stuff ill watch when i have time....

Zachary Amaranth:

In fact, one could argue (correctly) that the lack of popularity of these titles is the only issue here.

Quite possible. But given the increasing population of Spanish speakers in the U.S., and the nearly complete absence of telenovelas and other content from channels like Telemundo, I wonder if maybe Netflix just hasn't considered trying to capture the market. I'm in Texas, and even English speakers here will sometimes watch Spanish channels (even when they don't understand 90% of the conversation). It's common enough that a lot of popular shows even come with English captioning.

And some European shows have proven popular enough, in some fashion, that they're being ported here as remakes. The Killing, Being Human, Shameless, etc. And yet, they have a pretty good selection of Korean and Japanese tv shows and movies (definitely a niche market). I wonder if maybe the licensing costs are prohibitive in general for European and South American content.

Also, I hate Netflix for never offering subbed anime. English dubs are terrible. >_<

Considering there's lag in qhat's streaming on Netflix, they really don't. In fact, allowing them to stream old episodes would very likely increase their subscribers. But more than that, HBO already has a streaming service they could provide for a fee if they wanted to, and instead lock people out of that service unless they're already subscribers through their cable.

Really, HBO is just backwards, like a lot of content providers. At a time where more and more people are "cutting the cable," HBO went and added more restrictions to their premium cable service (that requires you already have a costly cable package).

Well, by vested interest, I'd say it's a case of either being fully committed to the cable model (HBO, bafflingly), or an interest in preserving ad revenue (most channels only allow streaming of old seasons; as an example, AMC's Hell on Wheels has one season on Netflix but is about to start airing the third). And remember, these channels still air reruns with ads, too. So the lag is deliberate.

I'd say streaming is already being seen as a way to drum up subscribers rather than as independent revenue generation, but only by specific channels (others just exempting themselves entirely). Or maybe they're delaying content as a way to increase download and dvd sales. Either way, they all see a vested interest somewhere.

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