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Thursday: January 8, 2009

Dear Netflix

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:06 PM GMT-0500

Three pieces of advice, the first fairly urgent:

1. When I put a particular movie at the top of my queue, I expect it to be the next one I receive. I do not expect to receive #2 instead, with no explanation and without being asked if I’d rather have it instead. Obviously, I would rather have #1 than #2: I put it first because I want to see it next. This has happened five times in the last six months, including the last three movies shipped. Every time it happens I have a strong urge to cancel my membership. So far these urges have been momentary, but that could change.

2. Please add another box to your rating system: ‘I own this movie’. This should be checkable either with or without selecting a one-to-five-star rating. (I haven’t actually watched everything I have on DVD.) If I check ‘I own this movie’, stop recommending it to me. You’re just wasting my time. Why should I rent it from Netflix when I already own it? If I check the box and also give it a rating of four or five stars, do feel free to recommend similar movies, as long as I don’t own them either. If I check the box and give it a rating of one or two stars, try to avoid recommending similar movies.

3. Please allow me the option of not seeing specific categories of information currently offered to everyone. If programmed properly, your computer could already have told you that my taste in movies has little resemblance to the average taste of other people who happen to live in the same town. I am therefore not interested in knowing what they’re watching. Case in point: today’s ‘local favorites’ are: Jeff Dunham Very Special Christmas Special; Sex and the City: the Movie; Miss Potter; Run, Fat Boy, Run; and The Nativity Story. Sorry, not interested.

I am also emphatically uninterested in knowing which movies have been recommended by Roger Ebert. On the other hand, I would be interested in a feature that allowed me to select specific critics whose recommendations I could see, e.g. James Bowman or Terry Teachout. Of course, I already get such information from their websites. (I wonder if Netflix sees a detectable surge when (e.g.) Terry Teachout or Eve Tushnet plugs a movie, with some members adding it to their queue, others moving it to the top, and a few doing both.)