December 3, 2006


Accurate recommendations from Netflix? It may happen. (Scott Kirsner, December 3, 2006, Boston Globe)

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"I'm delighted by the notion that software may soon understand my tastes in music, books, movies, and TV shows better than my closest friends and family members."

A group of entrepreneurs are hard at work on a new generation of intelligent recommendation software aimed at achieving that. As you turn on the television, hook up your MP3 player to your car stereo, watch online videos, or listen to digital music at work, their vision is that you'll always encounter content catering to your tastes -- even if it's a TV show you've never heard of or a popular band you've never realized you liked.

The urgency behind making the software work better is linked to the explosion of content available online -- some of it well-known stuff like the NBC show "The Office" and some of it obscure like the punk album just released by your neighbor's garage band.

"It's hard to even keep track of how many videos, TV shows, or books are out there, especially as it has gotten so easy for people to self-publish their stuff on a site like YouTube," says Steve Johnson, chief executive of Cambridge-based ChoiceStream Inc. "Personalization is a really powerful way for people to discover new content, without having to go out and search for it. With entertainment, people prefer a more passive experience."

Speaking of which, here are three recommendations for reading; viewing; and listening:

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 3, 2006 9:45 AM

Our recording device taped the whole "The Closer" oeuvre last weekend. We've been watching the episodes in sequence and now that the story line makes sense, we'll probably tune in for the second season. The only jarring note is the lipstick smeared mouth. I wonder they'd make her up like that. She's so much prettier without it.

Posted by: erp at December 3, 2006 2:05 PM

As streaming music goes, there are already a couple of services that do what is being proposed. serves music based on topographical similarities as compiled by their music people, and Last FM serves music based on recommendations from users based on similar tastes.

Services like Netflix could take better advantage of both types of logic.

Posted by: kevin whited at December 3, 2006 2:44 PM

After rating 550+ movies on Netflix, their suggestions were no better than the early ones, most being not anything that interested me. I've had the same experience with Pandora -- just because i like one blues song doesn't mean I don't think most are junk. The real problem is that 95%+ of everything produced is worthless pap, and no amount of topographical similarites is going to cull that out.

Posted by: jd watson at December 3, 2006 5:30 PM