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Outsourced List #2: FlickChart

26 June, 2009

This site is very much along the same lines as Pick One, but has a much more specific subject matter, as well as a more specific mode of doing it. At FlickChart, you rate movies. No; a correction—you pick movies. You are given a choice between two movies and, as long as you’ve seen both (you can change pairs until you have), you have to choose the one you prefer. These choices slowly form themselves into a list of your top movies. It’s a very addicting process, and one that really shows you how much time you spend watching movies… I have, at the moment, 416 movies in my list, and it’s just growing. If you take the average length of a movie as an hour and a half (which, I think, is low), that’s already 26 full days right there .

It is a lot of fun to do this, both just because, and also because it’s entertaining (although frustrating) to have to pick between two movies that have pretty much nothing to do with each other. Lost in Translation and the Little Mermaid (I’d pick the first, but it’s close), for instance. Or Terminator and Bowling for Columbine (definitely #1). You can limit your choices by genre, or year, or decade, or any number of criteria, but, to me, that takes some of the fun out of it. Sure, it’s easier to compare Starship Troopers with Alien (the second) than it is with Beauty and the Beast (that’s close. The first, I think), but you have to think less. It sort of makes you think of a film as being good or bad, in terms of its style, skill, etc, rather than anything specific to the movie.

There are some issues with the site. But it is a beta, so it’s still a work in progress. (Incidentally, this means that you also have to apply for an invite before being able to use the site, but it’s a great time-waster, so it’s worth it[?]) My biggest is that the method they use of converting the choices into rankings is seriously flawed. The picked movie either stays in the same place as it was (if the other movie was already below it), or moves up to directly above the other movie. This seems fine, but causes all sorts of issues, especially when paired with the fact that strictly only the top movie moves—when a new movie is added into the ranking, it automatically goes to the middle of the list. So, if you have 300 movies, any new one is going to be added at 150. Even if you’ve just ranked it as less good as a movie at position 200. It also doesn’t keep track of past rankings (which I think is understandable because this would require a much more complicated program). For example, if you rank Star Wars above The Empire Strikes Back, and, because of the limited choices you have made so far, have the following list:

  1. Gigli
  2. Star Wars
  3. Empire Strikes Back

Then the choice comes up between Gigli and ESB. I would assume you would pick the latter. However, despite the fact that Star Wars has been proven to be better, in your mind, than ESB, you end up with the following list:

  1. Empire Strikes Back
  2. Gigli
  3. Star Wars

This is because only the chosen movie moves, and nothing else. So, Star Wars is back to being worse than ESB, and, perhaps an even worse fate, it is still worse than Gigli. This is, however, a problem I don’t really know how to fix. I’ve offered them assistance in trying to figure it out (I don’t know whether they’ll respond), but I can only help from a math angle, trying to create a better algorithm, and not at all from the programming direction, which is probably the more difficult part.

Nevertheless, this is a fun tool to play with, and I expect it’ll only get better. It also solves (almost) my problem of not being able to choose a favorite movie. Bit by bit, film by film, this creates the list for me, and maybe one day I’ll be able post a top ten film list!

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