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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Who wants to be a millionaire?? CMDS team forming now!

It's a PR promotion...but still,... Netflix is prepared to pay out a million dollars to any analytics team that can beat their movie recommendation engine by 10%. I downloaded the data...lots and lots of ratings at the customer id level, in many separate files. Some of the details posted at http://www.netflixprize.com follow...

Overview:
We’re quite curious, really. To the tune of one million dollars.

Netflix is all about connecting people to the movies they love. To help customers find those movies, we’ve developed our world-class movie recommendation system: CinematchSM. Its job is to predict whether someone will enjoy a movie based on how much they liked or disliked other movies. We use those predictions to make personal movie recommendations based on each customer’s unique tastes. And while Cinematch is doing pretty well, it can always be made better.

Now there are a lot of interesting alternative approaches to how Cinematch works that we haven’t tried. Some are described in the literature, some aren’t. We’re curious whether any of these can beat Cinematch by making better predictions. Because, frankly, if there is a much better approach it could make a big difference to our customers and our business.

So, we thought we’d make a contest out of finding the answer. It’s "easy" really. We provide you with a lot of anonymous rating data, and a prediction accuracy bar that is 10% better than what Cinematch can do on the same training data set. (Accuracy is a measurement of how closely predicted ratings of movies match subsequent actual ratings.) If you develop a system that we judge most beats that bar on the qualifying test set we provide, you get serious money and the bragging rights. But (and you knew there would be a catch, right?) only if you share your method with us and describe to the world how you did it and why it works.

Serious money demands a serious bar. We suspect the 10% improvement is pretty tough, but we also think there is a good chance it can be achieved. It may take months; it might take years. So to keep things interesting, in addition to the Grand Prize, we’re also offering a $50,000 Progress Prize each year the contest runs....

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Page Views Are Out, Time Spent Hanging Around Is In

Announced yesterday, Nielsen/NetRatings, a major online-measurement service, will start tracking Website usage by tracking how long visitors spend at individual sites. This is in contrast to the industry standard of using page views. This change has come about as many Websites move to dynamic content driven by user interaction on the main page, rather than clicking on links which load new pages. Social Networking sites like myspace.com and facebook.com and video sharing site youtube.com are prominent examples of this trend, along with content aggregators Yahoo, AOL, MSN and Google.

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