Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Netflix Prize Competitor Already Beats Netflix 174

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the no-really-drop-dead-gorgeous-is-funny dept.
Baldrson writes "Within the first week of the announcement of The Netflix Prize a team has already beaten Netflix's own movie recommendation algorithm. This is pretty impressive given the previously quoted researcher who said: 'You're competing with 15 years of really smart people banging away at the problem.' The team is WXYZConsulting.com apparently registered by a data mining professor named Yi Zhang. Congratulations are in order for Netflix and Prof. Zhang's team who are demonstrating, yet again, the power of prizes to accelerate progress."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Netflix Prize Competitor Already Beats Netflix

Comments Filter:
  • by scoser (780371) on Monday October 09, 2006 @11:18AM (#16364525) Journal

    the power of prizes to accelerate progress

    Hmm...In that case, I'm offering $1000 USD to the person or group that can find me the perfect girlfriend!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Your girlfriend's name contains 5 letters. Just count them with your left hand.

      Send me my check thanks.
    • by qbwiz (87077) * <john@NosPam.baumanfamily.com> on Monday October 09, 2006 @11:21AM (#16364583) Homepage
      Well, would a temporary girlfriend work? I'm pretty sure you could find one for that amount of money. Otherwise, I think you would need to pay more.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by jizziknight (976750)
      Problem solved: get a realdoll. Can I have my $1000 USD now?
    • Who needs a girlfriend when you have five comfort games [slashdot.org].
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'm offering $1000 USD to the person or group that can find me the perfect girlfriend!


      Nymphomaniac Supermodel with no vocal chords?
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        and no teeth.
    • by NeonRonin (763614)
      Well, if you increase the stakes a little more, http://www.realdoll.com/ [realdoll.com].
    • Come on, this is Slashdot. We don't find girlfriends, we BUILD them!
    • by steveo777 (183629) on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:41PM (#16365655) Homepage Journal
      Comb your hair, permanently delete all your porn and all those DVDs of backups, comb your hair and shave the beard. Buy some new, clean, clothes without words or logos. Ask out pretty girls. Avoid the use of the words woot, pwnd, and 'leet' in any casual conversation. Do not admit to your unhealthy infatuation of a sci-fi or fantasy series of books or movies.


      • by heinousjay (683506) on Monday October 09, 2006 @01:22PM (#16366305) Journal
        So your advice is to be somebody else entirely in an attempt to please someone? That's the foundation of a healthy relationship if I ever saw one.
        • by dogbowl (75870)
          man, if the above is too much for someone to do to attract a girl, then theres just not much hope for them.

          Thats the kind of person my grandmother would look at and say "Well, bless his heart"....
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by toad3k (882007)
          When I have a computer problem, I try one thing, then if that doesn't work I try another.

          When I have a social problem, I try one thing. And then I keep trying it and trying it, and when people tell me to try something else I keep trying the same thing anyways. Because that's how it works in the movies.
      • by itistoday (602304) on Monday October 09, 2006 @01:22PM (#16366307) Homepage
        ...you might just win yourself a relationship so 'special' that 90% of all couples in America share. You'll buy her jewelry and allow her to spend your money on frivolous trifles, and she in turn will allow you to stick your penis in her vagina. When all else fails, resort to mediocrity!
        • by iroll (717924)
          w00t! PWN3D!!!!1
      • by Per Wigren (5315)
        Comb your hair
        or style it in some way.

        permanently delete all your porn
        if you are looking for the traditional christian daddy's-girl type.

        shave the beard
        or style it.

        Buy some new, clean, clothes
        unless you're looking for a punk/hippie/alternative girl.

        without words or logos
        unless you're looking for a geeky girl.

        Ask out pretty girls
        or just go to parties/clubs/concerts and be social.

        Avoid the use of the words woot, pwnd, and 'leet' in any casual conversation.
        Now that's a very good idea. :)

        Do not admit to your un
        • by devilspgd (652955) *
          Avoid the use of the words woot, pwnd, and 'leet' in any casual conversation.
          Now that's a very good idea. :)


          Unless you're trying to attract a scriptkiddy this is ALWAYS good advice.
      • Ummm, you don't have to change your personality and wardrobe to get a girlfriend. In fact, that's a recipe for getting a girlfriend who won't last. However, if you don't already, I do agree that you should bathe, use deodorant, mouthwash and toothpaste, and wear comfortable, clean clothes.

        Stop asking out the "prettiest" girls everywhere you go and start paying attention to the ordinary ones. Don't ask out anyone you think is really unattractive (if you really don't like the way they look, don't pretend y
        • by steveo777 (183629)
          So when did people start equating 'pretty' with 'totally hot'? Pretty would be someone who is pleasing to behold. Which is different for everyone. I didn't say locate the ones make you want to get it on right there.

          I didn't say to ask out the 'prettiest' girls either. I said just 'pretty'. And that's it. See the girl looking at the new graphics card? She's kinda cute? Go talk to her. Ask her if she's had lunch yet. Don't discount the power of yourself. Don't ask out someone because you think she'

          • Sorry, didn't mean to put words in your mouth! It does sound like we're of the same opinion.

            I have seen a lot of geeks and nerds, though, who fail to find a girlfriend because they go after the hottest girl in the room.
      • by NMerriam (15122)
        How in the world would a perfect girlfriend require you to delete porn and give up your hobbies?

        It may shock most "nice guys" but the truth is many, many women like porn, like watching it with their boyfriend, and are confident enough with themselves that they aren't threatened by their boyfriend looking at it or having it, so long as it he is doing so in a healthy manner.

        And feel free to be a geek who loves computers and star trek, just don't make that the center of your life. Having genuine passion about
        • by Dun Malg (230075)
          As soon as you're willing to walk away becuse she doesn't like your porn/hobbies, then you're strong enough for her to want you.
          Heh. Kinda reminds me of the Vonage commercial [youtube.com] where the fat bespectacled nerd dumps the hot chick in a Ferrari.
    • by oahazmatt (868057)
      Hmm...In that case, I'm offering $1000 USD to the person or group that can find me the perfect girlfriend!

      Bidding starts at $1,000! Do I hear $1,500 for the perfect girlfriend? $1,500?
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Odin's Raven (145278)

      Hmm...In that case, I'm offering $1000 USD to the person or group that can find me the perfect girlfriend!

      Just join our new subscription service, NetFux. Our online site allows you to chose from a vast array of first- and second-run girlfriends, and we have a growing selection of indy and foreign options as well. Prioritize your choices in our easy-to-use queueing system, and as each selection becomes available we'll ship her to you overnight. Date your choice as long as you like and as often as y

  • by UbuntuDupe (970646) on Monday October 09, 2006 @11:23AM (#16364605) Journal
    I think this demonstrates how important "many eyeballs" are in problem solving. Intelligent people "who have been attacking the problem for 15 years" can still fail to see an "obvious" solution. I shudder at how many scientific fields probably have obvious solutions that aren't being found because only a small cadre of people have been exposed to the problem. I also shudder at people who artificially set up barriers to understanding their own fields, in order to protect their own egos. The attitude of "journal articles need to be cryptic or they must not be important" needs to go.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I also shudder at people who artificially set up barriers to understanding their own fields, in order to protect their own egos.

      Like who?

      The attitude of "journal articles need to be cryptic or they must not be important" needs to go.

      There isn't any such attitude. Researchers want to be understood, lest their work be ignored. Just because journal articles use jargon doesn't mean they're intentionally cryptic. Jargon exists in all fields, as an aid to communication among experts.
      • "I also shudder at people who artificially set up barriers to understanding their own fields, in order to protect their own egos."

        "Like who?"

        One that comes to mind are research organizations that patent huge swaths of minor discoveries in their field, so that it behooves any other inventors/researchers *not to look at their patent portfolio (and therefore learn more about the field) because they could be sued for infringement if they ever go near those topics.
    • Sometimes one person with a different perspective on a problem can see something that a groups of "experts" had never thought of, or had discounted because they assumed it wouldn't work.

      That's why a fresh perspective on a problem can be quite enlightening, and why I tend to go ask other programmers for their ideas/comments when I get stuck. I don't know everything, and I sometimes make stupid assumptions or forget to consider certain technquies. No group is immune from this.
      • That's why a fresh perspective on a problem can be quite enlightening, and why I tend to go ask other programmers for their ideas/comments when I get stuck. I don't know everything, and I sometimes make stupid assumptions or forget to consider certain technquies. No group is immune from this.

        Bah, every time I ask other programmers for input, their ideas are always stupid, my ideas are much better...
        • by Dun Malg (230075)
          Bah, every time I ask other programmers for input, their ideas are always stupid, my ideas are much better...
          You sound like my boss....only I know you're not him because he'd never be able to figure out how to post a message on /.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by porkThreeWays (895269)
      I did work for the USDA horticulture lab around here awhile back. I didn't think security of the data was a huge deal, just as long as no one outside could get to it.

      Boy was I wrong. Within the same building, it was a big deal to show other scientists your teams research. They wanted security to make sure other teams couldn't see any of their work. And from what I was told, that's the norm in the scientific community. It's all about keeping your teams funding.

      I always grew up thinking the scientific c
      • by HuguesT (84078)
        It depends on the field. In the natural sciences, progress is often very quick and incremental, also publication delays are short, and the field is not of infinite scope like maths. Finally, researchers all use the same tools and similar approaches. This means competition is usually fierce because your neighbour's work can undermine your own.

        In other fields, like computer science, maths and physics, there is basically room for everyone and new tools are developed every day. It is also quite rare that two te
    • by gosand (234100) on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:13PM (#16365277)
      I think this demonstrates how important "many eyeballs" are in problem solving.

      I think it also demonstrates how the oft-used mantra of "if it needs to be done, it will be done" doesn't always work without some incentive. One of the hurdles of OSS is that the only things that get worked on are the things that people want to work on. The love of developing software can only get you so far (and wow, has it gotten us far). But for some things to advance, it will need financial backing. It's a prickly problem for the OSS community.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Peter Cooper (660482)
        Is there any sort of bounties / bounty search site that lists most / all of the various development bounties out there? I've tried Googling but haven't come up with anything compelling so far. I think such a site would rock. You could end up with good developers just living off of bounties.
        • by loraksus (171574)
          rentacoder.com might be another place to look... Lots of "set up a website for me so I can scam people out of money by selling penis enlargement pills" listings, but there are some interesting things there too.
    • by Shadowlore (10860)
      The attitude of "journal articles need to be cryptic or they must not be important" needs to go.

      More importantly, the attitude of "journal articles must be liked by the so-called referrees and reviewers and meet current politically correct (science and public) beliefs" needs to go.
    • by AviLazar (741826)
      Intelligent people "who have been attacking the problem for 15 years" can still fail to see an "obvious" solution

      Or maybe the issue was not so obvious.
  • by welcher (850511) on Monday October 09, 2006 @11:27AM (#16364663)
    Looking in the competition rules, I was surpised to see that:

    Residents of the province of Quebec in Canada are ineligible to participate. Residents of Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Sudan are also ineligible to participate.

    Is Quebec the next target for regime change?
    • by putch (469506)
      it was the original target. it's already been invaded. it just happened too quickly for you to notice.
    • Re:banned in Quebec (Score:4, Informative)

      by eison (56778) <<pkteison> <at> <hotmail.com>> on Monday October 09, 2006 @11:35AM (#16364801) Homepage
      Quebec outlaws most contests by requiring companies offering contests to have a head office or place of business in Quebec. No need to resort to conspiracy theories, it's just good business to make them ineligible due to their laws.
    • Re:banned in Quebec (Score:5, Informative)

      by NewbieV (568310) <victor DOT abrah ... AT gmail DOT com> on Monday October 09, 2006 @11:35AM (#16364803)
      From the FAQ [netflixprize.com]: "Most of those countries appear are on the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control's list of embargoed counties for which we cannot provide economic assistance. If this list changes, we'll post a change to the rules and let you know. Quebec has other reasons." Here's why [about.com] Quebec is on the list.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      iirc Quebec has very stringent rules [free-news-release.com] on contests and lotteries and is usually excluded from international contests because of the prohibitive effort required to comply.
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by ajs (35943)
      Quebec presumably has rules against gambling that precludes such cash-based contents.

      The others are the list of nations that U.S. businesses are not allowed to deal with. The list is published by the State Department.
    • by RexRhino (769423)
      Contests are only legal in Quebec if the company running the contest has a headquarters in Quebec. It is basicly a kind of intra-Canada protectionist measure to make sure companies in Toronto aren't "stealing" all the advertising and promotion opportunities from Quebec. There are all sorts of weird things that Quebec does to make sure that jobs don't go to other provinces.

      I understand you were joking... but the kind of intra-national protectionism with Quebec is interesting and unique enough that it deserv
  • This shows that greed can be used in a positive way.

    That is all I have to say, anyone else have anything to add?
    • by ThosLives (686517)

      The only comment I have is in response to the statement about how a prize helps "advance" something. Now, I can see how there might be some spin-off technologies from space travel that will help society in general cope with a changing world environment, but I can't for the life of me see how a system for recommending movies can really be all that much of a societal advance.

      Sure, entertainment is great, and the general economic activity that is generated by entertainment may eventually bleed down to the mor

      • by haluness (219661)
        Well if you look at the underlying technique (essentially filtering algorithms) then one can extend it to a variety of areas which might be more useful than movie recomendations. An example area would be analysis of biology/chemistry literature to search for molecules with properties related to diseases. Image a 'drug recomendation' system (for the scientists who're looking for drugs, not for people to decide whether to take a Tylenol!)
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Sangui5 (12317)

          then one can extend it to a variety of areas which might be more useful than movie recomendations

          I'd say, the odds are that this is going the other way. They had an existing technique, and then they extended it to movie recomendations. You don't need to offer researchers in data mining a price to get them to advance the state of the art in data mining; that's what they're interested in, and what they're payed for anyway. The prize just got them to apply it to movie recomendations.

          The only thing to se

      • by rossifer (581396)
        I have a machine learning problem that I hope to solve as a part of a commercial service and that project will almost certainly benefit from the requirement that the solutions to this contest be explained to the world.

        I would be astonished if an open source OLAP project didn't benefit or couldn't be started as a result of the code that will be published and refined through the course of this contest.

        Society doesn't only benefit from big, flashy goals (not that you were saying that).

        Regards,
        Ross
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      This reminds me of something mildly entertaining. I used to work at an IT consulting company for small and medium businesses. Each consultant had a short list of "their clients" that only they would take care of. One of my co-workers had a client that was having some problems he couldn't fix. After many other co-workers attempted to fix the issue and failed, our boss offered a $100 bonus to the first person who could fix the problem. Of course, after that incentive, I was motived to look at the problem
  • whats the prize? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    what is the actual prize they will receive? You'd think within 30 seconds of looking at a site about a prize I'd know what the prize was.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Kamineko (851857)
      On the Netflix Rules page, (a single click away) it says:

      Award of Contest Prizes

      Contest Prizes:
            1. Grand Prize: $1,000,000 (USD) Cash
            2. Progress Prizes: $50,000 (USD) Cash each award
  • Umm... Duh (Score:4, Informative)

    by Gr8Apes (679165) on Monday October 09, 2006 @11:32AM (#16364741)
    Quite a few teams have beaten the Cinematch engine, but not by the required 10% for the prize. The submission is in error. They also haven't won the 1% Progress prize yet, but they're very very close.
    • Only one team on the leaderboard has beaten Cinematch. They're close to qualifying for the Progress prize, but not necessarily winning it. The Progress prize is given away yearly, and not necessarily to the team with the best score.

      Netflix was actually pretty smart about how they set up the contest. The $1 million prize is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to attain, but for a mere $50K per year they have thousands of people making small improvements to their system.
  • ... says "Por la boca muere el pez", which means something like "Fish die because of their mouths". We'll see if that research team can swim
  • to note -- (Score:5, Informative)

    by aleksiel (678251) on Monday October 09, 2006 @11:33AM (#16364771)
    although yes they have "beatten netflix", they haven't won the prize yet.
    they have about a 1% improvement on the netflix algorithm, but the prize is for 10%. they are the frontrunner for the progress prize, though, being the people who are the closest to the mark after a year (i think).

    on top of that, netflix has been doing improvements on their own code in the meantime, and its been looking like around a 1% improvement, also.
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Monday October 09, 2006 @11:34AM (#16364787) Homepage Journal
    I have perfected the perfect movie recommendation mechanism. It's called a "friend."

    I hold a patent on the idea, and I've copyrighted the statement "hey, I saw this movie you'd like."
    • by Hacksaw (3678) on Monday October 09, 2006 @11:49AM (#16364977) Homepage Journal
      Actually, I find that friends have a less than 60% chance of making a recomendation that I'll like. People like vastly different things, and for different reasons.

      However, recommendations from multiple friends raises the accuracy to close to 100%.
    • Tried that, but I think my friends need to be tweaked some more. One of them recommended "Cheaper by the Dozen 2".

      I'm offering a $10 reward for anyone who can make a 10% improvement in my friends.

  • The team is WXYZConsulting.com apparently registered by a data mining professor named Yi Zhang.

    Maybe they should run a contest to come up with a better business name? Something that doesn't sound like a fly-by-night operation or a variation of something already in the phone book.
    • If they were going for the phone book, wouldn't they have at least looked at the HVAC installers and pawnbrokers and named the company AAAAConsulting.com?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by wampus (1932)
      Maybe he is the YZ in WXYZ.
    • by russ1337 (938915)
      >> "Something that doesn't sound like a fly-by-night operation "

      well, all the good names like were taken.
    • I used to some work for a computer repair company called fly-by-night technologies.
      It was totally intentional. They eventually had to change it to something not quite so obvious. I forget what it was, something like StarAir Tech. I forget..
  • It would be nice to see the algorithm used, if only to see if it can be improved.
  • There is always someone/something better out there. I guess enough money can bring that out. I bet if they tried again in two months they would find something even better.
  • by cultrhetor (961872) on Monday October 09, 2006 @11:57AM (#16365075) Journal
    You know, I've never seen recommendation applications worth much of anything. Ringo was okay, until M$ turned it into Firefly, which died in 1999(?). It will be interesting if this turns out well, or if it turns out like TiVO, which in Patton Oswalt's words, is like "working with a retarded kid." "No, TiVo, NO! Westerns aren't cartoons! / But you like horsies! Liar!"
  • What do prizes make?

    Progress!

  • by Mignon (34109) <satan@programmer.net> on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:14PM (#16365293)
    Congratulations on your solution to the Netflix problem. You might also find the following problem(s) interesting:
  • Formal competitions regarding problems like these [wikipedia.org] may or may not exist.

    I think solving one of them (especially under computer science) would lead to significant employment opportunities.
  • This is pretty impressive given the previously quoted researcher who said: 'You're competing with 15 years of really smart people banging away at the problem.'

    Oh please. It took them years before they figured out how to handle multi-disk sets correctly. Yes, their people must be smart (designing a orders database that scales up to a rapidly growing customer base is not easy), but none of their smarts has been directed at customer-facing technology.

    The shortcomings of Netflix recommendation system really

    • by Kope (11702)

      Anybody could design a better recommendation system than that.


      So the reason you're not claiming your million dollar prize is 'cause you're too busy, right?
      • by fm6 (162816)
        For some strange reason, Netflix neglected to call me and say, "We're going to give you an exclusive chance to claim this million dollar prize before we let every other programmer on the planet have a go."
  • So, is this why all my movie recommendations are suddenly 'The Manturian Candiadate' ?
  • by haggie (957598) on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:33PM (#16365553)
    I've been selling technology for almost two decades and one thing that I see over and over is that internal IT departments either a.) vastly overestimate their abilities b.) prevent introduction of outside techology providers for political reasons or c.) both. There are several companies where the CIO told me "oh, we're already building that in-house. it will be live next quarter" and years later they still have not successfully implemented that technology. Kudos to Netflix for acknowledging that somebody outside their company might be able to do it better. At most companies, the CIO would have never let this happen and/or the CEO wouldn't have the business sense to challenge internal assumptions.
    • At most companies, the CIO would not let it happen because of the political fall-out that woudl ensue, not because they wouldn't recognize that other people have good ideas as well.

      The fact that Netflix is allowing customer data out of their control (albiet sanitized data) is a major step that many company's would never take out of reasons not related to the technology at all.

      And most CEO's don't challenge those internal assumptions not because of a lack of business sense, but again, because of political sa
    • True but it works both ways. I've seen plenty of companies harmed by buying in expensive, specialist software that could easily have replaced themselves by leveraging general purpose tools and their own expertese. Speciality software packages are often steaming POS and many business problems are generic e.g. Change management, data entry or archiving.

      ---

      Don't be a programmer-bureaucrat; someone who substitutes marketing buzzwords and software bloat for verifiable improvements.

  • wxyz... (Score:3, Funny)

    by devnullkac (223246) on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:33PM (#16365557) Homepage

    WXYZConsulting.com registered to a Yi Zhang, eh? Probably co-founded it with Wilfred Xylem. Sounds fishy to me...

  • by Deven (13090) * <deven@ties.org> on Monday October 09, 2006 @12:54PM (#16365829) Homepage
    The RMSE score (lower is better) currently posted by wxyzconsulting.com (0.9430) does indeed beat the CineMatch score (0.9514), which is almost good enough to qualify for the Progress Prize 2007 (0.9419 required), but not close to winning the Grand Prize (0.8563 required), so don't assume that this story means that the contest is over!
  • My first thought on how to go about beating Netflix is to write a program that goes and gets more data. I read their rules, and I don't think this violates them. Mine all the movie review sites (The Onion AVClub, Ebert, etc.) Mine all the commentary for the film on IMDB, Amazon, etc. Mine the ratings by age, gender, etc. for the movie on IMDB. I haven't got time to start going into specifics, but use all this data to help associate what they're going to like.

    It can't be done for this contest, but I'd sugg
  • One important thing to keep in mind is how the Progress Prize works. The minimum for it is a 1% improvement over last years best score. However, the prize doesn't just go to the first to reach that 1%. It goes to the best algorithm that contest year that beats 1%. So if someone posts a 1% solution now and then in 11 months another posts a 2%, the 2% solution gets the prize.

    Due to this, there's a big incentive NOT to post any results until near the end of the contest year, unless your results qualify you
  • by neo (4625) on Monday October 09, 2006 @01:06PM (#16366065)
    I'm tired of people not realizing that "Prizes" are really just Patronage in desguise. I'm not saying Patronage is a bad thing... far from it. But the idea that Prizes are somehow working shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone with knowledge of 15th century aristocracy.

    Pay the people who do the work, don't get people to work for pay.
  • by erikdotla (609033) on Monday October 09, 2006 @06:54PM (#16371597)
    Looks like they already gave away the Grand Prize to "The Thought Gang." This just appeared on the site within the last hour.

    And I just finished downloading the dataset... jesus.
    • by erikdotla (609033)
      Hm, reading the rules more carefully.. I don't think the Thought Gang has won yet. They are in the running though.
  • "the power of prizes to accelerate progress"

    In graphic design and advertising, holding contests to develop and choose suitable product is considered spec work. It is recognised as being bad for business, bad for the industries, and is discouraged by professional organisations.

    The power of contests lies with one client, who has a lot of people work for nothing so the client can get their finished product on the cheap, with little or no risk to themselves. The client who uses contests is demonstrating a lack

As far as we know, our computer has never had an undetected error. -- Weisert

Working...