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That Nagging Netflix Queue 161

Instead of being used and returned at the pace of cloth diapers, it seems DVDs rented from Netflix are often gathering dust, unwatched, in customers' homes, in what a posting yesterday dubs a "paradox of abundance." Readers suggested some reasons why this was so, and why this might not be a bad thing, in the comments attached to the story; read on for the Backslash summary of the discussion.
Reader aiken_d suggests that "unwatched, then returned" isn't anything new for video rentals, writing

"Busy people hate traditional rental stores because you rent some movies, pay for them, get busy and can't watch them, and then return them 3 days later unwatched. Or, equally likely, you return them 6 days later and pay late fees for the movie you didn't watch."

As reader nullix puts it,

"I could never return a rental ontime. It was more like a week or 2 after it was do. With the extra late fees added to the rental, it was cheaper to buy the movie. I just bought the movies instead. Of course, this was when I was single and had money to burn."

"Now with a wife and kids, there is no time to goto the movies. Netflix is great to catch up on the movies I missed. Plus, I can easily rent questionable movies like King Kong and Napoleon Dynamite without having to pay $50 to see it in the theater ($10 for 2 people, $20 for food, $20 for a babysitter)."

If there really is a "paradox of abundance," paying customers aren't the only ones who experience it; Brix Braxton writes that the same ennui affects the casual software copier, too:

"This reminds me of when I was a kid and had my first 8-bit computer -- for the first few months I bought all of my software one tape at a time. I would play the games, good or bad all the way through -- picking through every nugget I could find, playing some games for weeks on end."

"Some time later, I met a friend at school who had the same computer and offered to bring his disks over. Holy cow -- he must have had two hundred disks of software that I spent a weekend or two copying. That pretty much killed it for me since I didn't really have any pressure to play anything and since I didn't invest anything into the software -- I would just load a game, decide it didn't look all that great and move on to the next."

And reader bman08 says that "owning movies is even worse," writing

"There are something like 345 DVDs on my shelves at home and it would not, in a million years, occur to me to actually watch one... Those movies are for even later, after the Netflix movies. I've often found myself watching Pan'n'scan versions on cable of movies I own for this reason... the TV schedule provides a compelling reason to watch."

SloppyElvis renames the phenomenon of oversupply matched with underuse "Paradox of Consumption." He writes

"The converse of this paradox is also one. Accumulating as much of a product as possible to maximize the value of the monetary expense, even if doing so adversely affects your enjoyment of that product, illustrates a strange consequence of consumerism."

"The obvious example is that of the person who consumes far beyond a comfortable and enjoyable amount of food at an all-you-can-eat buffet. The value for the price is determined to be "volume of food" rather than enjoyment of the meal. Would someone consciously pay for a sick stomach?"

"For some, Netflix is approaching this valuation on "volume of movies" rather than convenience or even personal enjoyment/satisfaction of the service."

Writing "You don't want what you think you want," reader voidstin has some suggestions about the psychological dilemma posed by all-one-can-eat rentals:

"Of course we want to see Hotel Rwanda, or the new Almodovar film, because we are advanced, modern intellectuals. In reality, after a 12-hour day of re-factoring someone else's messy code, would you rather open a beer and collapse in front of Hotel Rwanda or Super Troopers?"

"The problem is Netflix (and TiVo) makes you confront this issue -- You have to send it back and quit on it. You have to admit that you don't want to watch Hotel Rwanda. You'd rather fast forward to the 'good parts' of The Girl Next Door rather than think about genocide. You are not the advanced, modern intellectual you thought you were. Who wants an existential crisis when they thought they were just renting movies? Is this horrible? Probably. So is alcoholism, but I bet you didn't cringe when I opened a beer in the above paragraph."

Reader Gadgetfreak supplies another psychological explanation for the unwatched-movie pile in many households:

"[T]he bigger and more complicated a decision, the easier it is for me to decide. Choosing a college: Simple. I went, I looked, and by the time I needed to apply, I'd already decided. Only applied to 1 school. (Graduated 3 + years ago, picked up a dual Engr. degree, and had a blast). Buying a car? Simple. I knew what I wanted. Buying a house? Simple. (Going on 2 years now, still satisfied)."

"But man... you put me in front of a vending machine and I cannot make up my friggin mind. I'm not kidding. I can't decide. I'll stand there staring at it."

Ackthpt suggests yet another reason: that a movie sometimes needs the viewer to be in a mood suited to it, and that it's hard to predict emotional states:

"[S]tuff coming in like clockwork isn't the way my tastes for music or film are sated. On impulse I'll suddenly whip out and buy an Etta James collection, because I like some tune she sang back in the days of yor or I'll buzz down to the Bijou and check out Superman Returns From Wherever He Buggered Off To, but I don't do these with any chartable frequency. I tend to buy music, DVDs or old radio plays to listen to on trips or when I feel like it. Having stuff come in on a robotic schedule just isn't going to work, no matter how good the deal."

Reader MagikSlinger lays some blame (if blame is the right word) on the queuing system used by Netflix, which he compares to that of Zip.ca, which allows a user to set some movies on hold ("Park"), and suggests

"Arbitrarily ranking the queue (which I understand Netflix allows) is handy if you know you're going to watch things, but maybe they need to ask the user: I really want to watch this, I wouldn't mind watching this, and 'Eh, a friend told me i should watch it.'"

Reader Quiet_Desperation wants to know why anyone should be so worked up about a choice that's all about luxuries in the first place. He writes

"My job has been very busy lately, and Elder Scrolls IV wandered into my life, so I simply cut back my Netflix account to two out at a time down from four. I can just about slip in two movies a week. If I can't do that, I'll cut back to one. There's also the 'rip to hard drive' option to backlog films."

"Feeling "pressure" to watch a movie? What would these "paradox of abundance" sufferers do if they had to go out and hunt a woolly mammoth for dinner? Cripes, take a Paxil or something."

(One reader's response: "I'm pretty much sure they'd starve to death -- the woolly mammoths have been real scarce this year.")

Dephex Twin, too, wants to know What's the problem?, and writes:

"I don't really see what's so bad about this. It's there, and maybe you get around to watching it and maybe you don't."

"One positive thing that I have noticed since I started Netflix is that I watch a lot less movies that I *don't* care about much. Back when I used to go to the video store, I might have a few movies in mind, and maybe these movies would be in, or not, or maybe I remember my mental list, or maybe not. But at that point, I've driven to the video store, so I'm leaving with at least one movie. So, I spend 45 minutes to finally decide on something that I don't even care about, just so my trip wasn't a total loss."

SydShamino takes a different tack, and writes that he's "been watching more movies that I really don't care about. With rentals, it's hard to pay good money for crap movies like 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' (currently at the top of my queue). With Netflix, though, assuming I watch and turn it relatively quickly, I'm only paying $0.80 or so for the rental -- and that money is hidden away in a monthly fee that I pay anyway. Given that my tastes wander enough to appreciate B, C, and D-grade science fiction, this is a good deal."

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That Nagging Netflix Queue

Comments Filter:
  • by gardyloo ( 512791 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:05PM (#15745348)
    ... of returning the things un-rewound. RELAX YOUR REWINDING POLICY! Easy.
  • slashback (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:06PM (#15745359)
    Slashback: Where a dupe is not a dupe.
    • Slashback: Where a dupe is not a dupe.
      and people throw ducks at balloons and nothing is the way it seems
    • Re:slashback (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mrtrumbe ( 412155 )
      Being a lazy, lazy man, I actually like slashback. In a normal thread, I generally browse at a pretty low threshold. Looking through a slashdot thread like this is a relatively time/brain intensive activity. For something I'm really interested in, the investment is worth it.

      However, for subjects I have only a passing interest in (for instance netflix usage), it's nice to have an editor pick through the crap and give a nice summary of the thread. It's much easier to read and takes far less time. It's l

    • *coughBackslashcough*

      At least troll intelligently. ^_~
    • All things considered, I'd rather have Slashback than Katz back.

      (Well, okay, technically the repetive articles are Backslash, the follow-up articles are Slashback, but that messes with the rhyme. "I'd rather back slash than back Katz"? Um, no.)
  • backslash (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:09PM (#15745388)
    Those backslash stories belong to another site, something like "metaslashdot.org". It doesn't make sense to rehash the same thing is the same slashdot format.
    • Push that Backslash radio button all the way to the left. Off my homepage now!

      http://slashdot.org/users.pl?op=edithome [slashdot.org]
    • It doesn't make sense to rehash the same thing is the same slashdot format

      You must be new here.

    • Wow. I just went to edit which stories I see, and I see I can no longer do that.

      Hurry up with the tagging beta, and let me ignore backslash tags, already.
      • Yes you can. Go to your profile, click Preferences, Homepage, then scroll down to the 'Customize Stories on the Homepage'. Backslash is there along with all the other sections. Click the far left option to disable it completely.
    • > Those backslash stories belong to another site, something like "metaslashdot.org". It doesn't make sense to rehash the same thing is the same slashdot format.

      It's perfect for those who can't decide whether they should browse at +4 or +5.
    • Personally, I love backslash--it's a human-edited review of excellent comments and threads. Essentially, it brings to a website what editors bring to the publishing industry, and so far as I know is the first site to do so. It's rather a brilliant little innovation, and it belongs right here.
  • by suggsjc ( 726146 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:13PM (#15745421) Homepage
    If there was anything that I got out of that it is that services like Netflix are good for different people for different reasons. Meaning that for some it allows them the freedom to watch them at a lesiurly pace. For others it is the frantic rate at which you can watch and return vast volumes of movies. For others it is just the great selection. Netflix will often carry movies that Blockbuster (and other brick and mortar companies) won't because of the low volume of rentals.

    Anyway, the real story is that choices for consumers is a good thing. Some people would never use Netflix because they enjoy the trips to Blockbuster...browsing, touching, feeling. Others like the community feedback that an on-line store provides. People will decide what works best for them...and that is a good thing.
  • Oh dear (Score:5, Funny)

    by also-rr ( 980579 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:14PM (#15745424) Homepage
    I had so many Slashdot Netflix storeis to potentially read I ended up leaving them all on the shelf to gather dust.
  • by Brett Johnson ( 649584 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:22PM (#15745493)
    I rented 'Groundhog Day' last February, but I still haven't watched it. Every morning I wake up thinking I will watch it, but I get sidetracked reading about <a href="http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/07/18/ 1654258">Netflix Users Experience Paradox of Abundance</a>.
  • I guess the irony here, kids, is that the front-running related article, right beneath the text of this article is yesterday's "Netflix Users Experience Paradox of Abundance".

    So clearly the tools exist to check for similar content, which leaves me wondering which of the following is true:

    A) The tools are not made available for editors to research if an article is going to be a duplicate, or
    B) The editors (okay, not all of them) don't bother researching...

    Hrmmmm... ::Colz Grigor
    • The whole point of the Slashback things is that they collect interesting comments from previous stories - in this case the very story you mentioned. This content is not similar so much as it is condensed.

      I like the idea of SLashback but would like to see more editorial commentary from the grouper.
  • ...trivial to say on this uninteresting subject, here's the story again, and this time we'll help you by providing a selection of trivial and uninteresting comments that you can copy and paste into your own trivial and uninteresting replies.
  • Reminds me of piracy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:29PM (#15745546)
    I'm going to post this one anonymously since you never know where the agents of copyright are hiding, especially with 200,000 Chinese kids on the hunt [slashdot.org].

    I'm not much into movies, frankly, but I am heavily into music and software. When broadband, CD burners, and a news host with a good alt.binaries.* feed came into my life, I downloaded music and software like a fiend. It was all free, and there was an ass-ton of it. It ended up consuming a lot of time, downloading, repacking, renaming, and organizing everything. My mp3 collection topped 60,000 tracks. That's bloody ridiculous, of course, since I could spend most of the rest of my life listening to that without repeating.

    You know what? I got sick of it. It was too much stuff, and just organizing it so I could access it effectively was a tremendous time suck. I still have it, of course, and I still use some of it, but weirdly, I have ended up buying more music CDs and software titles from retail stores since then than I ever did before. It's more... manageable. I seldom ever bother with downloading pirated mp3s anymore.

    The underlying psychology, I think, is that we are accustomed to scarcity, both in terms of our evolutionary heritage and our personal histories as consumers. Suddenly confronted by ridiculous abundance, it's very hard to develop a balanced approach. And this isn't just piracy or movie rentals. It's everything. How much time do people spend in malls or Wal-Mart or other stores looking for something to spend money on -- as opposed to going to a store with a specific purchase in mind? Human hoarding behavior is pretty much what you'd expect if you took a bunch of primates out of the marginal semi-arid plains of Africa and, in the blink of an evolutionary eye, dumped them in the middle of post-Christmas sales in a gigantic mall. We're hard-wired to expect that anything we don't snatch right away will be picked up by a competitor, and that wiring continues to be active even after the conditions that produced it no longer exist.
    • I think your post is great. I dont entirely agree with some of your points but I can see where you are coming from.

      But I don't get your subject? what on earth does it have to do with one legged men with swords and beards and walking the plank?
  • by codeonezero ( 540302 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:29PM (#15745553)
    (Despite this being a Dupe, it gives me the chance to post some thoughts and possibility of people moderating them ;-) )

    I've been using Netflix for the last 2 years. And it's been awesome for me. There have been a lot of good shows that for one reason or another I was never able to watch completely (Farscape, Firefly, Stargate SG-1, a couple of anime series). Sure I could have gone out and bought the series box sets, but in some cases I hadn't watched the whole series to make it worthwhile to buy.

    Also since I rarely watch TV, Netflix is a nice alternative for me when I want to watch something. Not only that but I can watch something I'm interested in instead of the boring TV series that seem to be up now. Currently, I've been devouring season after season of Stargate SG-1, with 3-4 DVDs a week.

    If instead I wanted to watch several theatre releases, I could see things being left on the shelf and eventually making their way back. I've had a few movies that I rented and didn't really watch.
    • This is a good point, especially where the Star Trek dvd sets are concerned. I've been making my way through each season of TNG, now up to season 3. In the store, each season set is upwards of $110. Netflix makes it economical to catch up on the series.
  • Ever since I got into this whole pirating routine, I've found myself paradoxically enjoying my entertainment far less than I have before. It seems like having a neverending supply of game ROMS, movies and TV shows available to me should be a great thing, but I mostly find myself hoarding a bunch of stuff that I never watch. I try to find excuses to buy stuff instead of downloading it. My friends call me crazy, but in all honesty, the satisfaction of going out and spending my hard-earned money on something just makes me appreciate it more. I've found myself buying a lot more books lately, since the book is one experience that just can't be emulated. Every time I buy a book, I read it from beginning to end, and usually enjoy the experience. None of my books ever go half-finished, I don't get bored of them in favor of picking up another book, or cycling through a ton of books. Having an incredible amount of options avaiable to me is, ultimately, unfulfilling.
    • I'd say that it is not the abundance that is your problem, it is the price.

      It is human nature to assign greater value to things that cost the acquirer more. In your case, pirated entertainment is essentially free, so you feel that it is of little worth. While paying your "hard earned money" for something gives it a boost in perceived value.

      This phenomenon manifests throughout the human experience, from the mundane to the weird. For example, it has been widely reported that the people who pay full sticke
      • In the case of music, it's not the price for me, it's the physical artifact. I don't perceive a brand-new CD I purchased for $17.99 to be more valuable than the used CD I purchased for $5.99. I do perceive both as being more valuable than a bunch of MP3s encoded at a bitrate that I cannot distinguish from the original.

        Of course, that may be because I grew up in the vinyl era, when record albums were often elaborately produced pieces of visual art themselves, and I've just retained that emotional response to
    • by MWoody ( 222806 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @05:47PM (#15746494)
      I know exactly where you're coming from. About a year ago, I decided to build the mother of all arcade cabinets. Got a kit and custom built panel from Slikstik [slikstik.com], grabbed a decently powerful PC on sale at Fry's, and spent the month or so while I waited for all the parts to arrive tracking down, downloading, and setting up emulators for every home and arcade system ever. Fully built, this thing has ROMs and emulators - all accessible from a simple menu - for literally every Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Atari (all flavors), Arcade (all MAME-supported plus Daphne for laser disc games), Genesis, TurboG16, N64, Gameboy, Super Gameboy, Color Gameboy, Lynx, Colecovision, Jaguar, etc etc etc ever made.... ...and I haven't even turned it on in 8 months. It sits as a giant, 500-pound coffee table next to the front door of my apartment. I skirt around it, guiltily reassuring myself that I'll "play some games tomorrow" nearly every day on my way out the door. It's depressing, and baffling, but there it is.
    • I feel as if this works in the other direction as well. I unplugged my television three-and-a-half years ago and now ANYTHING on a TV is evtertainment. I stayed in a hotel last week and killed some time using the TV, it was AMAZING, even late at night when the programming was craptastic. Also, I can honestly say now after doing this that I like the commercials more than the programming itself.
    • The problem is not the abundance in itself, it's the hoarding.
      Ive gone through the same phase when i was in college. Got an internet connection that was restricted by the local network and the beginning of p2p (scour, napster and some others). Also the beginning of mpeg4 video compression with the divx codec.

      The result? I could find lots of movies easily and download them faster than i could watch them. Hell we could almost STREAM them! At first, you go crazy and hoard all you can get your little dirty hand
  • I have had a couple of movies out since May. MAY. I have watched a few DVDs of television episodes and sent them back, and now have two movies waiting for my attention. Why? Because I have a wife, kids, a gym membership, and volunteer at my church - not to mention the insane demands my job puts on me. I bet all of you have one or more of these to contend with as well. Do I love Netflix; despite the fact that my 30 day trial got me new movies much much faster than they do now that I'm paying for them, e
    • Truly, the answer to this problem is an obvious plan:

      1. Immediately cancel your gym membership. You need to spend more time "sitting" and "staring".
      2. Immediately quit volunteering at church. In fact, quit church. (You are going to need to start sleeping in on the weekends.)
      3. Begin consuming large quantities of "junk food" and spend your time reloading the Slashdot main page.
      4. Once you gain some weight, stop bathing for a while, and get really slothful your other problem of being married will take care o
  • by saboola ( 655522 )
    Hey can we get a post about the comments in this post about comments?
  • I posted this in the original thread, but http://replaylink.com/ [replaylink.com] is a service where you can buy and sell used DVDs (as well as CDs and video games). They send you a postage paid mailer just like Netflix, so the convenience is about the same. You can buy something, keep as long as you want, and then turn around and sell it. The shipping fee and seller fee together are about the same as a rental. If you only watch a few movies a month or go on vaccation or something, it's cheaper than the netflix subscription
  • Why else would there be a slashdot article summarizing comments from a slashdot article?
  • I get around the stuck queue problem by watching movies a bit at a time. This avoids devoting a given evening to watch an entire film. I usually watch a third of a movie per day over the course of three days.

    It takes a little getting used to, but is second nature to me now. It gives time to gradually digest the movie's content, like reading and reflecting on a novel over the course of a week, rather than in one sitting.
  • by ml10422 ( 448562 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @04:32PM (#15746016)
    I'm sorry, but aren't you just posting a Slashdot article summarizing another Slashdot article and its comments?
  • The real damage being done here is that the apparent capacity of the audience for consuming many titles is increasing. The bottleneck of watching the movie is removed. So now Hollywood can stuff even more worthless crap through the pipeline.

    It will get harder to distinguish the worthwhile titles from the crap, and the good movies will fill with product placements, because they're more likely to actually get watched.
  • pay $50 to see it in the theater ($10 for 2 people,

    Where do you find Movie tickets for $5 a head these days? Here in Orange County, CA movie tickets start at about $10/head except for Matinees maybe (certainly can't do a movie "night" anyways). Now granted Orange County is one of the most expensive places in the United States to live, but is it that much better elsewhere? Then the movie people probably wonder why I don't go to the movies very much...
    • I'd like to see a movie theater where the tickets are $20 each. But you get to sit in a nice, comfortable recliner, without having to play "Elbow Wars" for the armrest, get kicked in the back by someone, or have to smell the breath of the person next to you. Shoot, make it $25, and have someone come around and refill your popcorn for you. I'll pay.

  • nullix wrote: "...I can easily rent ... without having to pay $50 to see it in the theater ($10 for 2 people, $20 for food, $20 for a babysitter)."

    $10 for 2 tickets? Around here, the dollar theatre costs more than that.
  • Eight or nine years ago having several hundred Mp3s made a guy the cool kid in town. Now not having several thousand Mp3s makes a guy obsolete.

    I got my name, LoudMusic, those eight or nine years ago by having A) A cable modem, and B) 12GB of Mp3s. I guess about three years ago the mission to fill with Mp3s every last byte of disk space I could purchase just became profound insanity. I had plans to build multi-terabyte disk arrays and gather all my friends collections together. Then I realized that 99% of wh
  • Since I live about 3/4 mile from a Hollywood Video store, I joined their MVP program, which, for $15/month, lets me check out 3 titles at any one time for up to 5 days. Typically, when I'm feeling a little bored on a summer evening, I'll walk down there with my wife or daughter to pick out some videos. And at least half the time, we'll never watch them. But a few days later, I'll need to walk there again to return them, and maybe get some more.

    I get a fair amount of enjoyment from the walk and the browsi

APL hackers do it in the quad.