Saturday, January 29, 2011

Towards A More Risk Loving imdb

In my view, the "true" rating of a movie is what the average opinion would be if everybody who watches it:
  • has some basic knowledge of art and human affairs in general (for example, a working knowledge of the canon of classics), but no knowledge about the movie in particular (no previews, hype, etc);
  • is watching alone, so nobody in the theater is laughing at unfunny times;
  • experiences neither hunger, thirst, polyuria, tiredness, stress, excessive marijuana-induced paranoia, nor any inclination to rub tongues with the person next to em;
  • watches on a ridiculously large screen with speaker cables made of pure silver.
Since the above conditions will never all hold, we will all be biased in one or another way when we watch a movie. So we must be wary of the opinion of any given rater. That is, if the first person to watch a movie gives it a 10/10, our estimate for the true rating of a movie should not be a 10, but instead should be adjusted down towards the average.

The above is all obvious. What's less obvious is that there's no easy way to decide how much one should scale down the rating. That depends on how much of a risk you're willing to take with low sample sizes.

Consider The Passion of Joan of Ark, whose 8.3 rating should be enough to place fairly high on the top 250. For example, Sin City also has an 8.3 and it's currently #104. However, TPoJoA only ranks #210, because its paltry 11k votes push down its score so much.

Here's what I'm proposing. Let us, the users, choose our own scaling parameter. Let us define how much of a risk we want to take in trusting smaller sample sizes. Let us choose our own destinies. Because the current system smacks of hegemony, and I, for one, will only stand for it because I have better things to do.