Thursday, August 12, 2010

Keys to the kingdom

I've written about my use of the Flickchart website ( numerous times on my blog. For a description of what it is and does, I invite you to look at the original post here.

Writing this post garnered the attention of the Flickchart founders, Nathan Chase and Jeremy Thompson, who were either trolling randomly for mentions of their site on the blogosphere, or have some method of being notified automatically when such a mention occurs. Nathan is more the public face and Jeremy is more the programmer -- at least that's how I understand it. So it was Nathan who commented on my first post, which led to an email relationship, and ultimately, friending each other on Facebook. I was also asked to participate in a user showcase on the Flickchart blog, and have written several pieces that have appeared there.

But it wasn't until this past week that I actually got the keys to the kingdom.

You see, the Flickchart database grows largely by users submitting obscure titles for approval. It surely originated from a large collection of familiar titles, presumably the result of Nathan and Jeremy racking their own brains or consulting famous film lists. But for as long as I've been a Flickcharter, there has been an option for users to submit titles that don't appear in the database. You provide the information -- title, release year, rating, cast, director, running time, etc. -- and someone at Flickchart finds the corresponding poster art, then verifies the accuracy of the information you've provided.

Now, that someone is me.

Or rather, I am part of a team of someones -- there seem to be about 16 of us. Last week, Nathan reached out to us to ask us if we'd be interested in helping approve the backlog of user submissions, which had crept up to about 3,000 titles. We had been contacted specifically because we were deemed to be trustworthy, and had showed a demonstrated ongoing commitment to Flickchart and to building the Flickchart community.

Needless to say, I was thrilled. It felt very exciting to think I'd have the chance to get a truly behind-the-scenes tour of how it all works. Not only that, but I'd be able to step out of the tour and actually take the controls.

I couldn't get started straightaway. I was in the midst of the busy final week before our co-ed baby shower, which we held at our house this past Sunday. (I discovered on Sunday morning in an entirely different context that it's considered sort of a faux pas to host your own baby shower, but let's just say that we don't consider ourselves close personal acquaintances of Miss Manners.) So I thanked Nathan and told him I'd be able to get started on it this week. In the meantime, as I was Flickcharting in my downtime, I witnessed the torrent of films that had been approved since Nathan had reached out to us -- and got into a minor panic, not wanting all the titles to be gone before I had a chance to do some approving.

And so it was, in my hurry, that I got off to somewhat of a bad start with my first titles on Monday. In my eagerness to get involved, I may have read the contributor's guide too quickly -- something we were specifically told not to do. And though my first approval went through fine -- Perceval (1979, Eric Rohmer) -- I made a goof on my second one. I was having trouble pulling the poster for the 1950 version of King Solomon's Mines, starring Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr. The approval site has a handy-dandy mechanism that automatically queries a number of other helpful sites, such as IMDB and (it so happens) the website I write for in order to verify content, and a couple other sites to find poster images. But the methods for loading the posters differ depending on which site you get them from. I found a King Solomon's Mines poster no problem -- several, in fact. But at first I couldn't get it to load, and then, inexplicably, it loaded 16 posters -- eight copies each of the English and Spanish versions of the poster you see above. (Foreign posters are welcome as alternate posters -- it's fun to see them come up when you're doing duels.) I eliminated the excess ones and thought I approved the entry correctly, but when it showed up in my dueling a few minutes later (how's that for instant gratification), there was no poster for it at all.

Hurriedly, I emailed Nathan and asked him to fix it "before anyone ranked it." (As if someone ranking it would mean it could never be edited again.) He did and told me "No worries." And truly, I probably shouldn't have worried about it too much -- but when you've been singled out because of your perceived ability to follow instructions and your potential for quality control, and you blow it on your second entry, you worry about having violated that trust.

I seem to have remained busier than I thought I'd be in the two full days since the baby shower, so I've only approved about eight more titles, which I've cherry-picked from the list -- the list is presented in the order of the oldest submission first, but I've been picking and choosing from later in the list on the theory that it would avoid me trying to approve the same title at the same time as someone else. (Nathan told me I shouldn't worry about this, but I guess I'm good at worrying.) I thought at this point you'd be interested to see some of those titles -- see how deeply we've gotten into the dregs of the cinematic world.

I've also approved:

The Mosquito Rapist, a.k.a. Bloodlust (1976, Marijan Vajda)

(2005, Joone)

Hellevator: The Bottled Fools (2004, Hiroki Yamaguchi)

Ah, cinema. It is a many-splendored thing.

But what I think may be most exciting about being part of the approval team is that I can now bend the Flickchart database to my will. Sure, first I'll help clear out the backlog -- and there are still some 2,000 titles left, even though I feared that my fellow contributors would clear them out before I had a chance to get there. But after that ... well, after that, I can add, and instantly approve, all the remaining titles that I've seen that are not yet in the database. I now have a clear path to start ranking every movie I've ever seen, which I keep track of in an Excel spreadsheet. And that, dear friends, is the ultimate goal of my use of Flickchart as a resource.

First things first, however -- like mastering this whole poster download thing. And getting exposed to a lot more really bizarre movies from the cinematic universe.

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