Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tainted!


I went from February until July without writing about Flickchart on my blog -- and now I'm doing it for the third time in the space of two weeks. Sometimes things just go that way.

And because I know the Flickchart creators sometimes look in on my blog, I want to start by telling them that I don't blame the site itself in the least for the following story -- I blame my computer, pure and simple.

Okay, so I'm very anal about making sure all my Flickchart duels have the correct winner. If you choose poorly or hastily between the two choices in front of you, the site has a handy-dandy Undo button, which I have availed myself of on numerous occasions. I don't want to let a single poor decision creep through and muck up my whole list.

Yesterday, my computer acted up in a way that took the ability to go back and correct right out of my hands.

I'd just gotten home from work and hauled my computer onto my lap for a couple minutes of random dueling. I love these little Flickchart breaks, which are usually finite in duration according to little parameters I put in place. I'll say "I'll duel until I get one lower film to beat a higher film," or, "I'll duel until I get one duel featuring one of my top 20 movies." Because I've done over 83,000 duels, either of these can take a little while -- anywhere from one to five minutes. And then I'll go do something else.

But because of some state the computer was in, where the inner circuits were telling it that the mouse click mechanism was depressed, or because of some way my palm was brushing over the mouse pad in between my two thumbs, I suddenly made a flurry of unknown duel choices. The posters rapidly changed, and I noticed that results were being recorded -- this film held its position, that film jumped forward 700 spots. I was aghast by the 700-spot jump, but it wasn't the end of the world -- it was the original Friday the 13th jumping from a spot that was probably too low (in the 2700s, out of 2950) to a spot that was slightly too high (in the early 2100s). Because Flickchart sometimes freaks out a little bit in situations like this, where a flurry of unexpected stimuli registers actions on the site, the Undo button was not available as an option. But having Friday the 13th ranked in this position didn't seem fatal to the integrity of the list.

I thought I was past this temporary trauma, but then it happened again, this time faster and with more dire results.

The little flurry ended with Inside Man jumping 800 spots, from around 1000 to #220. Looking at my live list of rankings just now, that means it beat Total Recall. Sure, there are plenty of people who might rank Inside Man above Total Recall, but I am not one of them. However, again I decided I could live with it. Inside Man would eventually make its way back to the appropriate spot through the random dueling process. I could live with it being ranked higher for six months or a year before finding its rightful place again. But just to make sure there was not a third session of random ranking, I closed my web browser and reopened it.

There were no recurrences of the problem, but it was only a few minutes later that I discovered one of the consequences of this uncontrolled period of blind ranking.

I got a duel between The Story of Us and Mission: Impossible III, and I gave the win to The Story of Us. You can imagine my surprise when Flickchart proceeded to jump The Story of Us from #1300-something in the standings ... all the way up to #25.

This is when I slapped my forehead and knew that my Flickchart rankings had been irrevocably tainted.

What apparently happened was that Mission: Impossible III had won a blind duel that had jumped it all the way up to #25. So when The Story of Us beat it, it assumed the #25 spot, pushing the Cruise flick down to #26. Consulting my rankings again, it appears that M:I III had won a blind duel against ... wait for it ... Fargo. The horror.

I sat for a moment and wondered what I would do. I actually like The Story of Us quite a bit -- it's a candidate to be reconsidered in my Double Jeopardy feature that runs on Tuesdays, since most people (those who have seen it, anyway) do not share my high opinion of it. But #25? I couldn't handle it. I could see it belonging around 800, but no higher than that.

And it wasn't just one interloper, but two. The fault really lay with the elevated ranking for Mission Impossible, but the problem had already started to multiply. Now, in order to force those two movies downward to their correct spots, I would need other films to beat them -- which shouldn't be a problem. But then I'd have to deal with the separate problem of those films being ranked too highly. Before long, my top 100 films would become unrecongizable.

I realized there was only one thing I could do: I had to remove the offending films and start ranking them again from scratch.

For an ordinary Flickcharter, this might not be such a big deal. But for an anal retentive bastard like me, I felt the pain. You see, Flickchart keeps a stats page of how your films have performed over time -- how many times you've ranked each film, and what percentage of duels it's won. An anal retentive bastard like me believes that those stats have some kind of intrinsic value -- they mean something in the imaginary "record books" that no one but me (and others like me) probably cares about. So my pain wasn't so much a result of the fact that I'd have to begin the process anew of getting these movies to their appropriate spots in the rankings, but that I'd be wiping out this history -- this history that means something intangible yet powerful to me.

But I had to do it.

I first went to the page for The Story of Us. I'd ranked it 56 times and it had won 59% of its duels. I clicked Remove From My Flickchart. I clicked Add to My Flickchart. When you add a new movie, it subjects it to three random duels to get an initial ranking. It won two of those duels. Its new stats? Three times dueled, 66.67% won.

It was harder when I moved on to the next two. Both Mission: Impossible III and Inside Man were part of the initial 300-400 movies they give you automatically when you first join Flickchart, movies that are considered the most popular. (They do this so that new Flickcharters aren't immediately confronted with My Dinner With Andre and The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain.) So these two movies had been dueled a lot more -- as it happened, 99 times each. Oy. Pretty soon, they too were back down to three duels apiece. And the integrity of my list had been restored.

Oh, I decided to just leave Friday the 13th where it was.

All in all, not a big deal. So why am I writing about it today? In fact, why am I writing so many words about it that the sensible ones among you have already stopped reading?

Well, it's just another insight into the passion I feel both for movies and for lists. And now you get why I have such passion for Flickchart, 'cause it's got both. If you haven't started yet, what are you waiting for? www.flickchart.com

9 comments:

Nick said...

There's a story I can relate to. I was once playing a little too late at night using the arrow keys and I nodded off for a second or two. My finger went down hard of the right arrow and that was that. I too was faced with the terrible notion of removing and adding again, but when movies from the very bottom of your list move into your top 50, you just have to.

Vancetastic said...

Arrows! I never even knew that was possible! Thanks for the tip ... I like the greater potential for accuracy of a key on the keyboard than a mouse click. And it saves me from having to move the cursor off the choices between each click, in order to prevent a random click resulting in an errant duel decision. I feel like you've revolutionized my Flickchart experience! But, I will of course be cautious of the scenario you describe ...

Matthew said...

In the early days of the site, I don't remember there being an "Undo" button. I may be wrong, or either I just didn't notice it sitting there, but there were definitely a few times when I double/triple clicked "Haven't Seen It", and then wondered what crimes I'd just committed.

I may never know what I unknowingly ranked, because it would require me to go through my entire Netflix history, page by page.

I like your story there... I also feel like I rank movies just for my own satisfaction (Here's my Flickchart profile. I'm going to look through your posts here to see if you linked yours somewhere.) - and when I click something wrong, I do panic!

On a different note, a while back I made a search plug-in for Flickchart, so that you can search for any movie that randomly pops into your mind to rank, without having to go to Flickchart.com first. It works great, and I haven't mentioned it on Flickchart in a while, so you may not be aware of it.

Firefox/Chrome/IE Browser Quick Search Box

Theis said...

I found your blog today and as an avid flickcharter myself, read all your entries on Flickchart.

Just out of curiosity, in your October 19, 2009 blog post, you talk about your theory that total position changes from 10.000 rankings should be dropping as you rank more movies.

Is the number dropping?

Vancetastic said...

Matthew - No undo button? How could a person ever live! If I unknowingly checked "Haven't Seen It" for a movie I'd seen, fortunately, I would eventually notice it, since I keep a list of all the movies I've ever seen in an Excel spreadsheet -- it's as close to complete as such a thing could ever be, and I cross-reference it with FC in terms of seeing which films I still need to add to the FC database. I'd suggest that others try to keep such a list, except that I've been doing it for 20 years, so I don't know how I'd tell you to start.

As for the plug-in, that looks great. I will definitely install it.

I have not publicly posted my Flickchart profile on my blog (just included my top 20 in list form) because I have decided not to use my real name on the blog. Anyone who has linked to this piece through Facebook knows my real name, so it's a silly exercise to remain anonymous at this point -- I may drop the anonymity at some point in the future, but haven't gotten there yet. Thanks for the comment!

Theis -- Thanks for going back and reading all the old stuff! I really appreciate the time and effort.

Unfortunately, I must say that I have not actually done the test I vowed to do -- to determine if the total difference is dropping. All it would take would be to add up some numbers in a column in an Excel spreadsheet, but I've never done it. I think part of the reason is that there will never be a time that the list is really perfect, quite simply because we're all still seeing movies and adding as many as 20-30 new titles a month. With that kind of variability, it keeps the Flickchart process ongoing and forever interesting. Purely as an academic exercise, it would be interesting to stop watching movies just so you could get your list absolutely perfect -- but the sacrifices that would entail to the pastime we all love would of course be impossible.

Vancetastic said...

Matthew - I just sent you a friend request on FC, so now you can see my profile there.

Matthew said...

Thanks Vance, I approved your friend request. If you have any problems installing the plug-in from that link (as a Flickchart member just expressed to me), this is an alternate: http://bit.ly/bEabqB

You'd just go to that page and click the "I" beside Flickchart Search to install it directly.

Thanks, and I enjoyed reading about your troubles, lol :)

johnmason said...

Been there, done that. I also loathe removing and re-ranking; it's a necessary evil.

By the way, you're not alone on The Story of Us. As far as rom-coms go (not my favorite genre), it's not too bad. Even re-watched it with my wife a couple weeks ago.

What's really funny to me about this post is that I very comfortably have Mission: Impossible III in my Top 100. :)

Vancetastic said...

JM,

Mission Impossible III is definitely the second best Mission Impossible movie. (I'm hoping we can all agree that Mission Impossible II was ridiculous, with all those doves and pulling off of masks.) But it would more appropriately be in the top 1000 than the top 100 for me. I guess it also depends on how many movies you've seen.

Glad you liked Story of Us. I don't know why it was deemed so sub-par.