Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why ABQ's Most Frequent Feature Request Won't Be Built

Nice people frequently email me with feature requests for A Better Queue. The most frequent request asks to build a filter for Rotten Tomatoes' audience ratings. While I appreciate such a response to the site, this request doesn't fit ABQ's philosophy.

Audiences are smart, but we're not that smart. We miss what critics pick up. Critics watch much more than us and have a wider basis for judgement. Of course critics aren't correct all of the time, but that is the genius behind the Tomatometer. It gives an accurate reading of quality via aggregation, and brings us closer to objectivity.

Audience scores are certainly an indicator of something, but not one of quality. A person corresponding with me recently said that audience scores are good indicators of entertainment value. I think that's pretty accurate. But a movie's ability to entertain can only be part of the rubric. The intelligent and open viewer wants to be challenged by great films, not merely entertained by questionable ones.

I leave these contrasts between audiences and critics for your consideration:

Twilight Saga: New Moon



  1. I agree with this assessment. The main feature I'd like to see is the ability to sort (mainly by rating, number of reviews, and year).

  2. The one feature I think is easy implement and which makes ABQ useful to those of us outside the USA is to filter movies by the user's country. It's rather disheartening right now to discover worthy movies only to find that the movie is not available in my country (in my case, Canada). I haven't looked into Netflix's API to see if they provide this but this change would make ABQ useful to me.

  3. First off, this is WONDERFUL! So much better than trying to sift through Netflix itself. The ability to filter by MPAA rating would be really really helpful. The cover of Happy-Go-Lucky looks like it might be for tweens, but I have to research it to find out that it's rated R.

    I imagine the ratings would have to be in a separate section maybe? So if you wanted to watch action-adventure rated PG-13 or less, you could click action-adventure, PG-13, PG, and G and not get ALL PG movies - just those that are action-adventure.

  4. Your reasoning is completely illogical.

    First of all, critics are clearly biased towards overbearing themes … preferring films that are blatantly chasing an Oscar by trying to force one of those overbearing themes (usually liberal or progressive) down our throats. They will, of course, properly rate films that do have entertainment value upon occasion to maintain some credibility with the public (or with filmmakers, or each other … or whomever). They do see and look for more, but their view is skewed by politics and peer pressure.

    And your “quality via aggregation” assertion is ludicrous. There’s no diversity among the critics that make up the aggregate. They are all cut from the same cloth. So, they can be and are often collectively incorrect. Audience ratings represent a group that has a much more varied background and would be a better source of any quality through aggregation. Here’s an example of where critics clearly got it wrong and audiences got it right:

    Spy Kids - 93% critics, 45% audience

    More importantly, you’re argument does not support a critic-only tomatometer filter. It supports having both. The two are, in fact, not mutually exclusive. Those that only want to watch films that are critically acclaimed (I know of no person that would look for a movie this way, exclusively) could turn off the audience filter. Those that may be looking for a film like “Twilight Saga: New Moon” can turn the critic filter off. Or, if you’re like me, you may want to find something that is critically acclaimed AND highly rated by audiences. In this case, you could have both filters on and slide them around to find something acceptable to your mood.

    Anyway, my first impression of your blog post was that you just don’t want to do the work to incorporate the audience rating filter and that the “philosophy” thing was just a lame excuse. After re-reading your post and writing this, my opinion has not changed.


  6. Well played, sir. And a great movie - one that happens to be an audience favorite (80% critics, 94% audience).