If there's one thing we can all agree on in our polarized political climate, it's this: Netflix sucks at making recommendations.
Make the mistake of watching one so-so comedy special or too-heavy documentary, and you're toast. The company's algorithm thinks it has you pegged. The more you watch, the more niche -- and often worse -- Netflix recommendations seem to get.
On Netflix's own site, the company says it's a "proprietary, complex recommendations system" that "strives to help you find a show or movie to enjoy with minimal effort." Yet it just seems to make it impossible to find anything you actually want to watch.
Algorithms vs. humans.
Netflix might have come up with a solid solution to help you find what you want to watch next. It's just an experimental feature in iOS for now. Netflix is wise to conduct a small-scale test to start because it's such a novel and unusual concept.
Ready for it?
It's content curated by humans. Netflix is testing a feature called "Collections," which are put together by real, living, breathing humans -- not an algorithm.
According to TechCrunch, a few of these collections include "Let's Keep It Light," "Watch, Gasp, Repeat," and "Women Who Rule the Screen." A Verge reporter is also testing it out and says there are about 40 collections right now.
Putting the humans to work.
So how does this strange technology even work?
Unfortunately, the available details are slim at this time, but I'll share what I know. Collections can blend genre, tone, storyline, and character traits, TechCrunch reports. The titles in each human-curated collection include both TV shows and movies. These humans work in-house at Netflix on their company's creative teams. Does that mean they just watch Netflix all day? Hard to say, but that very well might be part of the job.
A Netflix spokesperson told TechCrunch they're testing out this new human-powered way to curate titles in the iOS app for now, and that it may or may not become a permanent feature for all devices.
New method, same business goal.
"A machine can never fully replace personal taste and exploration based on human interaction," wrote Fast Company last year. Putting humans at the helm of recommending content seems like a good idea. It could improve your Netflix watching experience.
But let's be clear.
Whether that recommendation engine is powered by machines or by humans, both models have the same end goal: To keep you watching, so you keep paying that monthly subscription fee to Netflix. ?