Your Movie Wish Is Jinni's Command

For those of you still not satisfied with the current crop of movie recommendation services, you’ll soon have another option available to you. Jinni’s new interactive movie rating website is trying to do for movies, what Pandora has done for music. Although the site doesn’t stream any of the films that they recommend, but provides convenient links to places where you can find the films online (Netflix, Blockbuster, Hulu, etc.) Apparently, the company has been live for a few months now, but I just discovered them after catching a review of the service on Read Write Web. Last week, I signed up for the private Jinni beta and have been pretty impressed so far.

Jinni includes reviews, photos and even trailers for each film in their database, but their movie filtering software is the real bread and butter. Most of the content you’ll find on their movie description pages is pretty much available on any of the other movie sites, but their “movie genome” information is exclusive. Through a process of human and computer intervention, they’ve categorized every film in their library using information from the movie’s plot, mood, genre, time period, critic reviews, story type, and attitudes. Viewers are then able to filter their search results by using these definitions.

For example, a search for the term bank brings up 134 movies, but if I filter this list by looking only at the “witty” films that include a heist in their plot and are set in the 21st century, I’m able to narrow my search down to just three films, Criminal, Inside Man and High Heel’s and Low Lifes. Since I haven’t seen any of these movies, it’s hard for me to tell how effective this really is, but by narrowing down broad based searches, it does enable me to discover movies that would have gotten lost in the volume of other search results.

On Jinni’s website you can find more information on the actual genome mapping process:

The starting point of the Movie Genome is manual tagging by our team of film professionals. Each title has around fifty genes, among thousands of possibilities. Then, using advanced machine-learning technology, Jinni’s system learns from the manual tagging to begin automated tagging. This creates a level of consistency that creative human taggers can’t reach - especially important for similarity matches and recommendations, which won’t work unless you compare apples to apples and battles to battles as often as possible. Users who vote on genes, as well as the Jinni team, constantly check and improve the machine tagging.

After playing around with the site, I was really impressed with the user experience, but I’m still on the fence about whether or not Jinni’s approach is the right way to go. On one hand, by creating “genome” fields around each film’s “DNA”, they’re able to accomplish a lot more with the data, but on the other hand, by restricting the rating population to just their staff, it also limits the number of films that they are able to catalog. As an example, if I do a search for the plot Psycho, I get 270 results, but the same search on the user driven site Spout, gives me 509 movies. Now I’d be willing to bet that Jinni’s quality is better then Spout, but by not allowing their users to tag films, they may be giving up quantity through their process. Some people prefer quality over quantity, but I can’t help feeling like they are missing out on the wisdom of the crowds by excluding users from participating in the genome mapping process.

In addition to their movie filtering technology, Jinni also allows you to share more information about your own movie tastes and they provide personalized recommendations. While I haven’t tested the quality of their movie recommendation service yet, I do plan on putting them through my own blind taste test to find out how accurate their ratings really are. In the meantime, if you’re interested in trying the service, feel free to apply to their private beta or you can leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to share one of my invites with the first 10 readers to respond.

Davis Freeberg is a technology enthusiast living in the Bay Area. He enjoys writing about movies, music, and the impact that digital technology is having on traditional media. Read more at Davis Freeberg’s Digital Connection.


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