by   Ranker
Staff
in Market Research

A Look Inside the Ranker Data Tool

You may have looked through some of the more fascinating, insightful posts her on the Ranker Data Blog and thought… how can he possibly come up with some of these connections?

Well, to be perfectly fair, the Ranker data tool does a lot of the heavy lifting. It allows me to quickly look through topics that have received a lot of up or down votes on Ranker, and make quick comparisons to other topics easily.

And here’s a quick look at how it all works…

We start by picking a general category we want and a specific item (or “node” in this case) from that topic. So under the category of TV, I’m going to pick the item “Boardwalk Empire.”

Now the tool knows that I only want to look at people who voted on “Boardwalk Empire.” The next step involves the tool looking for correlations – that is, relationships between “Boardwalk Empire” votes and other votes cast on Ranker. I could compare votes cast for or against “Boardwalk Empire” with votes cast on pretty much any other subject – films, foods, people, gadgets… you name it. Sometimes, this can be very interesting, as in this post, where we correlated people’s taste in breakfast cereals vs. films and tv shows.

But for the sake of explanation, let’s look at a more direct comparison, which usually yields more interesting results. So we’ll compare votes on “Boardwalk Empire” to votes on other TV shows, to see how well we can predict what fans of HBO’s Prohibition drama might also enjoy on the tube.

The results are pretty standard, and really show off exactly what the tool can do. When searching “Boardwalk Empire” correlated with other TV shows, here’s what I see:

Those percentages to the right represent what we call the “Lift %,” which basically just means “how much more likely is a “Boardwalk Empire” fan to enjoy X show, over a random person who does not have an opinion about Boardwalk Empire”? I’d ask Ravi to explain it to you directly, but his answer would likely involve fractals, and I don’t want to put you through that.

Trust me on this part, though… The higher the Lift %, the MORE likely a “Boardwalk Empire” fan will also enjoy whatever show we’re discussing.

Keeping that in mind, most of the results seem fairly predictable and straight-forward. A “Boardwalk Empire” fan would naturally be likely to enjoy “The Shield” or “The Killing,” two different hard-edged crime dramas with occasionally similar themes. Similarly, “Deadwood” seems an obvious fit – both are violent HBO series exploring crime in different periods of American history. In fact, there’s really only two outliers that make this list kind of compelling… What the hell are “Thundercats” and “Police Squad!” doing there?

There’s probably a very reasonable explanation for this. Maybe a big chunk of people went to the “Boardwalk Empire” page and then immediately voted on their favorite ’80s cartoon series as well? It’s possible, but seems unlikely, as there aren’t any other animated shows in the Top 10 (or even 20!) of this group. Maybe people who like “Boardwalk Empire” – or crime shows more generally – also enjoy occasionally making light of a very serious subject by throwing on the adventures of Detective Frank Drebin of “Police Squad!” To investigate this, I’d probably look at a similar chart for the show “Police Squad!” and see if a lot of more serious crime fare appeared.

And what do you know? It does! Along with the expected other comedy series from the same era – “Welcome Back Kotter,” “WKRP in Cincinnati” and so on, sure enough we see that “Police Squad!” fans have also voted positively on “The Sopranos,” “Boardwalk Empire” and even “Miami Vice.” We could certainly do more research to confirm, but this definitely points me towards a preliminary hypothesis – fans of crime shows don’t really differentiate between funny or serious content. They just like the topic of crime and criminals.

To keep investigating, I’d probably look at some other crime dramas and comedies to see if I also got similar results. If, say, “The Wire” fans also tended to enjoy “Pink Panther” movies, or fans of “Hackers” also cited “Sneakers” as a favorite film, we’d be on our way to a full-fledged theory. But that’s a blog post for a different day, kids. Now it’s time for bed.

– Lon

by   Ranker
Staff
in Data

Breakfast: The Most Important Data of the Day

We’ve managed to do a lot of fun analysis with our library of vote data, but one thing we’ve learned to watch out for is selection bias. If a particular list gets a LOT more votes than the average list in its vertical, it can start to really skew results.

For example, take a look at this list of Most Popular Breakfast Cereals.

Photo by Hajime NAKANO

It has a lot of votes. We have a bunch of other popular lists of foods that get a lot of votes (like Best Candy and Favorite Light Beers), but with over 500 voters so far, Breakfast Cereals looks like it will get a lot of participation.

This means that, when we look at the big-picture data, cereals will show up an inordinate amount of time. This isn’t because Ranker users love cereal more than any other type of food (although who doesn’t?) It just means that a lot more Ranker users have told us about their favorite cereals than, say, their favorite kinds of cheese. They might love cheese even more than cereal; they just didn’t happen to find that list during their time on Ranker.

Once we’ve realized this is happening, it’s easy enough to work around. For example, let’s say I was interested to find out what kinds of food fans of particular celebrities liked. (So if you like Harrison Ford, are you more likely to want pasta for dinner, or a nice steak?)

Looking at Ford’s food results, I can just ignore any cereals that come up (there are 2) and tell you that you probably like pineapple if you’re a big Indiana Jones/Han Solo/Guy From Mosquito Coast fan.



His name’s Allie Fox. Obvs.

The alternative would just be to compare cereal-to-cereal. So you can sleep comfortably tonight, secure in the knowledge that Harrison Ford fans prefer Chex to Cap’n Crunch, while Adam Sandler fans love Cookie Crisp but hate Raisin Bran.

Interestingly enough, despite the selection bias in favor of cereal, one celebrity we looked up had NO fans who voted in favor of any cereals… Frank Zappa. Zappa fans love Stone Brewery IPAs and candy corn. But they are NOT digging on this complete breakfast.

One more thing to add about breakfast cereals – because so many people have told us which ones they love and hate, they make great data points to compare against. So we know “Friends” and “Cheers” are the two most popular shows among Frosted Flakes fans. Lucky Charms fans prefer “Arrested Development” and “The Daily Show.” So perhaps they skew a big younger? Or Frosted Flakes eaters hit the town a lot on Thursday nights in the ’90s. One of those.

by   Ranker
Staff
in Market Research

Battle of the Sexiests: Maxim vs. Ranker

Maxim Magazine is at it again, recently publishing the 2012 edition of its annual Hot 100 list of the year’s sexiest lady types. And while most of the talk surrounding the list has centered on the inclusion of sexy non-lady type Stephen Colbert, here at Ranker, we’re far more interested in digging through the data looking for interesting tidbits. (Seriously, we just read Maxim for the articles, guys.)

Fortunately, Ranker user Greg had the foresight to ask our readers who they thought SHOULD have made the cut for the 2012 Maxim Hot 100 list. You can find his list, and the Ranker community’s results, right here, and rather surprisingly, the “Ranker Hot 100″ differs greatly from the Maxim version (which was also based in part on Maxim reader polling.)


Here are Maxim’s picks for the year’s 10 sexiest women:

1. Bar Refaeli
2. Olivia Munn
3. Mila Kunis
4. Katy Perry
5. Olivia Wilde
6. Jennifer Lawrence
7. Emma Stone
8. Megan Fox
9. Malin Akerman
10. Adrianne Palicki

And here is the Top 10 chosen by Ranker voters:

1. Olivia Wilde
2. Kate Upton
3. Mila Kunis
4. Adriana Lima
5. Kristen Bell
6. Kate Beckinsale
7. Natalie Portman
8. Brooklyn Decker
9. Blake Lively
10. Megan Fox

Kind of surprisingly, the lists only have 3 out of 10 women in common. Olivia Wilde was first choice among Ranker voters, and came in 5th in the Maxim list. Megan Fox just eked into the Ranker Top 10 in 10th place, while Maxim readers had her a bit higher at 8. And Mila Kunis landed in 3rd place on BOTH lists, clearly the safest possible pick for the bronze medal.


So that’s KIND of interesting, but we thought a deeper look at some of the Maxim picks and Ranker picks might give us even more insight. Specifically, we sort of wondered if we could tell the differences between the tastes of Maxim and Ranker readers and voters. And not just taste in women, but movies and TV as well.

Step One was to do some quick data analysis of votes for women who made the Ranker list and the Maxim list, and compare and contrast the results. To do this, we plugged all of the ladies listed above – the Ranker Top 10 and Maxim Top 10 – into our data comparison tool. This tells us all sorts of deep information about how users who have voted these people “up” in Ranker’s “Hot 100″ (meaning they find them attractive) feel about other women, about TV shows, about movies, even their picks for favorite foods and bands.

(Just to clarify, we’re always talking about “odds” here, not certainty. If you like Katy Perry, we think there’s a 784% increased chance you’ll also like Kate Upton vs. a random person with no interest in Katy Perry. But it’s not a guarantee. You’re still your own person with free, independent will. For now.)

In fact, the first and most obvious thing we learned is that EVERYONE, and we mean EVERYONE, loves them some Kate Upton. We barely looked up any women at all whose fans hadn’t also identified Kate Upton as a personal favorite. It’s pretty rare to find anything approaching a “unanimous” decision when it comes to votes in Ranker. We’re talking thousands of people individually voting on thousands of lists containing tens of thousands of items. Yet the acclaim for Ms. Upton approaches the popularity of things like oxygen and drinkable water.


Some other women were popular among both Maxim favorites AND Ranker favorites. She didn’t make the Ranker Top 10, but Adrianne Palicki certainly has some fans on our site. Jennifer Lawrence – #6 on Maxim’s list but #16 on Ranker – was also popular with pretty much everyone. And up-and-coming TV star Krysten Ritter of “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23″ semi-fame also showed up a decent amount. (Other women popular with just about everyone included Alison Brie, Bar Refaeli, Kristen Bell, Kate Beckinsale and Brooklyn Decker.)

There were some STRONG disagreements, however, to compliment the universal love for The Upton. Maxim fans STRONGLY took issue with the popular Ranker picks Adriana Lima, Blake Lively and Natalie Portman. In fact, NONE of the women in Maxim’s Top 10 had fans who also liked Adriana Lima. NOT ONE.


As well, Ranker fans took issue with Maxim’s selection of Katy Perry and Olivia Munn. Neither of these women were particularly popular with fans of the Ranker Top 10, and in fact, Olivia Munn actually had negative results in a few cases. (Meaning people who like Kate Beckinsale and Natalie Portman are significantly less likely than an average person to like be a Munn fan.) People who tend to agree with the Ranker Top 10 also aren’t too crazy for Emma Stone or Malin Akerman, which is kind of surprising, given their overall sexiness and popularity. (Who doesn’t like Emma Stone? COME ON!)

Some more quick observations to justify spending hours researching the tastes of people who like hot ladies…

– Maxim fans love Martin Scorsese films and TV shows. “Boardwalk Empire” was STAGGERINGLY popular with people who liked Olivia Munn and Jennifer Lawrence. (You’re about 400% more likely to enjoy it if you also enjoy looking at these women.) “Casino” and “Goodfellas” also showed up frequently in this group. True, fans of some of the Ranker picks – especially Natalie Portman – also cited Casino as a favorite – but not in numbers that were as overwhelming.


– Maxim readers seem to have a strong affinity for ’90s animation nostalgia. “Tiny Toon Adventures” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks” were apparently large, significant cultural touchstones for this group. (Your random fact of the day: People who like Katy Perry are nearly 2000% times more likely to love “Tiny Toon Adventures” than non-Katy Perry fans. Do with that information what you will.) Voters who preferred the Ranker Top 10 list also dug ’90s nostalgia – “Gremlins” seemed to pop up a lot – but didn’t share the love of “Tiny Toons.”

– Lots of voters from both groups enjoyed “House” and “Louie” and NBC’s sitcoms, “30 Rock” and “Community” in particular.

– Lon

by   Ranker
Staff
in About Ranker

Everybody’s Ranking on the Weekend

Random observation looking over some of our Ranker pageview trends today. And I figured, why not share?

Here’s a graph showing the traffic to all Ranker “filmography” pages from March 14th to May 14th of this year. These would be lists of all films made by a certain actor or director, like this collection of Goldie Hawn movies or this rundown of the films of Martin Scorsese.

Those “peaks” you see are Saturdays (or sometimes Saturdays and Sundays together.) Search traffic for “filmographies” and lists of movies goes way way up over the weekend. Which makes sense – that’s when most people have some free time to rent or stream films, and research new stuff to throw on.

In and of itself, probably not blog post-worthy. But I’ve brought you here for a reason! Here’s what traffic looks like for the same time period to BIBLIOGRAPHY or author pages. (These are pages listing all the books written by a given author.)

The peaks on this list are in the beginning of the week (usually Monday, but sometimes Tuesday.) So unlike movie fans, book fans are doing most of their research for new titles mid-week. Could it be that book people are putting in some of this time… WHILE AT WORK?!?! Perish the thought. Perhaps it’s easier getting away with loading some new titles on your Kindle during office hours than, say, figuring out which “Hellraiser” films are missing from your Netflix queue? Or people are just finishing up their books over the weekend and then figuring out what to read next once they get to the office.

I guess Loverboy had it right all along.

– Lon

by   Ranker
Staff
in Market Research

The Darker Side of “30 Rock”

NBC’s trend-setting ensemble sitcom “30 Rock” is wrapping up its sixth season, and remains one of the most discussed shows on all of Ranker. The series currently ranks 17th on our list of History’s Greatest Sitcoms as well as having a strong showing on the Funniest Shows of 2011 round-up. As well, main characters Tracy Jordan and Jack Donaghy BOTH cracked the Top 20 on our Funniest TV Characters Of All Time list. (No Liz Lemon until #35? Come on, gang!)

This many votes on “30 Rock” spanning this many lists gives us A LOT of data to sift through for interesting correlations. And wouldn’t you know, we found one. Namely, fans of “30 Rock” by and large seem to enjoy surprisingly dark film entertainment. More so than you’d think from a show about the wacky behind-the-scenes hijinks on a sketch comedy show that contains this many fart jokes and Werewolf Bar Mitzvahs.

The 2 films “30 Rock” aficionados are most likely to enjoy? You guessed it, “The Deer Hunter” and “Raging Bull.” “30 Rock” fans are… get this… nearly 2000% more likely to enjoy “Deer Hunter” than some schmo off the street, and almost as enthusiastic about Scorsese’s boxing biopic.

Aside from the presence of Robert De Niro, and generally being really really awesome, these films have in common an unsettling, gritty outlook, not to mention protagonists who may not always be relateable. It’s kind of hard picturing people sympathizing with Jake LaMotta’s violent temper and fits of jealous rage, then switching over to chuckle at Jack Donaghy’s doppelganger, El Comandante. Yet that’s apparently just what’s happening.


Grab some Sabor de Soledad, niños, cause we’re gonna watch Bobby D get tortured in a Vietnamese POW camp.

It doesn’t stop there. We also noticed that some of “30 Rock” fans’ favorite film and TV characters are not what you’d expect from people who can’t get enough of Kenneth Parcell’s down-home folksy wisdom. For example, aside from Liz Lemon herself, and “Arrested Development’s” Buster Bluth, the most popular fictional character among “30 Rock” fans is Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken from the John Carpenter “Escape” movies. Now, granted, those movies are sort of funny, but not quite in the same way that “30 Rock” is funny. Although both projects do involve a love of shoddy greenscreen effects:

Sarah Connor from “The Terminator” films also wins surprisingly favorable reviews from loyal “30 Rock” viewers. No word on whether they like the more girly mall-rat version from “The Terminator” or her later, tormented and also super-buff self. Maybe we’ll dig that up for a future post.

– Lon

by   Ranker
Staff
in Market Research

On Taste Graphs and “Rushmore”

In a previous post, we talked about a bit about how Ranker collects users into like-minded “clusters” that allowed for statistical analysis. This method is how we were able to look at “Game of Thrones” fans and figure out other shows, characters, games and movies they might like.

Now, let’s dig a bit deeper into how this analysis works, and what sort of things we can learn from it. Essentially, breaking down the users who vote on our lists into clusters of people with similar taste lets us predict how fans of one thing will feel about some other thing.

We use the advertising term “Lift %” to represent this idea, but it basically boils down to an odds ratio. We’re measuring the projected increase in someone’s interest level for something, based on their preference for something else. Therefore, we don’t even just have to compare fans of one show to another, or fans of one movie to another. Sure, we can tell what TV shows you’ll probably like if you like “Game of Thrones,” but we can also tell what people you’ll respond to positively, or what websites you prefer, or your favorite athlete.

For another example, let’s look at the 1998 comedy-drama “Rushmore.” Along with “Bottle Rocket,” this was really the film that made Wes Anderson a household name, and also contains one of Bill Murray’s most beloved and iconic performances.

“Rushmore” appears on a number of Ranker lists (it’s rated as one of the Best High School Films of All Time AND one of the Best Serious Films Starring Comedians.) So we’ve managed to create a “cluster” of users who have voted “Rushmore” up on these lists, and who also seem to share some strong opinions about other topics in our system.

The first big trend we noticed among this like-minded cluster of “Rushmore” fans was that they tended to like other comedy films, too. Which you’d sort of expect. Except these fans tended to prefer classic comedies to more contemporary films. In fact, all of these films had a greater “Lift %” among “Rushmore” fans than any films made in the 1990s, when the film actually came out:

“Dr. Strangelove” (1964)
“The General” (1926)
“Modern Times” (1936)
“The Lady Eve” (1941)
“A Night at the Opera” (1935)

As well, all of these films had a Lift % of OVER 500%, which means someone who likes “Rushmore” is 500% more likely to enjoy, say, “A Night at the Opera,” than someone who is ambivalent about “Rushmore.” That strikes us as statistically significant. (The numbers are even higher the further up the list you go. A “Rushmore” fan is 1000% more likely to enjoy “Dr. Strangelove” than a random person.)

From what we can tell, it works the other way, too. “Rushmore” is the most popular overall film among “Annie Hall” fans and #4 overall among fans of Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights.” Exactly WHY Wes Anderson’s coming-of-age dramedy scores so well among lovers of old movies is up for debate, but the correlation itself is not, really, based on the numbers.

We’re continuing to develop and fine-tune our reports, of course. And it’s worth remembering that we get the BEST results on popular stuff that gets voted on all the time. It’s not too hard to tell what kind of music Jay-Z fans will like (though we’ll save that for another blog post), but we won’t do nearly as well for Captain Beefheart fans. Yet.

– Lon

by   Ranker
Staff
in About Ranker, Market Research

Game of Thrones Fan Report: Behind the Numbers

Last week, we published an info graphic with lots of “taste data” about “Game of Thrones” fans. Basically, we used all the data we’re collecting about people’s preferences in Ranker to make some educated guesses about what else people who like “Game of Thrones” might like. Why? Mostly because we can, but also because we figured people could potentially find it interesting.

After we showed the infographic to the world, a lot of people wrote to us asking how we actually arrived at these conclusions. (And yes, some of them just wanted to be sure we weren’t just making the whole thing up.)

It all starts with votes. Thousands of people have voted on Ranker lists on which “Game of Thrones” appears. If they’re on a list that’s “positive” (for example, “Best Premium Cable Shows”) and they vote “Game of Thrones” up, we know they like the show. If we notice they also vote for “Game of Thrones” on other lists (“Most Loving Caresses of Dragon Eggs in TV History,” for example), we know they REALLY like the show.

Then we look at all the other Ranker lists where that person has voted, and get a sense for what else they like, and what else they hate.

But we don’t stop there. The next step is to arrange people into clusters based on their specific preferences. If 80% of the people who vote on Ranker lists like “The Simpsons,” and 80% of “Game of Thrones” fans like “The Simpsons,” that’s not very meaningful at all. But if only 20% of people who vote like “The Simpsons,” and 80% of “Game of Thrones” fans like “The Simpsons,” then we’ve learned something statistically significant about these people.


But what about fans of “Simpsons” parodies of “Game of Thrones,” you might ask… if you were purposefully trying to confuse me.

These “clusters” of people with tastes that are aligned will teach us basically everything we need to know to make educated guesses about what random Ranker users will like. In our next post, we’ll explore exactly how we use these “taste clusters” to draw conclusions.

-Lon

by   Ranker
Staff
in Market Research

Game of Thrones: The Fan Report

At Ranker HQ, we’re constantly monitoring the topics that get ranked a lot. It’s pretty easy to tell when a certain book or movie or musical artist is getting popular or hitting critical mass just based on how frequently the name is mentioned on lists. This is especially true of TV, where the start of a new season for a popular show means an eruption of lists mentioning that show. (Don’t believe me? Check out all the “Mad Men” lists streaming in!)

We weren’t necessarily surprised that HBO viewers were losing their heads for “Game of Thrones.” (See what I did there?) It’s back for Season 2, and obviously Rankers are going to have fun making tons of lists about the sword-and-sorcery-and-skin fantasy series based on George R. R. Martin’s novels. Instead, we were intrigued because the data reveals Game of Thrones fans are just as… idiosyncratic as the show they love. (Yes, idiosyncratic is a nice way of putting it. But hey, we’re not here to INSULT our users.)

And we say this not just because they watch a show in which incest happens as often as other series take commercial breaks. Also because they overwhelming love villainous characters and anti-heroes and they prefer a lot of lesser-known shows that failed to ever find an audience.

Read on for more insight into the weird, even twisted world of “Game of Thrones” fans (or Throne-heads, as we’ve dubbed them.)

Click for a larger version

Like the graphic? Feel free to repost it anywhere you like. Spread the word throughout the Seven Kingdoms!

-Lon