by    in New Features

Latest Features on Ranker

There are a lot of neat little things we’ve been working on around here in the lab. Things that make it easier and more fun to make the lists you want to make. Take a peek:

Send A Note

We were sitting around the other day in the conference room and someone said ‘hey, wouldn’t it be cool if users could talk to each other? Like email, sorta?”

So we decided that you guys should totally get in on this whole “electronic” form of communication. Now, If you read a list you like, or are intrigued by the genius behind “5 Ways To Make Homemade Spam”, you can go to their profile page and send the list-maker a note and let them know that there are actually 6 ways! And, because we believe in the goodness of the human spirit, we are sure you guys won’t use this new power for evil.

Send A Note

PS. You need to be logged in to see this new feature!


Adding Items

Remember that time you made your favorite movie list? But you couldn’t remember ALL your favorite movies, because you’re not a damned robot, right? And then you were looking at someone else’s favorite movie list – or maybe perusing the Best Movies of All Time list – and you saw Piranha II: The Spawning listed there. That is totally one of your favorite movies, but you forgot until just now! Well, we have a way for you to add it to your own list with a single click. If you click that blue ‘+’ button, you will get a dropdown with any relevant lists of yours that Piranha II might be good to add to. Select your favorite movie list from the dropdown and POW, that James Cameron classic is now on your own list, too!

Adding Items

PS. You need to be logged in to see this new feature!


SlideShow View

You already know that you have two choices for how your list displays on Ranker. you can write lots of lovely words for the internet to read with big pictures… or you can just create easily digestable stacked lists with small images. Now we give you a third option… Slideshow! Build your list like normal in Edit, put in nice pretty images that will look good big — this view supports any commentary you might want to add, too! Choose the ‘slideshow view’ option from your ‘list options’ popup, and when you publish your list will display one beautiful item at a time!

SlideShow View


Filtering Lists

We have so many lists on Ranker. So. Many. And sometimes it’s overwhelming, we know. God, we know. But we’ve been tagging lists (and so have you) for the last few years and we finally went ahead and made use of them. Now, when you go into any of the big category tabs on ranker (film, tv, people, etc) you will see a little array of blue buttons on the top of the right sidebar. You can use these little buttons to sort and filter the content of that category in a million different ways! Each new filter button will narrow down your results until you find the exact lists you are looking for. Go try it!

Filtering Lists


Stylish Copy

One of the things we’ve never really had so much around here is the ability to dress up the things you guys are writing on your blog view lists. Bolding, italics, stuff like that. Well, fret no more! We now support a simple text styling interface in Edit.

When you are building your lists, and you want to write stuff… just click on the text field for your item. There is a whole little string of new tools there that allows you to make your text a lot fancier! And easy! Always easy!

Stylish Copy

by    in Data Science

Mitt Romney Should Have Advertised on the X-Files

With the election recently behind us, many political analysts are conducting analyses of the campaigns, examining what worked and what didn’t.  One specific area where the Obama team is getting praise is in their unprecedented use of data to drive campaign decisions, and even more specifically, how they used data to micro-target fans who watched specific TV shows.  From this New York Times article concerning the Obama Team’s TV analytics:

“Culling never-before-used data about viewing habits, and combining it with more personal information about the voters the campaign was trying to reach and persuade than was ever before available, the system allowed Mr. Obama’s team to direct advertising with a previously unheard-of level of efficiency, strategists from both sides agree….

[They] created a new set of ratings based on the political leanings of categories of people the Obama campaign was interested in reaching, allowing the campaign to buy its advertising on political terms as opposed to traditional television industry terms…..

[They focused] on niche networks and programs that did not necessarily deliver large audiences but, as Mr. Grisolano put it, did provide the right ones.”


The Obama team focused more on undecided/apolitical voters in an effort to get them to the polls.  Given that some Mitt Romney supporters have blamed a lack of turnout of supporters for the results of the election, perhaps Romney would have been smart to have created a ranked list of TV shows, based on how much fans of the shows supported Romney, and then placed positive/motivating ads on those shows in an effort to increase turnout of his base.  Where would Romney get such data?  From Ranker!

Mitt Romney is on many votable Ranker lists (e.g. Most Influential People of 2012) and based on people who voted on those lists and also lists such as our Best Recent TV Shows list, we can examine which TV shows are positively or negatively associated with Mitt Romney.  Below are the top positive results from one of our internal tools.

As you can see, the X-Files appears to be the highest correlated show, by a fair margin.  I don’t watch the X-Files, so I wasn’t sure why this correlation exists, but I did a bit of research, and found this article exploring how the X-Files supported a number of conservative themes, such as the persistence of evil, objective truth, and distrust of government (also see here).  The article points out that in one episode, right wing militiamen are depicted as being heroic, which never would happen in a more liberal leaning plot.  Perhaps if you are a conservative politician seeking to motivate your base, you should consider running ads on reruns of the X-Files, or if you run a television station that shows X-Files reruns, consider contacting your local conservative politicians leveraging this data.

You may notice that this list contains more classic/rerun shows (e.g. Leave it to Beaver) than current shows.  This appears to be part of a general trend where conservatives on Ranker tend to positively vote for classic TV, a subject we’ll cover in a future blog post.  The possibility of advertising on reruns is part of what we would like to highlight in this post, as ads are likely relatively cheap and audiences can be more easily targeted, a tactic which the Obama campaign has been praised for.  At Ranker, we’re hopeful that more advertisers will seek value in the long-tail and mid-tail and will seek to mimic the tactics of the Obama campaign, as our data is uniquely suited for such psychographic targeting.

– Ravi Iyer

by    in Data Science

How Crowdsourcing can uncover Niche/Trending shows

At Ranker, people give us their opinions in various different ways. Some people vote.  Other people make long lists.  Still others make really short lists.  Some people tell us their absolute favorite things, while others list everything they’ve ever experienced.  One of the advantages of this diversity is that it allows us to examine patterns within these divergent types of opinions.  For example, some things are really popular, meaning that everyone lists them (e.g. Michael Jordan is on everyone’s best basketball players list).  Most popular things are also things that people generally list high on their lists and also get lots of positive votes (e.g. Michael Jordan).  However, there are some things that don’t get listed very often, but when they do get listed, people are passionate about them, meaning that they get listed high on people’s lists.  We highlight these items in our system using the niche symbol.

I’ve recently been examining our “niche” tag, which signifies when something is not particularly popular, but people are passionate about it.  There are many reasons why things can be niche.  Some things appeal specifically to younger (e.g. Rugrats) or older crowds (e.g.  The Rockford Files).  Other things have natural audiences ( fans who appreciate defense and think Ozzie Smith is one of the greatest players of all time).  The most interesting case is when something that I can’t identify starts showing on the niche list (see the list at the time of this writing here).

This is especially helpful for someone like me, who doesn’t always know what is ‘hot’ and naturally looks to data to find new quality entertainment.  Awhile back, the show Community consistently was showing highest on our niche algorithm.  Few people listed it as one of the best recent TV shows, but those who listed it tended to think very highly of it.  I was intruiged enough to watch the pilot on Hulu and have since become hooked.  Community has since graduated from our niche algorithm as it became popular.  Sometimes passion amongst a small group is how a trend starts.

As Margaret Mead believed that only a small group of citizens could change the world, so Malcolm Gladwell has shown how a small group of trendsetters can signal changes in pop culture.  Not everything on our niche list will become the next big thing, but it’s certainly a good place to search for candidates.

Among the things that people seem to be passionate about now, that aren’t so popular, are several good candidates for up and coming movies, bands, or TV shows.  Pappillon is currently hot, scoring over 2 standard deviations higher in terms of list position on our best movie list, despite being less popular than most movies.  Another Earth and 13 Assassins,  seem like potentially interesting and under the radar films from 2011. Real Time with Bill Maher‘s niche status may be due to appeal particular ideological group, but Warehouse 13 appealed to just my niche as it had passionate fans on both the best recent TV shows list and the best Sci-Fi TV shows list (it has since graduated from the list due to increased popularity).  Warehouse 13’s highest correlated show is one of my favorites, Battlestar Galactica, so I’m definitely going to check it out.

I tend to be a late adopter of pop culture, but thanks to the niche tag, maybe I can be a little hipper going forward.  Take a look at our niche items as of October 20, 2012 and any comments on other things to consider checking out would be appreciated. Or perhaps take a look in a few months time and consider whether our niche tag successfully captured coming trends in a few cases.

– Ravi Iyer

by    in New Features

10 Things You Didn't Know Ranker Could Do

Portable Lists

Portable Lists

Did you know that all the lists on Ranker are portable? I’m sure you’re all, ‘what does that even mean?’ and also ‘stop staring at me like that!’. Well, they are. Let me explain further, yes? Say you make a list, or just really like another list you’ve see on the site… you would click the “embed” button on that list, and then go copy a little piece of code that you’d then paste onto your own site or blog. And there the list would be, with voting still on it and everything.

What’s in it for me? You’re saying that now, aren’t you? Well, first… if you don’t have a site or a blog: nothing. Sorry. Move to the next thing on the list. But if you DO, and if you have a community there whom you would like to poll or maybe just to entertain? Well, this little portable list app is for you. Also: free, just in case you thought I was trying to sell you something.

Let’s give you an example. Say you have a blog about BBQ techniques. (If you do, please email me your URL, because I love BBQ), and you write a little post about the best store-bought BBQ sauces. Well, just come to Ranker, make said list of BBQ sauces, turn on voting, publish it, and click the ’embed’ button. You can quickly choose what size you want the list to be and grab the code. Once it’s pasted onto your site, your visitors can vote – right there – for their favorite sauces. It’s content for you! It’s fun for your visitors. Ranker gets a BBQ sauce list! Win and Win and Win!

Add Images

You’re making a list of your favorite things about San Francisco (#1. Sourdough Bread, #2. More Sourdough Bread, #3 …) but the photo our database gives you doesn’t look delicious enough. No worries, you can change it! Hovering over the image will give you the option to “edit” or “view”.  Just choose “edit” and you can search right there on the spot from Flikr’s copyright-free images OR upload that photo your girlfriend took of you stuffing bread into your face hole down on the Pier. If there’s no such photo, but you know where the perfect one is on the internet, you can paste the url in and we will go grab it and upload it for you! You can even make your images extra big by choosing “blog view” in your list options as you build.

Add Video

Making a list of your favorite clips from The Daily Show? Or maybe it’s a list of your favorite Sad Songs to Eat Ice Cream By? Everything goes better with moving pictures and sound! I read that in a study somewhere. It’s just as easy to grab video as it is to grab images. Choose the ‘add video’ from the dropdown while you are building your list, and you simply search youtube for what you want. Preview it, select it, and you are done! Something to note… switching your list to Blog View will display video better, but you can still use it with List View… it will just open videos in a popup.

Vote in Groups

You know another creative way you can use Ranker? Create a list for you and your friends to add to and vote on. A list on a topic that’s personal just to your group. Suppose you are a new mom and you want to poll your friends for the best foods to feed your baby? Create a starter list, “allow” others to add to it in your List Options and share or email your friends the list so they can add their favorite things to the list. It could become a resource for you, your friends, and even the whole internet!


It’s possible you didn’t know that you can follow lists and other users on Ranker. You can. There’s a follow button on all Ultimate Lists – just under the list name – and on all user profile pages. Once you press that button, we will set alerts to let you know when the list or user is active. So, if you decided to follow the Ultimate List “Best Movies of 2012”, every time someone added their own version of the list to the Ultimate, we would let you know so you could go see how the list had changed. Following another Ranker user will let you know when that user makes new lists!

Copy A List

Ordering lists might be easy, but thinking up things to put on them isn’t. It can take research, thinking, more thinking and sometimes pondering. If you spend a lot of time and effort, make a really impressive list, and maybe want to use part of it to start another one? You can, we gave you a way to copy your own list to start another one. The option is in the yellow dashboard present on all your own lists.

Know what else? If you built an awesome list and then put voting on it… well, all those people voting on it is cool and all, but it changed your original ranking and you can’t get it back. But wait! You can! There’s a link inside the edit interface that you can click to make a copy of it as you originally ranked it! That you can save and publish with voting turned off, so everyone will know what you really think.

Use Reference Lists

Ranker is packed with reference lists, we just don’t really highlight them so much. These are lists of informative, unranked, alphabetical things – like “All Expressionist Painters” or “All Italian Fiction Writers”. All our reference lists are there just for you to start lists with!

Find “Listopedia” in the nav bar and browse the thousands of encyclopedic lists we keep locked in there. (You can also just search for the topic you are looking for). There is a link on each of our Reference lists that allows you to copy the list as a starter. There’s a whole mess of items for you to work with and all you did was click a button! Take this list, rank, delete, add to your hearts delight! It’s a ridiculously fast and easy way to make a really intensive, comprehensive list!

Ultimate Lists

You may have noticed our awesome Ultimate Lists by now. They are our pride and joy. These are the lists that form when enough people re-rank lists on the same topic. We take all these opinions (in list-form), combine them, average them out, and present the consensus to you. All the lists that make the Ultimate up are still there, viewable through the dropdown, but the Ultimate List lets you see what all that data looks like crunched together. At a glance, you can see what all voters and listers think are the top things for that topic. We’ve put little icons on the list items that are notable – as in, those that were the most up-voted, or the most listed, or ranked at #1 the most – so you can see very quickly what the community thinks on that topic.

And! Suppose you have also already made a list on that topic? And you want to see how your re-rank stacks up to the consensus? Add it! I will explain: We have a Best Movies of All Time list, for example, and if you have already made your version of the best movies of all time, you can go in to edit your list, open List Options and choose to ADD it to the Ultimate List family so it will be taken into account with the rest of the re-ranks. Then you can see where the things you chose fall on the master list, and how your list matches up with everyone elses’.


Every time someone adds an item to a list, we make note of it. We count the number of votes it gets, the number of times it’s been used on a list and what relationships it has with other simliar items. We gather a lot of that data on that item’s page, which is a surprisingly awesome page most of you have probably never seen. If you go to the Best TV Shows of Recent Memory, for example, you can click on “The Simpsons” (which is currently #1 as it should be) and you will be taken to The Simpsons item page. There you can see every list on the site that has used “The Simpsons”. You can see where it’s been ranked on those lists, and you can see what OTHER things people liked who liked The Simpsons. It’s kind of amazing, actually. We get all nerdy about it all the time.


Ah, competition. Bracing! Here at Ranker Headquarters, our calculating machines are always calculating. The number of voters, the number of views, the number of shares… we keep track of it all. With this info, we can actually tell which of you are the BEST at ranking things without having to put you in a cage with wild tigers, a legal pad and your 10 favorite albums.

You can find a link to this page off the home page, or any of the main browsing category pages. This ranking of rankers changes all the time, too. Our Top Ranker Leaderboard is where you can peek and see where (or if) you are in the top 100. More views on more lists gets you into this august company. Just think, you can tell your kids someday … I made it, son and/or daughter! I. Made. It.

by    in Data Science, Market Research

Validating Ranker’s Aggregated Data vs. a Gallup Poll of Best Colleges

We were talking to someone in the market research field about the credibility of Ranker’s aggregated rankings, and they were intruiged and suggested that we validate our data by comparing the aggregated results of one of our lists to the results achieved by a traditional research company using traditional market research methodologies.  Companies like Gallup often do not survey the same types of questions that we ask at Ranker, in part due to the inherent difficulties of open ended polling via random digit dialing.  You can’t realistically call someone up at dinner time and ask them to list their 50 favorite TV shows.  You could ask them to name one favorite, but doing that, you can end up with headlines like “Americans admire Glenn Beck more than they admire the Pope.”  However, one question that both Gallup and Ranker have asked concerns the nation’s top colleges/universities.  How do Ranker’s results compare to Gallup’s data?  Below are our results, side by side.

Ranker vs Gallup Best US Colleges

From a market researcher’s perspective, this is good news for Ranker data.  Our algorithms have successfully replicated the top 4 results from the Gallup poll exactly, at a fraction of the cost.  This likely occurs because Ranker data is largely collected from users who find our website via organic search, so while our data is not a representative probability sample (assuming such a thing still exists in a world where people screen their calls on cellphones), our users tend to be more representative than the motivated Yelp user or the intellectual Quora user.  If you compare how representative Ranker’s best movies list is compared to Rotten Tomatoes aggregated opinion list (Toy Story 2 and Man on Wire are #1 & #2!?!?), you get a sense of the importance of having relatively representative data.

In addition, the fact that our lists are derived from a combination of methodologies (listing, reranking, + voting), means that the error associated with each method somewhat cancels out.  Indeed, one might argue that Ranker’s top dream colleges list is better than Gallup’s for precisely this reason as individuals are often tempted to list their alma mater or their local school as the best college, and the long tail of answers might actually contain more pertinent information.  Aggregating ranked lists from motivated users and combining that data with casual voters might actually be the best way to answer a question like this.

– Ravi Iyer

by    in Data Science, Google Knowledge Graph

How Ranker leverages Google’s Knowledge Graph

Google recently held their I/O conference and one of the talks was given by Freebase’s Shawn Simister, who was once Freebase’s biggest fan, and has since gone on to work at Google, which acquired Freebase a few years ago.  What is Freebase?  It’s the structured semantic data that powers Google’s knowledge graph and Ranker, along with many other organizations featured in this talk (Ranker is mentioned around the 8:45 mark).  This talk gives organizations that may not be familiar with Freebase an overview of how they can leverage the Freebase’s semantic data.

How does Ranker use the knowledge graph?  Freebase’s semantic data powers much of what we do at Ranker and the below graph illustrates how we relate to the semantic web.

How Ranker Relates to the Semantic Web

We leverage the data from the semantic web, often via Freebase, to create content in list format (e.g. The Best Beatles Songs), which our users then vote on and re-rank.  This creates an opinion data layer that is easily exportable to any other entity (e.g. The New York Times or Netflix) that is connected to the larger semantic web.  Our hope is that just as people in the presentation are beginning to create mashups of factual data, eventually people will also want to merge in opinion data, and we hope to have the best semantic opinion dataset out there when that happens.  The more people that connect their data to the semantic web, the more lists we can create, and the more potential consumers exist for our opinion data.  As such, we’d encourage you to check out Shawn’s presentation and hopefully you’ll find Freebase as useful as we do.

– Ravi Iyer


by    in New Features

Embed Voteable Lists ANYWHERE With Ranker's New Widget

It’s fun and easy to make voteable lists on Ranker. You’ve been there, you’ve seen it. Everyone knows that. But until now, if you wanted your friends, your followers and your community to vote on a list, you’d have to send them a link (or post one on your blog) and hope for the best. Sure, sometimes that works out great. Check out how many people have voted for their favorite wrestling finishing moves or the best summer movie seasons!

But sometimes, you want to embed a voteable Ranker list on your own site, to poll your readers and start conversations. Well, now you can embed any Ranker list practically anywhere, whether it’s a list you’ve created or just something interesting you’ve found on the site. So whether you want to poll your readers about who should play Ana Steele in the “50 Shades of Grey” movie, Google’s smartest acquisitions ever or an original topic of you’re own, it’s now simple to do and will look great on your website or blog.

Here’s how it works:

Go to any Ranker Vote List and look for the “Embed” button near the top of the page.

Ah, yes, there she is…

Customize the coloring and size of your widget and we’ll give you an embed code which will then work on Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger and pretty much any other blog or website you can think of.

The Ranker widget in the wild!

Still have questions about embedding the widget? Check out our Widget FAQ or this helpful PDF overview of Ranker Widget features for more info. Bear in mind, the widget is still very new, and we’re still making tweaks, but you can install the widget at any time and it will update on your site automatically!

by    in Data Science

Siri (and other mobile interfaces) will eventually need semantic opinion data

Search engines, which process text and give you a menu of potential matches, make sense when you use an interface with a keyboard, a mouse, and a relatively large screen. Consider the below search for information about Columbia.  Whether I mean Columbia University, Columbia Sportswear, or Columbia Records, I can relatively easily navigate to the official website of the place that I need.

Mobile devices require specificity as the cost of an incorrect result is magnified by the limits of the user interface.  When using something like Siri, it is important to be able to give a precise answer to a question, rather than a menu of potential answers, as it is far harder to choose using these interfaces.  As technology gets better, we will start to expect intelligent devices to be able to make the same inferences that we are able to make about what we mean when given limited information.  For example, if I say “how do I get to Columbia?” to my phone while in New York, it should direct me to Columbia University, whereas in Chicago, it should direct me to Columbia College of Chicago.  Leveraging contextual information is part of what makes Siri special, as it allows you to, for example, use pronouns.  Some have said that Siri has resurrected the semantic web, as, in order to make the above choice of “Columbia” intelligently, it needs to know that Columbia University is located in New York while Columbia College is located in Chicago.

I have made the case before that people are increasingly seeking opinion data, not just factual data, online.  It bears repeating that, as depicted in the below graph, searches for opinion words like “best” are increasing, relative to factual words like “car”, “computer”, and “software” which once were as prevalent as “best”, but now lag behind.

The implication of these two trends is clear.  As more knowledge discovery is done via mobile devices that need semantic data to deliver precise contextual answers, and more knowledge discovery is about opinions, then mobile interfaces such as Siri, or Google’s answer to Siri, will increasingly require semantic opinion data sets to power them.  Using such a dataset, you could ask your mobile device to “find a foreign movie” while travelling and it could cross-reference your preferences with those of others to find the best foreign movie that happens to be playing in your geographic area and conforms to your taste.  You could ask your mobile device to play some Jazz music, and it could consider what music you might like or not like, in addition to the genre classifications of available albums.  These are the kinds of intelligent operations that human beings do everyday, leveraging our knowledge both of the world’s facts and the world’s opinions and in order to do these tasks well, any intelligent agent attempting these tasks will require the same set of structured knowledge, in the form of a semantic opinions.  Not coincidentally, Ranker’s unique competency is the development of a comprehensive semantic opinion dataset.

– Ravi Iyer

by    in Data Science

The Long Tail of Opinion Data

If you want to find out what the best restaurant in your area is, what the best printer under $80 is, or what the best movie of 2010 was, there are many websites out there that can help you.  Sites like Yelp, Rotten Tomatoes, and Engadget have built sustainable businesses by providing opinions in these vertical domains.  Ranker also has a best movies of all time list and while I might argue that our list is better than Rotten Tomatoes list (is Man on Wire really the best movie ever?), there isn’t anything particularly novel about having a list of best movies.  At the point where Ranker is the go-to site for opinions about restaurants, electronics, and movies, it will be a very big business indeed.

We are actually competitive already for movies, but where Ranker has unique value is in the long tail of opinions.  There are lots of domains where opinions are valuable, but are rarely systematically polled.  As this Motley Fool writer points out, we are one of the few places with opinions about companies with the worst customer service, and the only one that updates in real time.  Memes are arguably some of the most valuable things to know about, yet there is little data oriented competition for our funniest memes lists.  As inherently social creatures, opinions about people are obviously of tremendous value, yet outside of Gallup polls about politicians, there is little systematic knowledge of people’s opinions about people in the news, outside of our votable opinions about people lists.

Not only are there countless domains where systematic opinions are not collected, but even in the domains that exist, opinions tend to be unidimensionally focused on “best”, with little differentiation for other adjectives.  What if you want to identify the funniest, most annoying, dumbest, worst, or hottest item in a domain?  “Best” searches far outnumber “worst” searches on Google (about 50 to 1 according to Google trends), but if you combine all the adjectives (e.g. funniest, dumbest) and combine them with all the qualifers (e.g. of 2011, that remind you of college, that you love to hate), there is a long tail of opinions even in the most popular domains that is unserved.  Where else is data systematically collected on British Comedians?

When you combine the opportunities available in the long tail of domains plus the long tail of adjectives and qualifiers, you get a truly large set of opinions that make up the long tail of opinions on the internet.  There are myriad companies trying to mine Twitter for this data, which somewhat validates my intuition that there is opportunity here, but clever algorithms will never make up for the imperfections of mining 140 character text.  Many companies will try and compete by squeezing the last bit of signal from imperfect data, but my experience in academia and in technology has taught me that there is no substitute for collecting better data. If my previous assertion that the knowledge graph is more than just facts is true, then there will be great demand for this long tail of opinions, just as there is great demand for the long tail of niche searches.  And Ranker is one of the few companies empirically sampling this long tail.

– Ravi Iyer

by    in Data Science, Google Knowledge Graph

The Knowledge Graph is about more than facts

Today, Google announced the introduction of the “knowledge graph”, which introduces facts into Google searches.  So now, when you search for an object that Google understands, search results reflect Google’s actual understanding, leveraging what they know about each object.  Here is a video with more detail.

At Ranker, we know things about specific objects too, as most every item in the Ranker system maps to a Freebase object, which is a company (MetaWeb) that Google bought in order to provide these features.  We know a lot of the same information that Google knows, since we leverage the Freebase dataset.  For example, on our Godfather page, we present facts such as who directed the movie, when it was released, and what it’s rating was.  However, we also present other facts that people traditionally do not think of as part of the knowledge graph, but are actually just as essential to understanding the world.  We tell you that it’s one of the best movies of all time.  We also tell you that people who like the Godfather also tend to like Goodfellas, the Shawshank Redemption, and Scarlett Johansson.

Is this “knowledge”?  These aren’t “hard” facts, but it is a fact that people generally think of The Godfather as a good movie and Gilgi as a bad movie.  Moreover, knowledge about people’s opinions is essential for understanding the world in the way that the “Star Trek computer” that is referred to in Google’s blog post understands the world.  Could you pick a college based on factual information about enrollment and majors offered?  Could you hold an intelligent conversation about Harvard without knowing it’s place in the universe of universities?  Could you choose a neighborhood to live in based solely on statistics about the neighborhood, or would understanding what neighborhoods people like you also tend to like help you make the right choice?  If the broader mission of a search engine is to help you answer questions, then information about people’s opinions about colleges and neighborhoods is essential in these cases.  The knowledge graph isn’t just about facts, it’s about opinions as well.  Much of the knowledge you use in everyday reasoning concerns opinions, and if the internet is to get smarter, it needs this knowledge just as much as it needs to know factual information.

My guess is that Google gets this.  In 2004, searches for the word “best” were roughly equal to searches for words like car, computer or software, but people are increasingly searching for opinions online.  My uneducated guess is that Google bought Zagat, in part, for this reason.  Bing, Wolphram Alpha, Apple, and Facebook are all working on similar semantic search solutions, and as long as people continue to dream about the holodeck computer that can intelligently answer requests like “book me a hotel room in Toronto” or “buy my niece a present for her birthday”, data about opinions will be a part of the future of the knowledge graph.

– Ravi Iyer