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 (e.g.baseball 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