by    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