by   Ranker
Staff
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   Ranker
Staff
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   Ranker
Staff
in Trends

There Can Be Only One… Hundred

The Ranker Community often gets together to discuss, debate and re-rank a variety of lists published elsewhere by experts. Forbes has its own picks for the Most Powerful Celebritiesand so does Ranker. But perhaps no “re-ranking” of an expert list gets more attention and participation than our revised look at the Maxim Hot 100, a list of the year’s most beautiful women.

The “Ranker Hot 100″ gets SO MUCH ATTENTION, in fact, that we figured there was some interesting data to be mined. And sure enough, we were able to draw some fascinating conclusions about the differences in tastes between Maxim’s readers and Ranker’s voters, not just about “which women are hottest?” but also which movies are the greatest and which ’90s animated TV series are most essential. (Seriously!)

Check out all the results on our Ranker Data blog.

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 Popular Lists

Tina Fey and Animal Movies…This Post Is Adorable…

Tracy Jordan Quotes +

The Darker Side of “30 Rock”

Today (Friday May 18th) is Tina Fey’s birthday. It should be a national holiday, the woman is an American gem. She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s cute…she’s perfect! As a present to Tina (she totally reads this blog) we’re putting two links about her!

 

 

Celebrity Deaths: 2012 Famous Deaths List

With the loss of Donna Summer and Mary Kennedy in the same week we would be remiss in not including this list.

 

 

Top NBA Players With No Championships

Self-explanatory.

The Greatest Animal Movies

If these movies don’t make you laugh and cry you have no soul.

 

Daily Dose Of Cuteness

Every day Ranker puts up a “daily dose of cuteness” picture on Facebook and Twitter. It’s usually a really cute animal doing really cute things. This is a collection of the daily doses that got the most votes, shares, and retweets!

 

by   Ranker
Staff
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

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 Popular Lists

The Darker Side Of 30 Rock, Funny Names, Greatest Movies, and Batman

The Darker Side of “30 Rock”

Data collected from our site shows that people who like 30 Rock have a dark side…

 

 

Best Rock Bands/Artists Of All Time

The Beatles..no the Stones…no Zeppelin…no The Beatles…the battle rages on

 

Funniest Real Names of Celebrities

You’ll be shocked and awed and tickled by this list.

The Best Characters from Batman Comics

Ranker cannot wait for the new Batman movie to come out! Who’s your favorite character?

 

 

The Best Movies Of All Time

Ranky chose this list this week because of a list he read on on Film School Rejects. See they said they complied The 10 Greatest Movies of All Time (According to the Internet) but really they got a bunch of movie critics together to choose them. Now, that’s not the Internet…you guys are the Internet and you voted on our list….a lot. Personally, Ranky doesn’t trust people who put Empire Records on their personal top 10 movie list that is clearly a guilty pleasure pick. A lot of these seem to be “safe” choices and the don’t even get Ranky started on the female critics on their lists…Ranky is quite the film snob. However, the fact several critics chose “The Apartment” made up for a lot of other things ( mainly Alison Long and Gwen Reyes choices).

 

 

 

 

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

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