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 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    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

by    in About Ranker

Introduction to Data @ Ranker.com

Ranker is continuing to grow, both in terms of the traffic that comes to our website and in terms of our coverage of the world of objects to be ranked.  As we grow, we collect more and more data and are only beginning to tap the possibilities of the data we collect.  If you’re interested in our data, this video will hopefully give you a quick introduction to data at Ranker.com.