Netflix has seemed to find a sure fire way to get what it needs by offering a $1 million prize as a carrot. In its first million dollar prize offering, it wanted a better software that could statistically predict what movies its customers would like to see. The criteria was that the new software had to be 10% better than what it was currently using. An international team of nine took the grand prize and Netflix actually saved money in the process. So guess what? It is going to do it again.

A recent article states:

The Netflix contest has been widely followed because its lessons could extend well beyond improving movie picks. The researchers from around the world were grappling with a huge data set — 100 million movie ratings — and the challenges of large-scale predictive modeling, which can be applied across the fields of science, commerce and politics.

The way teams came together, especially late in the contest, and the improved results that were achieved suggest that this kind of Internet-enabled approach, known as crowdsourcing, can be applied to complex scientific and business challenges.

The new contest is going to present the contestants with demographic and behavioral data, and they will be asked to model individuals’ “taste profiles,” the company said. The data set of more than 100 million entries will include information about renters’ ages, gender, ZIP codes, genre ratings and previously chosen movies. Unlike the first challenge, the contest will have no specific accuracy target. Instead, $500,000 will be awarded to the team in the lead after six months, and $500,000 to the leader after 18 months.

The payoff for Netflix? “Accurately predicting the movies Netflix members will love is a key component of our service,” said Neil Hunt, chief product officer.

I have often wondered why this type of contest wasn’t being offered by our government to solve some of the issues that plague the world. People love money and this would be a way to try and solve some issues such as alternative energies that could be solved if the right prize was offered.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Source – N.Y. Times

PS The above link may require that you are a registered user. The registration process is currently free.