Monday, 29 June 2009



In the span of 3 years, some 40,000 teams from around the world took up Netflix's challenge of improving movie recommendations by 10% over the company's Cinematch engine. And just a day ago, one of these teams has claimed the top prize and the $1,000,000 that go with it. This team consists of the 2007 and 2008 progress prize winning team BellKor from the USA, Austria's Big Chaos team, and Canada's Pragmatic Theory team.
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Until recently, the teams were competing against each other unable to reach the 10% improvement threshold but they put an end to the competition when they joined forces.Other teams now have 30 days to submit their solutions and outdo the top team for a chance to claim the top prize for themselves; keep an eye on the official leaderboard.
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Can others do it? Well, you never know so it will be an interesting 30 days.I have to admit that a couple of years ago I really didn't think that this day would come. I was certain that the 10% improvement had been selected by Netflix to prevent people from ever claiming the million dollar prize. I guess, I was wrong after all.That said, I am currently reading Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams' best seller Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything and I think the Netflix competition would make for a great story for this book.
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It is yet another example of how computers and the Internet allow thousands of people across the globe to collaborate effectively and efficiently to solve problems at a fraction of the cost of a single corporation doing the work in house. I don't know how much money in Research and Development Netflix will save from this competition but I suspect they stand to make a lot of money from the 10% improvement in recommendation accuracy.
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They will certainly make back the prize money in no time (if they haven't already considering that improvements over 7% have been achieved by many teams over the course of the last 2 years). Kudos to the teams for their achievement and kudos to Netflix for taking a chance most corporations would never dare take.
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