Learning From the Crowdsourcing Efforts at Netflix

By: Alex Chrum | Published: September 11, 2012

Netflix has experience with crowdsourcing, and this collaborative problem-solving model has impacted the company’s success. From its first crowdsourced problem in 1996 in the form of a contest with a $1 million prize, Netflix has employed several crowdsourcing solutions consistently. It is also currently experimenting with using the crowd to caption its video library.

The successful crowdsourcing efforts at Netflix highlight the company’s strengths that contribute to the effectiveness of the methods it uses. Among its strengths are rigorous testing and innovation. Perhaps Netflix’s biggest strength, however, is that it understands what users want and understands that using the collaborative power of the human mind is the best way to provide it.

Understanding what users want and providing it

Netflix’s first attempt at crowdsourcing was in 2006 when it asked the general crowd to find a better way to predict user viewing recommendations by improving on its prediction algorithm. This initiative shows how Netflix gets to the heart of the matter to determine what users want in order to provide it. In fact, Netflix also employs more than 40 people in-house as what it calls “taggers” to tag videos with at least 100 tags to work in conjunction with its recommendation function – showing how important the human component is in a computerized function.

Testing with crowds

Netflix takes its use of crowdsourcing and uses it to test, exhaustively, two different scenarios using 10,000 or more of its users. If something is successful during the crowdsourced testing, it is made available to all Netflix subscribers.

Captioning with the crowd

As its most recent crowdsourcing initiative, Netflix is utilizing the crowd for captioning. With more than 50,000 videos in its online streaming collection, Netflix is first starting a test phase of the crowd captioned content. Initial indications are that the program is successful. These online streaming videos are likely to be watched and captioned by crowd laborers around the globe. While the participants in this effort are volunteer, they demonstrate just how powerful a crowd of collaborators can be for certain projects.

Learning from Netflix’s crowdsourcing success

What can any enterprise business learn from Netflix?

  • Tapping into the crowd eliminates obstacles that exist for extremely large-scale projects
  • Using the human element makes a significant difference in quality, speed and accuracy
  • Understanding what consumers want is the first step in successfully providing it
  • Employing crowd testing before doing a full-scale launch can improve an overall product and identify the best solution

Whatever the large-scale project, our workforce engages in tasks to complete distributed problem solving to provide a solution that impacts your company’s bottom line and sustainability. Contact a member of our sales team to discover the ways our pre-qualified labor force can solve problems for you.


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