Netflix and Stumbling on Happiness
I was rethinking the advice in Stumbling on Happiness
recently, and realized that most of my choices about what movies to watch were based on using descriptions of the movies' content to imagine how I would feel about them, with little effort to inform myself about how much others enjoyed them (i.e. I was doing the exact opposite of what Stumbling on Happiness advises).
I haven't noticed enough correlation between my friends tastes in movies and mine. I realized that Netflix has a recommendation system that makes a serious effort to personalize movie advice in a way that I would trust more than I trust the alternatives.
I had been avoiding Netflix because I had been watching movies infrequently enough that Netflix looked more expensive than buying movies, and the Netflix model reduces my flexibility to decide at the last minute what to watch. But the message from Stumbling on Happiness convinced me that those downsides were unimportant compared to sophisticated means of predicting whether I'd like a movie.
So far I've watched two entertaining movies that I would have otherwise overlooked (Hogfather, and You Can't Take It With You). For both movies I'm unimpressed by the occasional moralizing messages, but was able to mostly ignore the pretenses that the movies were anything more than entertainment. I seem to be watching movies more frequently as a result of using Netflix, so my cost per movie concerns now look mistaken.
Are there other areas where I ought to be making similar changes? For books, I already rely fairly heavily on feedback from people who have read the books. For hiking trails, I want more new trails than I can find advice about (few people know more about bay area trails than I), so I don't see an alternative to sometimes reading maps and trying new areas I see that way. I should rely a bit more on advice about restaurants, but the differences between restaurants aren't big enough for me to put much effort into finding new ones. For food I buy in stores, I don't use enough advice - does anyone know a good source that I should look at?