The Netflix Zen Master

I’ve always been a huge admirer of screamingly efficient systems. Participating in such system is more pleasurable still. This is part of why I enjoy my Netflix service so much: I get to feel like I’m part of the team. I don’t keep DVDs for weeks at a time without watching them or hold on to them after I’m done so that someone else can see them; because then the system grinds to a halt. And we can’t have that. That would be letting the team down. I prided myself on this, even kidded myself that perhaps workers at my shipping center talked about me in the lounge. All this was before I met The Netflix Zen Master, and learned what efficiency really was.

I was awoken by the sound of a man tearing down a hallway in thong slippers that slapped against the soles of his feet. From a brief shout to his wife I discerned the cause of the commotion: the mail had arrived. I barely rolled off the couch in time to see him race back down the hallway with 4 Netflix cover slips flapping in his wake. I followed him to a room where he already had each disc whirring away inĀ  separate computers. When the rips finished he quickly collected the disks and loaded them side by side into a scanner, capturing the cover-art in one fell swoop. Then without a word he was gone. At the risk of destroying the beautiful dance, I followed him. He’d run out to the garage and already had the car running, a solemn nod indicated that I could come.

We sped down the road until our target became apparent: the mail truck. We quickly overtook it along the straightaway and pulled in a few houses ahead of it to drop the packages in a neighbor’s mailbox. We had done the impossible: gotten his DVDs and sent them back on the very same truck that had brought them in. That night I admired the product of his labor: 5 large binders filled with what he claimed to be 10,000 different titles all with beautiful cover-art. “10,000 films and nothing to watch” he said. Talking with him it became clear that he hardly liked movies at all.

In the interest of making this post about Internet business, I’d like to suggest that Netflix actually implement this competition as part of its service. Keeping a running scoreboard of the most efficient users, this would add an entirely new dimension to the service and would yield a great deal of publicity along the way. Now this really wouldn’t be too hard, in fact it already exists here and I can’t imagine it would be too pricey of an acquisition. You can be darn sure that if they offered me an “I’m the nth most efficient Netflix user” widget, then that would be going on my front page, and I would let it link to whatever they wanted it to. Free advertisement compliments of my competitive nature.

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  1. This is really interesting to me even in a more generic sense. Thinking about how companies can take a look at customer behavior and figure out creative ways to display the behavior back out to the community. Nike+ does a good job of this.

    That said, it’s been said that NetFlix discourages attempts to increase customer return rates (‘churn’ they call it) because their model is based on making more money on people who keep discs out longer, so I can’t imagine they’d want to do something like this, great forward-thinking company tho they might be.

  2. I think much like a gym membership, they don’t want you to become a power user. By providing incentives to people to get into a higher tier actually makes your subscription that much less profitable to them.

    I think its a great idea though, and that is why companies like the one you linked to actually give you the breakdown of how much each movies costs, which is something else NetFlix may not want to always show, especially to “great” users who keep a disc or two for more than a month.