New Orleans-based recommendation software company The Spoke aims to help streaming service users cut down on time searching for good movies and increase time actually watching them.
“Who hasn’t run into the issue where you’re 45 minutes into trying to find something to watch, and you still can’t decide?” said The Spoke co-founder Tom Stern. “There is so much time wasted, when all you want to do is watch a good movie.”
According to Stern, each streaming service’s recommendation problem originates with one common problem: their recommendation data is limited only to movies offered on each individual platform. The algorithms exclude any movies not on offer, and therefore do not provide a helpful selection of movies right for individual users.
“If you remember Netflix back when their focus was DVD delivery, recommendations were much stronger because you could select any movie,” Stern said. “Now they’re doing the best with the data they have, but without expanded data samples, the recommendations will still suck.”
On top of that, advertising is responsible for many search results across Google and other search engines. When you search for “restaurants near me,” the top results are dedicated to companies which paid the most to be there.
The Spoke aims to amend these issues by adding a social graph to recommendations, meaning user’s friends and influencers they choose to follow help content float to the top instead of marketing dollars. This new way to search allows more personal recommendations, as users are in control of who makes suggestions.
Right now the service acts as Spotify for finding movies essentially, allowing users to create lists of movies they want to watch, as well as following other users’ recommendations and lists. These lists can then be searched and sorted through using keywords that bring up more relevant results than on-streaming-service recommendations. Each movie has tags and summaries of the plot in order to give users an idea of what goes on during the film. In addition, movies are filterable by genre, year and even Rotten Tomatoes’ freshness rating.
“We really think we are onto something,” Stern said. “We’re giving you the ability to slice and dice the data however you want.”
Restaurant recommendation functionality is slated to be added as soon as this week.
The Spoke has developed quite a bit from the original prototype. Like most good ideas, Stern started with a hypothesis. Initially, Stern’s hypothesis for accurate recommendations began with a large set of movies and information about them in order to give context. This extra information would allow for more accurate choices when looking for a movie.
Using this idea and a Thrillist list of movies provided by Stern’s girlfriend, an Excel document was created with the movies and the services they were available on.
“Each genre had a place on the x-axis of the chart, while streaming services occupied the y-axis,” Stern said. “I then looked up each movie on each streaming service which took four hours. The good news was it only took us two minutes to make a choice the next time we wanted to watch a movie.”
Then Stern and The Spoke co-founder and senior engineer of data and software company Lucid Brenan Keller set to work on making an automated prototype which would eventually become the foundation of The Spoke. The ongoing private beta has a waitlist of between 400 and 500 interested users, and Product Hunt featured the beta this week, spreading awareness.
Stern believes, while there is plenty of competition from other recommendation-focused apps, The Spoke has the potential to be the best recommendation platform on the planet, and it is only a matter of time before it is.
Interested users can sign up for the closed beta waitlist here. As for a public release, Stern said the team is aiming to have The Spoke available near the beginning of 2018.