Movie Ratings And Market Conversations At Work, However Ungrammatical They May Be

My good friend Ben Johnson has a blog. It’s got a very low readership (not a judgment - just a comment for which the relevance will become clear below). Very low readership. Like fewer than five people. His blog has four blogs linking to it. Two are mine, and one is another of his - a site called Cultural Authority that will be extremely interesting if he ever decides to pick it up regularly. Read this blurb:
Deconstructing the contemporaneity of neo-dominant paradigmatic vocalities re: hyperhegemonic, phallogocentric, postcolonial consumerativity, including the aggressive disassociation of signifier and signified, via a gynocritical, reconstructionalist, antitextual/contextual/"textual" lens. Also...Foucauldian.
See, that sounds cool.

In any case, his blog, like most, is personal, and that is way awesome. Like I said, I read it regularly. That’s also why what happened to him this morning is so interesting.

Rewind just a little. Ben (who, while going to graduate school just so happens to work at a video store and is a major movie buff/geek) wrote a nice post about his desire for portability of movie ratings he’s provided to Netflix (1500 ratings!), Amazon (400) and Flixster (60). He’s right on regarding this, and it’d be great to see companies open up their data more. However, the best part of his post was his candid admission that Flixter’s site “is largely a disappointment” and that their Facebook widget is “about as disappointing as the regular Flixter website.” At this point I wondered what the heck Flixter might be, but was given several reasons for not caring to check: he didn’t link to it, and he (a trusted friend) said bad things about it. So, even though I’m savvy enough to have guessed its URL, I didn’t. Bleh - why in Zeus’ name would I?

But Ben contacted me this morning via GMail chat to tell me something crazy had happened: a founder of Flixster had actually commented on his post. I immediately clicked through from Google Reader to check it out. Here’s what “Joe from Flixster” said:
hey ben,

i am one of the founders of flixster - stumbled on your post.

1. Very curious to know why you found both our site and our facebook app a disappointment. What were/are you looking for?

2. FYI - we're happy to allow you to take your flixster ratings with you anywhere you go. Such is the value of being a free service - we think your ratings are yours and are happy to let you export them whther you want to subscribe to netflix for while, switch to BB, buy from amazon or iTunes or whatever else. Unfortunately, given their business model, those other services are probably less likely to see things that way...

You'll probably here more from us about this topic in the next year or two.

Never mind his barely-veiled swipe at some of the leading video services on the web - what’s notable is that Joe took the time to address the specific issues raised on Ben’s humble little web log. A quick Technorati search would have shown that Ben’s site might not be worth the time given its (relative lack of) authority, but he commented anyway. Why? Why would the founder of a site with (allegedly) 16,195,908 accounts write such a specific answer on such a tiny blog?

Because, it seems, he kinda gets it.

What’s it?

is the fact that every last one of your users is sacred. It is the fact that word of mouth is not a tree falling in a forest. It is the fact that when it comes to internet, a single voice can start a tidal wave of noise. It is the fact that users and customers are real people who talk to one another and take each other’s words as gospel. It is a belief in the power of the web to make or break your business - for the viral to either be supremely beneficial, or supremely destructive. It is an understanding that just because Ben’s blog might not reach millions doesn’t mean that one of his readers’ blogs doesn’t (or that his readers’ blogs’ readers blogs won’t, or that his get the point).

So I checked out Flixster, after all. Here’s the deal:
Flixster is a community for movie fans of all shapes and sizes. Whether you are a die-hard horror fan or lover of romantic comedies (or both), Flixster is a place where you can find others who share your taste and through them discover new movies that you will love.

Only a year old, Flixster is already one of the largest movie sites on the web with over 10 million registered users and over 300 million movie ratings.
I didn’t sign up because it doesn’t seem like my thing. Social Network Overload, perhaps. But the point of all this is I looked. Joe took a chance - a tiny, risk-free, minute-long chance. Good for him - we need some more businesses to follow his lead. Eight years after The Cluetrain Manifesto, markets are still conversations. Don’t forget.

That said, I wish Joe all the best with Flixster - I’m just not sure how well they’re gonna do with a founder who misuses the word “here” when he means “hear.” Yeah, it’s the internet. But that doesn’t excuse sloppiness. Not if you want people to take you seriously.