Letterboxd – New site for film fans

Letterboxd is a new site, currently in its beta phase, that has been designed purely for movie enthusiasts. On it a user can write reviews and catalogue the movies they have seen including thier ratings.

The idea isn’t new, there are many sites that have a similar approach but Letterboxd ease of use makes it like a Facebook for film buffs.

It all sound really good doesn’t it?

And it is, but already I’ve seen problems arising.

Many people use iMDB for similar purposes, chatting on the forums and commenting on the films they have seen, but what puts me (and many people I have spoken to) off using that particular site is the constant trolling that permeates it.

As a fairly serious film fan I spend a lot of time considering my reactions to the films I watch. Even when I dislike something considerably I will always consider the ramifications of my opinions. This means that when I write a review or comment on a film (or anything else for that matter) I find that I offer arguments for my thoughts rather than opinions for my feelings.

There is a difference.

Opinions are subjective and only rely on what your personal feelings are whereas arguments are objective and should strive to act constructively.

Which brings me back to Letterboxd and my thoughts concerning it.

It is always easy to be negative, especially when you are not required to justify it and looking through the “reviews” on Letterboxd I see that the vast majority are in fact comments that offer no objective reasoning. In fact they rarely even offer evidence of an intelligent understanding of what a review is supposed to be.

Many of the “reviews” consist of a single line, and so many of these single lines consist of a single negative statement.

These are simply not reviews and its clear that it is far easier and quicker to produce these faux-reviews than it will be to produce considered ones. From this it is obvious that without some thought and intervention Letterboxd will quickly become just another iMDB littered with the trolling lack of thought all that implies.

So, first things first, what could be done to fix this potential problem?

Firstly there should be a place for these people who just want to comment, and this place should be clearly marked as “comments” and should not be confused with actual reviews. Then perhaps there should be a minimum amount of words to constitute a “review” and then there should be something there to encourage people to write with consideration and quality.

So perhaps a “league table” for the reviwers themselves should be created, something that take into account quantity of work but focuses mainly on some form of objectivequality of the reviews. Perhaps this could be done with a simple rating system or perhaps a team of volunteers could be selected who could trawl through the many reviews to select some of note.

Whatever the process is to be it seems clear to me that in order to keep Letterboxd to a level above that of iMDB and its ilk something should be done and done fast before the site shifts from its beta phase. Unfortunately when asked about this the administrators of the site seemed unconcerned with the trolling that has already appeared on the site.

I write constantly and take some pride in what I do. I also take some effort with my reviews and so I feel that I attempt to have some level of integrity with what I say. The problem with Letterboxd attitude is that If there is no attempt to raise their own integrity by policing what appears on their site then how can I be sure they will have any respect for my own?

5 thoughts on “Letterboxd – New site for film fans”

  1. Thanks for taking the time to check out what we’re doing and put your thoughts down. We are certainly interested in what all our beta testers have to say, both good and bad. As I pointed out in my reply to your original feedback, there is a “league table” of reviewers in the People section of the site, which is helpful for finding the better writers using the service.

    While we do surface a few reviews at the bottom of a film’s page, the site is designed to be consumed through your Activity stream, which only shows content from writers you’ve chosen to follow. This means you’re in control of the quality of reviews you read.

    We don’t feel limiting the number of words in a review would be useful. A two-sentence review might easily be more insightful than a three-paragraph rant, and such arbitrary limitations annoy legitimate users. But when you pick the writers you want to hear from, this problem is almost entirely eliminated.

  2. Unfortunately I suppose I see too much of iMDB or Facebook in what you are trying to do with Letterboxd. This is, of course, great for some people and I’ m certain many people will enjoy your site emmensely Matt.

    I genuinely hope that you have many, many faithful users over the coming years but your over all plan for Letterboxd is far too socially orientated for my tastes (I don’t like Facebook either and only use Twitter under duress). The use of “popular” reviews rather than “quality” reviews means that those who are the most socially adept (in web terms) will always have an advantage regardless of the quality of their work.

    The use of “following” is also something I’m uncomfortable with as it creates a much more insular experience that will inevitable create cliques and make it more difficult for newer reviewers to “break in” without creating their own cliques in the process.

    I may be entirely wrong on all this Matt, and believe it or not I genuinely hope I am because the idea and presentation of Letterboxd is excellent, as are many of the sites functions and systems. His is exactly why these things concern me, because it will be all for nought if the majority of “reviews” consist of purilility.

    I guess it’s just not for me mate, and I thank you for taking the time out to visit my blog and leave a comment; and i thank you for allowing my readers to know your opinions and reasons for your decisions.

    May I finish by stressing to those reading that you should check out the site as it has a great deal to offer and you should not take my comments and concerns as “gospel”. It is merely my opinion and your experience may be entirely different.

  3. Cheers Alan. Measures of quality vs popularity are a problem that exists in most social networks, and I’m not sure anyone’s found the answer (other than in curators manually picking good work, which, again, is subject to matters of individual taste).

  4. Not to mention time prohibitive, and therefore not an easy thing by any measure.

    I do realise that this is no easy endeavour for you and I hope my criticisms are not taken as personal attacks on you or your site, but rather as concerns tinged with some frustration at decisions I do not entirely understand.

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