Monday, November 12, 2012

IMDB voting is a joke

I go to the Internet Movie Data Base today to see how voters take to "The House I Live In," an Oscar-contending documentary about the vast amount of money spent prosecuting non-violent drug users in America. I see it has an unspectacular voter rating of 6.3 out of 10.

Then I look at the voter breakdown. 129 out of 235 voters (55 percent) have given the movie a 10.  62 voters (another 26 percent) have given it an 8 or a 9. So more than four out of five voters have given it a rating of 8 or above, yet the overall "weighted" rating is 6.3. How can this be?

The explanation on IMDB is a combination of obfuscation and gobbledygook. The site won't explain how it assigns different weights to votes, though some users have speculated in message boards that it automatically throws out 1s and 10s or devalues them until a certain number of people have voted. There's also speculation that people who regularly vote on films get their votes counted more heavily, as if prolific voters were more honest or intelligent.

When you search the FAQ section for an explanation, you get a longer version of the paragraph below:

IMDb publishes weighted vote averages rather than raw data averages. Various filters are applied to the raw data in order to eliminate and reduce attempts at 'vote stuffing' by individuals more interested in changing the current rating of a movie than giving their true opinion of it. The exact methods we use will not be disclosed. This should ensure that the policy remains effective.

The site justifies weighting answers by comparing its ratings to those used in assessing automobiles: A car that gets a 5 for looks, a 5 for gas mileage, a 5 for price and a 1 for safety may not get an overall average of 4, because safety is more important than the other factors. But how does one distinguish among people who are rating only one thing, the overall effectiveness of a movie?

Nobody wants a ballot box to be stuffed. (Well, Vladimir Putin and certain African dictators do, I guess.) I never vote on IMDB myself, because my reviews give my opinions, should anyone want them. No doubt rabid fanboys toss 10s around like confetti when the latest Batman or Avengers movies come out, and clever hackers can confound almost any system.

But when the mast majority of voters give a grade of 8 or higher to a serious documentary, and the overall grade is 6.3, something's wrong here. Do we need to get the electoral college involved?


Anonymous said...

"Nobody wants a ballot box to be stuffed. (Well, Vladimir Putin and certain African dictators do, I guess.)"


Anonymous said...

@2:24 Still bitter, Bro?

John said...

Anonymous 3:39, maybe he's just paying more attention than you?

Anonymous said...

Rotten Tomatoes is much more reliable than IMDB...good article.

Anonymous said...

Trust me, my friend: I have years of experience with the IMDb's idiotic "policy". It's a scourge, and a blight. Unfortunately, a lot of people take the site seriously, or are too obtuse to click-through to the actual vote breakdowns and see the real averages. It's a deeply flawed paradigm that needs fixing. One of the issues: The Top 1000 Voters. I've seen posts by people claiming they're one of these Top 1000 "elites," and it's truly sad to see them wallowing in their perceived "power". Until the IMDb staff diminishes the "weight" of the Top 1000, you will continue to see good films skewed downward by a single negative vote, or artificially skewed upward by a single positive vote from one of these 1000 no-life IMDb "elites". P.S. To the conspiracy theory kooks posting before me: it, learn it, love it.

shawn said...

I'm pretty sure sites like are able to make fake votes on their website. This is a joke and there system is simply flawed.

Anonymous said...

How can you objectify a subjective rating system?
Some people may like it, some people may not.

Sara Pedri said...

Thank you for this write-up. I can attest, first-hand, how the IMDb ratings are bogus. After 3 years of blood, sweat, tears, and lots of our own money, we ended up with a solid little romantic comedy that, when screened, made people laugh, cry, think, and feel. We received wonderful third party reviews.

We had very few votes on IMDb, because I didn't push people to rate it. And I know exactly how many DVDs and rentals we've had. As the writer / director, I would have been thrilled with a 6.0. It's not brilliant or extraordinary, but it's solid. And we had an 8.5 weighted average.

THEN I posted publicly on Zach Braff's Facebook page during the debate about his crowd-funding via Kickstarter. I was trying to point out how independent filmmakers felt about it. I was called a hater. We had had no recent DVD sales and weren't available online yet. Within 24 hours of my FB post, I received a rating of "1"... and that "1" was weighted as if it was 60 "1's"! I did the math. It dropped us from an 8.5 to 4.0. I was so angry and hurt. All the hard work to make our film, and then one person (whose vote is apparently extremely weighted) thinks it's funny to cripple us.

I found your post while searching about the Top 1000 voters... as our IMDb movie has been hit yet again by 7 of these people voting "1". Did you know that there are people out there whose only goal in life is to be a Top 1000 voter? They search out movies that have low rating activity, hit that movie with a score, then wait to see if they show up as a Top 1000 voter. THAT is their goal. And, apparently, they don't follow the instructions to REMOVE their bogus ratings.

Anyway, thank you again for posting. At least someone realizes what a joke it is. Too bad there are those of us struggling to get a movie seen and there are people out there messing with our ratings.

Anonymous said...

It definitely is. Especially the ''top 1000 voter'' category has pretty much ruined the whole voting system, with thousands of no-lifers handing out 1 ratings to become one.

Anonymous said...

"The House I Live In" has a rating of 7.9

Anonymous said...

It's not rabid fanboys. It is spending marketing dollars, pumping up hype. Only the sheeples falling for it, but it is enough for bad industry.

There was one example of some bs Resident Evil movie opening in theaters and getting fast IMDB score of 8.6 - to be later deteriorated to around 6.

My focus started with Mad Max Fury Road. IMDB score being overrated by hundreds of tons. Reading the reviews it was clear that on opening day some mass monster brigade invaded IMDB wrote hundred positive reviews and pissed on moviegoers rating the film with 9 to 10. More recent reviews are disappointed in film and there are way more bad reviews than the average score would suggest. It's too easy to open account post a full 10/10 positive review being first and last review ever. And it is more easier to just rate the film 10 out of 10.

Look at the average scores, look at the films, see how many ratings some of these films get. Too much, too fast for some. Comparing to those films that were seen much wider audiences on screen, on dvd/vhs/br and on television. Damn, IMDB has been there as long as I remember. But for recent years the rating numbers for specific Hollywood films have been pumped up.

Bye bye IMDB and and reliability.