Interview with Glen Maddern (Goodfilms)
Goodfilms is an online movie review, rating and recommendation site that integrates with existing social networks.
I interviewed Glen Maddern, Goodfilms founder to find out more. This interview is the hundred and tenth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Glen for the interview!
Describe Goodfilms in under 50 words.
Goodfilms is a new kind of movie site, where films are rated not just on quality, but ‘rewatchability’, too. Add to that two important factors – what your friends think of the movies they see, and which streaming service has the films you want to watch.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
I’m a developer with a background in data science, who’s been doing web development for a few years, and I’ve always loved films.
What made you decide to start working on Goodfilms?
I kept watching crappy movies! I realised I wasn’t keeping track of the films I wanted to watch, so when it came time to choose something I burnt hours trawling the internet to find inspiration. So first I built a queue – a list of suggestions from myself in the past to myself in the present. Everything kind of sprung from that idea – how can I keep that queue full of good stuff?
How did you and co-founder John Barton meet?
The Australian Ruby on Rails community has been running a weekend retreat called a Railscamp a couple of times a year for, well, as long as Rails has been a thing. In a fittingly Australian way, it involves no mobile reception or internet access, an irresponsible amount of beer, and people from all over the country. John was the development manager at Envato at that stage, and while I’m a little fuzzy on the details, I came away thinking that Envato were doing software the way I thought it should be done. A few weeks later, I was working in John’s team. Fast forward 18 months and I’m telling John I’ve got this idea for a startup…
Goodfilms was one of the first batch of startups accepted into the AngelCube program, a Melbourne based startup seed investment and accelerator program. Tell us what you got out of this experience, other than angel funding to further develop the product? (Congratulations on this by the way!)
Thanks! Melbourne’s startup scene was still a bit in its infancy, so everyone was surprised that AngelCube brought so many great mentors out of the woodwork. We got a huge amount of value out of putting Goodfilms under fairly intense scrutiny, to distil what was effectively a hobby website into an investable business. Goodfilms and several other grads have gone on to close seed rounds, something traditionally difficult in Melbourne, which is a great result.
Does Melbourne have a good startup scene?
Absolutely. Things happen on a smaller scale here, and you can’t deny that there are some opportunities that only exist in the Valley, but that’s not as important as people think. There’s a huge amount of talent in Melbourne, and very little pretension – there’s a battle-hardened attitude which I think helps keep you grounded. There are a lot of bootstrapped businesses here built around sustainable, revenue-generating ideas, and even those that do take funding still have that mindset.
How does the rating system work?
We contrast the traditional measure of quality, a 5-star system, with a much more subjective metric – rewatchability. What’s great is that a film can be rewatchable for a bunch of reasons, so a 5-star film that you really would enjoy watching again may be a true classic or one of your all-time favourites, but a 3-star movie with high rewatchability is maybe a really good silly comedy. Putting the scores on a graph gives you a far-better indication of whether a film suits what you feel like watching, and whether it’s any good.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing Goodfilms?
The online film landscape is changing so dramatically at the moment – with services like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and iTunes having different, and often fluctuating, slices of the content pie. The challenge for us is to stay on top of all this, so our users can reliably know which service has which film. Technically, that means understanding and integrating the API or data feed of each of these services, which accounts for a disproportionate amount of our time.
Netflix famously held a contest for a better movie recommendation algorithm but never implemented it. How do you plan to recommend movies better than other existing movie rating sites?
Netflix’s competition was a real eye-opener to me, that there was that much value in recommendations. A lot of the inventive techniques in the winning solution seemed to be making up for the fact that Netflix hadn’t asked the right question to begin with, i.e. the 5-star rating system didn’t capture enough information. We really designed the quality/rewatchability rating system in response to that – to build the best recommendation system you need to start by collecting the right data.
Where do you see Goodfilms in 3 years time?
I’d love to see it alongside Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB as a key source of information about whether a film is any good, and, for a lot of people, where they rate, review and share what they watch with their friends.
What are your thoughts on the future of video streaming and digital video purchases online?
It’s going to keep growing, but what it’ll look like in 2 or 5 years time who knows? It feels like the shake-up that iTunes brought to digital music hasn’t occurred yet with online movies, so something unexpected could come along and things could change dramatically in a short space of time. Whether it’s an improvement in subscription services (like a premium Netflix with a wider catalogue), or something new in the transactional space, it’s hard to know, though my suspicion is that it’ll focus on rentals, not purchases. It’s something we’re keeping a close eye on, as you can imagine.
What is your all time favourite movie?
According to my Goodfilms profile, it’s the Godfather Pt 1. A lot of my love for cinema comes from the feeling of seeing that for the first time.
What is the last good movie you watched and would recommend to readers?
Well, to cover the three ‘good’ corners of the rating graph, the last good silly comedy (dubious quality but highly rewatchable) I watched was a Soviet film called “Ivan Vasilievich Changes Profession”, which has the historical accuracy of Bill & Ted’s excellent adventure with the sped-up chase scenes of a Benny Hill. The best ‘high-quality not-very-rewatchable’ film I’ve seen recently was The Hunter, with Willem Dafoe and filmed in Tasmania. And for high-in-both-dimensions, Margin Call about the financial crash of 2008 was excellent. Those last two are available on Netflix Instant, by the way.
Which startup founder do you most admire?
The founder of Envato, Collis Ta’eed, has built one of Australia’s most successful startups, and I have tremendous respect for both how he did so, and how the company runs today. Envato have a remarkable focus on the satisfaction of their users, which is something that we’re hoping to emulate with Goodfilms.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Building websites! Not only is it easier than it’s ever been, with modern browsers as more and more of your audience, the amount of data available to build upon is immense. I feel like the web is maturing a bit at the moment, and with front-end technologies like AngularJS pushing the boundaries of what’s achievable with very little code.
Can you convince the reader to start using Goodfilms in under 50 words?
If you ever find yourself stuck for something to watch, or wanting to share a particularly good or bad experience with a film, Goodfilms is for you. Keep a queue of films to watch, and find inspiration from what your friends are up to.
Finished reading? Check out Goodfilms!