movietally and understanding web 2.0 design


I often get requests for reviews of web 2.0 sites on the OpenGardens blog. I cant review them all purely due to time pressures .. However, movietally is an exception for two reasons.

The first being, the site is a textbook case of web 2.0 design as referenced by Richard’s article on Web 2.0 for designers.

The second being, the founder, ‘Hayden’, is only fifteen years old and is a crack programmer from what I can see! When I was that age, I was also dreaming of setting up great businesses. The web allows us all to fulfill our dreams, whatever our age and our location. So, it’s my way of encouraging innovation by featuring movietally (and yes I have checked with a guardian!)

But back to the site itself ..

Movietally is a website for indexing, tagging, and sharing movies (note – sharing involves sharing recommendations not ‘movies’ themselves i.e. its not napster like)

In addition to tagging movies, users can choose whether they recommend the movie or not. From these questions, the collaboration effort of movietally emerges. Different tag clouds are generated, some of which display the most popular tags, a user’s most popular tags, movietally’s most popular tags, movietally’s most popular movies, movietally’s most recommended movies, and many other types.

In addition, movietally will automatically recommend movies to a specific user with a

matching algorithm involving numerous factors including the user’s recommended movies, the user’s tags, other user’s recommended movies, and other user’s tags.

Movietally will also state a list of users which are similar to you. Along with this, users can write reviews for movies and contribute to a wiki-like effort of movie information (directors, producers, cast, etc.). Users can choose to be notified when one of their friends updates their movie catalogue (“subscribe” to another user).

Along with tags, movietally demonstrates other classic web 2.0 features, such as AJAX, which is shown with the live-searching feature of a user searching their catalogue, and the ability for a user to create custom RSS feeds.

The critical feature of movietally is it’s search. Users can enter practically anything into the search, including tags, part of a movie name, directors, producers, cast, etc. and movietally will rank the results to give you the best match for a movie for your criteria

Let us look at web 2.0 design in context of movietally

Of the “six trends that characterize Web 2.0 for designers”, the below are the ones that movietally implements:

1. “Writing Semantic Markup: Transition to XML”

Movietally implements RSS, by providing a feed of the 25 most recently added movies. In addition, users can create a custom feed of either the 25 most recently added movies which pertain to specific tags or the 25 most recently added movies by certain users. See rss info for more information.

2. “Remixing Content: About When and What, not Who or Why”

According to the article, this design feature is about how searches can also be mixed with RSS to let people subscribe to content via topic and tag RSS feeds. As described above, movietally implements this in the same way as per (1).

3. “Emergent Navigation and Relevance: Users are in Control”

This section describes how the content is suited to the user’s behaviour. This feature is implemented through its recommendations feature. Since the recommendations are based off the movies which the user has chosen to add to his/her catalogue (the user’s actions), much of the content provided to a user is based off of what he/she has done. In general, this applies to the whole site ; the site is powered by what the users choose to do, including what movies they choose to add, whether they recommend these movies, the tags they have, etc etc.

4. “Adding Metadata Over Time: Communities Building Social Information”

The purpose of this section is tags. From the article: “On Flickr and, any user can attach tags to digital media items (files, bookmarks, images). The tagging aspect of these services isn’t the most interesting part of them, though. What are most interesting are the trends we see when we put together everyone’s tags.” . Tags are common throughout the site. With the many “tag clouds” on movietally, the service is able to find “the trends we see when we put together everyone’s tags”, by not only displaying the more popular tags in a bigger font size, but also allowing users to “request removal” of certain tags. If a certain ratio of “request removals” of a certain tag to the number of times the tag has been added is reached, the tag is removed from movietally’s database for the movie to which it applies. In addition, movietally places a larger emphasis on more popular tags when recommending movies to a user.

5. “Shift to Programming: Separation of Structure and Style”

This design feature is about making the content easily readable by computers. With tags displaying on nearly every page of movietally, when a computer (such as a web crawler) reads a page on movietally, it can gather many, many keywords (tags) which pertain to the page.

I hoped to do two things through this post – promote movietally and also use it as a showcase for understanding the principles of web 2.0 design.

As usual, welcome comments.


  1. LR says:

    Doesn’t look like it’s going to replace Movielens ( ) for me. Actual algorithm design skills and research still matter.