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Three Years Later, Netflix Issues $1m Reward


Eye of the Needle by David Needle (bio)

Insights from Silicon Valley and beyond


When Netflix decided to try and make significant improvements to the system it uses to recommend movies, the company took a unique approach to getting the job done. Rather than hire more staff, it banked on a unusual form of outsourcing.

The movie rental giant announced the Netflix Prize, promising to award $1 million to anyone who could help it reach at least a 10 percent improvement in the accuracy of its movie recommendation.

That was 2006, three years later we have a winner. A team of engineers, statisticians and researchers cashed into today at an awards ceremony hosted by Netflix. The team “BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos” is actually the result of merging of three teams that had previously competed against one another in the contest.

After three years of competing it all came down to a kind of crazy ‘We are the World’ finish. The winning team is comprised of software and electrical engineers, statisticians and machine learning researchers from Austria, Canada, Israel and the United States.

All seven team members - Bob Bell, Martin Chabbert, Michael Jahrer, Yehuda Koren, Martin Piotte, Andreas Toscher and Chris Volinsky - attended the awards ceremony which was the first time all seven had met one another in person.

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