Peerflix: Nice theory, not so great practice

I signed up for Peerflix, a new DVD trading service. The idea is you list all the DVDs you own but don’t really watch, as well as all the DVDs you want. Other members do the same, and the service keeps track of how many discs you’ve sent out to other people so you can receive the same number in return (some discs are worth more than others, but that’s the basic idea.) It’s not a loaning service — you give away your DVDs, and you own the ones you receive.

Sounds good. There are a bunch of DVDs on my Amazon wish list — stuff I’d like to own but not badly enough to go buy — so I added them all to my “want” list, and I added a bunch of other movies to my “have” list, mostly old cheesy horror flicks I picked up in bulk for 50 cents apiece a few years back.

I sent out two DVDs as soon as the system asked me to, and within a week or so I had the first movie on my want list, a copy of Kubrick’s “The Shining.”

Unfortunately, that’s the only movie I’ve gotten. I’ve sent out eleven movies so far and received exactly one, even though several of the movies on my want list show up as available.

Obviously Peerflix can’t force its members to mail out DVDs they’ve listed, and that’s the crux of the problem: the reliability of the service is at the whim of people who don’t have an especially strong motivation to be responsive. It would not surprise me if the people with the DVDs I want are in the same boat I am: they’ve sent out a bunch of movies and gotten few in return. I imagine now they’re waiting to get a few movies before they send any more out.

Since I don’t really care about those old bulk-purchase DVDs (the ones I like, I didn’t list on Peerflix) I’ll keep sending them out as requested just to reduce the clutter on my bookshelf, but it sure would be nice to see something in return. Meanwhile, for stuff I just want to watch once, I think I’ll stick with Netflix, which has always sent me the movies I’ve asked for on a predictable schedule.

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