“His own quotes are his greatest pleasure.”

I’m going to take this as a compliment: John Perich has written a critique of the Internet Movie Database’s “memorable quotes” section, noting how quality control seems to have declined and wondering when and how it happened.

I can tell him exactly when and how: October 2001. That’s when my association with the IMDb, and my six-year stewardship of its Quotes section, came to an abrupt end, and not an amicable one. The less said about that, the better.

While Quotes Editor, I enforced a style that Perich recalls fondly, one in which quotes were by and large pithy, could stand on their own with minimal context (e.g. stage directions), and stated something truly memorable: something about the human condition, for instance, or something that could whisk the reader right back into the emotional heart of a scene.

During my tenure we had no quotes from movie trailers, no quotes that could not be understood out of context, and few overlong scenes. The ones of those that I did include came from prolific and reliable quote submitters whom I did not wish to alienate by disregarding the work they’d put into transcribing them; and even then, I usually managed to carve them up into separate bite-sized quote morsels.

Problem was (as Perich rightly points out) that ensuring the accuracy and suitability of quotes that IMDb users submitted — in ever-increasing numbers, with an ever-decreasing signal-to-noise ratio — was nearly a full-time job all by itself; and when I agreed to take on the Trivia and Goofs sections too as a favor to one of my colleagues, and then software development on top of that, I was often at the point of despair. I was disappointed but not entirely unhappy when it came time to separate from the IMDb.

I don’t know who has held the Quotes Editor post since my departure, and whoever has, I do not wish to cast aspersions on the job they’ve done. It’s not an easy one, especially if their efforts are split between Quotes and any other part of the site. But as I’ve noted myself over the past few years (with the occasional sigh and sorry head-shake), it’s clear that they’ve abandoned the aesthetic that John Perich and I prefer.

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