Summary Bug turns Netflix errors into Internet gold

You never have to feel bad for laughing at a computer.


Brendan O'Connor

Internet Culture

Published May 19, 2014   Updated May 31, 2021, 7:09 am CDT

Meet your new favorite social media accounts: Summary Bug, a pair of accounts on Tumblr and Twitter documenting one buggy Netflix app that keeps splicing summaries of shows and movies on the service together.


— Summary Bug (@SummaryBug) May 17, 2014

Summary Bug is the invention (discovery?) of Bob Lannon, a developer at Sunlight Labs, part of Washington advocacy group the Sunlight Foundation. “TV’s doing all the work,” he joked in response to a tweet complimenting his comedic prowess. “I’m just a vessel.”

Netflix on my tv has this bug that will swap the last line of a summary w. the last sent of the next movie’s summary

— Bob Lannon (@BobLannon) May 17, 2014

“For all I know, it’s been around forever,” Lannon told the Daily Dot via email, speaking about the bug. “It’s always just been a minor annoyance, because it only happens every now and then. It confused me a few times, but the Friday night Zizek/Spider-man goof was just completely hilarious, so I tweeted it.”

— Summary Bug (@SummaryBug) May 19, 2014

He hasn’t reported the glitch to Netflix, and he isn’t planning to, either.

Though he now works as a developer, Lannon is no stranger to the absurdity of language: He holds an MA in Linguistics from UPenn and studied English and Linguistics as an undergrad at Temple University.

“These remind me of what psycholinguists call ‘garden path’ sentences, where the latter part of a sentence will upend a reader’s expectations about syntactic structure,” he said, pointing to UPenn’s Language Log for more examples. “I think only a few of Summary Bug’s examples really rise to the level of a psycholinguistic stimulus, but I always found garden path examples funny in the same way.”

— Summary Bug (@SummaryBug) May 17, 2014

What is it about this kind of digital ephemera that so appeals to people? Maybe it’s because of some idea that we have about the world of computers and technology being rigorously rule-based, predictable and predetermined. Maybe it’s just funny combinations of words. Maybe both! In any case, “#FF,” as they say.

Photo via swruler9284 (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: May 19, 2014, 2:41 pm CDT