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Achieving Interestingness

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, September 26, 2006 at 10:31 pm

More about Flickr…
Today I was doing a vanity search and found a this on the fourth page:

I had just seen the Flickr Explore page and my name certainly wasn’t on it. So why would this page come up for a query on my name? Could it be? Did one of my photos make it onto the Explore homepage without my knowing it? Did Googlebot then crawl that page during that fleeting moment before the photo dropped back into obscurity? Yep, according to Google’s cache of the page.

Check it out yo — That’s my photo!

Melanie Phung's photo on the Explore page

Which also explains the high number of “favorites” the photo got soon after I posted. A ton of people saw the photo highlighted, were predisposed to mark it as a favorite, which played into a self-reinforcing cycle. After the initial high ranking, however, the photo has been dropping down the Interestingness list, where it will soon hang out in obscurity like my other photos, alas.

A fun case study in how Flickr’s Interestingness algorithm works, though. Not to mention the serendipity of Google caching the version with my photo on it, and then my finding it in the SERPs before the cache got overwritten at the next crawl.

What a wonderful thing Google cache is.

Go to Google’s cache of the Explore homepage or directly to the photo — if you have any interest whatsoever in my little self-congratulatory indulgence, that is.

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Category: Flickr,Images,Navel-Gazing

Flickr’s Interestingness Algorithm

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, September 26, 2006 at 9:01 pm

I have a problem with Flickr. Not in the “hey, I have a beef with you” sort of way, but in the “Hi, my name is Melanie and I have an addiction” sort of way. It all started when my boss asked if we could use Flickr to somehow boost our search engine rankings either in natural search or in image search specifically.

To make a long story short, I’ve had only moderate success in figuring out how to use Flickr to promote commercial products (short of engaging in anything spammy), but have gotten really engrossed in the photo sharing site for my own photography.

Flickr has an algorithm for determining “Interestingness,” which in turn determines which photos are shown in their Explore section where visitors are encouraged to browse “some of the most awesome photos on Flickr.”

To be in Explore, a photo needs to be among the Top 500. The top photo gets displayed on the Explore homepage, and some number of them appear on the page of this week’s interesting photos. The rest you’d have to dig through the calendar to find.

Melanie Phung in Explore

Being number one, naturally, is what those of us with competitive natures strive for — it gives you exposure, traffic and kudos from the Flickr community. Unlike ranking second and third in a traditional Google or Yahoo search, there doesn’t seem to be much advantage to trailing behind. Except of course bragging rights. Ahh, bragging rights. And entrance into the mutual admiration societies where everyone pats everyone else on the back for being in the Top 10, Top 50, Top 100, etc.

And I admit, I’m a Flickr algoholic and I want those bragging rights. So in addition to figuring out the Google algorithm, the Google Image algorithm, the Yahoo (ahem) “algorithm” I am now in pursuit of the secret recipe of Flickr’s Interestingness algo.

There are a couple of things I’ve observed.

Factors Determining if Your Photo Gets Into Flickr Explore:

  1. Number of people who mark the photo as one of their “favorite”
  2. Reputation of the people who mark your photo as one of their favorites (i.e., how popular their own photos are)
  3. The rate at which your photo accumulates comments and “favorites”
  4. The number of pools to which you’ve submitted the photo (too many can hurt your rankings)
  5. Ratio of views to favorites
  6. An odd secret sauce recipe that causes rankings to jump around dramatically within the space of several days — dropping out completely only to reappear near the top, and that sort of thing. To be sussed out …

But here I’m only talking about Flickr’s algorithm within its own self-contained world, not what Flickr popularity can do for you as part of an overall SEO strategy.

As for any tricks and tips I might have for image search optimization for actual search engines… I’m not ready to reveal what’s up my sleeve just yet, but I predict social search optimization overall is going to be an interesting niche to watch.

Read more tips and secrets of Flickr Explore/Interestingness.

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Category: Flickr,Images

It’s Not Just a Bug, It’s Our Featured Bug

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, September 19, 2006 at 3:41 pm

Windows Live (aka SNAFUBAR) has thrown search marketers and web analytics folks into a bit of a tizzy with their switchover from MSN Search (MSN Search is dead. Long live this new brand name stuck onto the same old search engine.)

Results on the “new” Windows Live Search, which now processes MSN search queries, aren’t including the referer data when passing traffic on, so you can’t tell where that traffic came from. The referer URLs are apparently stripped out via a piece of JavaScript that is using for its own click tracking purposes.

Major pain in the butt for people who care about that sort of thing (oh, say, anyone in e-commerce). Especially annoying to those of us who track conversion from organic search specifically, since there are usually other ways to track PPC ads.

MSN dude reportedly chimed in to say:

This is NOT by design. We’re looking into it. Thanks for telling us.

So rest assured, I am sure there will be a fix pretty quickly. Well, not over the weekend [] , but hopefully some time today or early this week.

(Ye can rest easy in knowin the editor has been made to walk ye ol’ plank for not writing this here post in pirate-ese. Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day. Yarr!)

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Category: Uncategorized

Anousheh Ansari: The World’s First Space Blogger

Posted by Melanie Phung on Monday, September 18, 2006 at 1:09 pm

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Anousheh Ansari, who blasted off this morning as the first person (correction: woman) ever to visit space as a tourist, is also this planet’s first person to blog from space. (No, clearly she’s not on dial-up or a cable modem.) How cool is that?!

Watch “” for first-hand accounts of her trip.

She’ll be back in 11 days, so expect to see her at the X Prize Cup event in Las Cruces, New Mexico, spanning October 21 through 22. There’s going to be all sorts of cool stuff including, but not limited to:

The Lunar Lander Challenge (a NASA-supported prize effort to demonstrate the ability of private companies to develop next-generation lunar landers), the Vertical Rocket Challenge (another lunar-landing-technology-focused competition), and the Space Elevator Games (a test of over 20 teams to use light to power a vehicle along a tether, this year up about 50 meters, but eventually hundreds and thousands of miles).

For reasons I’m not going to go into, I’m following the [formerly Ansari] X Prize events closely this year. Stay tuned!

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Category: Uncategorized

You Don’t Need to Be #1 to Be Number One

Posted by Melanie Phung on Friday, September 15, 2006 at 6:57 am

Just a reminder from the keeping-things-in-perspective department: Position isn’t everything. If there was ever a better example, it’s the results you get when you do a search on “search engine.” Did Google not having the #1 spot in their own organic results for that search phrase diminish their market leadership (or their stock price) in any way? Don’t go chasing the #1 spot at the expense of executing a sound business plan (hint: depending on splogs is not a sound business plan). All things being equal, being #1 in the results is better than having the second spot, but guess what… all things are never equal.

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Category: Uncategorized