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Faking Interestingness

Posted by Melanie Phung on Thursday, November 2, 2006 at 10:45 pm

When Google does an update you’d think the world was coming to an end based on the complaints of webmasters who lost their top 3 positions. And when Flickr changes its Interestingness algorithm (which determines the top 500 photos seen in Explore), the formerly-but-no-longer popular want to know what gives.

Well, three weeks ago, Flickr made a little change to its Interestingness algorithm. (The basics are well explained in this post on Flickr.com). And based on my analytics logs, people are searching for answers and stumbling upon this blog. So I’ll break my usual tradition of not providing answers to explain what happened.

If you’ve had lot of photos drop out of Interestingness, it’s because you participated in comment whoring groups.

A Flickr developer explains:

We’ve made some changes in interestingness algorithm last week to compensate inflation of activity metrics introduced by groups that force users to create comments and/or favorites before they allowed to post photos in the group.

Actually, they did more than “compensate.” They seem to have blackballed all the photos in those groups outright.

So how is a person supposed to get comments on a photo without submitting it to a bunch of groups? Not to worry, says Flickr’s SilentObserver,

Only groups that force people to comment/fave on certain photos with no choice, are affected by latest algorithm changes.

I, of course, participated in the comment whoring regularly, so all of my Explore photos (which wasn’t that many), save one, are out. Oh well. Sometimes it’s not about being popular. A few of the forced-comments groups provide really good feedback, so it’s worth belonging to some of them even if it no longer helps to achieve Interestingness.

And for the seriously obsessed, Bill Slawski, the web’s resident algo patent expert, uncovered some patent applications to help deconstruct the Interestingness methodology.

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