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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

Images Showing Up in Main Results for Vanity Search

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, January 10, 2006 at 12:23 pm

In the last two weeks, an interesting thing has happened with my vanity searches. A Google search on my name has been pulling image results. This confounds me, as most searches on proper names don’t pull images, for one. For two, why now? Three, why these particular pictures?

When you click on the “image results for melanie phung” link, it takes you to the same set of thumbnails that would have been displayed if you had conducted a Google Image search, and the first three thumbnails are the ones that were displayed on the standard search results page.

Update February 8, 2006:
The images are gone again.

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Category: Flickr,Images