For many photographers, a place on Flickr’s Explore page is the ultimate prize. It’s an acknowledgment that their work can stand among the best on the site, that it is indeed “interesting,” and that they are an important part of the community.
And of course, it can bring a massive surge of views to their image and their photostream.
So what does it take to improve the chances that a photo will be highlighted as one of the most interesting uploaded in the last seven days?
To Be “Interesting,” a Photo Must Generate Interest
The simple answer is that other people have to like it. Flickr itself has no way of assessing a photo; it can only react to the interest the Flickr community has already shown in it. As Serguei Mourachov, a Flickr staff member and part of the team responsible for creating the Explore page algorithm, told us:
“We are looking for what’s attracting [the] attention of our community and not just for nicely arranged pixels.”
That means that to reach the Explore page, a photo has to have gathered views, comments and been faved. Each of these actions has a different weight in the algorithm and the weighting is adjusted regularly. According to Serguei:
“[v]iews have the minimal weight in the interestingness calculation [and] favorites have slightly higher weight than comments, but we change these numbers about four to five times a year to adjust our algorithm to the current climate of Flickrverse,”
There are however a number of minimum requirements that an image has to meet to qualify. In addition to being faved at least twice, photos must also be public, ‘safe’ and include EXIF data.
Groups too can affect the probability of a photo reaching the Explore page (what Serguei calls ‘PEP.’) Photos posted in groups with high numbers of ‘unsafe’ photos, for example, are flagged as suspicious and given a “significantly lower” PEP. Groups with rules that require members to take actions that would increase PEP are also penalized.
“Many ‘award’ and ‘comments’ groups fall in this category,” Serguei explained. “To avoid this kind of problem we are trying to automatically discover such groups and adjust our algorithm for photos included in their pools, decreasing their PEP.”
Posting in Too Many Groups Lowers your Chances
Interestingly, photos posted in “too many” groups are penalized in a similar way, (‘Having [a] photo in more than 15-20 groups will significantly affect PEP,” Serguei told us) presumably to reduce the motivation to spam groups in order to win views, faves and comments.
The order in which the images appear on the Explore page however, is not important.
“Photos are shown in some order just because we want consistent pagination on the Explore day view page,” said Serguei. “The problem we try to avoid is typical for our Last 7 Days page, where sometimes you can see the same photos after page reload. And at each interestingness recalculation we are adding several random factors such as completely excluding all photos of [a] random user, or just [a] random photo for the day.”
Promoting an image in order to place it on the Explore page then can backfire if not done carefully. Post the image in as many groups as possible, and especially those which demand comments, and you will damage the chances that the image will be highlighted.
And being too successful can count against you too. The Explore algorithm increases PEP for photos of little-known users and only places images from the same photographer on the Explore page in intervals of several days.
The best strategy then is to follow the advice posted by Viejito in Flickr’s “Interestingness” group, and provide comments and faves to other images in the hope that they’ll return the favor naturally. That’s always a good strategy to follow on Flickr, especially if the comments are genuinely valuable advice rather than quick compliments.
And if a photo that you think is Explore-worthy doesn’t make the cut, remember it’s not you, it’s Flickr.
“Explore pages are for viewers and not a photography popularity contest,” warned Serguei. “Many great photos of excellent photographers never made Explore… and it does not mean they are bad. [The] algorithm that populates Explore pages is not fair by definition. It’s not created to judge, but to find something that could be interesting.”
Have you had a photo on Flickr’s Explore page?
[tags] flickr, flickr explore [/tags]