Deconstructing Flickr

The Future of Communities Blog — Social browsing vs. technology-enabled navigation The future of communities points us to an interesting academic research paper done analyzing behavior on Flickr.

The paper, written by Kristina Lerman at USC and Laurie Jones at Mills College, looks at how views, faves, and comments are generated at Flickr.

Their conclusion?

Reverse contacts (how many people have made you a contact on Flickr) count more than anything else. Their research would also indicate that both tags and groups have much less influence over having your photo viewed. They do recognize the significance of having one of your images appear in Flickr’s Explore section as being dramatic, especially views coming from users outside one’s social network, but still conclude that the number of reverse contacts that you have would seem to be the single most important factor to “success,” at least as defined by views, faves, comments, etc., on Flickr.

An interesting read.

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4 comments on “Deconstructing Flickr
  1. The interesting thing about this is you generally generate most of your contacts through discussion on Flickr Groups, so discussion and groups feed back onto contact lists which feed back into more photo views and comments.

    I’d be interested in what Zooomr is doing to address this type of thing in the upcoming MkIII release.

  2. alex says:

    Very interesting lecture.

  3. LeggNet says:

    I agree. Most of my comments are generated from people that are in my Flickr social circle (read: contacts). My circle is a bit more expanded then most though, since I have a group on Flickr dedicated to my contacts and their photos.

  4. Eric says:

    Back when I first started getting into Flickr, I’d upload a photo and drop it in a bunch of relevant groups (sometimes 30+, given how many are redundant). It would gather perhaps one or two comments and 30-50 views. In short, it would go nowhere.

    I did eventually learn that if I commented on someone’s photos, they’d usually reciprocate – but for a long while, I just wasn’t using the contacts feature for some reason.

    Then I smartened up about it. Whenever I found a photo I liked, I’d check out the person’s photostream, comment on a few other photos I like, and then contact them. More often than not, they’d reciprocate. And these days I have any number of contacts who’ll leave comments within minutes of posting new photos.

    But I can even go further than that and say there’s a particular profile of person likely to comment. In general, the less comments they have, the more the value the comments I leave, and the more likely they are to reciprocate. Similarly, the fewer contacts they have themselves, the more likely they are to comment in the future.

    IIRC, you (Thomas Hawk) have 5,000 contacts or something absurd like that? The odds one of my photos will catch your eye and inspire you to leave a comment is much less than for a person with less than 100.

    It’s also worth noting not all groups are created equal. Some are just dumping grounds for photos – the rules allow for almost anything, so everyone puts their photos there and no one ever looks at the pool – you can put your photo in “flickrcentral” but it’ll be on page 4 within 15 minutes of doing so.

    I find the *best* groups are smaller (less than 3,000 members), have active discussion threads. It means your photo will remain on the first page for longer, and there’s a steady stream of people coming and looking at the group. There’s two or three I participate a lot in and generate a lot of comments for me.

    On another note, Flickr seems to weight the “invite only” groups more than it does the “post and comment on three” groups when calculating interestingness.

    As a final note, I’ve also found the discussion threads, not the pools, are the best places to get views, comments, and find other great photographers. Flickr also seems to love that kind of activity as far as interestingness goes.

    Oh yeah, and if your photos suck no one is going to comment. Having good ones to share is paramount.