Hacking Flickr: How to Build Your Own Personal Version of Flickr’s Explore Using Advanced Search

One of the things that I dislike about Flickr’s Explore algorithm is that it shows me so many photos that I’m not interested in. It seems like every time I go there I end up with a hodgepodge of photos that I dislike — overwatermarked, overcooked, etc. I’ve always been interested in is a version of Explore that would filter out everyone on Flickr except for my contacts. Over the years I’ve managed both my contacts and friends/family list to my own personal taste as a consumer of photography.

The most popular way to view your contacts’ photos of course is on the “Photos From Your Contacts” page. This page shows you the last 1 or 5 (you choose) photos by your contacts or friends/family (again you choose). So you basically have four different ways to view your contacts’ photos, but all four are by recency only.

Sometimes you might want to look at photos by your contacts in ways other than recency. Over the years I’ve added a ton of people as contacts — so many in fact that there is just no way that I can keep up with every single photo every single contact posts every single day. So instead of the recency view I’ve been looking for other ways that I can look at my contacts’ photos.

After playing around with Flickr’s advanced search page this weekend, I figured out how I can view my contacts’ photos by interestingness instead of only recency. This is helpful if you want to see what are the best (most popular) photos by your contacts over past period of times. Flickr’s interestingness algorithm gives every photo on flickr a hidden internal score. This score is based on lots of factors including how many favorites a photo gets, how many comments a photo gets, tags, where it’s posted on the web outside of Flickr, etc. The basic premise though is that the more activity a photo receives the more interesting a photo might be.

Advanced search on Flickr lets you customize your search criteria and seems to even work with empty search queries (which seem to return all photos). You can customize the search page to only search using your contacts photos and you can customize it by past time periods. So if you want to run through all of your contacts’ photos by the last day, week, month, etc. and have them ranked by the most popular photos to see if you’ve missed any great photos you can do that using this page.

The way Flickr returns photos in search is a little clunky and is not as elegant as the justified view for photos on your contacts most recent photo page, but I bet search results on Flickr end up with a justified view at some point in the future as well. A photo wall that you can favorite from is a much superior/engaging layout after all.

Anyways, these links below should work for you as well and allow you to see the most popular photos by your contacts and friends/family over previous time periods. If you command/click (Mac) on a thumbnail it will open it in another window and then you can just tab through these windows to fave/comment/view larger any of the photos you have an interest in.

Most Interesting Photos by Your Contacts September 2012
Most Interesting Photos by Your Friends/Family September 2012
Most Interesting Photos by Your Contacts August 2012
Most Interesting Photos by Your Friends/Family August 2012
Most Interesting Photos by Your Contacts July 2012
Most Interesting Photos by Your Friends/Family July 2012

Most Interesting Photos by Your Friends/Family YTD
Most Interesting Photos by Your Contacts YTD

For some reason, some searches using empty queries on flickr for earlier time spans (like all of 2011) produced no photos for me, so something must have changed with how Flickr handles empty queries after 2011.

I’m not sure how long you’ve been able to search empty queries from the advanced search page. I tried to go use the wayback machine at the Internet archive to see what this page looked like in the past but apparently Flickr is blocking the internet archive from indexing this page (and other pages as well, including one specific group, which seemed odd).

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  1. Whitney Lake says:

    Great share…thanks!…I’ve been trying to find ways to eliminate combing through the excess.

  2. Julien D. says:

    Thanks for this links ! Another point on Flickr : they made groups, but you have to explore group by group to discover new contents. Not very useful !

    I have tried to play with the developper API and made this : http://hiraki.pushreset.fr/

    You can connect with your flickr account and select only “My groups” to see all recent group you subscribe. No perfect, but better than nothing…

  3. Thanks for these useful tips!

    It seems logical to tell robots not to index the search pages, it would give an infinity of not so useful links in search engines.

  4. Well, that looks like it should work, but for me, it brings up some stuff that’s over two and three years old. Quite strange.

  5. Oh, this link specifically…

    Most Interesting Photos by Your Contacts September 2012

  6. Tyler sid says:

    Do you know a way to export Flickr slide shows as I frames so they can appear on tablets

  7. Phil says:

    Thx Thomas – pretty nice – funny how there were a lot of your shots show up !

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