Exploring Explored

A For Adventure - Wonder - Jackson Ward

As part of the Connected Courses MOOC, we were talking a bit about understanding different networks and how to both navigate them and use their vocabulary/tools. The picture above captures a few interesting elements along those lines.

I took the picture walking to work. It was one of those fortuitous moments which happen much more often if you’re out looking for them. After getting the nod from the artist (I now know it was Ross from Sure Hand Signs.), I took a few shots and really felt I’d gotten one or two that captured something interesting.

I am experimenting a bit with triggering the Flickr Explore algorithm and developing more of an audience for my photos in a way that doesn’t make me feel dirty or hypocritical.

Within Flickr

I put it up on Flickr when I got in- something I do only if I’m really excited about a photo which happens less often than I’d like. I usually wait until late at night or the weekend to download/upload images.

One of the things I did was title it clearly. I also included a variety of tags and added to one group (Flickr Today). It seems adding the picture to lots of groups would end up being punitive in the land of the Explore algorithm because people try to game it that way.

Outside Flickr

I posted it on Facebook using the Flickr tool which is something I do on occasion for pictures I really like. I also used the Flickr tool to push the picture to Twitter. I don’t know that these matter . . . it feels a bit like touching wood for luck but it makes sense for me in terms of what Flickr is likely to value.


In less than 12 hrs, Jiminy Crow, one of the people who works at A for Adventure, had commented telling me who the artist is. That alone was pretty nice. From there things, got rolling pretty quickly. A few favorites later, it made it to Explore and then made it into the top 50.1 Now it’s been seen almost 44,000 times which is kind of crazy. This type of popularity is pretty fleeting but does have some residual effects.

I don’t see this as representative of quality or something that will rule my world but it is a way to get a larger audience. I certainly have a lot more people following my account than I did prior to this shot. There are all sorts of variables that play into this game in addition to the algorithmic ones and ways to try to influence the system. I dabble in it and seem to be understanding bits and pieces. I’ve had 5 pictures make it into Explore this year vs 3 in the last 7 years. It’s likely a mix of things. I’m certainly taking a lot more pictures and I think I continue to get better but it is a bit about playing the game and understanding what types of pictures are successful in this type of environment. I consider this a bit about network fluency, a bit about metacognition, a bit of marketing, some metadata/social media, a bit about psychology, and a bit about photography. It sounds like a pretty good argument for interdisciplinary studies.

1 It reached #35.

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