The “Explore”

Over on my favorite social photo site, Flickr, there’s a feature called “Explore.” Each day 500 photos are pulled out of the stream of pictures being uploaded to Flickr. Flickr posts the 500 photos to its Explore page where thousands of people see them. It’s great fun.
You have to wrap your head around a couple of things with Explore. The pictures are selected based on “interestingness.” An algorithm runs all the pictures and makes choices for Explore based on how interesting the image is. There’s a lot of mystery and speculation about this and Flickr is pretty close to the vest with information. Best as people can figure, interesting includes things like views and favorites and comments as well as attributes of the picture itself.
What Explore isn’t is a judged photo contest. While most of the images on Explore are outstanding, they landed there because they are considered “interesting.” If you’re a fan of Explore, you’ll no doubt find yourself thinking, “Well that’s interesting” as you scroll the page. That’s the deal. The same image may not fare so well before a hardened photo judge in a competition.
Flickr is criticized for running Explore the way they do. People think the company should judge and pull out “the best” pictures from its vast upload stream. The criticism has some merit. Pictures hitting Explore get a lot of exposure and exposure can mean good things for a photographer. But because Explore isn’t weighted toward such values, almost any image, if it’s interesting, has a shot at Explore.
For me at least, I think Explore is good fun and take it with a wink and a smile. If you go deeper into Flickr I think you can find opportunities beyond Explore if that’s what you want.

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