Gila Bend, Arizona. Diana+ medium format toycam with Kodak E100 ES film. Developed by Tempe Camera. (Explore)
Those of you who know me know that I am a Flickr stats freak, so I cannot help but weigh in on the current controversy in Flickr world.
It has come to the attention of many, perhaps because the data can now be readily seen here, that posting into certain groups will greatly increase your chances of getting into Explore, and if in Explore anyway, will increase your chances of a high rank and even front page. I think the daily data from the link above empirically confirms these hypotheses.
This has led some to protest, claiming that these "Explore Ramp Groups" are counter to the spirit of Flick and "good photography". This group is a good sampling of negative sentiment. On the other hand, proponents of these groups believe that this is what a Flickr group is supposed to be like, and that these are one of a handful of functional groups on Flickr.
The three groups that are often cited are Wink's Place,Golden Garden, and L'amicizia fa la differenza. I'd also add The World Through My Eyes,Karma, FlickrCentral, FlickrToday, and Better Than Good. Of course these trends come and go. Are year or two ago it was A+++ Photo and Utata which were the must-post groups.
First my personal opinion, and then an analysis.
I am all about getting my photos seen, no matter how. All my stuff is Creative Commons, and I expect one day I'll be in a different country and I'll see someone selling a poster with one of my images. And it would tickle me pink (and I'd figure out a way to get famous from it too). I have blogged here that Flickr Award groups have horrible reciprocity, and non-award groups are even worse. So question: Do I want to post a picture to a group that looks at my pictures, or not? Answer is yes for me. Further, I really don't care what the heck my contacts do or don't do, to each their own. All I care about is how good their photos are and how well they treat me.
Why do these groups infer advantage? Because they have reciprocity--when you post to them, there is an expectation that you will comment and fave other pics. When I post to them I generally comment/fave 5 others, same as I would in an award group. The "brilliance" of these groups is that they don't require reciprocity as a rule, it's just the collective norm. The increased views, comments, faves, and the associated ratios all work in favor of increasing interestingness. You have to remember that the difference between #1 in Explore and #501 (not being in Explore) is like 99.99999 to 99.99998, so any tiny positive advantage can make a big difference.
Opponents argue that this leads to faves and comments given to inferior pictures. I don't give faves or comments to bad pictures (unless they're from my contacts!), and I have no trouble finding excellent photos in these groups. Again, to each their own...
UPDATE: I have been banned from L'Amicizia fa la differenza! They say I violated their rules. As this is my most recent shot, and there are no nudes or profanity, I guess this must be because this post is considered "political"? That's odd, considering that the text above is positive for the groups... So so interesting...
UPDATE 2: I have been banned from Golden Garden too now! Here's what the group says about its rules: "There isn't rules! This group is free but, no nude, no porn, good manners an comment and fave what you like in the Pool!" Hmm. I guess there are rules. Again I find it interesting that a post in favor of these groups is met with such negativism. Why oh why?
UPDATE 3: L'Amicizia fa la differenza has unbanned me! Apparently, due to language difficulties, they thought I was attacking their group in the post above. If only we all spoke Esparanto.
As Flickr Turns...
UPDATE 4: I am going to make a bold statement and say--
EXPLORE IS DOING WHAT ITS SUPPOSED TO DO, BUT THEIR ALGORITHM IS MAKING AN INCORRECT ASSUMPTION...
If I was a Flickr Designer, I would make Explore a strong function of Interestingness, but I would also like to get a good variety of people in there. How do I do that? By picking people who generally aren't connected to one another as contacts. In these groups the norm is that you get a lot of views and comments and faves from people who aren't your contacts, hence, people posting to these groups would have the double advantage of increased interestingness yet not connected to one another.
How do you fix, if you wanted to fix it? By also choosing pics for Explore that tended to not be in the same groups. Computationally it's a bit harder but nothing a good graph theorist couldn't figure out.
UPDATE 5: I've been tallying some stats on these groups. I don't think the average number of comments is different than in the "5" award groups like Flickr Hearts or Global Village 2. There may be a higher proportion of faves, hard to say. But the comment that is going around that somehow everyone who posts to these groups is getting 25 faves is ridiculous.