Most social networking based sites allow you to favorite or like a picture or video or text. Considering how many people around the world use this technology every day, it’s worthwhile to peel back the onion layers and look at Flickr favorites more closely.
Why do people favorite?
At the most Pavlovian level, a psychologist would say we push that little star because seeing it turn red makes me feel happy deep down inside. This seems silly perhaps, but in fact researchers have found that successful interaction with computers, like any more direct physical task, can bring about satisfaction and release of endorphins. Take a look at the star the next time you favorite a pic—do you notice how the star gets bigger and vibrates a bit? This is a feature added by the Flickr designers to make you want to do it again.
At a very functional level, people fave photos because it’s a way to collect them, either for personal enjoyment, or more evil uses like stealing them. I notice some people say on their Flickr page they will ban someone who is giving favorites with no comments, because of fear these people are stealing their photos. (I give a lot of fave only’s so I must be banned all over the place!)
Because Flickr is a social network, there are also social reasons why people favorite a picture. In their paper “Faving Reciprocity in Content Sharing Communities A comparative analysis of Flickr and Twitter,” Lee et al. used a Flickr dataset from 2006 to study faving behavior. First, they found three classes of Flickr users, roughly equal in size—those who only fave and receive none (lurkers), those who receive faves and give none (typically professional photographers), and those who both give and receive faves (typically amateur photographers).
Second, they found that about one-third of faves are reciprocated, i.e. if a person gives someone’s picture a fave, the person receiving it will fave one of the giver’s photos. Interestingly, they found (and I have observed similar) that the likelihood of reciprocity was higher between two people who were NOT contacts or friends. This indicates that faving reciprocity is in part social etiquette, like holding the door open for a stranger.
In their paper “How to Identify Successful Actors of the Flickr Community and How to Determine Their Attributes,” Egger et al. provide evidence that faves are also used by observers as an indicator of artistic weight. A picture or artist with many faves signals to observers, including potentially commercial ones, that the populace likes this art and so should they.
How does Flickr use favorites?
Flickr’s search engine is based on its calculation of a photo’s “interestingness”. The interestingness algorithm is proprietary and secret, but through studying the original Flickr patents and performing statistical analysis over the years, we’ve developed some insight into how faves work (see here and here for more). In summary, a fave is worth more to a photo than a comment or a view (of course you can’t fave without viewing). All else being equal, a picture with more faves is going to be more Flickr-interesting, and show up higher ranked in any search, especially under the “interesting” tab (less so in the “relevant” tab).
Which artist has received the most Flickr favorites?
I don’t have a definitive answer, but judging from the number of images that they have with over 1000 favorites, I would have to say Jim Patterson, Patrick Smith, and Philipp Klinger are candidates.
Which picture has the most faves?
Again I can’t say for sure, but here’s what I’ve found so far:
1. 5274—Untitled, by jam343 (which also has 1.7 million views)
2. 4390--Maelstrom, by Patrick Smith
3. 4199--Canton trade fair, by tarotasic
Who have I faved the most?
There’s a nice program that can provide that information for you here. It can examine all your faves, or the last 20,000 (whichever is smaller). From my last 20,000 faves, which is about all of 2012, here’s who I’ve faved the most:
Walker Dukes (230)
AmsterS@m - The Wicked Reflectah (190)
Steve-h (Stephen Heron) (180)
Tricia V... (Tricia) (160)
Qi Bo (146)
aimeeern (Amy) (145)
Sati Kobashi (137)
wRItinG, Ellyn (Ellyn Peirson) (136)
Irene2005 (Irene) (133)
Che-burashka (Ekaterina Nosenko (Katia)) (126)
greenschist (Steve Kleinheider) (125)
CPMcGann (Carrie McGann) (116)
she comes into focus (Heather) (110)
AnnuskA - AnnA Theodora (Anna Theodora) (109)
remediate.this (Jody) (108)
the-father (Gernot Schreyer) (106)
brendan ó (105)
Zé Eduardo... (José Eduardo Silva) (101)
m.r. nelson (Mark Nelson) (100)
oybay© (Bob Davidson) (100)
maktub77 - street dog (Sacha Dohmen) (97)