Everything you wanted to know about Flickr favorites but were afraid to ask

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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 has given the most favorites?
I’ve given 128,062 faves. I know of three people who have more than that: i_love_you_get_away_from_me (611,477), Steve-h (260,212), and Billy Wilson (224,466).

Which our my photos have the most faves?
1. 949--Ansel Adams on color
2. 752--Each war is different, each war is the same
3. 388--Big wheel
4. 330--A change of scenery
5. 295--Reflections

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)
Mel (173)
Tricia V... (Tricia) (160)
Qi Bo (146)
aimeeern (Amy) (145)
ilsebatten (141)
Sati Kobashi (137)
wRItinG, Ellyn (Ellyn Peirson) (136)
Irene2005 (Irene) (133)
Che-burashka (Ekaterina Nosenko (Katia)) (126)
greenschist (Steve Kleinheider) (125)
imagejoe (117)
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)
*HamimCHOWDHURY* (99)
maktub77 - street dog (Sacha Dohmen) (97)

maktub street-dog, Peter Plaia, and 74 other people added this photo to their favorites.

View 20 more comments

  1. Giuseppe Solito 31 months ago | reply

    Interesting photo and considerations :) Ciao Kevin!!!

  2. Paul Godden 31 months ago | reply

    great shot - such an amazing sky

  3. Jacob Messer 31 months ago | reply

    crazy contribution, I read through all of that and its really interesting

  4. Andy Atzert 31 months ago | reply

    Earth and sky roll round and round. Nice shot and interesting commentary, Kevin.

  5. innerMt 31 months ago | reply

    Awesome image!

  6. Dircinha - 31 months ago | reply

    WOnderful scene and pretty shot.

  7. John Mee 31 months ago | reply

    Very cool image and great words - thanks for imparting some wisdom. :-)

  8. Carrie McGann 31 months ago | reply

    Such a great post! Of course I just had to fave it! Very interesting info, I am pretty selective on my faves and I do like watching the star turn pink. Thank you for all your faves on my stream and for including me in the list! You made my day :-)

  9. Jawdoc 30 months ago | reply

    gotta add this one to the stats ;-))

  10. aimeeern 30 months ago | reply

    Great HDR and an interesting lesson on faving. Thanks for all the faves, Kevin. :)

  11. dog.happy.art 30 months ago | reply

    Excellent photo and text. I use my galleries for photo that are over the top to me. Something is just so appealing or well done I want to give it special recognition. I also favorite a lot of photos. I'll have to think about why I choose to fav one photo and save another in a gallery.

  12. *HamimCHOWDHURY* [Only Posting photos ] 29 months ago | reply

    Cool text lot to know my friend, and happy to know My 99 photos are in your Fav list,

  13. Sid Riler 21 months ago | reply

    This photo is a good sample in the flickr. It is awarded the flickr Award!

    flickrAward (post1 – award 5)
    Please Tag your photo with “flickrAward” and visit the flickr Award Gallery
    Please post the photo to flickr Award 5+ thread if you received 5 or more of this award

  14. just film 21 months ago | reply

    This photo is a good sample in the flickr. It is awarded the flickr Award!

    flickrAward (post1 – award 5)
    Please Tag your photo with “flickrAward” and visit the flickr Award Gallery
    Please post the photo to flickr Award 5+ thread if you received 5 or more of this award

  15. Tito Paez 21 months ago | reply

    --
    This photo is a good sample in the flickr. It is awarded the flickr Award!

    flickrAward (post1 – award 5)
    Please Tag your photo with “flickrAward” and visit the flickr Award Gallery
    Please post the photo to flickr Award 5+ thread if you received 5 or more of this award
    --
    Seen in the group" flickr Award (((MUST award 5)))" ( ?² )

  16. vincentchao 21 months ago | reply

    This photo is a good sample in the flickr. It is awarded the flickr Award!

    flickrAward (post1 – award 5)
    Please Tag your photo with “flickrAward” and visit the flickr Award Gallery
    Please post the photo to flickr Award 5+ thread if you received 5 or more of this award

  17. Vilmos.Vincze 15 months ago | reply

    Interesting writing.
    I like giving faves better than commenting, as I don't have to phrase why I like it.
    I realize, a fave is more "valuable" than a comment, still I prefer getting a comment, as I'm interested in why someone likes my picture.

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