Flickr and Incomprehensible Mob Behavior

23 July, 2005

Here's a mystery for you: When I was down in LA earlier this month, I took and uploaded these two pictures to Flickr:

We'd gone to see the Rembrandt exhibit at the Getty and my dad had insisted on buying me this little poseable dummy from the gift shop. When I got home, I randomly snapped the one on the right and uploaded it to Flickr. The next day, I took the one on the left.

The second one was a little more on purpose. I liked the jokey noir-ish image of the handcuffed pose and the ominous shadow of this tiny little doll. Also, the newspaper article it's standing on is about a murder that took place in the house where I grew up. I also happen to think it's a better photo: cleaner composition, clearer choice of focus, more dramatic use of lighting.

Anyway, within a couple of days the one on the right had gotten more than a hundred views and received a comment. There was a while one evening when everytime I'd reload the page five or ten more views would appear in the counter. The picture on the left, on the other hand, has been viewed ten times and received exactly zero comments.

Now, I didn't do aything to try to draw views to the one picture or keep them away from the other. I added neither of them to a group, I tagged both of them identically. I couldn't find any clues as to why the photo on the right got 100 views (which is a lot for a photo of mine on Flickr -- it's my 11th most viewed photo, above all but pics related to my Guest Check PDA, which got linked to from 43 Folders).

There's really just no explanation. Sometime the random mob of Flickr users just jumps on something without explanation or cause (just like every other group of people in the world). There must be something to be learned here about the social network, or something, but I can't figure out what it is. I'm baffled!

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