On internet exposure

Last week I put three photos on Flickr.

Green-purple-redWestpac's Batteries Are LowWithout a leg to stand on

All three were uploaded at the same time (within a minute or so). All three are tagged with “Sydney”, two to four descriptive words, the lens I used, and a location. I didn’t add any of them to any groups. All three were linked from my Facebook feed and were visible in the sidebar of this page, but as far as I can tell (from the referrer list on the Flickr stats page) that didn’t contribute more than a couple of hits.

In the three or four days since I put them up, the first and third have been viewed 6 and 3 times respectively, which is about average for me. But the one in the middle (the Westpac building) has been viewed 38 times.

38 isn’t a huge number by any standards, but it’s a very clear outlier.

No one has commented on it, or added it as a favourite, or, as far as I can tell, linked to it from anywhere else. It’s not obviously a better photo than the other two or any others that I’ve uploaded recently.

There are a few possible explanations… Maybe one or both of the “westpac” and “low battery” tags are interesting enough that thirty-odd people have searched for them, but not interesting enough for other people to have used the same tag and pushed mine off the top of the search results. (The latter part of this theory seems to be true, at least.) Another is that I’ve hit some note with the inscrutable whims of Flickr’s “interestingness” measure.

Whatever. The point is that somehow something I did got caught in a local eddy of the chaotic system of internet popularity, and attracted more attention than everything else I’ve done in the last month put together. That doesn’t count the dust storm photo, which in about two days was viewed more times (900-ish) than any of my other photos.

Of course, DMM had a photo of the dust storm that got 8605 views. But then, that made the Flickr Explore page. Of his six photos of the dust storm, it was the only one with more than 2000 views.

Where I’m going is this… Exposure on the internet seems to have a sort of exponential growth behaviour. Getting bumped from “complete obscurity” up one rung to “noticed for a brief moment” is at least an order of magnitude. And the same thing happens at every level above that – there’s no such thing as slightly more exposure, only lots more exposure. Regardless of how well-known any person is, a very small percentage of the work they’ve done will make up a very large percentage of what people have seen.

When I spell it out like this, it’s actually pretty obvious. And not at all restricted to the internet.


1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. Charles Rinehart October 26th, 2009 9:56 am

    Great blog. Maybe the one in the middle people liked better. It’s all abouts links. That’s the key. All the best.

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