by Brandon Rhodes • Home

Rise and Fall of the Two Waldos

Date: 5 November 2008
Tags:web notes

I am experiencing my Flickr photostream in an entirely new way thanks to the tools they introduced this year for monitoring the traffic received by individual photographs. The old, static parts of my photostream suddenly look dynamic: I can see the rate at which each old photo is continuing to attract viewers. On October 17th, for example, I was stunned to discover that the perennial favorite Harry Potter Lunchbox had, over the previous day, received fewer views than the perpetually distant second, “My Shirt” (both taken at Dragon*Con 2005). Here is Flickr's graph of how “My Shirt” fared over the month of October, with my mouse over October 17th to highlight the day on which I first noticed its growing popularity:

graph of the photograph popularity The rise and fall of the popularity of “My Shirt” over the four weeks from 5 October through 1 November.

And by drilling down into the list of “Referrers” beneath the graph, I was even able to discover the source of its brief popularity! As Halloween approached, people were doing hundreds of Google Image searches for “waldo costume,” “where's waldo costume,” and “where's waldo shirt,” which brought them straight to my image. As you can see in the above graph, the swelling interest did not peak until Halloween itself, after which the photo plummeted back to its more typical popularity of one or two dozen views per day.

All sorts of gems are hidden in the statistics, waiting to be discovered. For example, it was very satisfying to learn that Yahoo! Image Search considers my wedding photograph A Grandfather in Attendance to be the most important “grandfather” image on the entire web. Behind every statistic is a story about how people find, and why they wind up visiting, each of my photos. Hopefully the fun of watching my old photographs will not distract me from taking some new ones!

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