Flickr Interestingness Rankings Patents Released

Over at the SEO by the SEA blog, William Slawski has posted on newly published patent applications filed by Yahoo convering an implementation of the concept of “interestingness search.” 

There is a pretty good exchange in the comments between William and Thomas Hawk – a celebrated photographer on the Internet and someone who is directly involved with the Zooomr web photo service. 

Zoomr is a direct competitor with Flickr, which is now owned by Yahoo.  Presumably Zoomr may have some issues if the patents are ever issued.  As a word of caution to Thomas (and all other bloggers out there) – I would be very careful in what you say about your technology and when/how/who it was developed.   All of your comments could be used as admissions down the line.


While the discussion between Thomas and William follows the typical “software patent discussion framework”(TM) of outrage, more outrage, denial, and chest thumping about how “Person X, Y, Z” came up with the idea 1, 2, 4 or 100 years ago… I was pleased to notice that William and Thomas actually took some time to thoughtfully discuss what Yahoo was trying to do with its patent applications and how they fit in with the overall search and photo-sharing market out there.

My only quarrel with their discussion: like all that fall within the “software patent discussion framework”(TM) — they failed to look at the actual claims of the patent and instead debated the description that the inventor drafted.  Once again – it is the claims that control the scope of the patent, not the description directly. 

All discussion of patents or patent applications should start first and foremost with the claims… it is the claims that control.

As a taste of what to expect over at SEO by the SEA:

Flickr Interestingness Rankings Patents Released

posted @ 2:17 am in [ Social Search ] by William Slawski

I’ve posted some pictures to Flickr, but I’ve never really paid much attention to the “interestingness” rankings the site uses.

Interestingness and clustering were first used in August of last year, as announced by Stewart Butterfield on the Yahoo Search Blog and the Flickr blog.

Blog posts about Flickr’s interestingness, and a February Flickr forum post on changes to the interestingness rankings, show a lot of interest in the “secret sauce” on how photos are determined to be interesting. A couple of patent applications were published by Yahoo this week that delve into interestingness rankings, clustering of pictures, and metadata associated with Flickr images.



Hi, I am the guy who wrote the snoman patent. Actually, it is a real invention. I came up with the idea when building snowmen, which I enjoy.

The patented device is a sphere that has a special tread that attracts snow. Yeah I know, that sounds simple. But simplicity is the driver behind all technology.

And anyway, no one else came up with it as far as I know.

The point is this. Some people actually do create things and they deserve a patent for them.

PS thanks for finding my patent interesting.

Hi Douglas,

Thanks for writing about my post and the comments on these patent applications. I do think that I tried to present these patent applications objectively, though there are a few reasons why I didn't spend much time going through the claims made in those patent applications.

The actual claims are pretty straightforward, and don't appear to describe anything seemingly really new or noteworthy or non-obvious. Of course, that's for the patent examiner to uncover. No outrage, denial or chest thumping on my part. None whatsoever.

I've seen some pretty silly patent applications over the past couple of years, including one an improved method for making a snowman. I enjoy when companies disclose some of the ideas behind a process or service that they are actually using.

The most interesting part about interestingness was that they applied for a patent. The process of determining interestingness - not so interesting. The snowman patent application was more interesting.

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