What Do People Like?

I wrote Flickr as a Business Simulator in earnest, but I think it was interpreted more as a theoretical piece. When you build something with the eventual goal of releasing it to the world, the key question is "Will people like this?" And, really, you just won't know until you do it. There's nothing like the actions of tens of thousands of independently acting individuals who have no regard for your watertight theories. What Flickr provides is a way to make lots of quick little "product" releases, and see if your expectations line up with reality. Is this my primary use of Flickr? No! But the educational opportunity is there, regardless. Click on a photo to go to the Flickr page.

The rest of this entry is an annotated list of some photos I've posted to Flickr, with both my conjectures of how they'd be received and what actually happened. In each case the photo comes first with the commentary following.
I sat on this photo for a while after shooting it. I thought it was cliche, something everyone had already seen many times. A real photographer wouldn't bother to recreate such an image. Then I posted it...and it got an immediate string of comments and favorites. It's still one my top ten overall Flickr photos according to the stats system. My invented emphasis on originality didn't matter.
I thought these skid marks in front of a local liquor superstore were photoworthy, but the result didn't grab me. Like the sunset wheat photo, it took on a life of its own on Flickr. Was the hook in the impossibility of those tire tracks? That they look like a signature? Why was I unable to see the appeal before uploading it? It even ended up--with permission--in Scott Berkun's The Myths of Innovation (O'Reilly, 2007).
This one I liked immediately. The red arrow. The odd framing. The blown-out white background that makes the rust pop. The Flickr reaction...well there wasn't one. Is the industrial decay photo niche saturated? Would it have been a hit if I worked at getting hundreds of dedicated followers first? Or maybe I like it because it's better than other photos I've taken recently, but not all that great in absolute terms?
I'm lovin' IT
Oh so cleverly titled "I'm Lovin' IT!" I knew this was a novelty. It pulled in some novelty linkage as a ha-ha photo of the day sort of thing. It didn't get anywhere near the exposure of that Yahoo ad next to the 404 distance on a home run fence. The traffic from "I'm Lovin' IT!" was transient, adding points to the view counter, but as they weren't Flickr users they didn't add comments or favorites. In the end it was an empty success.