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Flickr Patenting "Interestingness" 95

tjcrowder noted that Boing Boing is reporting that Flickr has filed for a patent on a system for determining "interestingness". From the patent application abstract: "Media objects, such as images or soundtracks, may be ranked according to a new class of metrics known as "interestingness." These rankings may be based at least in part on the quantity of user-entered metadata concerning the media object, the number of users who have assigned metadata to the media object, access patterns related to the media object, and/or a lapse of time related to the media object." So basically, nobody else can use tags to label files. Totally original thinking from the folks at flickr. *cough*
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Flickr Patenting "Interestingness"

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  • umm... no? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geoffspear ( 692508 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @09:38AM (#16766329) Homepage
    They're not patenting tagging, and there's no reason to think you can't use tags if the patent is accepted. The patent may be really stupid, but if we're going to get editorial comments, can they at least make sense?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      mod parent up as interesting!
    • *sees army of Flickr lawyers*

      On second thought...
    • Re:umm... no? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @09:54AM (#16766595) Journal

      I really wish Slashdot would stop doing this. Taking a patent, making the most ludicrous assumptions about the scope, and then criticising these assumptions as ludicrous. It doesn't help. It undermines the anti-patent argument.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by geoffspear ( 692508 )
        "I have prior art. I saw a picture at a museum once and said 'Gee, that's interesting'."

        In any event, anyone who's used Flickr knows that interestingness has nearly nothing to do with tagging and is almost entirely influenced by how many views, comments, and adding to Favorites (which, I suppose, could be considered "tagging" in some sense, even though it's completely separate from the list of tags) by other users. And not getting added to the interestingness blacklist by posting to certain Groups that t
        • So weighting the fields in a database to come up with a metric is new?
          • by fatphil ( 181876 )
            Man, they're not just /weighing/ them - they're _summing_ and _averaging_ them.
            This is mindblowing stuff. Shotgun stylee.

          • And when did you come up with this specific formula? When did you create this method? I know it's obvious, and you could do it in your sleep, and whatever other arguments you want to put in there, but could you answer those questions?

            Slashdot is great if you like watching people comically oversimplifying the feats of others.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by 91degrees ( 207121 )
              Slashdot is great if you like watching people comically oversimplifying the feats of others.

              It's an interesting hobby. maybe I should give it a go.

              Edward Jenner invents vaccination, thus erradicating smallpox, and paving the way to the elimination of many other fatal diseases.. Slashdot commment: Well, any idiot knows you'll catch something if you touch diseased cows.

              James Watt invents steam engine. Slashdot comment: My kettles been boiling over for decades!

              Newton realises that gravity is responsi
            • I never said they didn't do a great job of weighting different factors. Choosing which individual statistics to consider and how to weigh them can be a challenge in any field where a measurement is needed. I just doubted that taking a bunch of factors and weighting them to make a new metric was patentable. Porn sites, dating sites, car enthusiast magazines, and Bayesian spam filters are a few examples of where combined metrics are often used. It's not exactly "novel" nor "non-obvious" from what I've read ab
      • Yep. The editorial spin on the summaries these days is almost impossible to deal with.

        I'll come in here and see "China and US about to wage war", only to RTFA and find out that some drunken Chinese diplomat said that he'd kick some guys ass if he didn't quit staring at him :).
      • I really wish Slashdot would stop doing this. Taking a patent, making the most ludicrous assumptions about the scope, and then criticising these assumptions as ludicrous. It doesn't help. It undermines the anti-patent argument.

        Indeed. Specifically, they seem to read the abstract of the patent--or even a third-party summary of the abstract--and fixate on one or two words from it, and say, "OH NOES THEIR TRYING TO PATENT TAGGING!!11!!!" or, "I have prior art for that! I saw someone with a tagging system back in '95!" when the actual claims for the patent (you know, the part that says what's actually patented) say something quite different, very specific, and not particularly worrying at all. Or even when they say something quite different, overly broad, and somewhat still doesn't help, because you're arguing a completely different issue.

        I am as distressed with the real broken state of patent law in this country as most others here...but the way in which it is treated is, as you say, very counterproductive. It would be very nice if there were some kind of standards for acceptance of such articles--and, though I'm generally not too critical of the editors, it would be much nicer if they would pay enough attention so as to not make completely worthless and off-base comments when they post them. Commenting is fine, just make it an informed, useful, and correct comment.

        And no, before you ask, I'm not new here, I'm just annoyed.

        Dan Aris

      • So basically, nobody else can use tags to label files. Totally original thinking from the folks at flickr. *cough*

        Is it just me, or with this type of commentary, does CmdrTaco seem to get FP every time?

      • Actually, I think Slashdot has a patent on doing exactly that.
    • by Tim C ( 15259 )
      if we're going to get editorial comments, can they at least make sense?

      I'd settle for them being made down here with the rest of us commoners, where they can live or die on their own merits, rather than being made up there, in the lofty heights of The Summary, untouchable and unaccountable.
      • Well, quite. The nerve of that guy, posting comments on his own web site. There ought to be a law.
  • Commentary wrong ;) (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @09:38AM (#16766337) Journal
    So basically, nobody else can use tags to label files. Totally original thinking from the folks at flickr. *cough*

    No, it just means you can't tag a file "interesting" ;)
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Kamineko ( 851857 )
      Mod parent up +1: Inter.... ah.... forget it.
    • by Halo1 ( 136547 )
      Actually, it means you can't have a system which automatically considers every file tagged with PONIES!!! as "interesting" (if the patent gets granted).
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by LordKronos ( 470910 )
      mod parent up...+1 Interesting
      • dang it...thats what I get for opening several tabs at once and then not reloading before reading each one.
    • If you can't tag a file "interesting" can you tag a /. post "interesting"?

      Or is /. a giant case of prior art for this? After all the combination of scare and "tag" has been used to determine interesting (even if that tag wasn't specifically used), and a method for fitlering the results to limit/show only posts you might find "interesting" is a primary feature of Slashdot, and existed well before Flickr. On the file system side, Nautilus (at least) had icons you could tag files with to differentiate them, me
  • Yahoooooo. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @09:41AM (#16766383) Homepage Journal
    For those unfamiliar with Flickr, it's owned by Yahoo, who just [] loves [] them [] some [] patents. []
    • by Quixote ( 154172 ) *
      Why is this modded "informative" ?? Google has filed for over 120 patents, enough that someone is selling them on a CD []!

      Most big companies look at patents not as an offensive weapon, but more as a defensive weapon against someone else patenting the stuff and then suing them over it.

  • Not quite. . . (Score:1, Insightful)

    by samuelk ( 140065 )
    To the original poster of this article:

    They're not trying to patent the use of tags. They're trying to patent a metric for measuring and quantifying meta tags.

    The weird thing about this is that their metric doesn't actually measure the media itself, only the quantity of meta tags. I guess it works as a metric, but it's more a measurement of popularity, not "interestingness".
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tibike77 ( 611880 )
      I guess it works as a metric, but it's more a measurement of popularity, not "interestingness".

      What ?
      You mean that the measuringness of the popularityness of the interestingness of a something has a truthiness value of accuracyness that's not relevantlynessy enough for you ?
  • And make sure he patents 'truthiness'.
  • Guess we'll have to start modding with +1 delicious now
  • by javaxJason ( 898629 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @10:07AM (#16766761)
    Don't you just love how many of these companies go about patenting an idea (or similar idea) that is already used by the masses. This is such a joke, next thing you know (providing the patent is upheld) Yahoo will start suing folks like Amazon and our beloved Slashdot for patent infringement. Most people wouldn't even consider patenting something that is already, to some degree, "common knowledge". I thought the whole purpose of patenting was to protect intellectual property that has yet to be implemented or conceived. Hmmmm...I guess I'm just totally wrong in that assumption.
    • I think it's about time to submit a patent for the basic wheel and all variations. And fire, too... Who knows, maybe they'd be granted and the holder could sue the entire world for licensing fees. Wouldn't be any stupider than SCO's case.
  • by artifex2004 ( 766107 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @10:12AM (#16766853) Journal
    Tags are only a part of the interestingness. They want to patent a method for looking at patterns of popularity over time.

    Part of their patent has claims on methodology, and part on a computer program designed to make use of that methodology (to cover the implementation requirement, I'm sure). And as I was reading just the initial page, I could imagine a pseudoequation forming in my head using the variables of time, popularity, content, etc.

    I'm no patent attorney, but this sure sounds like trying to patent an algorithm. Not tags.
    Now, whether they should do this is a good topic for debate -- but let's make sure we at least know what they're doing before debating it.
  • (for sufficiently low values of "striking back")...

    Anyone who feels like sending a message to Flickr, join my new down with the interestingness patent [] protest group.

    (Not that anyone will listen, really, but...)

  • by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @10:25AM (#16767085) Journal
    Here is, in its uncut and undiluted entirety, the whole article that the summary links to:

    Flickr files a patent for "interestingness"
    Link [] to USPTO filing dated October 26.

    That's it? WTF? Why not just directly link to the patent office and skip the ad-ridden Boing Boing link in the first place?
    • Finally! (Score:4, Funny)

      by Prototerm ( 762512 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @10:52AM (#16767561)
      At last we have the perfect /. article, since the vast majority of posters never RTFA anyway: an article that's completely summed up in the title of the /. post.

      Think of it, guys. Not only don't you have to read the article, but you don't need the /. post, either! I'd call that real progress. Congrats, BoingBoing on a job well done!
  • Isn't this [] prior art?
  • by slim ( 1652 ) <john@hartnu p . net> on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @10:35AM (#16767251) Homepage
    I'm not sure whether it's (or should be) patentable, but Flickr Intestingness is definitely a novel and, er, interesting concept. It's widely misunderstood even by hardcore Flickr-ites.

    As far as I understand, an "Interestingness" score is derived from hits, referrers, tags, pool membership, comments and where comments come from, "favourite" tags and other things. The weighting is constantly being tweaked, and Interestingness changes over time because (for example, and hypothetically) a recent comment is more valuable than an old comment.

    A number of great photographers get upset because they take high quality photographs which get lower Interestingness scores than pictures they perceive as having less merit. But Interesting is not about quality or merit. That's why it's not called "quality" or "merit". It's called "interestingness", meaning "cool stuff you might not have seen before".

    That's why (again, for example and hypothetically) the tags "cat" or "baby" or "flower" are likely to have a negative impact on Interestingness. You can take the greatest baby picture ever, it's still not going to be interesting to most people, because Flickr is flooded with baby pictures.

    In summary - it's cool, it's clever, it's more than just tagging, and it's novel.

    I'd rather it wasn't patented but, hey, that's life.
    • by pacalis ( 970205 )
      I think you're reading far too much specificity into the claims. The claims are far broader than the specific instances you suggest, apply to all media, and don't specify the 'other things' that basically work into the 'interestingness' regression/analysis to get the score. The prior art for this is absurd, i.e. every academic that uses time series to get a score on some 'media', which could be text, or practically anything else (ie. meta data can be any and all data). The claims could even include such thi
    • While it's true that put together, the 77 claims of this patent are not a patent on interestingness, but for a sort of algorithm for doing so ... don't forget, Violation of one claim is sufficient to find patent infringement [].

      The patent actually has several independent claims for the apparatus, the methods, and the computer program which determine the interestingness rank of "media objects" based on each of: the quantity of user-entered metadata (tags, comments, visits, refferers), the number of users who ha
    • In summary - it's cool, it's clever, it's more than just tagging, and it's novel.
      ... and it's common sense.
    • Well, I RTFP'd and it looks like the interestingness algorithm is only going to get more confusing. It appears that the new algorithm will take into account "location" according to claim 50. Presumably that has to do with the recent addition of geotags to flickr. Not sure though. Did anybody notice how many independent claims are in this patent app? 15! And 74 independant ones. I don't normally deal with software patents, but isn't that a bit much?
  • Nothing "interestingness" here to see.
    • Well I am planning to patent 'uninterestingness' and 'not uninterestingness'. The only difference is that it will be based on AI that really couldn't care less. Maybe Marvin could a good name ;)
  • if (average(imgAry.pixelval) == SKIN_TONE)
              return true;
              return false;
  • It is about the claims.

    So when we check whether it makes sense, we check the claims.

    1. An apparatus for determining an interestingness rank for at least one media object, comprising: logic for accepting at least one metadatum concerning the at least one media object from at least one user; and logic for ranking the at least one media object based at least in part on the quantity of user-entered metadata concerning the at least one media object.

    Sure, my computer does not infringe as long as I don't have

  • ...are they not supposed to describe in detail how it works? Part of how "Interestingness" works is that no one knows exactly how it is determined, so that it is difficult for someone to exploit the system. Also, the exact combination of inputs changes regularly to keep things... um, interesting. Is it really enough for them to loosely describe a system where they automatically determine a rating from a collection of inputs to get a patent? And if so, should it be? It seems just about anything can get
  • Somebody should patent the action of patenting things. Then everybody that gets a patent should be forced to pay that person royalties.
    • I think there's prior art. With a little luck, a patent examiner might even realize it!
      • I think there's prior art. With a little luck, a patent examiner might even realize it!

        It would need more than just a little luck, given the way the patent system seems to be going.
      • Oh it's not a matter of their realizing it; they'd issue the patent and leave it for the courts to sort out.
  • to say, "A patent application on 'interestingness?' Boooooriing."
  • But doesn't something like Google Trends already implements at least part of the patent? If that's the case, shouldn't prior art easily defeat that patent, since it's invalid anyways?
  • Software patents are like nuclear warheads. Companies amass a whole bunch of them so that if somebody starts the war, they will have retailatory salvo. If Microsoft sues Yahoo for patent infringement, they counter-sue. It's about increasing the risk to the potential claimant--mutually assured destruction.
    • by Faylone ( 880739 )
      This is where 'patent trolls' are a problem. They don't produce anything except lawsuits, so they don't have to worry about counter-suits.
  • There is a co-filed Companion Application [] which has the following as its broadest claim:

    1. An apparatus for associating metadata with at least one image, the apparatus comprising: logic for providing the at least one image for display to at least one user; and logic for accepting input from a plurality of users concerning the at least one image, wherein the input comprises at least two different types of metadata.

    The metadata types referred to are tags, comments, descriptions, favorites and annotation

  • what the Google search algorithm is to Google. In case there's no die-hard flickr-rers in here, Interestingness is really sorting out chaff from wheat, as regards to photography. It's not just tagging stuff, folks -- it's separating good photographs, funny photos, *cough* interesting photos, artful, emotional photos from the rest of the garbage sent into flickr.

    Try this experiment: Search Flickr for a thing, concept or emotion. Sort by "Most Recent." Bask in the great number of bad snapshots. Now take
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @12:09PM (#16769099) Journal
    Slshdot is kicking itself for not patenting its moderation system?
  • by Chacham ( 981 )
    In related news, Slashdot will be removing "+1 Interesting" in compliance with the patent. Moderators are reccomended to use "underratred" instead. Officials under condition of anonymity report that there won't be much of a difference anyway because noone uses Interesting anymore duie to meta-moderation.
  • You can find a very good discussion on the flickr group, utata: 4355879087/ []

    I submitted this story 1 week ago. Old news.
  • I'll just have to use interestingosity instead. Or maybe interestingological. Interestingologicalosityness?
  • I think patenting interestingness infringes on a similar patent someone already holds on truthiness.
  • Flickr will rule us all!
  • Patents should be approved and managed like trademarks; in order to be valid and defendable one must show a serious attempt to keep it in active use, else it is expired/invalidated.

Trap full -- please empty.