500px is about 500 times less than Flickr in terms of registered users and approximately serves 20-50 times less traffic. 500px is also smaller than DeviantArt, Behance, and many other photo-sharing and portfolio-creating sites. In fact, we are the smallest site of all the big players we’ve been ever compared to. Then why do comparison of 500px with the big guys? It’s all in the rating system.
It's All About Exposure
Despite a lot smaller size, both members that are new to photography and heavyweights, like Thomas Hawk, Marina Cano, Gorazd Golob, Scott Kelby and hundreds of others enjoyed an interesting phenomenon.
Despite smaller size, both famous and new photographers get a lot more exposure. You can see it daily at the Popular — fresh photo quickly gets thousands of views, dozens of comments and likes. It’s all deeply tied with the rating system.
The rating system itself is fairly easy — you can “Like” the photo or “Dislike”. We often check the stats, and over 95% of the votes — are likes. That doesn’t mean that 5 remaining percent of votes are haters. More often than not they are helping, by sifting through the Fresh daily, disliking bad photos (yes, we have those, but that exact rating system keeps it in check), and liking good photos.
What is the top rating you can get? It’s theoretically possible to hit 99.9, but that’s in theory. In practice, anything above 95 is usually a work of art.
Does the Rating Matter?
Does the rating matter? Yes, it does. But only for one thing — a placement of the photo on the page. It has nothing to do with qualities of the photographer, because the rating is also time-sensitive.
On Flickr and many other sites, you always have favorites. I mean, favorite photographers, who are always at the top. They are social, they have thousands of friends and they have a reputation. So, their photos are constantly on top, as a personal reminder of their ego.
We at 500px don’t have that. I’m sure that by the time I publish this post, Scott Kelby’s photo will be taken over by some relatively obscure Russian photographer. Why? Two reasons: time-sensitivity and the love of the crowd.
It's Either Fresh or Not
The ratings on 500px are time sensitive. Remember than great photo that got 99.5 points to yours and ours astonishment? You won’t see it on the first page. Most likely, you won’t see it in the Popular altogether. Our system downrates all photo ratings each day, so that world’s greatest photo will have an approximate rating of 50 points after half a year. Just fifty! That’s just 3 votes for the new photo! Second level of sensitivity comes from the freshness — first vote on a fresh photo brings 27 points. If you wait, the same first vote will bring about 25 points on the second day. The same vote on not so fresh photo provides for less ‘love’. Why is that?
We thought hard and tweaked the system numerous times to achieve that balance. That helps quickly bring new exciting photos to the top, provide photographers with maximum exposure, and help them sustain it though the time, by uploading 2-3 of their best photos per day.
That’s why the site, which is 500 times smaller than Flickr can bring same exposure to both amateur and professional photographers alike.
It’s not Flickr, so dumping thousands of photos in hope of exposure will, in opposite, most likely alienate you from the community.
Love of the Masses
Each vote is unique. I mean, literally. Each consecutive vote brings less points. For a fresh photo it is like this: 27 > 42 > 52 > 59 > 65 and so on. First vote brings 27 points, second — only 15, third — just 10, then just 7, then 6 and so on. On super popular photos with already hundreds of votes your vote can bring just 0.1 points or even less.
After than, just one dislike can throw a photo long way — removing, say, 6 points. But each consecutive dislike will remove smaller points, and each like will get a little more points. The idea is that the placement of each photo is the work of the masses — it can move across the Popular page in matter of seconds. And that's fresh! Because if you come next day, most photos will change, so you are presented with a fresh view of today's mood.
Killing Me Softly with a Dislike
I know that some have received dislikes on their photos and take it personally. My advice — don’t. You can go to my page and dislike the photos you don’t like. It’s OK! I still have my portfolio at iansobolev.500px.com which I refresh based on your feedback in the community. That actually helps!
Dislikes are not unlimited. Everyone has a limit of dislikes per day, and after certain amount, you are asked to provide an explanation. It’s not that anyone can go and dislike hundreds of photos at once. No. It’s very limited.
We did had haters, who created multiple account to dislike photos on the top and like their own photos. Guess what — we take measures, and do something very, very special to them...
Becoming Better Photographer
Would you click on the dislike? I doubt it, and over 95% of you rarely do. But do you really think your photo should go up until 99.9 and stay there forever? I doubt it too. 500px is not a sport, and you are totally free to setup your free Portfolio, absolutely separate from comments, likes, votes. But if you want to participate, comment, vote and fave photos — then, I’m sure, everyone should have an objective vision of themselves and just go and try take even better pictures, regardless whether your name is Scott Kelby or Ian Sobolev.