Monday, March 12, 2012

Photosharing, Trolls, and Such ....

For the past few years I've involved myself in the photo sharing experience on the internet. I started with Flickr - joined several established groups - and submitted work quite regularly. At about the same time I established a portfolio on the NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) website to which I posted about once a week. I was disappointed with the interactions on the NAPP website. It seemed to me that there were very few people looking at the work and commenting on it, and those few that did spent a great deal of time doing nothing but going through the entire submissions every day and making comments to everyone. Nice people to do that, but kind of meaningless to read 'great shot' or 'nice job' every day from the same people.

Same kind of thing happened on Flickr. I became discouraged after a while, and then I heard about www.500px.com, so I thought I'd give it a try. At the start it was fun because it was new. I developed a very large following rather quickly, and enjoyed the interaction and feedback from the limited number of people who actually put some thought into their comments. I made a point to post an image every day.

Members of 500px.com are given the option to make an image a 'favorite' and to anonymously vote 'like' or 'dislike' for an image. The total number of votes for, against, and 'faving' an image over the course of hours determined by an arcane algorithm known only to the administration (or so they say) the score of that image. And the score of the image determined what position it would hold in the viewing queue. So the higher the score, the more views an image was likely to receive. And after all is said and done, why do we post images on the internet if not for others to see the work.

Surprising as it may seem, this system fostered the development of quite a number of individuals who made it a practice to 'dislike' the work of those contributors just ahead of them for no reason other than to devalue that work and elevate their own. Nasty business it turned out to be. This whole process engendered a tribal mentality. Voting cliques developed and rancor abounded. In a short time it turned out to no longer be fun for anyone but the trolls who trashed others' work. So I searched for another forum to participate in.

I found 72dpi.com. This was a small group of (seemingly) friendly people who shared their photos and commented on them with the option to score those photos on a scale from one to ten. This format totaled the scores of an image and that score determined the 'pecking' order of images and the overall score of photographers. The only difference here to the 500px model was that there was an actual numeric value placed on the voting which turned out to be even more stupid because people got insulted if they received low votes on an image. Why offer the option to vote over that range if the fear of retribution from others would keep a voter from lowballing another's work?

Submitters migrated from 500px, being disgusted with the system and the poor response from the site administration. Trolls included. And they found ways to abuse the point scoring system on 72dpi. The administration of 72dpi, in their effort to foster the growth of a young photo sharing site and capitalize on the discontent of 500px contributors has been trying mightily to put together 'fair' procedures so that everyone will be happy campers.That's just not humanly possible. And their response to fixing the existent system and patching together a workable solution is turning out to be like Hans Brinker trying to use ten fingers to plug 40 holes in a leaky dike.

The simple facts of life are that there are many unhappy, sad, lonely people who have no other way to draw attention to themselves except to shout, stomp their feet, and behave badly. They seek out opportunities to be heard, and these photo forums are ripe for their abuse. To my mind, the optimal site would permit viewers to comment at the submitter's invitation and allow for acknowledgement of the submitter's work with a 'like' pat on the back. If a viewer doesn't care for an image, fine. He/she can just move along to another image. No need to have someone say 'I don't like your image and you need to know it'. Their silence will be deafening.

I've seen the disruption these people cause and on which they thrive. Other bloggers have also written about it. Erik Kim of EricKimPhotography recently wrote a blog entry on how to deal with haters on the internet. It's sad that a column such as this is even necessary. To avoid abuse I've had to chose to moderate the comments on this blog. I didn't at first, but I don't' like being the butt of antisemitism, or any other type of abuse. I still get many comments from trolls who don't realize that I moderate the comments. And once they do realize, I get comments from them about my limiting their right to free speech. Yah, right. When I suggested to one such person that he start his own blog so that he could say anything he wanted, his response to me was 'but nobody would read it!'  Duh.....

The conundrum is what to do. I want people to see my work. One of the greatest pleasures I derived from showing my work on 500px and 72dpi was having people tell me they were inspired to try new things as a result of seeing my images. That feedback was the impetus for resurrecting this blog. The other wonderful outcome of sharing my work on the internet has been coming to know and interact with people all over the world from different cultures. I've participated, if only minimally so far, on Google+. I plan to explore that further in the coming days. If you have any ideas about that, or any other photo sharing site, please let me know in the comments (be nice!).

Just for being so nice and putting up with my rant, I'm posting two images. I strongly suspect they are participants at 500px. I happened to see the initials, embroidered on his scarf (CB), of the person in the first image. I call them Mr. Grumpy 1 & 2.