500px LogoAlthough 500px has been making steady headway in the online photo sharing space for some time, the company has recently started growing like a weed and just been named the fastest growing startup in Canada by TechVibes.

For those that aren’t familiar with the site, 500px is a photo sharing community which allows you to post your photo and accumulate a score on that photo that determines its position in the rankings for that day (midnight to midnight EST). The higher the score, the more visible your photo becomes, the more likes you generate and the more followers you get. The more followers you get, the quicker future photos increase in score, and so on and so on the cycle repeats itself.

Having been a user for nearly a year now (my page here), talking to some of it’s more prolific members and monitoring it’s support forums, it’s clear that the sites growth hasn’t come without it’s share of grumbling and controversy. The main issues with the community centres around the “dislike” option which allows user to penalize a photo they deem “not good” or at least, not good in relation to those around it. The feature puts a great deal of power in the hands of one person and can send your photo plummeting from a front page standing to well out of view. Every now and then you’ll find a mini protest staged against it via an image post depicting the user’s disdain for the feature or some users even leaving the site as a result. So is this all just a misunderstanding, is it justified, or just plain silly?

While the purpose of this article isn’t to argue the merit of the dislike feature, it has to be said that yes, a problem does exist, yes it is frustrating, and no, there is no simple solution. As someone who’s fallen victim to it on several occasions I can attest to its frustration and do believe that it is often done for strategic or spiteful reasons. While I was initially left feeling bitter every time a photo of mine was disliked (nearly every one is), I’ve recently begun taking it stride and shrugging off the occurrence.  I always try to weigh the good with the bad and on the side of good the site has given me the following after 9 months of membership and 70 images shared:

  • Nearly 100,000 views
  • Nearly 12,000 likes
  • Close to 2000 followers
  • An editors choice award
  • 1/3 of the likes on my Facebook page are from people that found me on 500px
  • 1/5 of my website traffic comes from 500px
  • Met and talked to tons of great photographers, some in person, others virtually
  • Got found by Digital SLR Photography magazine and will have a photo featured in an upcoming issue
  • Been motivated to produce high quality photos and strive for constant improvement
  • Gotten inspiration from the thousands of stunning photos I’ve seen on the site

As someone who has worked as a software product manager and developer, I know the growing pains that a community can experience and that there’s rarely an easy solution to such problems. Elimination of the dislike feature could lead to further gaming, while it’s continued inclusion may raise frustrations and possibly lead to more defections. Whether a solution is found quickly or not, I implore those that get frustrated to consider the benefits they receive and not dwell on the actions of the few. 500px is a vibrant community of talented individuals and it’s benefits will only continue to grow for those users that focus solely on putting out the highest quality work that they can, and take the rest in stride.