Granted, there might have been a point where the "Dislike" button was useful, but IMHO, not anymore: great photos get votes, and they will reach higher ranks. Not so great photos will be ignored - and not receive votes. The atmosphere remains friendly, and childish popularity motivated troll games can be avoided (what can't be avoided is the effect of socializing on the site, but that's another story). This led me to submitting "Get rid of the Dislike button" as an idea to 500px' customer support site.
Soon after, Diana Tula, a 500px representative, replied to my idea: "Hey Alexander, you are completely right. Originally the idea behind the dislike button was to keep bad photographs away. But now we do see dislike button being used by a lot of users as means of trolling. I will talk to our team, and hopefully we will have it removed real soon :)"
That reply has been removed by the author in the meantime since they made the decision to keep the Dislike button. Which was announced by Diana Tula again. Talk about consistency, and coordination. They do want to work on the impact of the "Dislike" button though. In other words: they keep the poison, but make it a little less poisonous. :(
Now, I do show my photos online to get more exposure of course, but I don't care that much about the scores. I bought the "Awesome" option because it's a really really easy and convenient way to build an online portfolio, and the "real" 500px serves more like a backend infrastructure for that. The additional exposure is a welcome side-effect. So I added this photo:
Ask The Mountains (FinePix S5Pro, 1/180s @ ISO 100; f/11, 203 mm (in 35mm)
I increased the blue saturation a lot (otherwise, it would have been just another layers/silhouettes photo), and it seems that the super-saturated, vivid and clean blue really struck a nerve, it received a lot of attention and was also featured in one of the editors' daily selection. (and yes, it reminded some people of a well known Windows XP wallpaper;)
Needless to say, it's score also rose, and to my own surprise, some 10 or 12 hours after uploading it, it was in the second place of the Popular section - for about an hour or two. Then the pissing contest started. If you look at the Popular section on 500px... and if you care a lot about the scores... and there's one or two photos ahead of yours (or one photo following up closely behind yours)... think about it...
With one click of the "Dislike" button on someone else's photo, you can effectively push your own photo up, or get rid of a promising contender ("defending" your own score and position). Yeah, some people really have that mindset! You're allowed to cast 5 dislike votes per day. That leaves a lot of room for "score optimization", doesn't it? Because as I said: the "Dislike" button has a FAR greater impact on the score than the "Like" button...
And that's exactly what happened to the photo above. Within an hour or two, it's score dropped from 95.9 or something to 89.9 - and that was not the result of the "score aging" on the site (which, by the way, always happens around midnight EDT, the time zone of Toronto where the 500px headquarter is located - so if you want to preserve the score as long as possible, upload your photo after midnight EDT and make sure that your friends vote it up as soon as possible. I'm just saying.)
We've already had a lengthy discussion on the "Dislike" button being misused exactly like that in the comments and replies to the idea that I submitted. A 500px employee told us that anyone can have the voting checked if there are any suspicions of abuse. So I sent them a friendly message asking for the voting to be checked.
YES I do think that trolls should be traced and punished, and such behavior should be banished on the site. And yeah... I know that sounds heroic and whatnot and probably not very convincing when I say that I really don't care about the score all that much, but I guess I'll just have to live with that. ;)
Anyway. Ian Sobolev, the creative director of 500px, got back to me really fast and told me that the voting "looks fine" and if I had any suspicions. So I told him my observations (and yes, I should have documented it with some screenshots).
I also checked on another photo that was somewhere "near mine", score-wise. At that time, my photo was uploaded only 1 day ago, had 137 votes and a score of 89.9 - the other photo was uploaded 3 days ago (talk about aging), had 51 votes and a score of 90.2 - any questions? An older photo with less votes has a higher score. For this, I have screenshots, both made on May 30th, the first at 9:42:00, the second at 9:42:32.
To which Ian Sobolev replied via email: "Photos in the top get shuffled constantly — that's part of the fun and algorithms. Your photos are totally fantastic and I hope you enjoy being with 500px :)"
Needless to say that after our email exchange where I quite clearly defined my take on this, I find the notion that this is "fun" and hoping that I enjoy being with 500px a bit strange, to say the least. (it seems to me that they have no way to trace the voting history of a photo, or that they simply don't care. Whatever.)
But no, I do not enjoy that. The service actively promotes infantile behavior and retaliation with the "Dislike" button, and they willingly accept that in order to keep their "Popular" section fresh. I decided to stay away from the voting for that reason. I do not want to contribute to a community that is poised with a "Dislike" button that is so openly misused. And the site owners know that and consider it "part of the fun". It really really makes me wonder what kind of user experience they want to create.
I do support my personal friends (some of them I found through the discussion of the "Dislike" button) with comments and votes, but I won't take part in the open community voting anymore. Gotta stick to my ideals.
PS: that photo sure does look gorgeous in the dibond gallery type print behind glossy acrylic glass. ;)