My thoughts on 500px’s Pulse 2.0
Since posting my original “Getting started with 500px” article back in March, the team at 500px has made a few changes that I thought I should discuss. Some of the things I said in that original article are now no longer true, and I didn’t want to confuse new users who may come across that old entry.
All images get 24 hours
First of all, the time of day that you post no longer matters as much as it used to with respect to your “pulse” score. To keep the set of popular photos constantly changing, a photo’s score on 500px automatically lowers by some percentage each day. It used to be that this always happened at midnight Toronto time to every photo on site. That put users who uploaded right before that time at a slight disadvantage. The best time to upload was right after midnight, giving your photo a full 24 hours before having its score reduced. Now all photos are given a full 24 hours regardless of when they’re uploaded. This is great for many reasons. Not only are you not penalized for where you live in the world and when you want to upload, but the Popular page doesn’t get “reset” every night either. With the old system, there would always be a period of time just after midnight Toronto time where the Popular page would have many mediocre images. Since images’ scores are reduced at different times now, that no longer happens.
New Pulse 2.0 algorithm
The algorithm calculating the pulse score has changed. The people at 500px are calling it “Pulse 2.0”. As 500px grew, the site seriously outgrew the old method of calculating a photo’s “score”. Users had figured out the system and were basically commenting on and liking 100s of images (whether they were “good” or not) in the hopes of getting return votes and boosting their own images to the top of the Popular page (also, whether they were “good” or not). The result was a lot of spam comments, a lot of people begging for likes, and a lot of mediocre images on the popular page. It was also easy for people with lots of followers to get a super high score just due to the number of views and votes they’d get from followers.
So, what’s changed? In a nutshell, votes are worth less than they were before. I know that my own photos aren’t scoring as high as they used to. It’s not (necessarily) that my photos are somehow worse, it’s that the bar has been raised, and that’s ok. It was too easy with the old algorithm to get a high score without having a stellar image. Now, you’ll need a stellar image. This is better for the community. Since Pulse 2.0 was activated, the Popular and Upcoming pages have had higher quality work (generally speaking). Also I noticed with Pulse 1.0 that the photos on the first page of Popular were all high 99s (99.9, 99.8, 99.7…). Now, the first page still has all 99s, but there are some 99.1 and 99.2s on there. There are less people getting 99 now. Like I said, the bar has been raised.
New Upcoming page behavior
The Upcoming page is a bit different now than when I described it in my first post. It now takes a pulse score of 70 to make it to the Upcoming page, instead of 75. However, it’s harder to reach 70 now than it was to reach 75 before. The Upcoming page is sorted by the order photos are uploaded instead of being sorted by the order in which photos reached a score of 70. That’s an important distinction. This gives photos that quickly reach 70 from the Fresh page more visibility than photos that take a long time to get there. It still takes a score of 80 to become “Popular”.
No more dislike button!
With Pulse 2.0, the “I don’t like this photo” button has also been removed. I’m really happy about this as I didn’t like that button! It was in place to demote photos that received a lot of votes that maybe didn’t deserve them, but I don’t think it always worked in the way the folks at 500px expected. I think more often than not, people were disliking photos (which would reduce a photo’s pulse score) so their own photo could rise higher.
My thoughts and suggestions
I don’t know the details of the new algorithm and, rightfully so, 500px isn’t making it public. Some suggest that votes from your followers count less than votes from non-followers. Others suggest that votes from people who vote a lot may be worth less (or maybe their own photos’ votes will be worth less). There are an endless number of variables that could go into the pulse score; it doesn’t make a lot of sense to speculate. What does make sense is focusing on uploading high quality images and participating in the community in a helpful way.
Some people on 500px seem angry about the changes, but I’m not one of them. I want votes if my photos are good, not just because I have a lot of followers. I think this new system will result in scores which more accurately reflect the quality of my work. It’s certainly going to be more difficult for new users with no followers to get noticed with mediocre images; it’s more difficult to make it to the Upcoming page which has much more visibility than the Fresh page. However, I believe that new users with awesome images will find it easy to rise to the top.
Many of the suggestions I made for getting noticed in my first 500px post are still relevant: upload at most one image a day, upload only your very best images, seek out images that you like from all of 500px’s pages, vote on images that you like, favor only your favorite images, leave meaningful comments, follow photographers who have many images that you like, and participate in the 500px Blog’s weekly contests. Even more importantly, instead of worrying about how to beat the system to get a higher pulse, worry about making amazing images to upload instead!
The one complaint I have about 500px right now
There is one thing about 500px right now that I really don’t like and that’s the Fresh page. For new photographers, your only chance of being seen is on the Fresh page right after a photo is uploaded. The time that a photo spends on the first Fresh pages is very short. It’s even shorter when someone uploads 20 images at once right after your one photo for the day. Many users are calling for 500px to limit the number of uploads a day. They’re not going to do that because they’ve advertised that paying members can have unlimited uploads. What I would like to see is a limit to the number of photos that can make it to the Fresh page. If someone wants to upload an entire memory card of snapshots, fine, but I don’t want it to hurt those that are trying to be seen with decent work and are being selective about what they upload. I propose that when you upload a photo it doesn’t automatically go to the Fresh page. I think there should be a “Make it Fresh” button in the Edit window of each photo. Once a photo is uploaded, tags added, description spell-checked, and thumbnail cropped, a user would have to manually click the “Make it Fresh” button to get the photo on the Fresh page. This would dramatically limit the spam on the Fresh page. Ideally, a user would be limited to clicking the “Make it Fresh” button on a limited number of images per week (10?) but even if unlimited, just forcing the user who uploads many images at a time to manually interact with each image they want on the Fresh page would help a lot. Anyone at 500px listening?
Again, if there are questions I haven’t addressed, please ask in the comments! Happy 500px-ing!