4 jan 2002   
the photo.not girl

Photo.Net: Top Member-Rated Photographers

for photo.not by Kevin Bjorke© 2002

Phil Greenspun's provides users with a place to talk about photos, a place to show their uploaded photos, and a ranking system for photos and photographers. Many thousands of photos have been rated, with over two million ratings. A page is available at that attempts to index the work not just of the photos, but the photographers, based on user ratings.

Individual image ratings have two indices, labeled "Aesthetics" and "Originality," each on a scale of 1-10. These indices are combined across multiple photos to create the photographer's overall "score."

The method used is described thus:

We currently sort by the sum of the average aesthetic and originality ratings of each photographer's photos. We only rank those photographers who have at least 3 photos, each of which has been rated by more than 10 members and the sum of the average ratings is greater than 7. ( We are now computing this every hour to reduce server load )

So theoretically the top score possible is a perfect 20 -- ten and ten for both ratings, at least ten times, of at least three photos. In practice, the leaders tend to hover around 15.5.

Photographers are as status-conscious as anyone (perhaps more so), and quite a few of them spend a lot of time and effort worrying about their rating. Currently there are about 1900 photographers with ratings high enough to appear on the list page. While many decry the listing as pointless and anti-artistic, the amount of noise, effort (and outright cheating) expended at the rankings indicates its important status value to the community. The need for hour-by-hour recalculation of the stats is ample evidence of interest!

There are numerous problems with any rating system when applied to subjective material like photographs. For Photo.Net's rating system, three obvious problems readily spring to mind, without even discussing the composite scores.

The scheme used to rate photographers, layered atop the image ratings, also has some obvious weaknesses (used in the past to manipulate the standings): Many people have expressed dissatisfaction with the scoring. One user, Robert Brown, has recently suggested the following alternative scoring scheme:

(AVERAGE SCORE x 10) + 1 point for each photo with more than 10 ratings.
Using this scheme, photographers with large bodies of work, or who have been present on for a long time (and have thus accumulated many ratings) are at an advantage. But one needs ask: are many good photos really better than a smaller number of truly great ones? This scheme would simply replace one limited rating system with another.

The truth is, there are many possible rating systems, and they're all wrong. So why not give the users a choice of which prism they choose to view through? is, at its computer core, just a big database. How odd that there's only one indexing scheme! It seems obvious that the same process that collates the results for the existing list could also build alternatives at the same time. If alternative rating systems were available, viewers would have more opportunities for browsing, photographers might have less to fight about in the boards, and less "unfairness" to complain at Phil about (then again, some people live for that sort of thing).

A number of possible rating schemes can spring readily to mind, in addition to the original one and the "Brown Method" described above. In fact, any info in the database could be used to build an index of one sort or another:

Pick your poisons!


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