Friday, 17 October 2014

Competing With Cats

Competing With Cats

You're an artist. I'm an artist. We're all artists. Actually, no, we're not.

Very few of us are. And even those that are acclaimed by the great and the good and receive vast amounts of dosh for their 'art', are often at best, dubious artists. Art is in the eye of the beholder, I hear you artistically whine? Maybe...

But the plain fact is that, for the likes of you and me having our photographic work appreciated (or if you're on FaceBook etc, liked) you have to compete with the Cham-Set-top-Boxreally good pictures.

Those of cats.

I like cats. I really do. Most people do. Except for dog people. (By that I mean people who like dogs, not the dog people race who I think are wonderful and won't have a bad word said against them despite the fact they are clearly barking) [explanation for our American reader: barking as in barking-mad] These two pictures on the right are of my own cat, now sadly an ex-cat no longer with us.

Where was I?

Yes, I like cats. And really, you can't compete with cat pictures. A cute cat picture will garner kazzilions of 'likes' and 'faves' on whatever social media site you care to put them. By contrast, your own work might get one like. Or maybe five, if you're really lucky.

And this despite the fact you trudged for two days through freezing weather to reach that one rare inaccessible spot where the light at a certain time (and not any other time) brings out the landscape into melting dew-dripping loveliness. And to capture this view, your back is now killing you from carrying a tripod and a bag of photo-gear so heavy that it would make a commando faint.
Then you've trudged back home arriving two stones lighter [again, for our American reader: a stone is a heavy rocky thing we use to estimate weight] complete with twisted ankle, water-damaged expensive camera and foot-rot. But it's all worthwhile because you have the most exquisite photograph nestling on your memory card. This is then painstakingly tweaked over many hours at the computer to show off the finest detail and softness of hue your camera can produce. Frankly, it's a masterpiece.
But it gets only five views, two likes and some bastard comments: “Pretty Colours!” while the fluffy bastard cute cat shot gets drooled over and liked in the thousands.

Cham the Hunter Low Res
Obviously this is just an example. No really, it is. Things like this don't bother me. At all. Nope.

This post was inspired by the following post from

I have a fun story regarding the whole "go comment, make friends, and you will receive comments in return".
So I had been using this photo community site (name not disclosed, but it's a big one) for a couple of years, and my photos were decent, a few good ones. Whenever I posted a new one, I would get maybe 5 comments and a few upvotes/downvotes. A dozen people added me the their favorites over the years. Nothing major.
At the same time there were a few dozen posters there with absolutely shit photos and they always got a hundred comments and nearly perfect ratings on every single photo.
So I looked at what they did - and, as a programmer, I thought - I could write a bot that did all of that. And so I did. It did a very simple set of actions on every new photo posted:
Give it 5 stars.
Write a randomly generated comment made up of chunks like "absolutely amazing", "so beautiful", "you're talented", "adding you to my favorites", "A+++", etc.
Added the author to the favorites.
Gave the author +rep or something along the lines
Before I launched it I posted a few very average photos under the bot's account, who also had some random girl's pic in the profile.
Then one evening I launched, watched it for a few minutes, and went to sleep.
When I woke up, HOLY SHIT.
Every single photo of mine had perfect 5 star ratings with dozens and dozens of votes, tons of comments from the happy noobs who got "discovered" by me, almost all of them added me to their favorites, I had like 50 friends overnight.
During the day when the site hit peak traffic, it went even more insane, everything quadrupled, my latest photo became the photo of the day on the front page.
By then a few people figured out wtf was going on, because I was too lazy with writing randomized comments, they didn't have much variety. By the end of the day the bot got banned. But the damage was done. I posted on their forum explaining the whole thing. Many people were angry, because it exposed how full of shit the photo critique communities are, many were laughing and laughing. A few regulars quit. And so did I.
That's why I only ask for the negative feedback to my work. Getting positive feedback is just too easy.”
Amen to that...


  1. Heh. Too right, Peter. And in the spirit:
    Great post! Brilliant!! Added to my favs! A++++++++*++oops.
    Perhaps I can ask my spouse if he'll write a program like that for me, but vary the oohs and ahs.
    Still, you're funny when you're sort of bitter.