Friday, July 16, 2010

A few words about 1x.com - Onexposure

Since February 2009, 1x.com (or Onexposure, as it was called before) seemed to be the perfect site for a committed photograph. The basic idea - not just feature everything that's uploaded but screen them and display only the best selection - is not new or unique but since the humble beginnings, 1X successfully turned it into a hype claiming to feature the "best photos on the web".

I loved this site very much until our relation ended rather abruptly before a few days, and now I'd like to add my own two cents without anger or fondness.

But first of all, an advertisement.
So...

1) Does 1X really feature the best photos on the web?

I don't think so, simply because no site does. There's too much good photography on the web. But before we dismiss their slogan as pure marketing, let's admit that someone coming from Flickr & Co which display just about everything that's uploaded may find the 1x front page and galleries a veritable oasis for the eyes. This is also due to the puritanistic, no-nonsense and ad-free(!) design. However, if you compare their front page and galleries to some pools and groups on Flickr, or the selection channels on competing sites like 500px.com, the "1xperience" ((c) by Alex O'Brien) is less striking. Let's face it: as such, stuff on 1x is not that better than what you see elsewhere but displaying selected work only does the trick. The hype works, at least in the beginning.

Some say the site developed like a U turned upside down: there was an early phase with lots of images that were mediocre at best, then there was a peak time with many truly outstanding photographers and now there's a downward phase with many purely eye-candy shots, self-repeating motifs and boring escapism. I don't want to go into this because everyone can form his own opinion who knows the site; suffice to say, 1x is for me personally no longer the source of inspiration what it used to be. It might have been "searching for the sublime" in the beginning, but as it grew 1x seems to have forgotten what it's actually looking for.

2) Feedback and critique

There's lots of feedback channels around from photosig to devArt et cetera, but in my roamings I found 1x's Critique section the very best. One receives lots of detailed feedback from very good photographers in relatively short time. It's give and take so one has to write four critiques to gain an upload slot but this is just about fair.

And now the bad news. Most images in Critique had been rejected and the critics' approach is (almost) always "It was rejected. This means it's not good. Let's find out why". In truth, there are many excellent photographs there and the difference between dozens of "wow great shot" comments and dozens of "crop it, sharpen it, add more contrast" critiques is only where you see the image - published on front page or submitted to Critique.


And you know how it goes... if you want you can find flaws in even the most successful photographs. Doisneau's Kiss is badly composed, McCurry's Afghan girl is just a photo-shy girl without the context and it turns human misery into an eye-candy, Robert Capa's Death of a milicist was (caugh, caugh, errr...) probably staged and it's quality is awful - and so on. No photograph is ever flawless. Besides we don't photograph to please other photographers anyway.

There's also a tendency to over-analyse photographs which is strenghtened by the paranoid moderation: one can't just write "To me this is a perfect photograph which doesn't need to be improved" because such comments are deleted at lightning speed. One always has to find flaws even if there are none worth to mention.

Even worse, sometimes you can see photos on the front page which would rightfully be blown to pieces in Critique but were published anyway. For example, look at the cloning trails here. It's not the photographer's fault in the first place but of the screeners who sometimes screw up in their search for the sublime. (Why the photog didn't upload an improved version after publication is a different matter...).

Anyway, it's useful for beginners desperately looking for some real feedback but once you start to judge your own photos with a trained eye there's not much to learn there.

3) Community

There's lots of diversity on 1X and members from all over the world, which is of course great; politics and other sensible subjects which could be the source of conflicts are gracefully avoided in the forum. People on 1x treat each other well in general and 1x was the beginning of many beautiful friendships but what truly matters in the end is how the site crew treats its members.

Now... photographers can be difficult people with all their vanity and big egos, including me of course, and people maintaining a site for photographers should be capable of dealing with this. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There is a paranoia over the site: any feature suggestion, no matter how benevolent in its intentions and polite in its tone, is verboten and gets deleted pretty soon by the crew. Or even worse: just dismissed as "whining over rejections". As if anything apart from "wow what a great site how happy I am to be here" would be considered dangerous for scaring away new paying members. Suggestions by members are usually neglected completely, or first neglected and later implemented without any credit to the guy who came up with it. Add a healthy amount of arrogance from the founders and trouble is guaranteed. Needless to say, the screening procedure and its decisions - the very core of the site - are taboo and any attempt to talk about it results in deleted threads, usually communicated with an arrogance that's unbelievable for any business living out from their paying membership.

Anyway... when I joined 1x in early 2009, there was a buzzing community life in the forums, with IRL meetings and lots of fun. Not anymore. But members are still free to congratulate themselves for being 1xers and of course giving thanks to the crew for everything; and oh yeah, you can even tell the others what music you are listening to right now. Ain't this fascinating?

4) Copyrights

One last but important point. Once you upload an image and it gets published, you can't delete it. Again: published images cannot be deleted. You can ask the crew to delete them of course and if they agree, they'll do it. This is a very strange practice and stands on weak legal grounds, as for a long time this wasn't even mentioned in the user's agreement (which was legally seen not a very professional contract anyway compared to other sites). As one of the founders tried to explain: "If we deleted all photos by a photographer, many hours of unpaid work by screeners and other members (giving critique and commenting photos) would be gone." Sorry but this is no legal argument for not letting a photographer execute his most basic rights over his works. Once the photos are published, one can't do much about them: they can't be organised into sets, galleries or series. It's possible to do that in the home page that comes with paying membership but frankly, while the home pages are decent and lot of efforts was put into them by the site's programmer they are not why people want to be on 1x.

Talking about copyrights: the system automatically adds a tag to images with a huge 1x logo to make using stolen photos a little less easier. Imagine, they even indicate the photographer's name - in small letters one quarter of the size of the logo, just to show who is more important. Isn't this generous? I left this for last because it's so much typical for 1x in general: such a cool idea and such badly realized.

Bottomline: is it a good site or not? In my very subjective opinon: if you look for a challenge and good learning opportunity, yes it is. If you already know how to tell a good photograph from an average one, go elsewhere and save yourself some frustration.

44 comments:

StefaniaC said...

Hi Balazs....sorry to see you go from 1x...but happy that Andre gave me your blog adress...
I sincerely believe that you are right in what you said and I've allways admired your work, your words, your sharpness in comments, your integrity in saying what you believed in...
you may not remember me, but this is not the point, I am Stefania C...
I know the frustration, i was there not so long ago, when I faced some hursh criticizm for saying what I believed was right to say, at a publish photo...
What else can I say..? Even if you parted ways with 1x, I am one lucky girl to have meet you there and to see what kind of work and what kind of "interior structure" (if I may say that) you have...
hopefully we'll keep in touch..as me, for sure, I shall watch your blog from now on...

Stefania C

Pataki Balázs said...

Yeah it's a pity Stefania how things ended up there, both in my case and in general. But there's a huge www out there and I'm in good company with all the people who got either kicked out or left on their own discretion, so I have nothing to be ashamed of. Enjoy your time there and I'm sure we'll bump into each other in the future, because friends will be friends. Best, Balazs.

StefaniaC said...

:) true...true...
the best thing about this sites is the fact that you can really make friends...no doubt about it....

MMarie said...

Browsing the web to find something else, I landed here.. happily. Nothing is forever in this world, and it is really sad to see how quickly you suddenly disappear..
1x is a virtual place to meet true human, and thanks to such site or any other.
Frustration and happiness have to coexist as it has always be, and sometime what we think is bad for us, can reveal something much more enjoyable.
Great photos are everywhere fortunatelly. Being on top of the charts for ever does not exist. Climbing to reach the top is difficult in everybody's life, but staying at the 1st place needs integrity, patience, and more and more.. And, in none case you can be at the 1st place for ever.
Nobody has the privilege of the truth either. Honesty should be the first word to remember in any case.
So, saying what we believe in, is a right. Using this right from time to time is a way to see things moving.

Thanks Balazs and Hi Stefania.
marie

Anonymous said...

Overall a good post, Balazs.

Just a quick comment.

We delete photos if a photographer asks us by e-mail. We do not provide a delete button - it needs to go through the crew manually. The reason for this is that in frustration, it is easy to delete photos that members and crew have spent many hours screening and writing comments on. We also want 1x to be more like a magazine or photo gallery - not a hosting service.

The google groups post you linked to is old and should be removed since the info in it is no longer valid (see http://groups.google.com/group/photoblogs/browse_thread/thread/5a8cf54bb8ae5aa0/8be46f5484b38e6d#8be46f5484b38e6d)

/ Jacob

Pataki Balázs said...

@Jacob: Thanks for reading. I had a long and painfully vain discussion with Ralf over this - I told him that the concept of preventing anger-triggered deletions is good and understandable but 1x should have included this in the user agreement. The way it is done now is not sound for a copyright reasons. I could tell you why because I'm a lawyer (and unfortunately for Ralf a very good one, including patents and copyrights) but the times are gone when I gave you legal advise for free. Or more accurately, in exchange for bronze membership that you cancelled at your convenience.
As said however, your point is valid and what you mentioned can happen easily. But the best way to prevent overrushed deletion is not to give reason for it. That's why God gave us the virtues of empathy, tolerance and sense of humour.
I wanted to change the old link as you asked to a citation from the 1x user agreement but it still doesn't say anything about the lack of a delete button...
Go well Jacob, and keep up the good work.

Pataki Balázs said...

@MMarie: "Nothing is forever in this world, and it is really sad to see how quickly you suddenly disappear."
Oh dear, you write as if I was dead. Probably when I die I will not receive eulogies like this, because everyone will just say "good riddance, and now let's see how much money the old eccentric bastard left behind." Too bad for them that I spend my fortune on flickr, photo.net and other accounts and all I'll leave behind will be a few DVDs with jpgs that no computer will be able to read at that time anyway. I'm alive and kicking harder than ever. Testing new waters - a very refreshing experience especially in this brain-scorching heat. Hugs & bisous! B.

Anonymous said...

Balazs,

I don't see the copyright problems that you are talking about. The copyright remains with the photographer. 1x has is limited rights to display the photo on the web. If a member wants a photo deleted, they contact one of the founders. If someone wants all photos deleted immediately we usually ask why because it generally reveals frustration and need to talk about something. And we want our members to stay on 1x.

This is our policy, and will be our policy as long as we have a curated gallery. This is not a copyright problem, which I am sure we can agree on - we have always complied with requests to have stuff deleted!

Kind regards,

/ Jacob

Mmarie said...

:))) Balazs you made my day !

Fortunatelly you have enough humor to understand what I meant in my sentence !

oh well.. I should have added that I wish you to be a phoenix.. but you wrote "Testing new waters - a very refreshing experience"..

I will visit you on some sites you mentionned.

That being said, enjoy this sunday.
A bientôt. Bisous as well.
Mmarie

Pataki Balázs said...

@Jacob: I presume you write all this just to let people believe everything is legally OK with your "policy". I still say: no it is not but don't care if I can't convince you. It's your problem. I much more prefer dealing with grey tones than with the legal grey zone around your practices.
Or maybe I better use your friend's favorite saying and just tell you: "Whining over leaving members is not allowed in the forum. The next one mentioning this will be BANNED. Thread closed."

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Andre said...

You raised a valid point in that you feel that creative site owners should be able to handle and manage the big ego's of the contributors.
Somehow, and I have been there for 18 months now, the noose has tightened as far as free expression is concerned.
I get the feeling that the intention is to portray 1X as a happy family of similar thinking photographers, and that any (and I mean any) criticism in the way the site functions and is run is accompanied by the contributor's fear of deletion of posts (a given!), or more grave repercussions.
This has changed over the last year - before you were free to write about the site in the forums, and others could agree or disagree. That was healthy. Presently you have to address an internal mail to the founders. Everything so 'in camera'.
I have often asked myself the purpose of such a type of managerial style. Will it be to create a false impression that members are all happy and singing from the same book. Then the words neutered/cloning unfortunately jumps to my mind. Or maybe they want to sell the site, and who after all wants to buy something where some voices (whiners) can cause disharmony and drive existing or prospective members away.
Any forum needs moderation, but where moderation was previously in tune with what one expects from a site like this, things have changed quite substantially over the last year or so. These days you are either walking the line, or out!
Patronizing to say the least, and actually quite disappointing/funny (sic). Moderation does not stand and think alone - directives are passed down from above, which gets me rather worried. Given the speed of the new clampdown - where will this site go? Probably not far beyond Happy-Happy Land will be my guess.
I still maintain my portfolio there, and help out in critique as an appointed member, as you did.
The investment that is required in establishing a presence on the front pages of this site is substantial, and it is such a pity that this sentiment and engagement is not reciprocated....and by that I emphasize the word ENGAGEMENT. So where does the problem lie? You've guessed it!
Oh well, after this post I shall probably join you as a ex-member of that site which is the 'best of the web'. Nice pictures, but the attitude?
Oh well - back to my Kindergarten pre-packed lunch.
Missing you presence and companionship there, and your ability to bring intelligent (and dry - like I like my wine) humor to a place that I am fast falling out of love with.

Andre said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Andre said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pataki Balázs said...

Yo Andre! Something went wrong and your post appeared three times. I deleted two redundant posts.

I also deleted Jacob's latest post. Jacob is a respectable person and there's no reason to doubt his goodwill and integrity. However, while anyone is free to prove me being utterly wrong about 1x.com our discussion about their way how to manage uploaded photographs turned into repeating old arguments. This makes no sense. It is not the biggest issue with 1x.com anyway.

Most of these problems could be sorted out over one or two starköl. Too bad none of the photographers pissed off by their attitude will take a trip to Uppsala to get pissed.

Jacob & Ralf should have known better. They succeeded in gathering some of the best photographers on the web but failed to keep them. Probably because they started believing 1x.com is truly the best photo site on the web and photographers should be proud to be featured there. If you ask me, it works the other way around: it's the photographers making a photo site. Piss them off - and you lose your biggest asset.

In corporate history there are countless cases when the decline of a company set in at the moment they thought they're the best & brightest, taking their achievements for granted. Maybe there's already someone, somewhere writing an MBA thesis on the rise and fall of photo sites excelling at generating huge publicity for photographs by whatever means but failing to keep the photographers themselves, just to finish the thesis with a chapter on upcoming new photo sites which have learned from the failed ones' mistakes.

At this stage, rest assured that steps are being taken to provide that thesis-writer with enough material for his last chapter.

StefaniaC said...

As far as I can see, the problem here is the power...plain and simple...and as much as I agree that we can't have a democratic site, because...well...it belongs to someone...:), I trully believe that the indivual liberty should be present...
Unfortunattely, human nature is wicked...and in time, power makes you change...when you are on top, you don't wanna hear that you are wrong. Period. And believe me, there will be allways people to tell you that you are right, no matter what...:) So why bother with those who don't...?

(Un)fortunattely, no one gets on the high pedestal without help...and when you forget about that help...well...that's the moment when "power" got you...and there will allways be a time for you to realize that you were wrong to push them away...

It's funny to talk about power regarding a photography site, a place that should be open minded considering that is based on artists...but times change and being an artist doesn't mean anymore living just to create...so why shouldn't a place with art keep in touch with modern times...?

It's a pity, because I believe that this site was created with good and honourable intentions...
And it should be again, a place where speaking your mind is allowed, when a good and civilized argument is for the better...
We are not sheeps to follow the head leader...We are all people with a mind of our own and that should be respected and appreciated...no matter what!

And someone should realize that you just can't control everything and everyone! Greater people have tried that allready and failed!

By controling to just make things go wrong...The beauty of human kind stands in its diversity! We shouldn't speak the same, we shouldn't photograph the same and we shouldn't think the same... A favorite quote of mine goes like this: "If everything's under control, you're going too slow."

I understand that we have to respect rules, because they are the base of any society, but the rules should apply to everyone...no matter who you are or how high in the chain of command you are...

I understand that absolute power is kind of neat, but it should be used with moderation...
And I trully understand that it is not an easy job to administrate a site like this, but if you took the responsability you should do your best to make things work in the best possible way...
and sometimes, to embrace the criticizm and to see that maybe, just maybe, you are wrong...
If you embrace that 0,01% chances, you just might do the right thing...

Well, my 2 cents...:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Balazs

I just returned from a brief holiday and noticed your sudden absence from 1x. Sorry to see you go from 1x.

Your photo's and comments where always interesting and with a fresh - very personal point of view -

I´ll try to keep half an eye on what you keep doing. Take care

Willem de Vlaming

Pataki Balázs said...

Dear friends, I wanted to get over with 1X but now I see there are a few things which still need to be cleared. First and foremost, we shouldn't play along with their game - namely that they want us to appear like a bunch of frustrated forum trolls. I also heared that certain lies are being told about my departure, for example claiming that I asked for the deletion of my gallery myself et cetera which is a blatant LIE.
The more I learn about what's going on in the background the sicker I get.
Probably the best way is to explain what has really happened in another post, although I had planned to write about portrait photography at last, because this 1x story is just a hurricane in a glass of water after all... I actually feel inspired and refreshed by all the things outside and beyond 1x and don't regret being exterminated from there at all.

Anonymous said...

Hi Balazs,

Did you get what I wrote you a few days ago? Your gmail returned some "out of office" notice about an already ended vacation. (sorry for this personal use of the comments)

About 1x, I admit I really enjoyed the site. I got very frustrated about the screening process but I knew that most of the members were intelligent and I could converse with people I respect. The site owners did a good job of attracting quality members. While at first I was amazed at the quality of published works, I later realized that the forum and the critique sections are the strong points of 1x. People commented on what a good job the screeners did (other comments got "screened") but I always thought about the good job the photographers did in producing such work.

I still think 1x is a professional site and credit should go to the founders for their vision and work on this project. The problem is that 1x fails to recognize those who helped make the site - the photographers and participating members.

Looking at sites like 500px I think 1x is not the only player when "quality" is concerned. For me, the community of 1x was the ace in 1x's hand. If 1x only continues to play "best photos on the web" card, it will lose.

Take a look at this latest addition to the sublime gallery:

http://i.imgur.com/n5Mzh.jpg

And take a look at the comments it got and those who mark it as a favorite.

I am waiting to read your followup story.

Pataki Balázs said...

I wonder where Ben Goossens left his eyeglasses when he faved this...
As to your opinion: I could hardly agree more. You've summed up perfectly all what's good and bad about 1x. Especially about its good side because all this is not about denying the efforts of crew and founders. I believe we tell here all this rather out of disappointment with 1x.com and not anger, frustration or personal issues.

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site www.blogger.com
Is this possible?

JYB said...

There is a lot of good pictures on 1x.com but not all the best of the web. For me it's more a site for photoshop technicians than photographers. A pretentious site for me.

J.Y.Bissonnette
jybissonnette@sympatico.ca

Richard Ford said...

Through me up too... www.zhaopianblog.com

And www.street-photographers.com

As well as the flickr group:

"1X Freedom Fighters" where everyone can be an admin.

http://www.flickr.com/groups/1452646@N20/

Anonymous said...

Looks like you are an expert in this field, you really got some great points there, thanks.

- Robson

Anonymous said...

No comment:

http://1x.com/v2/#/photos/member/23816/36925/

Ashley Pomeroy said...

Now this was a fascinating read. The site seemed interesting on the surface, but after spending a bit of time in the real world I've come to realise that the surface is often one micron thick.

I was actually drawn to this by a Google groups post in which one of the most prominent photographers left, after realising that his photographs were 1X's forever; it ended up with co-founder Ralf throwing out legal threats.

The founds come across as the very stereotype of the European twenty-something artist, e.g. reasonable and charming on the surface, squabbling angry kids when pushed even slightly. I grew out of that, hopefully they will at some point.

Anonymous said...

I was lucky to read your article ! I was just about to buy a pro membership account ! Everithing you sayd is true ! Unfortunately !

Tom McLaughlan said...

I wish I had seen this article a while ago...

Jacob says (comment of 17 July 2010) that "We delete photos if a photographer asks us by e-mail". But that is JUST NOT TRUE!

I joined 1x one or two years ago, had two pictures rejected and then completely forgot about the site. Last week a friend commented on Facebook that she'd had her first picture published to the 1x gallery so, of course, I logged in to leave her a message of congrats. When did that, not only did I discover that I'd also had a picture published (nice surprise!) but I also saw that my rejected pictures were still sitting on their server because there were thumbnails of them on show to me.

So, I sent a very kind and respectful email to Ralf (as suggested in the FAQ) asking for them to be deleted and his response was "you need to delete your account if you want to delete them".

So they have the (completely understandable) right to decide which of my pictures can be in the gallery but also the right to refuse to delete my work unless I cancel my account?

They may think they can behave like this today but, believe me, if they do become successful then I guarantee this rule will have to change. They'd be better off taking the initiative now rather than wait until the big backlash starts...

tom

Tom McLaughlan said...

I wish I had seen this article a while ago...

Jacob says (comment of 17 July 2010) that "We delete photos if a photographer asks us by e-mail". But that is JUST NOT TRUE!

I joined 1x one or two years ago, had two pictures rejected and then completely forgot about the site. Last week a friend commented on Facebook that she'd had her first picture published to the 1x gallery so, of course, I logged in to leave her a message of congrats. When did that, not only did I discover that I'd also had a picture published (nice surprise!) but I also saw that my rejected pictures were still sitting on their server because there were thumbnails of them on show to me.

So, I sent a very kind and respectful email to Ralf (as suggested in the FAQ) asking for them to be deleted and his response was "you need to delete your account if you want to delete them".

So they have the (completely understandable) right to decide which of my pictures can be in the gallery but also the right to refuse to delete my work unless I cancel my account?

They may think they can behave like this today but, believe me, if they do become successful then I guarantee this rule will have to change. They'd be better off taking the initiative now rather than wait until the big backlash starts...

tom

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