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Chris Cardell

Interview with Kyle Fox (PhotoBattle)

PhotoBattle is an online photography competition where photographers upload their 9 best photos and vote on their favourites. At this point in time, 308,161 “valiant battles” have been fought.

I interviewed Kyle Fox, PhotoBattle founder to find out more. This interview is the tenth in a series of DoesWhat interviews. I put together an overview of the first week of interviews yesterday. Big thank you to Kyle for the interview! You can follow Kyle on Twitter.

How would you describe PhotoBattle in under 50 words?

PhotoBattle lets photographers upload their 9 best photos. Visitors are presented two random photos and decide which is better. The top photos are displayed on the scoreboard with a link to the photographer’s website.

What made you decide to start working on PhotoBattle?

I was originally looking for a reason to make an iPhone app, and decided it would be neat for people to compare their mobile photos with other people’s photos taken at the same location. Then I starting chewing on the ideas of all photos — not just mobile photos — “battling” one another. I decided it would be a quick, fun project to hammer out a web-based version first, so I did.

How long did it take to put together PhotoBattle?

I actually built & launched the first version in about one hour — I literally did it over my lunch break at work one day. I tweeted the link, thinking a few friends might check it out. It ended up going viral, and had tens of thousands of hits within a few hours.

PhotoBattle doesn’t include any buttons to report inappropriate or illegal images. What systems do you have in place to protect against spam and other nasties?

It’s currently based on the “honour system” — when you upload a photo, there’s a message asking not to upload bad stuff. Surprisingly, this discourages people from posting inappropriate images!

Right now the only way to report an image is to email info [at] Since launch, I’ve only had 2 images reported. I occasionally go through the newest photos to make sure nothing nasty has gotten through.

I have plans to add a “Report this image” link to be displayed during battle.

How much time do you put into PhotoBattle day-to-day? Does it essentially run itself? Do you monitor the Scoreboard?

PhotoBattle requires very little maintenance. I use New Relic to monitor & fix performance bottleneck, so it doesn’t take much effort to keep it running. I probably spend no more than 2 hours per month working on it (and most of that time is truthfully spent voting on images — it’s addicting, even for me!)

I check the Scoreboard periodically to make sure no inappropriate images show up, but also to gauge how well my scoring algorithm works. I can see a lot more data about each photo than everyone else, and this helps me determine if my calculations need tweaking.

Has PhotoBattle got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?

Yes, far more than I expected. I would’ve been happy with a few friends using it — I never would’ve imagined having thousands of users & photos, and hundreds of thousands of battles!

The feedback has been my favourite part. I often get emails from people saying how much fun they have using the site, which is really cool. I’ve even had people ask to buy the PhotoBattle code from me to build their own voting sites.

You’ve decided to fund PhotoBattle via donation. Did you consider traditional advertising? How did you come to this decision?

I decided that I don’t have to run PhotoBattle as a business, and selling advertising obligates me to meet advertisers targets for growth, traffic, click-through rate, etc. PhotoBattle is just a fun side project for me, and I didn’t want that kind of responsibility running it.

I’ve always liked the idea of donations for side projects. If you like it and appreciate it, I will gladly accept donations, but I don’t expect them. Donations seem like a way to collect money while keeping the fun feel of the site.

Who do you see as your target audience?

It’s primarily been semi-serious and professional photographers submitting photos — I’m consistently astounded by the quality of photos on the site.

Who is your biggest competitor?

To be honest, I’ve never investigated competitors or similar websites. I run PhotoBattle because it’s fun, so I’m not concerned about competitors.

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?

Lack of time. I have a lot of cool ideas for PhotoBattle, just not enough time to work on them!

What other projects are you working on?

I’m currently working with Carbonmade on some really cool updates to our portfolio application (check it out if you need an online portfolio!) I also run FotoJournal, a blogging service for photographers.

I just finished a bookmarklet for working with Typekit fonts and am planning out a few more side projects & products that I can’t say too much about just yet.

Finished reading? Check out PhotoBattle!

This entry was posted on Friday, April 15th, 2011 at 12:03 pm GMT. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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