Gurushot Series: Part I

Gurushots Survival Guide

Extensive starter guide and personal thoughts

I have been playing with Gurushots on and off for a while now, and wanted to tell you how it works, my experiences, some tips & tricks, and what I love and hate about it.

If you are not familiar with Gurushots, I would describe it as a social media platform for gamified photography contests.

As there is lots of stuff to cover, I will split the article into a series of three articles. There will be a fourth one if I ever get to Guru status.

The basic outline of the series is as per the following table of contents, but as I haven’t finalized the remaining parts II and III, things could change a little.

Part I: The Basics (covered by this article here):

Topics:

  • Website or mobile app?
  • Entering images into challenges, types of challenges, challenge briefings/rules
  • What happens at the end of the challenge — winners, guru picks, awards, points, achievements
  • Progressing on the ladder
  • How Swaps, Keys, and Fills work
  • Voting and Voting-Power, Views, and Exposure Bonus Meter
  • Vote/View Ratio
  • Follower / Following others, and Likes
  • Reporting system

Note: I won’t go into the feature of selling images of yours as prints. You can play the game without using that feature. I haven’t looked at it, as I prefer to sell my image prints on my own, with my own pricing and quality control.

I am also not covering the relatively new ‘Team” feature, I don’t have any experience with that as of today. Maybe I’ll cover that in a later article if I decide to join a (or create my own) team.

Part II: Discussion of side effects of Gurushots (upcoming article):

Topics:

  • Spending money on Gurushots
  • Spending time on Gurushots
  • Spending emotions on Gurushots — winning and losing, quality of images

Further topics: time & money wasting, keeping you on the platform with voting, events, teams, challenges, ‘Activity’ section, notifications to enter challenges or participate in a (paid) exhibition, swap images, use fills, buy bundles, the prospect of price ‘money’

Part III: How I use Gurushots, and Tipps & Tricks (upcoming article):

Topics:

  • Gurushots is a game, the objective is to use good photographs and a good strategy, and luck to win (get to ‘Guru’ status)
  • Use Gurushots to get better at photography
  • Use Gurushots to get exposure for your photography
  • Use Gurushots to test images for their public ‘instagrammability’ and wow factor
  • Strategy: statistics, votes/view ratio, timing and usage of keys, swaps, and fills, double swap
  • Voting for good images only
  • Resources: reddit, facebook groups, and ebooks

One thing first: if you want to read about how to game the system and get to ‘Guru’ status quickly, I can’t help you with that. My current status in the game is ‘Master’, which is the rank below ‘Guru’. But I will talk about strategies and tactics which are obviously not successful (I have lots of experience with these!), so you don’t have to make the same mistakes.

This first article of the three-part series is about the basics of Gurushots. Let’s dive right into it.

Website or mobile app?

You can play the game by creating an account with Gurushots on Gurushots.com. Joining is free, and playing is also mostly free, but there are in-game purchases available, and some features are only accessible by paying money (e.g. the exhibitions).

You play online on the website, or you can download an app to your mobile phone. That app also needs a connection to the internet to work.

Both versions have a slightly different feature set, the website is more complete, but the mobile app has also features which the website does not have (e.g. the circle-cropped profile images of contestants can be enlarged to the full original image on the mobile app, but not on the website). Be aware of the mobile data usage, as a lot of images are transferred for the voting, so heaps of data is used.

I use both versions at different times, but the images are naturally more enjoyable on a bigger screen. Unless you look at very low-resolution images, then a small screen would save you from some ugliness. More on that later when I come to the quality of images people enter.

Types of challenges

In Gurushots, you play the game by entering images into photo competitions with a specific topic and ruleset. These are called ‘challenges’. As there are several hundred challenges per month available on the platform, there should be a topic available for everyone to join. And lots of topics repeat after a while. Challenges are created by Gurus (players who climbed the ladder to ‘Guru’ status), or ‘Guru Pros’. Not sure how they get this status. Are they employees of some sort?

The challenges can have unique attributes. Be sure to check each of them before you enter:

Length

The challenges can be quite short, only a couple of hours. The shortest one I had so far was three hours. Or they can be very long, several weeks. Most challenges are a couple of days long.

An interesting difference between the web and the mobile version is the display of the remaining time. I just checked one challenge which is displayed as ‘1 Day left’ on the mobile version, but 45h 08m 07s on the website. So don’t be fooled by the mobile version when it says: 1 day left. It could probably be anything between 24h 0m 1s and 47h 59m 59s. If you want to know the exact end time, go to the website and display it on a wider screen.

Number of images allowed

At the time of writing, they have 1, 2, or 4 image challenges. If it doesn’t say ‘2 Photo Challenge’ or ‘4 Photo Challenge’, then it is a single image challenge. Exhibition challenges are normally also ‘4 Photo Challenges’.

For the 2- or 4-image challenges, you are not required to populate all slots, you can leave them empty if you wish. You only have to have at least one image in a challenge. If you want to win a multi-image challenge, you probably can’t win without filling all slots. But you don’t have to fill them up all at once, except for the first one.

The challenges have slightly different attributes, depending on how many images you can enter. The single-image challenges for example do not sport the ‘Boost’ button and are normally shorter in run time. And they don’t have a ‘Top Photographer’ Winner, only a ‘Top Photo’ and ‘Guru’s Top Pick’ winner. I get more into details about the different winning conditions in a later section.

Prices

All challenges have something for the winner to win. But it is never money, even if they state the ‘Prices’ for a challenge in a $ Value (e.g.: Prices: $260).

The prices are bundles of ‘Fills’, ‘Keys’, and ‘Swaps’ (more on that further down), which represent a certain amount of money if you would otherwise buy them in the game. But you can’t win actual money. If you would win a bundle by winning the challenge, you also can’t exchange the bundle ‘price’ for the equivalent real money.

Some challenges have prices that are difficult to put a monetary value on, for example, you get mentioned in an article as a ‘Top Photographer’ or something like that. What is that worth? They put a price tag of $1000 on that in one challenge, but you don’t actually receive that money, it is just to put a number on it. Some might put a high value on it, others wouldn’t care.

In general, read the details of the competition to know what the price would be if you win. And read the win conditions. For example: ‘The top 100’ does normally mean the top 100 images in the ‘Top Photo’ category and not the top 100 photographers in the ‘Top Photographer’ category.

Topics

The topics of the challenges could be anything, but they try to make it interesting enough for lots of members, but not too many members. And they try to spread out the topics so that you don’t have three Black&White competitions at the same time, but they could be one after another. You can see what they have planned (‘Upcoming’ challenges), so you have a bit of time to prepare images if you want to.

Rulesets

I mentioned that before, all challenges have a specific ruleset. Especially if you are after winning the Guru’s Top Pick, read the rules carefully, as the Gurus often mention what they would like to see, or what they don’t want to see. For example, watermarks or borders. You can avoid disqualifying your images from the start if you comply with these rules. If you don’t, you might get away with it or your images might get disabled/removed if they are off-topic or violate other regulations. E.g. previous winner images may not take part in future challenges.

Read the rules and comply. Easy as that.

Requirements

Some challenges have specific requirements. That could be your rank (e.g. only ‘Master’ rank members are allowed to enter, or only ‘Newbies’), or maybe you can only enter images that have been uploaded in the last week (‘new’ images). You get the idea. These requirements are normally hard-enforced, as the system knows what rank you are or when you have uploaded images, so it can deny entries based on that automatically.

Entering images

Once you signed up for Gurushots, you probably want to look at some challenges to join, so you need to upload images to your profile to make them available for the contests. It’s free to sign up and play, but there are in-game purchases you can make to gain advantages over people who do not pay. More on that later in the ‘How Gurushots make money’ section. One note here: It is correct that all the perks (the ‘fills’, ‘swaps’, and ‘keys’, see further down) are also available for free if you are very patient and participate in many challenges without using up any of the three. That is because of every x participation in a challenge you get these perks, specifically:

  • a free ‘fill’ every 3 challenges
  • a free ‘swap’ every 5 challenges
  • a free ‘key’ every 7 challenges

An example of what ‘free’ means: If you plan to do a late entry into a 2 image challenge and you want to win, you have to use 1 key to unlock the challenge, and 1 key to unlock the boost. To get the two keys you need for free, you need to participate in 14 challenges before that, without eating up a key. So, yes, you can play without paying money, but you are in for the long haul.

You should think about what your goal is when you join Gurushots. Why do you play it? You can use it in different ways. Most people might join for the obvious reason, to participate in a game with photographs, get recognition for the images (votes), get comments on single images, earn perks and badges, level up, and just simply show off their images to the world. It is a social media platform with common mechanics you already know from other social media platforms.

Watermarks

If you join to build an outlet for your photography business, your approach might be different. You might want to showcase your images, so be careful to not mix in your family photos, be true to your brand. The images you upload might also be different from normal people’s photos, I see several people using watermarks for their photography business, to protect their images from theft and to display their business brand. I hate it when people enter images with their watermark, for me that defeats the purpose of anonymous voting systems, and it distracts from the image. I tend to not vote for images with a watermark, but I am not religious about it, as the voting system is not completely anonymous anyway (see further down in the section ‘Voting’). So if you use watermarks for ‘Branding’, be sure you are on-topic and have very good quality images. Otherwise, it would probably hurt you more than it helps your brand.

What images to enter?

So what kind of images should you upload? Well, that very much depends on so many things I can’t list them all here. If you enter the competitions to win, then you should think about how the voting system favors a specific kind of image. They should have the instant wow factor, be just sharp enough to appear sharp for a split second the voter needs to vote your image up (over-sharpening makes sure the viewer perceives it as sharp), have lots of contrast and they should be over-saturated and of course, you need to use HDR in its worst application. That’s how you win. </sarcasm off>

I do not follow these recommendations, so I really can’t tell you what images you should enter to win.
It is totally up to you. Once you have voted yourself in a number of competitions/challenges, you might observe a pattern you follow. Which images do you vote on? Whatever you do, other people do the same.

Another thing to think about when you enter images is the form factor. Very wide panorama images do not display well, especially not in the mobile app.

A quick statistic here I just conducted: For a recent open-topic challenge, I looked at the top 100 images and found the following: 96 were landscape-format, 4 were square, 0 were portrait-format. 98 were color, 2 were B&W. Over half of the 100 were landscape images 56), 8 flowers, 6 birds, 16 other animals, and 14 various other subjects. If you only take this one open challenge as your data set to draw your conclusions from, you would want to enter a color landscape image in landscape orientation to have a better chance of winning.

You should also think about how you do the post-processing. People looking at your images and vote on them will most certainly not have a color-calibrated monitor, but the challenge host (a ‘Guru’) might have one. As you enter images into the competitions/challenges, you can win in three different ways (more details on that further down):

  • Top Photographer (getting the most accumulated votes for your set of images)
  • Top Photo (getting the most amount of votes for a single image)
  • Guru’s top pick (the most favored image picked by the challenge host (a ‘Guru’)- there can be many Guru picks, but only one image gets the Guru’s Top Pick)

So as the top two categories are selected by the participating voters/random people, the last category is selected by the known challenge host, which might be important to know for the selection of images you enter. Do your research about what the Guru likes, when the guru picks are done, the time zone the guru lives in. If the Guru has Black & White images all over in the profile, you might hit a sweet spot with a B&W image entry. All portrait images? Put a portrait in. People have conscious and unconscious biases when they prefer or dislike images. If you are in for getting the Guru Pick, find out about the Guru’s likes and dislikes.

Just to remind you here, this is a game where you try to win by finding out what works. If you do photography to give yourself a creative outlet, then creating images specifically to please a Guru might not be a good idea. But it could also have the effect of widening your photographic horizon if you try new types of images you normally don’t do. Don’t let the process of selecting images for a competition cripple your creativity by trying to please the Guru in a specific way.

Going back to the question of what images to enter, I have to re-iterate that you should read the challenge rules carefully. Some require specific image properties the images should have, or must not have to get a Guru’s Pick (e.g. no watermarks). Then there are general rules for all challenges, e.g. you are not allowed to enter images that are not your own (kind of obvious, right?). Read the rules carefully, or otherwise, your images might be removed from the competition, or even worse, you get your account deleted.

Adult Content

And then there is one special kind of image you see now and then. People’s genitals. Be prepared. Sexually really explicit images are not allowed on Gurushots, but some people cross the border from nude fine art images (which are allowed for some challenges) to pure porn images. You can also turn off the display of ‘Adult Content’, but that obviously does only work for images that have been marked as ‘Adult Content’ by the image author. That is a flag you can set (tick the box) when you submit your image to the Gurushots platform. I think Gurushots got better at removing violating images, it is quite rare you see them. So, thumbs up for that!

As a hint for entering your images, nude people images tend to not rank very well as people could have the ‘I-do-not-want-to-see-adult-content’ flag set and only see a black image marked as adult content. You can then select to toggle that setting and view the image, but that is another couple of clicks. Chances are, you get fewer views than other content that is not restricted to view.

What happens at the end of the challenge?

At the end of a challenge, you are most likely interested in how well your images competed. There is a bit of a delay after the challenge ended before you can see the results. The system needs to calculate a number of things, and the Guru needs to pick the ‘Guru’s Top Pick’ Winner.

Winners

There are up to three categories you can win in a challenge:

  • Top Photographer Winner
  • Top Photo Winner
  • Guru’s Top Pick Winner

The first one is only available for multi-image challenges, so single-image type challenges only have two winners.

The ‘Top Photographer Winner’ is the player who got the most accumulated votes for the 2 (or 4) images in the competition at the time the challenge ended. Previously swapped out images are not counted. I don’t know what happens if two players have the same number of votes, I guess there are some further backup decision rules to decide on who the winner is. Do you know?

The ‘Top Photo Winner’ is the player who has the image with the most votes for a single image in that challenge.

The ‘Guru’s Top Pick Winner’ is selected by the Guru at the end of the challenge among all Guru Pick images the Guru selected throughout the challenge. Basically a best-of-the-best approach from the viewpoint of the Guru who created the challenge.

All three of the winning methods are equal to qualify you for the ‘1x Win a Challenge’ requirement for the Guru game level. You need one of them. But it's hard. At the time of writing this, I achieved 50 Guru Picks with my images, but no win. I think most ‘Master’ players are stuck on the missing ‘Win’ they need to progress to the ‘Guru’ level.

Awards and Achievements

Some awards and achievements can only be calculated after the challenge ended because they depend on a certain percentage of the participating players which is only known at the end. For example, there are ‘Top x%’ achievements (‘Top 10%’ or ‘Top 20%’ or ‘Top 30%’) that you can get if your image is among the top x% of all images in that challenge. Or a ‘100 Top Rank’ achievement for getting into the best 100 images. The achievements are available for both categories, top image, and top photographer (votes accumulated across all your 2 or 4 images), the icons for them are a bit different, and they are counted separately. You can see all your achievements on the ‘Achievements’ page of your profile. If you hover over an icon, you can see a short explanation about that specific achievement.

If you fulfill all requirements for a game level, you get a notification of that level advancement after all requirements have been met, usually after a challenge ended.

Progressing on the ladder

Gurushots provides a level-up system to reward you when you play the game and achieve set goals. The game levels are:

Newbie — Rookie — Challenger — Advanced — Veteran — Expert — Champion — Master — Guru (and then more levels of Guru, Guru I-IX)

To advance to the next level, you have to fulfill specific set requirements.

What are the requirements from level to level? On a laptop (using a browser), go to ‘My Challenges’. You will see your unlocked rank at the top together with all the other ranks in the game. A lock symbol is displayed between the ranks, if you hover over that, you get the list of requirements to unlock that lock and get to the next level.

The requirements are a combination of some or all of:

Achievements

The ‘Achievement’ requirement refers to the level system inside a challenge. When you enter an image into a competition, it starts with ‘no achievement’. The rules of each challenge tell you what the level requirements are to get to a specific level, e.g.

- Popular — 40 votes
- Skilled — 160 votes
- Premier — 600 votes
- Elite — 1200 votes
- All Star — 2300 votes

In this example, you would get the ‘Elite’ Achievement once you collect 1200 votes in that challenge. That is accumulated, so all images in a set are summed up. Once you get to a new level, also GS points are awarded, e.g. when you achieve the ‘Skilled’ level, you get 200 GS (Gurushot) points added to your points.

Points collected

This is straightforward and always a requirement for a level-up. You need to collect a certain amount of GS points. These points are awarded when you achieve a new level inside a challenge (see ‘Achievements’ above). One example would be the level-up requirement for the ‘Veteran’ game level is to collect 9,000 GS points.

The points you collect in a challenge are as follows, at least according to my latest records:

- Popular — 150 GS points
- Skilled — 200 GS points
- Premier — 250 GS points
- Elite — 300 GS points
- All Star — 350 GS points

That means, if you advance in a challenge all the way up to ‘All Stars’, you get 150+200+250+300+350 GS points = 1250 GS points in total. If we pick up the ‘Veteran’ example from above (9,000 points required), you would have to participate in 8 challenges and go all the way to ‘All Star’ in 7, and to ‘Premier’ in the 8th, to fulfill one of the requirements to get to the ‘Veteran’ game level.

If you only ever get to the first ‘Popular’ level in a challenge, you would have to enter 60 challenges to fulfill that requirement for the ‘Veteran’ level. so basically over time, you will collect enough points if your images are good enough to reach at least the ‘Popular’ Level in a challenge.

Number of “Successful Swaps”

I’ll start with an example here. To get from ‘Rookie’ to ‘Challenger’ you have the requirements of ‘3 x Successful Swap’.

What is a successful swap? I explain a bit further down how swaps work, just a quick explanation here: If you exchange one image for another in a challenge, that is a ‘swap’. A ‘Successful Swap’ is one where the replacement image gets at least 50 votes more than the replaced image had at the time when it was replaced in that challenge. An example would be:

You place an image into a challenge, and over time people vote on it and it has now 312 votes. You decide that it does not get as many votes as your other images in the challenge, so you replace it with another of your images (you swap it). That image now collects votes in that challenge, and if it manages to get over 362 votes (312 + 50), it is considered a ‘Successful Swap’ and counts against your requirements for the number of successful swaps you need.

I would not regard this requirement as particularly difficult to achieve, so don’t worry about it, it regularly happens without too much effort. If you are really struggling with this, just do the swap at the beginning of the challenge, your swapped-in image will naturally get more than 50 votes more than your swapped-out image.

Guru picks

That is a more difficult achievement. You need 1 Guru Pick for the ‘Champion’ level, 3 Guru Picks for the ‘Master’ level, and 5 Guru Picks for the ‘Guru’ Level.

I explained what a ‘Guru Pick’ is further up, so by now you know that it is dependent on another player (a ‘Guru’) if you get this achievement or not. The only way to get it is with perseverance, good quality images, and a bit of luck. You can however nudge the scale of probabilities a bit by using some tactics to get your image in front of the Gurus more often, but you still can’t force them to vote for the image to give it a ‘Guru Pick’. More about what I think are useful and useless tactics will be explained in the third article of the series.

Number of specific ranks achieved

I start again with an example. From ‘Newbie’ to ‘Rookie’ level you need ‘3 x Skilled’ ranks achieved. That means you need to have entered at least 3 challenges and achieved the ‘Skilled’ rank in each of these challenges. These rank requirements get progressively harder, e.g. to get to ‘Master’, you need ’20 x All Star’ ranks. From my experience, this requirement is best fulfilled by participating in long-running ‘Exhibition’ — type challenges (challenges where you can get exhibited if you get to a certain rank and pay a fee). GS wants you to get to ‘All Star’ in these competitions, as that is a common requirement to be able to participate in the exhibition. So it makes sense for them to have a relatively low entry barrier for ‘All Star’ level in these challenges to increase the number of players that are eligible for the exhibitions (if the player pays the fee, did I mention that?).

How ‘Swaps’, ‘Fills’, and ‘Keys’ work

You get a starting set of these perks when you sign up to the platform, to get started.

What can you do with them?

All three of the perks in the list give you an advantage in the game:

Swaps: During a challenge, you might notice that some images do not do well, they do not get many votes. So you want to replace that image with a more promising one. But Gurushot doesn’t let you just replace it, it costs one of your precious ‘Swaps’ to do so. Because it is expensive to change images, think about each image you place into a challenge, and when. Be especially careful when the system suggests challenges for you to participate in. The system proposes a set of your images that might or might not be fitting for that challenge, and as soon as you click ‘Join’, all of the proposed images are in the challenge. If that was not what you wanted, you can’t revert that action/mistake, if you are not immediately deleting them from the challenge. And it is not obvious how to do it. You might end up having to swap them out for a better fitting image, each of the swaps cost you one ‘Swap’. So my suggestion is: Don’t join a challenge with the suggested list of images, join it without any images, and add them carefully one by one after you joined. You have to start the challenge with at least one image, but you don’t have to fill all the remaining spots (in a 2- or 4 slot challenge). Add the remaining images later.

From time to time the system conveniently suggests swapping images in your running challenges, so you get tempted to use your ‘Swaps’. Think about why the system does that. Is it because it thinks you can do better with a different image (the one it proposes)? Think again.

Fills: You can use a ‘’Fill’ instead of manually voting. When you vote manually, you have to vote for a number of images to get your exposure-bonus meter (more on that further down) for that challenge from ‘low’ to ‘high’. If you use a ‘Fill’, that meter gets filled up to the max, saving you the voting. There is also a ‘Fill all’ button (how convenient!) to let you fill-up the exposure-bonus meter of all the challenges you currently participate in. But it costs you one ‘Fill’ for each challenge, so if you have e.g. 10 open challenges running and click ‘Fill all’, you instantly use 10 ‘Fills’, and the meters are all filled up.

So why would you use a ‘Fill’? If you are tired of clicking on hundreds of images to boost your exposure-bonus meter up, then you might want to get some relief and click on the ‘Fill’ button. Get a break. I use it sometimes if the challenge has mostly really bad images in it. If you don’t want to vote up lots of bad images (and you shouldn’t, see ‘Voting’ section), then you have two options: Go through hundreds of bad images, click on one or two good ones and watch the meter move only a tiny bit towards the ‘high’ side, or take the shortcut and press ’Fill’. Gurushots knows how short the attention span of people is. People use shortcuts. But they cost you a ‘Fill’.

Keys: Keys can be used to unlock two things that might be locked by the system (because they can):

  • Join a challenge shortly before it ends
  • Use the ‘Boost’ button anytime

They lock challenges that went on for a while and get closer to the end. I haven’t figured out yet when exactly that happens. So if you did not join when the competition was ‘new’ish, you might need to use a ‘Key’ to unlock it so that you can join late in the game.

The ‘Boost’ button

There is also that ‘Boost’ button which lets you boost the exposure of one of your images in a challenge. To boost an image means it gets viewed by more people, receiving potentially a lot more votes than without the boost. I had images doubling their votes with the boost, so it is essential to boost an image if you want to have a chance of winning. During a challenge, the ‘Boost’ button gets only unlocked for one random day. It happens somewhere in the middle of the challenge if it is a > 6 days challenge (I think). You don’t get the free boost in the first couple of days, and you don’t get it in the last couple of days. Not sure about the specifics here, though. Short challenges might not release the ‘Boost’ button before the challenge ends, so the only way to boost one image, in this case, is to use a ‘Key’ to unlock the boost. It might be a bug in the game, but maybe it is a feature.

As you don’t know when the unlock happens, you can easily miss the unlocked ‘Boost’ button if you participate in heaps of challenges because the button is normally locked. If you miss it, you then get a rather mocking message after the fact (‘Oh no! You missed it!’). Why do they not give you a message when the free boost appears? Well, you know the answer. If you miss the free boost, you have to pay with a ‘Key’ to unlock it. To make sure you don’t miss it, you have to come back to the app at least once a day to check that. All part of the plan. Very clever.

How do you get the ‘Swaps’, ‘Fills’, and ‘Keys’?

Easy. Pay for them (buy a bundle) or earn them by participating in challenges. To re-iterate:

  • a free ‘fill’ every 3 challenges
  • a free ‘swap’ every 5 challenges
  • a free ‘key’ every 7 challenges

Or you win a challenge, but to win a challenge you really have to use up perks (mainly swaps, and one or two ‘keys’ to unlock the challenge and the ‘Boost’). And winning a challenge is not easy. I have tried and failed so far. And I have participated in a three-digit number of challenges (that’s a wild guess, but probably close to true).

Voting

To get the exposure-bonus meter from low to high, you have to vote for images, my highly scientific test process determined between 40 and 100 upvotes are needed. To give you one example for a 100 vote challenge: You start your voting session, the first 8 images are rubbish in your opinion. Then there is one you find acceptable, at least it complies with the challenge topic, so you vote for it. Congratulations, you have now moved your vote meter 1% (remember, you need 100 up-votes to get it to ‘high’). That example illustrates that you quickly want to do one of two things: just vote for every image, regardless of the quality or if it complies with the challenge rules. Or you hit the ‘Fill’ button and get instant relief, the meter jumps to ‘high’. That’s one reason why bad images can win, or at least get a lot more votes than they deserve. There is no incentive for the voter to only vote for the images you really like and are of high quality. Quite the opposite, you vote your potential rivals to victory and it might take ages to find 100 really good images in your voting session.

That is what I hate about the voting system, it favors quantity over quality.

I still try to only vote for great images. I use the enlarged (‘full-screen’) mode on a desktop computer with a color-calibrated monitor to judge the quality of the image (mainly sharpness in the right spots, but also halos and other imperfections). But as you have to vote for hundreds of images, the process is naturally flawed, as you have to decide very quickly on a vote or not. Subtle images that would grow on you if you take the time to study them don’t stand a chance if they don’t have the instant wow factor. Sad.

Voting-Power

An important part of the voting system is a concept called ‘Voting-Power’. As you climb the ladder up from ‘Newbie’ to ‘Guru’, you gain voting-power with each step. During a voting session, if a ‘Newbie’-ranked player votes for your image, you get one vote added. But if a ‘Master’ votes for your image, you get 8 votes added to your image. The system is designed to give higher-ranking players (like masters and gurus) more weight in determining the top images, under the assumption that the higher-ranking players are only voting for the high-quality images, therefore propelling the best images to the top of the ranking pile. I let you judge if that system works as intended. But you need to know that for winning a challenge in the top-vote category, you want as many high-ranking players as possible to vote for your images to gain the most amount of votes. For that, you want to know how these players act, when they vote, and how they vote. If you find out about that, you have an important part of a winning strategy.

Views

“Views” for your images are counted two ways, one is the overall amount of people looking at your single image over time, wherever it pops up. That could be someone looking at your profile, that generates a view. If you are competitive and participate in the challenges, you are more likely to be interested in the views generated during a challenge, and these views are counted separately, per challenge. So if people get your image on their voting screen to see, two counts are updated: the number of views you get for that image in the challenge, and the overall count of views for your image since it was uploaded.

You can’t really do much with that count alone, but you can use it in combination with other factors to get a feeling of how successful your image is, or when is a good time to enter images into competitions. Knowing the views (or better: how they increase and when) helps when you try to create a winning strategy for the game.

Vote-View Ratio

So you know about how ‘Views’ and ‘Votes’ come into play. But what can you do with it? Well, I think the most important thing is you can measure some sort of success of your image. Think about it for a minute. As per definition, all images in a challenge should have the same amount of ‘Views’ at the end of the challenge (some people say that is not true, but it is what we are told and I assume here that it is correct, for the sake of the argument). The winning image was able to get the most votes from these views, so the higher the vote/view ratio, the better the image performed in that challenge. The winning strategy needs to maximize the vote/view ratio for an image in a specific challenge.

The good thing about the ratio is you can calculate it for your images. The bad thing is, you have to calculate it, it is not visible as a ratio value, and it is not visible per challenge. So you have to make a note of your images ‘Views’ and ‘Votes’ when you enter them into a challenge and track that ratio throughout the challenge to get an idea about how good it is. Votes alone at the beginning of a challenge are not really telling you much, but if you know how many views you needed for the number of votes you got, you can judge if it is relatively well-received in that challenge or not. It takes some effort to keep track of that ratio, some people do it in the comments section of their images, some people keep spreadsheets or something similar updated to record the ratio over time and draw their conclusions using that data. Some people don’t care about it at all. I think it is vital to measure some sort of public vote success for your image. I found that my better-performing images all have a vote/view ratio of more than 2, which means that on average I get 2 or more votes per view on these images. Have a look at the winning images of the types of competitions you are interested in. I think most of them will have a ratio of more than 2.

For the guru picks, that ratio is not important. You can get a Guru’s Top Pick Win without a good vote/view ratio, so you can get to Guru rank without all that Jazz. Great!

Exposure Bonus Meter

The exposure meter is the most mystic thing in the Gurushot universe. I think. If you know exactly how it influences how much the exposure changes, and for how long, then you know a lot more about how your winning strategy has to look like. But that’s only my belief. Here is what I know.

Your ‘Exposure Bonus’ meter displays a gauge from low to high. If you vote (or use a fill), this meter goes slowly (or instantly if you use a fill) from low to high, see ‘Fills’ further up. But what does that mean for your ‘exposure’? And why and when does it go down again?

The higher the value of that meter, the more likely it is that a player gets to see your image in a voting session. Only if a player actually sees your image they can vote on it, so to maximize the vote/view ratio it is important to get the meter to the maximum value, but not necessarily all the time. That is part of your strategy: When do I vote to get the meter up? Do I keep it up? Do I use a ‘Fill’ or vote?

Even if the meter is on ‘low’, your image(s) will be displayed to other players, just not very often (in Facebook groups you will hear the term ‘ leaking’ for that). The only way to not show images to other players in a challenge is to not have it IN the challenge. Either by waiting to put it in, or by having it in, then swapping it out, and later swap it back in at the ‘right’ time. That is also part of game strategies, avoiding the leaking of image views. But I would regard this as fine-tuning.

As soon as your Exposure Bonus meter is higher than ‘low’, a timer reduces that value. So over the course of several hours, that meter goes from high to low. The rate at which it goes down is probably linked to the rate it goes up with one vote, and it is different for different challenge types. The longer a challenge lasts (days or weeks), the lower that ratio is. E.g. a short challenge might have a 2.5 ratio, which means you have to vote up 40 times to get the meter to 100% (high). A slower challenge might have a 1.67 ratio, which means you have to vote 60 times for an image to get the meter maximized. I think I had values between 40–100 votes to get the meter from low to high. You can’t see that value displayed in the User Interface of the web page, but you can count it when you vote. And if you are a web developer, you can see that value displayed in the JSON response of the get_vote_data request to the server. But is the knowledge of that ratio important? Not really, it just lets you know how much you need to vote to get to ‘high’. It is an interesting detail, not much more.

I don’t know if the reduction of the Exposure Bonus meter is reduced in a linear fashion or not, I would have to keep track of that, but I couldn’t bother so far. I also don’t know how high up you have to keep it to get what amount of views in what amount of time.

Well, there are a lot of things I do not know about how the Exposure Bonus Meter actually works, but I believe it is an important instrument to keep track of.

“Following” others, “Followers” and “Likes”

I don’t use these features much, but it is easy to explain. You can ‘Follow’ other people to see some of their activities. If other people choose to follow you, you have ‘Followers’. “Likes” can be awarded to images you see by clicking on the heart-shaped symbol on the upper right. These images appear then in your profile as “Likes”. This specific mechanic lets you collect images you want to have a look at later, and to see who entered them. It lets you see who entered them. Does that ring a bell? If you want to see during your voting session who entered a specific image, just ‘Like’ it, open your ‘Likes’ in another tab (to not lose your current voting screen), there you have the freshly liked image and you can click on it to review all the details. So much for anonymous voting. It takes not much effort to find out who the author of an image is. But some people write it on the image anyways (-> watermarks, see above), so the voting is not that anonymous as it should be.

Reporting System

During challenges, you might notice some images which violate certain rules. Gurushot provides some ways to report these offending images, but not all violations can be handled in-game.

The only way to report off-topic images is if you get an offending image during a voting session as part of your random image pool to vote on. If you later spot an image as off-topic (e.g. in the ranking screen), you do not have that option anymore. You might have different options, e.g. a ‘similar image’ option for a multi-image challenge to complain about a similar image from one player in the same challenge.

One example of how that is not ideal: One current image in the ‘droplet’ challenge has a high-voted image with bubbles, which look like droplets if you only look at it for a split second. But technically, that should have been removed from the competition as off-topic, but I can’t report it from the ranking screen.

You can contact Gurushots about any other violations via the ‘Contact’ link at the bottom of the website screen. You can then enter details of whatever you want to discuss with them, and it goes into a ticket system and you eventually get a response from a support person. That does not necessarily mean that you get your complaint resolved or actioned on, but at least it ends up somewhere in their system, and they can do something about it. I currently have a complaint open, as a recent challenge with the topic ‘Photo of the Day’ had heaps of images in there which were not uploaded in the 24 hours before the challenge as the challenge brief explicitly (and in bold) required. Instead, people chose to enter older images that had been entered in older competitions. Very unfortunate is the fact that the challenge host, the Guru, did not check their own challenge requirements for the guru picks, and selected a number of these older images for the Guru picks, and also the Winning ‘Guru’s Top Pick’ image. You can judge for yourself if the complaint system works or not by reviewing if the Winning ‘Guru’s Top Pick’ image of that competition is still an image that has been used in a competition that ended before the 21st January 2021. If that is still the case at the point in time you read this, then they chose to ignore the complaint and do nothing to correct the mistake. I have already sent a follow-up email to GS, but got no response so far (7th February), and no visible action on the outcome of that competition, so I think they chose to ignore that complaint.

That’s it for the first part, you should now be equipped with the basic knowledge of how Gurushot works for the most part. And you should know about all the important parts to piece together your strategy for winning, right? I wish you good luck with the game, some luck is required.

Keep in mind that Gurushots is a Game.

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