A picture can be worth 2,678 votes

Update (09/28/08): The links in this original column no longer work. I suppose that just goes to show how fast stuff becomes obsolete online!

Everyone likes pictures: taking pictures, posing for pictures, ripping up pictures of exes.

Now that I said that, you're probably thinking you're one of those people who cannot stand getting your picture taken.

It all started that year your mother made you pose for a photo with Santa. The trauma still haunts you to this day, seeing that beard dangling by a single cotton ball on the left side of Santa's face.

Instead of remembering the bad, here's a way to redeem yourself -- find your best picture and have other people vote on you.

It's a simple thing to do on the Internet these days, as many rank-the-picture sites have sprouted up and become instant traffic drivers.

A friend sent me one site -- RUHOTORNOT.com about three weeks ago. He said he and co-workers were mesmerized at how easy it was to vote for random people, on a scale of 1-10. Kurt Leinbach, the president of RUHOTORNOT.com, said they are still adding things such as top 100 lists and using multiple pictures for each account, but the site is already receiving thousands of visitors a day.

Much of this is already being done at bangable.com . You can view top 10 lists and even talk with other members in the forums. Although the name doesn't suggest it, people at the site go through the pictures and remove pornographic material that people submit.

By now, you're probably wondering, "What would happen if I mixed plant food into my chocolate milk?" You may also be wondering just what would possess people to place photos of themselves on a site for people to rank just as Olympic officials rate divers, only without large index cards.

I was able to e-mail a few of the top-ranked people at bangable.com, and the results varied. Chance had her picture added by a friend while she was on vacation; Scott added his picture after a breakup with his girlfriend; Tom and Jenn posted pictures just to see what other people thought of them. I'm sure there are a million reasons for uploading a picture, possibly even because you are still out to get Santa Claus. Those who have pictures that are viewable are probably hoping to make the top 10 list, or at least come away with a consolation prize.

After awhile, though, you begin to wonder the validity of the voting and pictures. Chance suspects many of the photos are already circulating on other sites and the information is fictional. I sent messages to five of the top males and females on bangable.com and can assume only that those who didn't respond were either fake or stirred in too much plant food.

I added my picture for fun on the sites , too. The picture was 2 years old, but I haven't changed that much. It's not like I used my eighth-grade picture, during the O.G.-Fat Era. I wasn't very happy with my ratings on RUHOTORNOT.com or bangable.com, but on rankpeople.com , I fared a lot better.

If you decide to add your picture, you shouldn't worry about how people rate you. I suspect many people actually go through and rate themselves high and others low, just so they can make the leaderboard. You would think they'd have something better to do, like mending fake beards.

There are also many more male viewers in search of female pictures. Duh! To test this, I added my photo and a photo of a lady at work. A week later, I had 176 votes, while she had 2,204 votes. She almost had as many '10' votes as I had votes!

The amazing thing is, no one is trying to sell you anything at these sites. No one really expects much, other than honesty, which only occasionally happens. Web flattery may not be the best way to get an ego boost, but at least you can do it without leaving your home. Plus you can avoid another confrontation with Santa ... unless he, too, insists on making the top 10 list.