Peruse any designer news aggregate and sprinkled throughout the various articles on typography, new CSS tricks, peppered somewhere between working with the grid and another unsolicited iOS7 redesign, you're likely to find it: the post about why Dribbble is ineffective as a platform—at best, a glorified chest-beating and, at worst, a most gruesome indulgence of designer hubris and visual masturbation.
These kinds of posts are frequent and consistent. They bemoan the crashing down of their "Dribbble Dream". What they thought the community would offer them and what it ultimately failed to give back. They invalidate the platform based on their unfulfilled expectations of what this sort of community could and should be; a broken system that favors copycats, opportunists, and gluttonous design hedonists.
There are complaints about why follower counts mean nothing and, it's true, in a lot of ways, they don't. There are cries that some people remain largely unrecognized on Dribbble while others are almost worshipped and yet these authors are choosing to write about why Dribbble is broken, rather than perhaps write about someone's work they've seen on Dribbble that could stand to get the attention it deserves. Instead, these articles often feel opportunistic themselves—capitalizing on the number of users that have felt Dribbble to be an ineffective platform for themselves. And, yes, maybe it was.
Does the number of followers ensure the quality of content? No, of course not. I don't think anyone would even begin to make that claim. But the same goes for Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and nearly any platform that has follower functionality. The fact is, so much in design and so much in art is subjective. There are works of literature and films that are more digestible en masse. But I'd argue that their digestibility doesn't necessarily invalidate them.
Calling an entire platform "rigged" or "bullshit" is a broad, sweeping accusation that points the proposed problem at nothing more than the building that houses the community. How can Dribbble be to blame if what it's doing is merely allowing you to publish work with unlimited circulation and free of corporate distribution? If you're suggesting that the validation of shallow or hollow design is at fault, really, what you're implying is that the very people that co-labor in this environment are at to be held responsible. That their "liking", their "sharing" or "retweeting" is to blame. But these things lie in the camp of subjectivity.
Are poor design decisions celebrated? Sometimes. You can't always know why or how something affects an individual's perspective. We all react to art in a number of radically different ways—from gleeful awe to disdain. In truth, maybe you can steer people towards being more contextually sensitive, but that decision lies with the individual. Moreover, you can't know the entire story in which these "shots" exist. Saying that something is purely playing the Dribbble game is easy to accuse, near impossible to prove. That's not meant to be enabling to those that are making things for the sake of Likes, but it is to say that I'm not the one who can make that call for others—and neither are you.
In truth, you can argue the merit of art vs. design—wherein art exists as a communicative, experiential application, while design, being both experiential as well as communicative, seeks to solve problems and places communication at the forefront of the experience. Dribbble is neither exclusively design nor exclusively art. I'd also suggest that those lines get blurred quite frequently. Experimental design and working towards alternative processes isn't any less merited design but it does satisfy a good deal of the qualities associated with "art". Without a client or a confining creative brief, the designer is free to build out hypothetical products to his or her liking. Whether or not that designer chooses to make critical UX conclusions to either hamper or glorify that particular experience is up to the individual. An argument can be made about why making those decisions are anything but superfluous and I'm of that same mind in terms of challenging yourself to grow, but ultimately, making decisions that fall far from the typical creative brief does anything but invalidate Dribbble as a community.
I've seen people claiming they're unable to publish work to Dribbble and thus at a severe disadvantage due to NDA's. To them, I would say that perhaps that's why a lot of people put up work that isn't for any one specific client. I'm not allowed to share a great deal of my work, myself. But that doesn't stop me from taking the time to work on projects on the side for the sake of releasing new work that I can challenge myself on or to experiment with techniques that my current clients aren't asking for. In the same way, if you're not able to share most of your work, you will be at a disadvantage by not being able to release new pieces. The burden of choice lies on you in that case: Create more work. Stuff you're not getting paid to do.
Please, if nothing else, understand this: Your complaints, your frustrations, your unfulfilled expectations—they're valid, to some extent. But what you've entered into is a community. And community is hard. It's difficult, it's messy, it's oftentimes ineffective. It can feel isolating. You can feel worn down, burnt out, and insignificant amidst the din of so many echoes. Dribbble is a community that has existed for some time. These wheels have been spinning and it's oftentimes difficult to enter in to that without it feeling like you're walking into some sort of club where exclusivity reigns supreme. Don't let that deter you from putting out your best work.
There's a time to be frustrated and even a time to lick our wounds and get back up. There's a time to be critical and maybe even call people out on things. But don't let that invalidate an entire community of people.
Dribbble once wore the tag "What are you working on?". The original concept was for it to be a place to share in-progress designs from concept to execution to completion. Things changed as the community changed. It's now labeled as "Show & Tell for Designers" which is a lot more broad. And I think, for that, we should be grateful. Dribbble is, essentially, what you make of it. Maybe you're an illustrator and you really want to get into UI design. Dedicate your Dribbble account to pioneering into that unknown and use your website to show off your illustrations. Or perhaps you just use Dribbble to be a part of the community, be inspired and ask questions to other designers in a public format where you can learn more about techniques and thought processes. The possibilities are enormous.
So make something of it you'd be proud of.