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12/17/2009 10:24:15 AM · #1
Y`know, its been bothering me for a while - I know its been bothering others for a while as well.

Go grab a coffee or something a bit stronger, this may take a little while.

Please bear in mind when reading this I type like I talk, fast and sometimes don't fully think things through in microscopic detail so there will be flaws in here. Also, ignore spelling and grammar issues.

PAST.
Dpchallenge is a great website. Its a great community, but for those of you who have `only` been here for 4 years or so guess what - it actually used to be better - a whole lot better in fact. It used to be friendlier, it used to have more `big hitters`, more people used to vote, more people used to comment, forums used to be alive with useful threads, not just "name the best photo above you...." blah blah blah. The whole feeling was very optimistic.

Why else was it better? Well, we used to have only one challenge a week. I know some of you may be aghast at that mind-numbing thought but it worked - why - because the community wasn`t being spread across so many threads & challenges - people didnt have to decide which challenge they would have to make the time to vote/comment on - as a result we had a far bigger feeling of togetherness. The build up to results day was always quite manic on the forums - and when the results were in it was great! - one big photo on the frontpage for a week (plus a few smaller ones, I can`t remember the layout exactly) it just `felt` better.

And the non-challenge chat in the forums was better as well, more constructive, more helpful - less sniping, less people starting topics just for the sake of it.

(OK, I know some of you will roll your eyes and think "here he goes again!")
The site council all actively enjoyed photography - they may of not been the greatest, but you felt they shared the love, passion and commitment that you did about your chosen hobby, they wasn't just there to be `enforcers` - they entered challenges regularly, I know I always checked to see how I measured up against them in the results.

The site owners seemed to share a passion for the site, they were on the forums a whole lot more telling us what plans they had for the future of the site - it was all very exciting and we all felt we was in it together, we felt our suggestions were taken seriously and sometimes you could see changes happen within weeks. It was a great time - when major upgrades did take place - the biggest being the ability to become a member by paying a subscription fee, it bashed the vibe slightly, but not much, I know I was rather annoyed about the editing rules being relaxed, but I grew to love it. Overall it was a great place to be.

PRESENT.

How are things now.. Well, and this is only my personal opinion - it aint that great. There are far too many challenges demanding votes and comments. There are far too many people who has lost their zeal for this hobby but stick around for the sake of it. Some are even here who have no real interest in photography at all. The owners of the site, Langdon and Drew (does Drew ever come here still at all?) just seem to be content to make a few tiny changes every 12 - 15 months and call it good. Suggestions about the website and how it can be improved seem to fall on dead ears.
If we complain about something the general feeling we all get from the SC and Owners is one of "the natives are restless again".. They say submit a ticket and thats generally the end of it.
Even when some people have a generally great idea (the leagues, or the Free Study Marathon) it has to be run under their own time. This is something the SC or Owners could look at implementing into the code of the site.. It surely cannot be that hard? I know a year or so ago I came up with the mentor/student idea and it was really well recieved, I know I had a great deal of success with one of my `students`. I suggested to Langdon that it would be a great idea to try an implement something in the site to run this. I heard nothing back.

The DPL (League)
The FSM (Freestudy Marathon)
The Mentor/Student program.

All things that would bring people together in a nicely competitive way that could surely be implemented with relative ease. If it takes more time/money then up the subscription fee by $5 a year - I doubt many will leave if you charge extra but include lots of new features - hell, you may even have more people sign up if they think they are getting more than an extra couple of forums and challenges per year for their money.

FUTURE.

First off, maybe Langdon could show us a roadmap of how he perceives DPChallenge to change over the next 2 years or so? If there is nothing in the pipeline then be upfront and tell us.

Next - Site Council - Refresh some of the members OR encourage them to start entering photos - seriously I know a LOT of people feel the same, its only some of us who actually vocalise it - its not a personality thing but it would be great if the perceived rule makers and enforcers are seen to be participating in what the site actually stands for - that is - Digital Photography Challenges - lead by example - enter photographs, vote on challenges, comment on entries. It would certainly gain you a lot more respect from a quiet majority of the userbase.

Community - encourage people to come together - reduce the number of challenges available, lets all compete in the same thing, lets all contribute to the same discussion on the challenge for that week, lets all vote for the same challenge, lets all comment on the same images. Setup an integrated league that can run. Not just a one off and let it stagnate - people are constantly requesting a league to be started again - show us you are listening!
FSM, talk to the guy running it now and see if it can be implemented into the site - it would be great to see a table - make it a major part of the site. Make it something you can drop into at any point in the year - just click a box next to your freestudy entry and you`re in!
Mentor/Student, again, surely something can be worked out here instead of just a thread we have to constantly edit. Add it to the site for paying members - it would encourage newer members to join.

Comments - we have a button that says "this comment was helpful" why not one that says "this was NOT helpful" - this would encourage people to leave meaningful comments instead of just "poor" "craptastic" etc. And while we are at it why not tally up peoples comments to give them a star rating - I cant work out the specifics of it here, but I am sure it would be easy enough to work something out.

Annual awards - why not an official annual awards recognising members such as

Best Photographer
Favourite Photographer
Most Helpful commenter
Most improved
Most inspiring
Most `Out of the box`
Best Landscapes/Portrait/Nature/Wedding/Macro Photographer

Again, we all make nominations and we all vote on those shortlisted. Again, it would bring the site together and would allow people to be recognised for their contributions to the site - the site could award official trophies that show on their profile page next to their ribbons. Its something for everyone to work for and would result in more helpful comments/votes etc. Maybe the site could award them with free memberships to use or giveaway.

SUMMARY

These are all ideas that have been floated in the past - I just think it time now for the owners to show their commitment to the site and start to expand it - I am sure many people will have a lot to say regarding this and ideas to add - I only ask is that we try to keep this on topic as much as possible and not let it descend into a rant.

I like being here, thats the reason I have typed this damn post - I just want to know that its going to get better again and give us the community back - the changes have to start at the top. I hope Drew/Langdon joins in with the discussion.

Merry Christmas to you all and lets hope a really exciting New Year at DPChallenge.

Message edited by author 2009-12-17 10:26:51.
12/17/2009 11:37:24 AM · #2
Good stuff Mark.

As one of those people that have "only" been here around 4 years, I can see the changes in at DPC, both good and some not so good.

The religion and politics discussions, while in the Rant section, still creates a lot of bad feelings between members, IMO. I don't think any minds have been changed as a result and the bitterness on both sides of a given issue comes through in spades.

I do think there is a lot of good stuff going on here. I love seeing first time ribbon winners on the front page. I remember my first ribbon, it's quite a thrill to be acknowledged by the group here. And while we've lost some good members for various reasons, there are still a lot of fine people very active on the site. I travel a lot in my job. I've met many DPCers with no more effort than "Hey, anyone want to go out in shoot in Singapore (or Norway, or Amsterdam, or Portland). Many of these people I've met I consider very close friends and have stayed in contact over the years. You can't put a price on that, but $25 per year is a bargain. hmmmm, come to think of it, the only one I tried to connect up with but couldn't was you while I was in the UK a couple of summers ago, but I digress. ;-)

I think most your ideas are great. I also think they could be implemented without the formal blessing of Langdon.

Look at the contribution Posthumous has made with his non-typical DPCish image awards. Man, I still want one of those. That wasn't here when I joined and it's spawned a lot of others giving out recognition for images that might otherwise be buried in challenge results.

I see many side challenges on several areas of photography. I think some people prefer those to the official challenges as they get more useful feedback.

I have mixed feelings on the DPL. I enjoyed the team work aspect of it, but I think it lead to scoring abuse at times. Still it was fun.

The FSM is fun, and SDW (I think) does a great job with it.

The annual awards would be cool too, but would probably be difficult to implement. Lots of coding behind something like that.

I'm not saying things can't be improved, but to say it was so much better in the "old days" is a matter of opinion. Plus, while maybe not at the pace you'd like, improvements are being made. The new PM system, new image sizes, rule enhancements, keyboard voting, challenge results navigation, photo search, top 10 statistics, storage increases, and more. All this from a guy who has a full time job and does this as a side line. For $25 per year we get a place to show case our work, sell prints, see how we measure up to other photographers, learn new stuff, meet others with the same interest, and rant on about how bad this site is.

Not a bad deal.

And, as for someone who's only been here less than 4 years, I've entered 269 challenges to your 67 in over 7 years. Enter some more challenges, win some more blue ribbons, and if Langdon can't keep up with you, try 1x.com and you'll get your love back for DPC in a hurry!

Peace, out.

ETA - typos and a correction

Message edited by author 2009-12-17 15:29:14.
12/17/2009 11:47:51 AM · #3
Originally posted by scarbrd:

... I'm not saying things can't be improved, but to say it was so much better in the "old days" is a matter of opinion. Plus, while maybe not at the pace you'd like, improvements are being made. The new PM system, new image sizes, rule enhancements, keyboard voting, challenge results navigation, photo search, top 10 statistics, storage increases, and more. All this from a guy who has a full time job and does this as a side line. For $25 per year we get a place to show case our work, sell prints, see how we measure up to other photographers, learn new stuff, meet others with the same interest, and rant on about how bad this site is.

Not a bad deal. ...

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12/17/2009 12:03:01 PM · #4
I agree there is lots of room for improvement. I do think that since there was a long period without improvement, that site activity has died down. If this were my site, I would be putting all my spare time into making improvements. The only problem is, I am not a programmer, nor do I know how much money this site brings in vs how long it takes to implement new changes.

I think all the points you have listed are valid. I would love to see them implemented.

There are efforts being made by numerous members to make this site better. In the end, the users of a site are what make it great. I am an advocate of "be the change you want to see". The more involved you get with the site, the more it pays you back. Perhaps if you started entering more often, voted more often, started your own side challenge, or created a process to which people could vote on the awards you have suggested, you might get more out of this site.

12/17/2009 12:11:34 PM · #5
Surely making valid suggestions to the site could be counted as trying to put a bit back - look if people are happy with the things the way they are they I have seriously misjduged the gerenal mood and vibe of the site.

The short list of things I outlined would be great if they could be implemented as part of the actual site - I doubt the awards thing would be that hard to implement and it would be a great addition. I am chucking these ideas out as they pop into my head - it would be great for paying members as they would be getting more for their money, Langdon could up the sub fees if he just implemented a few bits and pieces for members.

But I am willing to admit my wrong if the general tone of the replies comes back as "dont change anything the site is fine".

12/17/2009 12:28:11 PM · #6
' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Simms, as a long-time member of the site, has done a well-reasoned and careful evaluation.
I came a year later, and also have seen the site change over the years, as it must to stay alive.

I agree there were popular and exciting events and 'movements' that disappeared,
even though promises kept expectations of their return alive. I miss these programs and activities.

Yes, much has been done to DPC to make it more 'user-friendly' if not completely 'transparent
to the user.' And in its heyday, more Challenges were added. Now that things are quieter, the extra challenges remain.

I still come to the site every day, sometimes multiple times, but sometimes now with a feeling of vague
disappointment rather than the enthusiasm that was once the case.

So, I do hope ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/1.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/1.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Langdon, ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/31_N.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/31_N.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Drew, the Site Council members and the rest of us read ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Simms words carefully, and in the spirit in which I think he intends them.
12/17/2009 12:31:48 PM · #7
I haven't participated here for a while, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt:

I may or may not agree with some or all of your thoughts :) but I will say that your ideas to improve things are nothing more than your opinion. Many people hated the leagues, and complained that the mentoring was a form of cheating. I don't agree with either of my examples, but my point is ... if you ask 100 people to list 5 "improvements", you'll get 500 completely different suggestions. Then what?
12/17/2009 12:34:34 PM · #8
Originally posted by hopper:

but my point is ... if you ask 100 people to list 5 "improvements", you'll get 500 completely different suggestions. Then what?


Prioritize, lets face it if people can find 500 things that need improved that should point out that there are many "upgrades" that would enhance the site and therefore bring in more members right?

Matt AKA The sheep. LOL inside Joke with Simms.
12/17/2009 12:42:21 PM · #9
enhance the site according to who?

some like many challenges, some like less

some like leagues, some don't

surely we can't vote on everything ... and can't make people play nicer in the forums (you can, but not really)

I'm all for anything that will bring me back to the site. Some of my best ever shots were taken for challenges. I'm just not seeing a clear plan for "improvement". I know what I want, but who knows if that's what'll bring Arnit back ... see what I mean?
12/17/2009 12:48:11 PM · #10
Originally posted by MattO:

Originally posted by hopper:

but my point is ... if you ask 100 people to list 5 "improvements", you'll get 500 completely different suggestions. Then what?


Prioritize, lets face it if people can find 500 things that need improved that should point out that there are many "upgrades" that would enhance the site and therefore bring in more members right?

Matt AKA The sheep. LOL inside Joke with Simms.


Is more members worth the problems that brings? I really think what has changed is with the addition of so many newer members it gotten to be less friendly of a place. It used to be if someone posted an accomplishment (for themselves or someone else), most everyone had something nice to say, a happy birthday to add, congratulations, etc. Now, you're lucky if you even get a couple responses. No one knows who anyone is anymore (except multiple ribbon winner) and people can't be bothered to be nice to a nobody. Just my 2 cents, fwiw.

Message edited by author 2009-12-17 12:48:27.
12/17/2009 12:48:17 PM · #11
Originally posted by Simms:

The owners of the site, Langdon and Drew (does Drew ever come here still at all?) just seem to be content to make a few tiny changes every 12 - 15 months and call it good. Suggestions about the website and how it can be improved seem to fall on dead ears.

Umm... maybe you could rant about how the site never changes in a year when we DIDN'T make major rule adjustments, upgrade the server, introduce automated spam reports, a new messaging system, site statistics, increase the maximum entry dimensions, add an anti-swipe GIF overlay and start working on watermarks?

Originally posted by Simms:

The site council all actively enjoyed photography - they may of not been the greatest, but you felt they shared the love, passion and commitment that you did about your chosen hobby, they wasn't just there to be `enforcers` - they entered challenges regularly, I know I always checked to see how I measured up against them in the results.

All but two SC members have entered far more challenges (and in less time) than you. Six have current entries. Several more are very active behind the scenes, but they do contribute.
12/17/2009 12:48:23 PM · #12
Originally posted by hopper:

enhance the site according to who?

some like many challenges, some like less

some like leagues, some don't

surely we can't vote on everything ... and can't make people play nicer in the forums (you can, but not really)

I'm all for anything that will bring me back to the site. Some of my best ever shots were taken for challenges. I'm just not seeing a clear plan for "improvement". I know what I want, but who knows if that's what'll bring Arnit back ... see what I mean?


We can vote on anything we want, but doesn't mean things will change.

Perfect example for me to show you something I see as a huge problem of this site.

Go to the forums, grab the community page, take every conversation or thread off that list that has nothing to do with photography and move it to Personal life or rant...........tell me how much this site is about photography in the forums. It didn't used to be that way. There used to be real discussions by real people about photography, techniques, all sorts of things that actually related to photography. Now its rare that a thread starts, and when it does it goes off topic so quickly that it never ends in an actual discussion about photography anyway.

Matt
12/17/2009 12:50:30 PM · #13
Making suggestions on how to improve the site does have value. Although, making suggestions that you don't have to do the work on is a pretty easy task.

What isn't helpful is when someone makes a suggestion, gets a few people to agree, then they get all bent out of shape when it doesn't happen.

It would be helpful if Langdon shared with us his plans and vision for the site, but that's his poragative. Maybe he doesn't have a formal plan, maybe he does what he can when he can. I do know that this site is not all that profitable. $25 per year just isn't going to make anyone rich on a site that is sigularly focused on one topic. And seeing that you can participate in a very meaningful way for free, it really gets unprofitable.

How much would the current memebrship be willing to pay to see all these great ideas implemented? In my experience, the clammoring dies down once a price is attached.
12/17/2009 12:53:36 PM · #14
Originally posted by MattO:

Go to the forums, grab the community page, take every conversation or thread off that list that has nothing to do with photography and move it to Personal life or rant...........tell me how much this site is about photography in the forums.

Most of it. The majority of the current forums are about photos, GTGs, equipment, the challenges and the site.
12/17/2009 12:54:29 PM · #15
Originally posted by MattO:

Perfect example for me to show you something I see as a huge problem of this site.

Go to the forums, grab the community page, take every conversation or thread off that list that has nothing to do with photography and move it to Personal life or rant...........tell me how much this site is about photography in the forums. It didn't used to be that way. There used to be real discussions by real people about photography, techniques, all sorts of things that actually related to photography. Now its rare that a thread starts, and when it does it goes off topic so quickly that it never ends in an actual discussion about photography anyway.

Matt


That's what Doc and I are working at right now, trying to coordinate some grass-roots involvement in returning the site to its photographic roots. We have quite a few people involved in this, actually.

R.
12/17/2009 12:55:45 PM · #16
Originally posted by scarbrd:

Making suggestions on how to improve the site does have value. Although, making suggestions that you don't have to do the work on is a pretty easy task.

What isn't helpful is when someone makes a suggestion, gets a few people to agree, then they get all bent out of shape when it doesn't happen.

It would be helpful if Langdon shared with us his plans and vision for the site, but that's his poragative. Maybe he doesn't have a formal plan, maybe he does what he can when he can. I do know that this site is not all that profitable. $25 per year just isn't going to make anyone rich on a site that is sigularly focused on one topic. And seeing that you can participate in a very meaningful way for free, it really gets unprofitable.

How much would the current memebrship be willing to pay to see all these great ideas implemented? In my experience, the clammoring dies down once a price is attached.


I don't know the number of members there are but consider that for every 1000 members we are talking $25,000 in basic membership fees plus the additional space that some buy. Thats nothing to sneeze at.

Matt
12/17/2009 12:56:31 PM · #17
Originally posted by scalvert:

Originally posted by MattO:

Go to the forums, grab the community page, take every conversation or thread off that list that has nothing to do with photography and move it to Personal life or rant...........tell me how much this site is about photography in the forums.

Most of it. The majority of the current forums are about photos, GTGs, equipment, the challenges and the site.


Actually today it is, do that randomly as I have for the last few weeks while we have been discussing stuff through PM's and you will find it much different.

Matt
12/17/2009 01:02:19 PM · #18
Originally posted by MattO:

I don't know the number of members there are but consider that for every 1000 members we are talking $25,000 in basic membership fees plus the additional space that some buy. Thats nothing to sneeze at.

We had about 400 people buy memberships in 2009. No doubt a fair amount also let their memberships lapse (and a few were banned). The net result after ISP and equipment costs might be a small profit, but could very well be something to sneeze at. ;-)
12/17/2009 01:07:09 PM · #19
Originally posted by scalvert:

Originally posted by MattO:

I don't know the number of members there are but consider that for every 1000 members we are talking $25,000 in basic membership fees plus the additional space that some buy. Thats nothing to sneeze at.

We had about 400 people buy memberships in 2009. No doubt a fair amount also let their memberships lapse (and a few were banned). The net result after ISP and equipment costs might be a small profit, but could very well be something to sneeze at. ;-)


The directory currently lists 1963 members. Doesn't that mean that each of these people paid $25 within the last 365 days?
12/17/2009 01:18:23 PM · #20
Originally posted by DrAchoo:

The directory currently lists 1963 members. Doesn't that mean that each of these people paid $25 within the last 365 days?

Hmm... good point (not each of them, but most). I looked up people who had registered a membership in the past year, but it looks like that's new members exclusive of the old-timers (not just anyone who paid this year). It's not 1963 paying members, though. That figure includes current and past SC (free memberships), test accounts, and "retired" accounts for members who passed away. So if you figure 1900 or so people, that's $47,500 before expenses— a respectable number, but only a modest part time income for the admins. Nobody's getting rich here.
12/17/2009 01:27:26 PM · #21
I hear what Mark is saying and agree with most of what he has stated.I have seen a lot of changes here,especially within the forums. I think there are way too many challenges each week but whilst I understand the reasoning (too many entries for some people to vote on being the main problem) I dont agree with it. I hardly every enter challenges these days but that is not 100% down to this site, there are other reasons. I still enjoy visiting and seeing the amazing talent on this site, I have also met up with a few folks off here. I think this site is growing too fast and becoming too big.

Sometimes small is better, size does not always count :-)

Message edited by author 2009-12-17 13:28:14.
12/17/2009 01:31:38 PM · #22
Let's do some math. Let's assume it would take one full time person of Langdon's programming abilities to run this operation and continue to improve the site.

Suppose Langdon says,

"OK, I want to devote myself 100% to DPC. I am going to quit my job and implement all these great ideas people are suggesting. I am going to run this site like business and grow it be the best photo competition site on the planet."

But first, let's run some numbers.

According to Scalvert, there were 1900 paid memberships in 2009. At $25.00 each that's a total revenue of $47,500.00. Let's also assume that this number is the break even point for hosting, hardware, and other expenses associated with the site.

Langdon has to make a living. assuming he's a top notch programmer, he should be making around $100,000 to $125,000 per year. I know this because I run the web operations for a 10,000 employee company, and that's what I pay for good .NET programmers. So, let's say $100,000 salary to keep the numbers easy.

But, for a $100,000 employee my cost center is charged $150,000 due to benefits and other employee related expenses. With that as a base, let's say Langdon is willing to take a pay cut to be able to work for himself, create equity in a business, and grow the value of that business. So, he takes a 50% pay cut. With expenses, that means he has to pay himself $75,000 per year.

He would have to immediately bring in 3000 additional paying members at $25 per year, or raise the rate on the existing 1900 paying members to $65 per year. That would cover the current $47,500 in revenue and the $75,000 he would need to pay himself.

So, I ask the 1900 paying members of this site, would you be willing to pay $65 per year? And would Langdon be willing to take a 50% pay cut to make it happen?

Food for thought.
12/17/2009 01:33:40 PM · #23
Okay, well I've been around here for a year and a half, and I love the site the way it is... Sure, there is always room for improvement, the user star rating sounds like a great idea, and I'm still astonished that people are allowed to talk religion and politics in the forums, because that never ends well... But for the most part, I like everything about this site. Especially the multiple challenges, I like choice, and it works particularly well for those who don't vote in challenges that they enter... That way, if you enter one of the challenges, you can vote on the other.

All in all, I also like the way the site is run, the S.C. is fair, and they have made considerable improvements to this site. Most importantly, they care about the welfare of the site, which you won't find on most other sites. They too want the site to grow and improve.

As far as making a profit goes, I could care less... If Langdon made 10 million off this site each year, it would make ZERO difference to me because I'm only paying 25$ a year for knowledge that is priceless. I have learned so much from this site.

Lastly, the pace at which changes have been made is the right way to grow... If you rapidly change many things about the site, you may scare off allot of people who have become accustom to the way things are. There are many people who don't like change, and like to keep things simple. You have to grow over space and time, and I think this site has done a good job of that... So with that being said, keep up the good work, I for one, am a satisfied custom, and now that I'm done with school, am free to enter some challenges...
12/17/2009 01:48:02 PM · #24
Originally posted by scarbrd:



So, I ask the 1900 paying members of this site, would you be willing to pay $65 per year? And would Langdon be willing to take a 50% pay cut to make it happen?

Food for thought.


For what sits before me now? Hell no, I'm wondering if it's worth the $25 these days. But I currently pay $100 a year to another site for photojournalists, so it wouldn't be out of the realm of reality for people to do it.

Matt
12/17/2009 01:54:05 PM · #25
Probably the "how much money does this site generate?" question is not a helpful avenue for this thread to go down.
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