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I'm taking inspiration from @xenoid's answer to Is there any hope for making this site about photography?:

Maybe the weekly contest is a wasted occasion? Instead of adding a picture as an answer to a question that most people don't see, how about posting the picture as a new question with a weekly-contest tag so that everyone can give their opinion? I learned a lot from reading comments about other people's pictures.

In this new method, every entry would be posted as a new question on the main site. Then, the winner would be the one posted that week with the most upvotes over that week. (We'd no longer have the "rolling" aspect. Or, if it turns out there aren't enough good entries, there could be a vote t threshold and if nothing beats that in a given week we could turn to older posts which have accumulated significant upvotes but did not yet win.) A Data Explorer query could be formulated to make it so the mods running the contest don't need to do a lot of manual tallying.

I know we've generally seen this kind of "not a question" critique to be problematic (see for example Can we re-open the door to something a little like photo critique? dating way back to 2012), but perhaps there's room for it within a special tag. We could make it clear in some way that questions in are special and answers are allowed to be feedback rather than proper answers. (Moderators, are there site features we could use for this?) Also as a deviation from normal practice, we could have each question title start with "Weekly Contest: ", in addition to the tag, in order to signal that these posts are different.

I believe the new site design allows us flexibility in aspect ratio, so we could lift that restriction while we're at it (and perhaps also allow entries to start at larger sizes). We could also look at doing the theme idea finally.

I believe that this approach will help build up a community of practice interested in thinking and talking about photography and photographs, not just camera gear and optical mechanics.

What do you all think?

  • Critique could happen in comments on existing answers but doesn't under the existing format. Perhaps we should feature the contest meta post as a starting idea and see if we get any critique going in comments on meta. – AJ Henderson Mar 19 at 11:57
  • @AJ Well, critique in the comments is specifically forbidden by the current rules. Comments also don't allow a very full range of expression. – mattdm Mar 19 at 14:21
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    rules for comments on meta are generally considerably different from on the main site. Yes, they are a bit more limited than answers, but I'm not sure how much critique they will really get and how much people who are posting to it really want critique. I guess maybe I don't see the connection between the contest and critiques and don't see them happening currently, so I'm not sure how much value altering main site policies would have. – AJ Henderson Mar 19 at 14:34
  • I should add, personally, I'd be more open to just opening up well founded critiques at will than specifically tying it to the photo contest. It just seems like an odd constraint. – AJ Henderson Mar 19 at 14:35
  • @AJ To me it's more like a first step / experiment than a constraint. It also is an immediate, active encouragement. We could post new rules opening up general critique and have no one show up. That said, would you be willing to draft some rules for critique we could discuss? (The previous thing we came up with isn't really working, obviously.) – mattdm Mar 19 at 14:45
  • For real though...I, you, anyone here can easily toss in a first photo to get this ball rolling. How.Do.We.Start.This? – Hueco Mar 21 at 19:17
  • @Hueco Let's draft new contest rules (possibly as an answer to this question, perhaps a new meta question). – mattdm Mar 21 at 19:46
  • @mattdm photo.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5885/… if I've missed something entirely, feel free to edit a-la wiki. – Hueco Mar 22 at 15:05
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I'm all for it as well. I remember reading a How to Critique by Jay Lance...is it possible to link this into each of these questions automatically? The worst thing that could happen is unhelpful answers and non-insightful "critiques" being posted. Does SE have the ability to auto add reminders of a sort to answers being posted under this tag?

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All for it. Maybe we will need guidelines for critique.

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I'm all for anything to freshen up the site, or at least the contest, including a weekly theme, or resetting the contest periodically. This specific suggestion I'm not too sure about though, for a number of reasons:

  • The winner of the contest may not want critique
  • We would be allowing critique, but only for the winner of a contest, so on a generally "good" photo, so we may end up with mostly compliments and not so much critique
  • Many, if not most, winners of the contests are no longer active on the site, with many photos entered 3-5 years ago (why a reset might be a good idea).
  • It seems like the critique would be open-ended and not focused without the photographer being able to suggest aspects of the photo they want critiqued

If we're going to allow critique, then I think we should allow it for those who actually want it, and I think it would be better if the OP gives us an idea of what aspect of the photo they want critiqued (just like we insist on what filter/effect is this? questions being narrowed to try to describe what the OP is looking for.

  • Actually, the suggestion as took it from @xenoid (and as I'm making it) would be to post all entries as questions on the main site, not just hte winner. – mattdm Mar 18 at 18:57
  • Oh, I think you're right. That fixes a few of the issues I saw, would only be current users. Still, why tie it to the contest? You can enter the contest or post for crtique, or both? – MikeW Mar 18 at 19:10
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    I think tying it to the contest is a good idea because it invites active, immediate participation in the exercise. If we just said "we do photo critique now!" we may find no one waiting on the other side of that door. And, also, the contest provides a reason to engage and stay involved even if a particular photo doesn't get any feedback right away. – mattdm Mar 19 at 14:54
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OK, let me explain my vision a bit.

One of my points in the answer/post that sparked this is that most people don't even know they could take better pictures. So my hope is that if there are enough discussions about photos, someone coming to PSE to enquire about a wine-proof camera bag could stumble upon a nearby discussion expounding how to make a landscape/portait combo a bit more pleasing by not centering the person in the shot, and so discover that photography discussion is not restricted to ISOs and pricey lenses and that good photography is not the prerogative of P.U.N.K.s (People Using Nice Kameras).

Consequently, we have to attract photos (and their authors) to discuss them. And the weekly contest will be the bait. Currently, to win the contest, you only need to post your photo. This isn't very ego-involving. If people like it, cool, you'll have your promised 10 minutes of fame, and it they don't, well, your picture disappears sight-unseen, and no-one will tell you that the HDR was overdone...

So, we are wasting plenty of occasions to discuss photos... and to fix that I suggest change the rules:

  • Authors make a post with the picture and a weekly-contest tag.
  • In the same posts they explain why they think their picture is good, and how it was made (could be sheer luck, or completely planned, or a bit of both), what kind of post-processing was done, if any, maybe even show intermediate versions, or miniature of other shots in the same series...
  • PSE participants can:
    • post answers stating what they like or don't like in the picture, and what they would have done to improve it. These answers can be upvoted/downvoted to show support.
    • upvote/downvote the OP (which is how the picture eventually gets selected). I would suggest to hold off on the vote until after a few answers have been posted. Upvote would not be uniquely on the artistic merit of the photo, a good explanation would also be taken in account.
  • Authors can update their initial post with relevant date/explanation
  • When the dust settles, the photo with the most upvotes goes to the POTW roster. Or the week's photo is the picture with the most upvotes that hasn't been shown yet (because we could have bursts of submissions...).

Of course the risk of being criticized could make some people refrain from entering the contest. But the posted pictures are likely to attract some reactions, and become rather active questions, so casual visitors are somewhat more likely to see them.

If everything goes well, to attract less secure people we could have a critique tag with more or less the same rules, but since authors would not be competing the comments could be a bit softer. . Or we could, from time to time, restrict the weekly contest to smartphone photos...

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