POLL: Should Critiques be Public or Private (Part 2)

Hello @members, after the last poll we had some really good discussions and ideas thrown around. I quickly realized that my poll and proposed changes had too many variables that affected the outcome. I would like to give this another go!

The primary question is whether critiques should be viewable to the public or not. Currently they are not, you have to be a member or in the 30 day trial to see the critiques at all. The question is not should the site be free and open to the public for posting, it is simply whether the critique forums can be viewed by a non-registered user. A membership would still be required to post or reply.

One issue that came up in the last discussion was the barrier of having the 30 day trial require a credit card and set to auto-renew. I have changed this, and now people can sign up for the trial with no credit card, they just can’t access the new upcoming member discount section.

With that said, here is the big question with further explanations below:

  • Keep the critiques section private and work on promoting what value the critique forums provide
  • Keep the critiques private and make the trial longer while also promoting the value
  • Make critiques public and combine critiques and galleries
  • Make critiques public and leave critiques and galleries separate
  • No opinion

0 voters

Notes about each option:

Keep them private

There were a couple reasons this came up in the first place. One being that images cannot be shared with non-members, the other being that seeing the critiques could lead to more members signing up because they will see the value they provide.

The issue of sharing can only be fixed by making them public. The issue of seeing the value is largely taken care of by the free trial and could be taken further with critique examples, testimonials, a clear mission statement, etc. There was some discussion of having a longer trial period so I added that as an option as well.

Make critiques public

If we make critiques public everything will be visible, but non-members cannot post or reply. This has the benefit of non-members being able to read the awesome critiques on NPN and inspire them to join. It will also have the negative effect of having a bunch of lurkers who only read the critiques, learn from them and never sign up.

My original reasoning for making the critiques private when I took over NPN was that some members would be more willing to share their ‘unfinished’ works in a private area, and/or be willing to be critiqued in the first place.

Merging Critiques and Galleries

I mistakenly combined this option with the private/public option. I assumed everyone did not like the duplicate sections to post images, but I may be wrong about that. It seems many have become accustomed to looking at the critiques section and knowing for sure that everything there is open for critique. Below is a very simple mock-up of what it would look like if we combined the sections and used tags to delineate if an image should be critiqued or not. Over time you would get used to seeing the tag and knowing if it should be critiqued or not. You can also filter by these tags to only see images that should be critiqued. To merge the categories we would have to make critiques public as security is controlled by category, not by tags.


Along the same lines, the question came up of whether the discussions category should be public or private, currently it is public. There have been some great conversations going on in here and some feel this shouldn’t be open for everyone to read. I can see some validity in this as we have some pros sharing very valuable information, but I’m not sure if this is what makes NPN unique necessarily. There are a plethora of sites where similar discussions occur that are open to everyone. Another downfall of this is that it would hurt our SEO so less people would find us through google, etc.

  • Keep discussions public
  • Make discussions private

0 voters

I want to be transparent and get feedback from members when making these big decisions, ultimately I have to decide what is right moving forward, but I love the ideas that have come out of this discussion. Please voice your opinions, but let’s keep it on topic.

What about the suggestion of having a “Critique of the Week?” Or some compromise there, offering some example critiques for the public for incentive to join? Short of that, I don’t support giving away the core of NPN membership - the critiques.


David, Would you consider sending a message to everyone, like was done with the yearly EP’s, so we can get a truly representative sample of a larger portion of members?
These are important potential changes, and as many votes as possible should be gathered.
Most people don’t even go to the Discussion Forums, and this is important data to collect.

I confess a slight change of heart, but one which could have a big impact on NPN over the long term. It also could put an onus on the moderators for continued great service and vigilance.

I’ve approached a number of friends encouraging them to become members. Sure, the photos in the gallleries are beautiful, but there’s a bigger point: Critiques are constructive and supportive with no flaming and popularity contests allowed.

That’s a big deal to the folks I’ve talked to, but when they visit the site they can’t see that for themselves. They simply have to take my word for it. If viewing the critiques were possible for visitors while comments were restricted to members, I think NPN would be furthering their good rep while encouraging new membership.


I’m sure that there are completely mixed opinions on these topics and no “best” answer. In my view, if all images and critiques are open to the public, there’s no incentive to join, if learning is your goal. If showing off your images is the driver, there are other sites with many more posters, so again there’s no incentive to join.

I would like to second (or third, or fourth, :grin:) the idea of being able to see all posts in the last 24 hours with a single click, but recognize that the software may make that difficult or impossible.

I think the 30 day trial is just right. That lets people see how the critique galleries work and evaluate critiques without making them pay.

When it comes to discussions, I’m thinking that there may be some discussions with detailed technical advice that someone might want to keep private. However, most discussions don’t need to be kept private, since in many cases, the same information is available from multiple websites.


I like the idea of critiques being a major “Value-Add” for membership.
That was a major factor in subscribing for me.


For me, the Trial period (make it 60 days even!) without ANY strings, no CC required, etc., I think solves the public vs. private critiques/comments.

To Hank’s comment, the free Trial accomplishes that. At the same time doesn’t give away the “value” from the paying members. I don’t disagree that the critiques/comments are a huge draw… however, IMHO, making it available to anyone for free simply diminishes - or eliminates the value, incentive, etc. for paying members. So by having the free trial where the public can view comments/critiques… still protects the value to members, but limiting the number of days a non-paying member can see the critiques. So Hank, in your example, your friends don’t need to take your word for it - they simply sign up for the no-obligation Trial and can see for themselves.

One other comment that kinda gets lost. What is the real and complete “value” of the critique? At least here at NPN, it’s not merely offering an opinion or critique about composition, impact, technique, etc. It’s much more than that. What about all the times an image gets reworked by members, who then specifically provide techniques on how to accomplish something in PS? These aren’t just critiques of images. The comments provided are many times mini tutorials, best practices, tips-n-tricks - links to other resources, etc. etc. There is so much more to the “critique” - at least how it’s been at NPN for a long time.
All I’m saying is to keep that “value” in mind when deciding whether or not it should remain a paid-for benefit (including a Trial) or given away to the public.


Well said Hank. That is, and has been, the hallmark of NPN.


It’s quite possible I’m mis-interpreting this, but I see a BIG difference between having anyone read general critiques without joining (“for free”) , and getting their OWN work specifically critiqued which would require membership.
I see these as directly related with being able to read GENERAL critiques LEADING to joining to get full benefit.

That’s why I joined 15 yrs ago, after lurking for a very few weeks. I wanted specific comments and suggestions on MY particular images.



Lon, very insightful thinking about the meaning of critique. As usual, you are right on the money, the value of NPN Critique is much more than you might think at first glance. This extent of critique rarely happens on a regular basis at any place else that I am familiar with.

I do too, or I wouldn’t have supported public viewing. But the majority don’t see it that way, and I respect that. In the end I believe we’ll end up with what’s best. We’ll try it one way and if it doesn’t work we’ll do it the other way.

I still lean toward making critiques visible, though I’m aware it may not make business sense. To quote the man whose birthday we’re celebrating: " Darkness does not drive out darkness, only light does that.". If we’re really about learning, we should not hesitate to share and trust that concience will prevail.

These tweaks are nice but the biggest problem with the site is like all sites like this…
Not many participate.
I am not sure what anyone can do about that but it is the biggest problem.
People post for awhile, get little response and quit…
All the tweaks don’t really address this and I have no idea what you can do.
I try to comment and critique and I was hopeful when this “new” site started, but it is going down the same road, a few people do all the critiques and photographers just drop photos for views and nothing else…
After a while, it just does not get enough posts…

I feel like opening up everything is like magazines and newspapers who publish it all online for free and then wonder why no one ever subscribes. It’s fine but I believe would require a different business model.


The elephant in the room @Dan_Kearl

I think you’ve got a point there. If membership has tripled then there should be 3 times the comments. But the number of comments per image has stayed largely the same, perhaps a small increase of about 25% (landscape critique forum). Don’t know what to make of that.

This has come up numerous times over the years. I suggested things like a posted image in any category will not surface until that OP has commented on 5 images. Another thought is to show in large size characters the members CP ratio.

However, this ALWAYS leads to the point they will ONLY comment “Nice Image” to beat the system.

Better ideas maybe out there ???

Coercing members to do what they don’t want to do will only backfire. The best solution is the current direction of increasing membership. It’s like starting a fire. You keep adding wood until the small flame bursts into a fire. Just my opinion. (that’s why public viewing was so important)

While this is an important topic, let’s please keep on topic of whether critiques should be private or public. Thanks guys!

Back to the topic: I don’t understand how one would “promote the value of critiques” without opening the critiques for people to see!
This is probably too complicated to set it up, but - if members want to keep critiques hidden - maybe a trial membership could include 1-2 “free” “example” critiques on an image of their choice.
That would require members to be dedicated to giving more in-depth critiques. Maybe a varying volunteer group of 10 could do a month at a time.
Just another thought…