Portfolios, Galleries, and What People Want from NPN -- What Do We Know?

Portfolios, Galleries, and What People Want from NPN -- What Do We Know?
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(Wayne Jones) #1

A recent post under “General Discussion” deals with the fact that the disappearance of both Photoportfolios and personal galleries from NPN is a problem for some members. This post speaks to that, and to other reasons why amateur nature photographers join or leave NPN.

It appears that the “Gallery” section of NPN is now a collective gallery instead of individual personal galleries for each member. Some NPN members have expressed a desire for personal galleries that we had before on NPN (or perhaps an updated version of the old Photoportfolios). In the past, several members have told us in the discussion forums that NPN is their sole means to display their work online. This sends me the message that a significant number of amateur photographers become NPN members because NPN offers the complete package: image critiques; discussion boards; AND a place to showcase their work.

Because providing personal galleries or portfolios may be technically difficult and/or expensive, it has been suggested that members simply start using other Web sites to display their images. If they take that suggestion to continue in NPN, AND start using a separate Web site for image display, I wonder how many will end up drifting away from NPN? How large is the pool of people willing to spend the time, money and energy on multiple online photography platforms?

I suspect that MOST (not just many) photography enthusiasts have a full plate of other interests and time commitments. Does telling those NPN members and potential members to put their time, money and energy into other Web sites to display their work amount to a suggestion to just go away?

The answer is that we don’t really know; that would be mere speculation. For that matter, what do we really know about ANY of the reasons people join or leave NPN?

What FACTS do we have to guide NPN’s development of services to members? Do we have more than guesses, assumptions and speculation about these issues? Is there any data specific to NPN members to support any hypothesis about reasons for dwindling participation? I WONDER:

  1. Has anyone done exit surveys to determine why people leave NPN?

  2. Has anyone queried former members in an organized way to see what might entice them to return?

  3. Has anyone done a scientific survey of members to determine what features or potential features are most valued by them?

  4. Has anyone done a survey of potential NPN members to ask what they want in an online community for nature photographers? (Who would you survey – people suggested by members? Other lists for sale? If there were a way to reach out, would a longer free trial membership for survey participants get more replies?)

I don’t have the answers. I don’t even know if NPN is a hobby or a business, but if it requires a significant investment of time or money, market research would seem to be an absolutely necessary starting point.

New website thoughts
(Keith Bauer) #2

So at this point I think we’ve had 2 people ask about portfolios. I don’t see it as a high priority item. Creating your own website, or using a really simple solution like Flickr which takes zero effort to get started provides people with a place to have their own portfolio. I don’t think NPN was ever designed for, or intentioned to be a place for that. I’m not sure where the concept of The Photoportfolios.net site was, but if you want to do market research, find out how many members used it, and more importantly, how many kept it remotely current with new images.
I see NPN as a place to learn, to ask questions, and to share if desired via posting in the Galleries, rather than the critique forums.

If we try to make NPN everything to everyone, we all know how that will turn out. This new site is amazing to allow people to see the work of many different styles via the Latest and New options. I know I was in a mode of reviewing Avian and not venturing off to the other galleries often. Now I find I’m enjoying viewing images from all the options provided here with ease.

I’d rather see our energies spent working on the prime mission of NPN.

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(Mark Seaver) #3

I think there’s considerable value in being able to see the image posts from a particular member. That can be done now, but it takes a several clicks.

Go to a post by that member.
Click on their member icon.
When the pop-up window shows, click on their icon again.
At that point, click on Topics and you’ll see a list of their image posts.

That at least works for my 3 posts so far. I don’t know if it will still give only image posts if i start a discussion topic.

Yes, have the list of images posts show up with a single (or 2) clicks would be nice. The images are already here. Why make someone who’s not dedicated to selling images pay for a second site?

(Wayne Jones) #4

Thanks Keith, you make some good points, and I agree that this new site does have some really nice improvements (It sounds like you might have something to do with that – if so, congrats and thanks.). However, I don’t think you got my main point. My point is that, regardless of the “prime mission of NPN” market research – finding out what will attract and keep members – is a good idea.

I truly hope that the new changes in NPN will help in recruitment and retention. However, if some members indicate that a lost feature was valuable to them, I think it would be wise to listen and see if other current and even potential members consider that feature valuable too. Dismissing member suggestions as not in line with “the prime mission” may be dismissing an idea that could help NPN succeed.

The point I am trying to make goes way beyond any specific feature of NPN. Simply put: Get the FACTS and LISTEN to your constituents/members/customers when you plot the course of NPN. You can’t do that effectively by relying on mere personal experience and opinions. “In my opinion” too often means that you don’t really have any reliable facts to chart your course. If you are only looking at your compass without looking at your surroundings, you stand the risk of sailing into oblivion.

(David Kingham) #5

I would love to hear more opinions on this, so far I have received a total of 4 complaints that photoportfoilos.net is going away, not exactly a hot button issue. @Jim_Erhardt confirmed that this site has been dying for a long time and the galleries on the old NPN were meant to replace photoportfolios.

I would love to come up with some way to show all the photos a member has posted and I will be looking at ways to achieve this. It will likely require custom programming which I will look into as membership picks up, I absolutely want this to be a feature in the future.

I would tend to agree with Keith that this is a low priority item right now and my focus will be making the forums a great place for learning, sharing, and making friends online and through in-person meetups. My priority is community. Yes, it would be nice to have galleries for members, but it’s a matter of what area do I want to focus on? I would rather spend my time bringing in respected photographers to participate in discussion and critiques, to write articles, etc. Along with this, getting the community engaged with each other.

@Wayne_Jones I will be doing more market research, but since I am taking this over quite abruptly and it was in somewhat of a dying state, I have to go with my gut. At this point I have no reason to compete with flickr which is completely free and perfectly adequate to create a portfolio, it’s light years better than photoportfolios ever was. We may lose some members, it’s a fact of any change. But we are re-focusing on what I feel is the most important aspect of NPN, which is community. Have I done extensive studies, no, but I have listened to many respected members who have left over the years. The vast majority of engaged users would not leave because of a lack of portfolio feature, they will leave when the community dies.

I am absolutely listening to all feedback and will make changes where it’s financially viable, at this time I’m not hearing massive uproar that would make me shift course. Instead it is something that would be nice to have someday, but not at this moment in time.

2 Likes
(Igor Doncov) #6

True. But how many have stated they LIKE the idea of the personal gallery going away?

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(David Kingham) #7

There’s no doubt that people want some sort of personal gallery, even if that’s just going to their profile to see what they have posted, which you can do, you just don’t see a preview of the image right now. I’m not dismissing this by any means, I want to make it happen, but now is not the time. It’s time to rebuild the community first and make sure all other aspects of the site are running smoothly.

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(Igor Doncov) #8

You’re right. Bringing in these professional contributors is a great idea. I’m looking forward to seeing Charlotte Gibbs post here.

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(Lon Overacker) #9

I would agree with the sentiment that “community” is the overriding benefit to NPN. All the comments now, and over the years of how many folks have met, become friends and participate in photo trips, workshops and even get together beyond photography. So agree with David and others the priority should be resurrecting what was a waning community.

@Wayne_Jones research would be handy, but I suspect, and we’ve all discussed many times, that there are as many reasons why as there are members; members who have either not renewed their membership, or members who simply stop participating. I hadn’t posted since about May, but always “checked in.” My story is different than the next members. 12 and more years ago I was engaged, trying to sell my work, promote my work, make prints, etc., etc. It took a while for me, but I came to the realization that attempting to sell/promote your own work PART TIME, is not going to be successful. So I’m good with that and realized that photography for me is not about promotion or selling, it is, and has always been about the passion for being out there and creating pretty pictures. I love when I’m doing that.

Having said that, back in its inception and early days I think Photo Portfolios was a great feature; there weren’t the online options available back in the day. It WAS a means for folks to showcase their work and there was even the potential of some marketing and sales. But let’s be frank, Portfolios never kept up with technology - nor could it with all the marketing capital being spent around online portfolios and photo sharing sites. Portfolios quickly became archaic. I personally hadn’t added any images in like 6 or more years.

Now if there’s going to be considered a “Personal Gallery” which might be just an archival collection of images posted over time, perhaps organized in some way where thumbnails can be visible, that would be a nice feature. But to be clear Photo Portfolios does NOT equal Personal Gallery. An archive of images posted would have zero marketing intentions - ie. I wouldn’t expect NPN to promote my images in a marketing fashion. And would a personal gallery be members only? or public?

I think if folks want to market their work, there are plenty of places to do so. At least for near term, I’m all for bringing back the community. And I think we’re already seeing evidence of that!

Lastly, for me personally, I originally came to NPN to share my work and my passion with other like-minded folks; to participate, learn and help others become better photographers.

2 Likes
(Jim Erhardt) #10

Good conversation, and I’ll raise my hand to “yes” for a personal gallery feature. I think there is value to be able to see a small body of select work by a member. This is just a way for a member to showcase their work in sort of a non-commercial way.

At the same time, it seemed we always had a running tab with DtP (he wasn’t cheap, either) for site upgrades. And every time he got under the hood, one thing got added and three others were broken in the process. It wasn’t easy.

Site improvements should be thought through thoroughly (don’t those three words look cool used in succession like that?) so resources are used wisely. I think the PG feature qualifies as one and I’m glad to hear it’s on David’s wish list.

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(Keith Bauer) #11

I did not have anything to do with the new site and it’s massive improvements. All that credit goes to @David_Kingham and Jennifer.

I’m just thrilled to see this site now in the 21st century and am optimistic we can resurrect the community, continue to see photographers at every level post their images here and grow.

PS… That very cool quote block in this reply was created by the system. All I did was copy the text from Wayne’s message and paste it into this message…

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(Jim Erhardt) #12

Well, isn’t that handy - I like it!

(Paul Breitkreuz) #13

I might have missed in reading the previous comments beyond possibly Mark Seaver’s point about finding a certain participants posted images overall. I noticed that under the “Latest” list the main icon is changed each time a new person comments on an image to their given icon. Is there a way to retain the OP’s icon or their on line ID instead of or in addition to the way it works now?

(Keith Bauer) #14

Paul: I see what you’re referring to from the primary “home” page. If you click on “Latest” near the top, you’ll see a screen dedicated to the Latest activity. The first icon on the left is the original poster. I don’t know if there’s a way to customize the “home” screen Latest info.

(Preston Birdwell) #15

First, let me say I appreciate everyone’s feedback on this topic.

Last year, I posted a poll at the old site asking about PhotoPortfolios

Here are the results of the very unscientific poll:

Do you use PhotoPortfolios?..(4)
Would you like to see PhotoPortfolios Updated…(7)
If you have not used it, would you?..(3)

There were not many responses, so I can gather that for the majority of NPNers at that time, there was not much interest.

In my opinion. reviving Photoportfolios at this time would not be advantageous.

With regard to a Personal Gallery (PG), I think it would be very nice to have. If that gallery were created and public (for viewing only) a viewer could e-mail the member if they were interested in making a purchase (assuming this could be done in the Discourse software).

While the old Gallery of the Month, that was intimately connected to a PG, was a nice perk, there was never much response to it, i.e. very few comments in the General Discussion. So, I do not advocate its return, even if it could be done.

In my opinion, and given that our new site is only a few days old, I think we should concentrate on building our community and get the various galleries up and running before embarking on adding new features. Also, as @David_Kingham and @Jim_Erhardt have said, custom programming is costly. Personally, I would like to see available resources used to continue to build the NPN community.
-P

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(Paul Breitkreuz) #16

Keith, thank you for pointing that out. I was using the “Community > Categories” screen while then looking at the Latest listings. Your suggestion works just fine.

(Scott Bacon) #17

Having been a part of the early NPN days, I treasured the community created there (huge thanks to @Jim_Erhardt).

Instead of asking for features because they used to be there, we should evaluate what wants/needs/problems we want to solve. I believe what @David_Kingham has heard from many, many photographers is that we’re mostly missing an engaged community, honest critique and thoughtful discussions. So he’s invested himself and gathered a talented group to reinvigorate a previously successful community.

It seems like PhotoPortfolios and Personal Galleries were solving different problems, maybe serving a variety of needs for several user types, and maybe not particularly well (to no one’s blame). Defining the problem to be solved and for whom should be nailed down before designing and investing in a solution (software product and user research is my day job).

I, for one, appreciate the current focus on reinvigorating the community. Then, in the future, if there are other wants/needs/problems from users in our community, we can evaluate and possibly go after those solutions.

Just my 2 cents. :wink:

3 Likes
(Paul Breitkreuz) #18

I did notice that this page shows a link in the center of the page to “Log In”, however, it does not bring up the sign in dialog box. Just a heads up as item for review.
https://naturephotographers.network/members-only/#

(David Kingham) #19

Thank you Paul, all fixed up!

(Wayne Jones) #20

I was kind of sorry I mentioned portfolios and personal galleries when this started, but at least it seems to have got us all on the same page with David. Some kind of personal gallery may be desirable in the future, but there are more important things to do first.

Thanks to Preston for getting back to the real point I wanted to make in my original post. It was this question: "What People Want from NPN – What Do We Know? "
Then I said: “… market research would seem to be an absolutely necessary starting point.”

Opinions and guesses are plentiful and easy to get, but FACTS are absolutely necessary to make valid decisions that are responsive to public needs and desires. That is true for any successful enterprise that serves or relies on the public – including small, specific segments of the public – for sales, contributions, membership, votes, or any other kind of support. Successful businesses, NG0s and government agencies (not to mention politicians) know this. If your market research is inadequate, or if you misinterpret it or fail to go where it leads you, you have little chance of success.

NPN has limited resources, but that does not mean that market research is impossible, that’s why I asked my original four questions (Scroll up to the top to see the original post):

THANKS TO PRESTON for getting us back to those questions, and for his work to get the facts that NPN needs. Preston asked some excellent questions, and based on his results and other immediate NPN needs, I certainly agree with his conclusion that “reviving Photoportfolios at this time would not be advantageous.” As he pointed out, asking discussion forum participants for the answers is a “very unscientific poll,” but it’s a good example of looking for what we need more of – FACTS.

A discussion forum is a good way to get ideas, but if many members use only occasionally, it is not the best place to get quantitative answers. For some questions, current members may not even be the best population to ask. Consider this example. Your athletic club has pretty good facilities for different types of sports and exercise, including swimming. The swimming pool is small, but about half the members use it until it becomes too expensive to maintain, so it shuts down for most of the year. Most of the pool users quit and join another club with a good pool. After membership dwindles, the club is alarmed and wants to increase membership. To guide recruitment efforts, they conduct a survey of current members, and ask if the pool is important to them. When most of them say no, should that be a surprise? Is the current batch of non-swimmers and members who have the time and money to belong to two clubs the right audience so see what POTENTIAL NEW MEMBERS want? That’s obviously a vastly oversimplified example, but it does point out the importance of choosing the right population to survey when looking for reasons for people leaving.

Let’s put the gallery/portfolio question to bed. All I want to do is put in a plug for scientific market research to get the answers NPN needs to guide its development. It does not have to be huge and expensive. Just go about it with adequate planning and ask the right questions of the right people.

P.S. I just saw Scott’s post, also reinforcing agreement on David’s current course, and supporting solid needs assessment and planning. It’s really good to know that NPN will have so many people to help when the time for future development comes.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” ~ H. L. Mencken

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