POLL: Should Critiques Be Public or Private?

There has been much discussion over whether we need the separate gallery/critique sections. On the old NPN everything was open for critique and the critiques were visible to everyone, including non-registered members.

On the new site we have them separated in order to keep critiques private, the thought process was that people would be more likely to share their incomplete images that they want honest feedback on.

This was a test and I am completely willing to change it if the members think this is the right way to go. I also found a way around a major technical limitation that was preventing me from even entertaining this idea. Let’s hear your opinions! There are pros and cons to each which I have listed below the poll.

  • Keep critiques private
  • Make critiques public for viewing (not commenting)

0 voters

Keeping critiques private


  • Members more likely to share images if they are private (questionable)
  • Less lurkers hanging around only reading the critiques and not participating


  • Confusing having two different sections with the same categories
  • Cannot share images with non-members
  • Non-members cannot see the critques which is a big reason for them to sign up (but there is a 30 day trial)

Making critiques public (only to view, not comment)


  • Simplifies posting having only one category
  • Can share with non-members
  • Non members can read critiques


  • Critiques and Galleries will be in one category so you have to pay close attention on whether the poster wants feedback or not (there would be a tag that is required to add to critique or not-critique). You could still organize by critique vs. non critique using the tags.
  • Non members can read critiques - a con as well because many will just come to read and never sign up
  • The text that appears below images that instructs whether you should critique or not would have to go away because this is category specific. You would have to rely on the tag on whether to critique or not.

Changes that would be made:

  • Categories would be merged from gallery/critique, new category heading would be called ‘Image Critiques and Gallery’ with sub categories of just the name (Avian, Wildlife, etc.)
  • A new tag would be added for critique / not-critique
  • 30 day trial would go away since everything is open to the public now

Comments welcome!

It’s peaceful now, and I hate to do it, but I’ll forecast they won’t stay peaceful long if they go public.

I should clarify that by public I mean they will be visible to the public, only members would be able to comment.

Thanks for opening up for a vote and discussion.

Pay to play - Members have moved heaven and earth to make their images. Cirques contain wisdom, knowledge, about experiences that are garnered thru life long work. Folks here have gone the distance and will Joe Q. Public have any respect for that ?

NPN already provides someone interested in a 30 day trial, that’s their entrance to see what goes on here… Have them sign up first, then perhaps you’ll have better chance of growing NPN…giving away member content for free is a bad businessman’s proposition.

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I really like the idea that visitors are able to view but not comment, however they would still have the advantage of reading critiques, which seems to me could be incentive for such visitors who are knowledgeable to join this creative outlet. After all, these days those who don’t shoot pictures are few and far between, and most would surely benefit from this wonderful proactive learning experience. I LOVE the idea of having more active participants. I personally remember fifteen years ago when we had far more folks commenting on our images. I miss those days.


There is a definite benefit from viewing images and the critiques. A form of photographic CE that is realized whether one posts their own images or not. This should be a perk of membership. If increased membership is a priority, a 30 day etc. free trial would be preferable to opening the entire site to non-paying public.

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I believe this was very sound and correct reasoning at the time and remains a very significant benefit for members. I feel by giving this benefit freely to the public it is a greater disincentive for new members to join. The current free 30 day trial should give anyone who is serious about joining a good chance to participate in the critique portions of the site and make a decision to join or not.
I think the big question is, will there be enough reason to join if you get the benefit of learning freely from lurking and reading the critiques of others? For the vast majority I think lurking will be the choice.
How many current members will not offer critiques if the general public is viewing?


Providing and receiving critiques was my incentive to join. If we give that away for free there’s less incentive to join for those that value that unique aspect of this forum.


As stated during my initial proposal: making critique viewing public should increase membership. Hopefully. Don’t know the state of current membership. The ability to download images for critiquing has dramatically improved the quality of critiques over NPN 1.0. These richer critiques should bring in more members.

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I just wanted to add that I don’t think the discussion forums should be open for public viewing: site discussion (obviously), but also printing recommendations, cameras, lenses, publications, etc. I would only open the photo comments for public viewing.

If we made the critiques viewable to the public a non-member would not be able to give critiques or receive critiques on their photos, only view critiques of others. I’m not trying to sway this decision one way or the other, I just want to make sure it’s clear what would be changing if we did this.

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This alone leads me to support things as they are. While I privately think it’s silly to have different critique and non-critique galleries. Having one gallery where a member now has to distinguish between able to offer a critique or not, based on “tags???” At least the current system it’s quite clear where critiques are ok, and where they are not.

If you want to retain the critique, and non-critique galleries and two separate entities - and then make them both visible to the public, that could be fine. Combining in to one gallery and having to make the individual remember what to critique and what not to critique, IMHO, would be a step backwards.


My personal position is to keep critiques private. I post partially complete images for critique not finished images. I’d much prefer a work in progress not to be open to the internet


This “one gallery” issue alone is a deal killer for me. It would be a very confusing system. If this was the only choice, I would much rather keep things the way are currently instead.

To me the most valuable thing about NPN are the thoughtful comments and interaction in the Critique sections. This aspect of NPN makes it unique, and sets us apart from other photo sharing websites, and social media. There is real substance here, and not just sizzle. This value is created by NPN fostering a philosophy that attracts members interested in this approach. I’m afraid that by making Critique public, it will create a disincentive for people to join, and more importantly, to participate. We don’t need lurkers, we need members who are actively engaged. The discussion forums, and the Gallery sections are all needed to round out the NPN experience. But frankly these things are not all that different than can be found at other websites, they do not differentiate NPN. The articles have been high quality and their content has helped foster the NPN philosophy of a more thoughtful approach to nature photography, so like the Critique section, I think they help differentiate NPN.

I think the Critique Sections work fine currently, other than maybe needing more members posting. This is the true value of NPN, please don’t give it away for free. If NPN has tripled paid membership since September, something is obviously working here, just give this more time to add members before radically altering the approach. Eventually NPN has to “pay the bills”, but I would rather pay a higher annual fee than see a radical change in approach, or other things like heavy advertising.

To me personally, the one element that makes me pause is the “Gallery” concept. I liked the idea of it back in September, and thought there was a place for it. At least in “Landscape” where I post, people seem to be “voting with their feet”, and traffic appears to be higher in Critique vs. Gallery. Gallery also has an unfortunate aspect where some images that are not of high quality draw few or no comments. I find some Gallery images where there are missed opportunities for constructive criticism and teaching. And even on good quality images in Gallery, I sometimes find myself struggling with making comments that aren’t just 'attaboys".

With all that said, I still think Gallery has value, if members would just put more effort into posting and commenting there. If one concludes that Critique should be “protected” and remain private, then Gallery is still one of the best publicly visible aspects of NPN, so you can’t just get rid of it. I think we should be focusing on thinking about how we can make Gallery better, rather than merging it in with Critique.

I spent 20 years of my career as a financial executive at a Fortune 500 membership based Wholesale Club similar to (but not) Costco. Over 90% of our profits came from membership fees. We focused everything on membership, including ways to provide value to members so they would have incentive to join, and more importantly, to renew as paid members. By far the most effective mechanism to attract new paid members was to offer a 30 free trial membership. I think NPN does offer value, and that we need to have some patience in letting the member base grow before considering significant change.

I think we should be trying to promote NPN and the 30 day free trial. But I also think those of us who are already invested in NPN can add to it’s value by participating more frequently and thoughtfully, both in Critique AND Gallery.


Just brainstorming, but if users being able to tag images as critique/non-critique is an option, what about offering an option in the critique galleries of tagging images public/private? Public images and their critiques could be read by anyone and private images and critiques could be viewed by members only.


I would agree with Lon that the separate galleries for critique and non is working (despite the hassle as a moderator to go through different galleries for the picks). Having just a tag for critique/not-critique would probably lead to critiques when people don’t want them and upset folks departing. Tony’s idea for tagging for those who want to stay private in the critique area is a good one, if it is feasible.

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Great comment in general Ed. I agree with just about everything you said. You brought up a point here that hasn’t really been discussed. It’s mostly all about getting new membership. That is obviously important. But it’s just as important, perhaps more so, to retain membership. If the attrition rate of renewal gets too high, you need more and more members to make up for the loses.

Many members here have zero financial incentive OR risk here. I have no financial gain, and It costs me nothing (but time on a clock) to participate here. And in another business related theme, it’s about value vs. volume. Of course you need a balance of both. Without volume, you have no revenue, no growth of the business. Without value, you have no repeat customers. (geez, I should go in to business!)

You can’t grow a business remaining static. The challenge will be growing the business (more members) while keeping valuable customers.

You raise an important point Lon. From my career experience in a membership based business, I will say several things,

  1. In the long run, I found renewal rates of existing members are way more important than signing up new members. Unless NPN is currently in a financial situation that cries out for more new members immediately, I would urge some more patience to give this model time to grow before making significant changes in format. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider some tweaks now, but the “one vs. two” gallery concept is a pretty fundamental change from the change in course that clearly added some vitality to NPN in September 2018.

  2. Ultimately the rate of new and renewed membership will be COMPLETELY dependent on the perceived value of benefits received from paying for a membership. Throwing the doors open to a lot of lurkers (who are thus less likely to pay to join and add their own participation and value), in the hopes of getting a percetage of them to join, is in my opinion a risky course. We may ultimately need to go there, but i think it is too soon to make that choice. I think we owe the unique model of NPN some more thought about helpful tweaks before we go there. However I do agree that staying static without regard for how it affects perceived value of membership is a losing proposition.

  3. To me personally, the real value to NPN is the unique style of participation in critiques, and the sense of community that is created and fostered by NPN’s overall philosophy. The trick is how do you make people fully aware of that benefit without letting them fully see it. The 30 day free trial is one way (and one that was very effective in my business, if promoted properly).

  4. I’ll throw out another idea, although it may not be technically feasible. In addition to the weekly Editors Picks, what if we selected a “Critique of the Week” in each category and made that publicly viewable. Make this selection based on the “quality” of the critique/learning offered in the post, and not the quality of the image. This would give visitors a taste of whats “behind the wall”. Yes, some members would not want their images in critique to be shown this way, so make it possible to opt out of being eligible for this selection. “Gallery” has it own purpose, but the comments in Galley are just a different beast than Critique, and visitors don’t know what Critique fully has to offer. This is dilemma that I think we need to think through further before becoming more like other photo sharing forums.


I absolutely agree with Ed’s comment.
I noticed many of the comments above hint at the premise that this issue and poll was generated because membership is suffering or needs to be increased at a greater rate. I am not sure @David_Kingham has suggested in his original post that he is unhappy with the current growth rate of NPN? Certainly most of us ( and most business models) would agree more members would be preferable for many reasons, but if current growth is maintaining an acceptable (to David Kingham) rate then I am in agreement with @Ed_McGuirk and would suggest we be patient. @Tony_Kuyper has offered a suggestion above that may feasible and from my point of view seems worth pursuing.

Well, I’m not a businessman but I am often a customer and I personally avoid 30 day (or any day) trials. The problem is that all those trials become permanent unless I cancel them. And now I’m left with having to remember the product and the date that the trial expires or I start paying money. Despite being careful on this issue I will sometimes check my bank account and find a subscription I had been unknowingly been paying for years. Oftentimes I can’t even remember when I signed up it was so long ago. Now maybe I’m unique in this matter and others are very open to start trials. But I don’t think so.

But here’s the thing. The trial even under the best of circumstances is no substitute for seeing what you’re going to get. Currently you’re expecting potential members to see the gallery and opt for the trial. The disparity between the gallery and critiques is like night and day. I’m no businessman but hiding critiques is really poor marketing. Perhaps instead of opening up critiques we should provide a sample of what the user will get. That could generate at least some interest.

The idea of bolstering up usage on the galleries is wishful thinking. If there is anything we learned from NPN 1.0 it’s that people don’t participate if they don’t want to. In the end members people do what they feel like doing. They come here for the critiques so that’s where they’ll go.

The bottom line is that the potential users should be able to see what he’s getting before he gets it and the trial ain’t doing it. Any way this can be achieved would help membership a great deal. Tony offered still another way of achieving this.