An Open Letter to Simon Joinson, Editor-in-Chief, DPR.

Started May 1, 2013 | Discussions thread
tasad
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Re: An Open Letter to Simon Joinson, Editor-in-Chief, DPR.
In reply to Pat Curley, May 1, 2013

Pat Curley wrote:

Dear Simon,

I write this open letter to you as Editor-in-Chief of DPR.   I offer my thoughts as constructive criticism and a plea for action.

I have followed DPR for many years.   I became a member in February 2011.   My motivation was the opportunity to enter challenges and have some of my images critiqued and commented upon by others in the photographic community.   I had intended to apply to become a challenge host once I had acquired some experience as an ordinary member and challenge entrant; that aspiration is now dormant, if not dead, because of the problems I discuss in this letter.

As DPR is considered to be a reputable and trustworthy site among the photographic community, both amateurs (which I am) and professionals alike, I had at first assumed that challenges were played on a level playing field and produced impartial, unbiased results.   Early on, I had no reason to doubt this – a few of my entries took first places without any attempt by me to manipulate the voting results by using ‘shadow’ membership accounts through which I could vote for my own entries and without canvassing friends etc to vote for my entries.   Likewise, where hosts applied capture date rules, I comply with them even though I have images that would otherwise fit into their challenges.   In other words, I behaved as I expect any honest person to behave – if I won, it was a fair win.   However, it is abundantly clear that the corollary is not true – many entrants are being denied their proper placing because of vote manipulation and dishonesty, frequently on the part of members who have been appointed as hosts!

As Editor-in-Chief of DPR you cannot be unaware of the farcical situation that is revealed in posts by me and many others on this forum, across many threads, principally ‘What should be done about cheats’ which is now in its fifth chapter.   We may be small in number relative to your total membership but our posts and the evidence of widespread cheating we have adduced together with DPR’s continuing refusal, neglect or failure to proactively remedy the problem go straight to DPR’s reputation as a reputable and trustworthy website that values integrity and honesty.

The absence, so far, of a proactive and focused response to the problem is causing honest members to cease participating in challenges.   If this trend is not reversed then, over time, the challenge system will degenerate into a ‘cheats club’.   When this happens, and I believe it will, the cheats will learn how to out-cheat each other and then even the cheats will begin to abandon DPR.

I’m not at all sure that DPR management understands that the challenge system is one of your unique selling propositions – one can read independent reviews and get more than enough commentary and reportage on numerous other photography-related websites.   The challenge system is what distinguishes DPR from the others; it is what attracts interest and generates ‘clicks’.   The cynic in me wonders why DPR seems to be unconcerned about preserving the integrity of this business asset, but I will not speculate.

On my own behalf and on behalf of other honest members could I ask you become proactive in dealing with the cheating problem, to restore the integrity and reputation of the challenge system.   I will not presume to design a solution for you but I think it’s long past the time that ‘small reactive fixes’ such as closing cheaters’ accounts are sufficient to restore honest users’ credence and confidence in the challenge system.    I think it needs a complete redesign, starting with a blank page and a clearly thought-out and well-executed set of policy goals and operational objectives, including features to ensure a new system is as cheat-proof as possible.   This means, but is not limited to, ‘vetting’ of hosts, imposing a (say) two-year waiting period before new members can become hosts, ensuring that members who have been found cheating are expelled from membership and that hosts who do not properly perform their functions are removed from hosting.   It also means closing ‘shadow’ accounts – accounts that show no activity, no gallery uploads and no forum posts but have been used only to vote in challenges – their purpose of enabling vote cheating is as obvious to me and many others as it must be to you.

Many members of this forum have posted other suggestions for necessary improvements; all of these should be considered as part of the renewal process I propose.

The issue in my mind goes much deeper than your reaction to cheating; it touches on DPR’s corporate reputation.    If DPR’s moral compass is so badly calibrated that you do not react swiftly, effectively and proactively to deal with the level of proven cheating on your website then the question for me becomes “how can DPR users who value integrity and honesty continue to trust your overall editorial integrity, reportage and other output?”   That is a much bigger question to which I have not yet turned my mind but I think my emerging train of thought will be obvious.

I await, with interest, your response,

Yours sincerely,

Pat Curley.

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