ATHENS, GA (March 7, 2016) – The National Press Photographers Association today is launching its new Monthly National Clip Contest (MNCC) Web site, along with all of NPPA’s other contests, in the culmination of six months of volunteer collaboration by Technology Committee chair Seth Gitner, National Clip Chair Kyle Grantham, and Television Quarterly Chair John Thain.
The new competitions Web site is online at http://competitions.nppa.org.
Today’s new contest entry system will be used for the Monthly News Clip Contest, The Northern Short Course, the Television Best of Photojournalism Contest, the Quarterly Picture Editing contest, The Quarterly Multimedia Contest, The Quarterly Student Still Clip Contest, and Television Quarterly Contest.
"I really appreciate the effort, patience, and hundreds of volunteers hours logged by everyone behind this launch — especially Kyle Grantham and Seth Gitner,” NPPA president Melissa Lyttle said today.
“With the new competitions web site our members will get the display space their winning images deserve. Not only is it functional, it's also gorgeous."
Gitner said, "We spent months trying to figure out how to redesign the entry system. We looked at countless online judging systems only to realize that in the end, our members wanted to judge the contest not online, but using image browsing software such as Photo Mechanic.” Gitner also serves as NPPA’s national secretary on the organization’s executive committee.
Gitner devised a system using jotform.com which allows integration with a Team Dropbox account. NPPA’s former contest system was custom built using a server system that was designed by a former NPPA employee, and everything had to be accessed by that person.
“I strived to figure out a system where the members of the association could handle the contest set up themselves,” Gitner said, “where the clip chairs and regional chairs had full access to administer the contest. This way, if the contest falls behind it will be on the shoulders of the volunteers, and not on someone else.”
On December 23, 2015, NPPA received all of the clips from the old contest system that had yet to be judged. When paired with the October, November, and December clips that were collected into the new contest system, Grantham said there were 88 sets of clips that needed to be judged.
A team of more than 80 judges volunteered to help catch up the MNCC results, each of them finding at least one other person – but in many cases, more – to help them judge the stagnant clips.
“It's no stretch to say it was the effort of hundreds of people who helped us get to where we are now,” Grantham said.
Now only three sets of 2015 clips remain un-judged (Region 2's August clips, Region 5's February clips, and Region 7's January clips). “These were missed when the files were transferred over and they should be judged in the coming weeks to close out the 2015 contest completely,” Grantham said.
“We know this contest has been broken for a long time,” he said. “The lack of judging and sheer frustration of the contest prompted many members to leave the organization. We hope this new system and new website will show those members that NPPA is committed to this contest and fixing the problems that have plagued the organization for far too long.” In addition to his role as National Clips chair, Grantham is the Regional Chairs Representative on the NPPA executive committee.
The jotform.com system did not have the capability to change the names of files automatically to make them anonymous. So NPPA decided to use phone numbers, knowing that it would be extremely rare for two NPPA members to have the exact same phone number. Back in the day members could have used their NPPA membership number, but the organization no longer tracks members using designated numbers.
The former “automated” contest system required a database engineer to manually enter judges’ names into a custom contest management system that did not have a front end. If the names were entered wrong it could take weeks or even months to get them right. So eventually the contest fell years behind. Former national clip contest chair Cathaleen Curtiss would often get an earful from members who complained about the clip contest. It wasn’t that NPPA volunteers were not doing their jobs, it was that the system that was established was not user-friendly.
“Finally we have a platform that works for our members to enter the contest,” Curtiss said. “A system that allows judges to complete they're judging quickly and flawlessly.”
The new contest entry system also needed better display of the winners.
“I am not sure what happened with the previous design of nppa.org but it was very minimal with the size of photographs,” Gitner said.
“I mean heck, we are an organization based around photography, we should have the best display of photos money can buy.” Gitner teaches multimedia storytelling at Syracuse University and is co-director of the NPPA Multimedia Immersion Workshop.
Gitner reached out to his network of Web-savvy storytellers and found former Multimedia Immersion coach Thad Allender, owner and founder of Graph Paper Press, a Wordpress Theme and Photography Portfolio hosting company. Gitner says that Allender reviewed NPPA’s technology issues and came up with a solution that the NPPA went with.
“The goal for the redesign was to give visual journalists the presentation that their photos and videos deserve. Bigger photos, easy to navigate galleries, and an intuitive contest finder system make the site simple to use and visually engaging,” said Allender.
For many, a new Web site to display the winners was a much needed way to bring faith back to the association. Many members joined the NPPA for the clip contest but left because of the clip contest problems.
“We hope those who’ve left NPPA because of the contest issues will return once they see the new Web site,” Gitner said.
Curtiss said, “Most important is a Web site to display the winning clips beautifully, in a way that winning photographs should be viewed! Help us celebrate by entering the contest again.”
“We did not hire Allender just to build out the clip contest Web site, we partnered with them,” said Gitner.
“Our partnership with NPPA ensures that NPPA members can build their own powerful Web site for their portfolio, blog, or their store with very little effort. NPPA members can save 40 percent off all plans by using the promotional code ‘NPPA,’” said Allender.
For their efforts to fix the struggling clip contest both NPPA Secretary both Gitner and Grantham received awards at the recent NPPA Awards Banquet held at the NPPA Northern Short Course.
“I appreciate their combined efforts,” said NPPA president Lyttle. “With the new competitions Web site our members will get the display space they're winning clip images deserve.”
“It's exciting to show to our membership the fruits of hours upon hours of volunteer labor and effort,” Gitner said. “Next on the list is a redesign of NPPA.org and a design and build out of a newer digital version News Photographer magazine.”
In addition to housing the Still and Multimedia contests, the Television Quarterly winners will be located there too. “The new site will bring a much needed update to the look and feel to the Television Quarterly Clip Contest, along with some new functionality that I think entrants will appreciate,” said John Thain, Chair of the TV Quarterly Contest. “Winning videos will now feature judges’ comments. Results and documents going back decades are available. Regional chairs will have more control over posting results. Our new home will have the same look and feel as other NPPA contests, and is a central location for the best photojournalism in the world.”
“Members want to see progress,” says Gitner. “They want to see that NPPA is not just being an advocate for photographers rights but that they are listening to members and trying hard to remain relevant in their everyday lives.”
The new competitions Web site is online at http://competitions.nppa.org.