Visual Pursuits Questions and Answers
Information and Videos
General information the Visual Pursuits service can be viewed at www.VisualPursuits.com.
There are numerous videos available on how to use the service. The videos can be accessed via the “Help” menu on your club website or from www.VisualPursuits.com.
You can create a free trial website from www.VisualPursuits.com.
The “Image Competition Manager” (ICM) program is included with a Visual Pursuits subscription. This program will synchronize your website competitions with the program so the images can be viewed when you are not connected to the Internet. The ICM program is used at club meetings to project, critiques, and judge images.
The ICM program can be used on any number of computers, however it currently only supports Windows. If you must use a Mac, you can dual boot your Mac to also run Windows or use a program such as Parallels to host a Windows system. An inexpensive Windows laptop would be sufficient to support nearly all projectors.
· Is pricing in USD?
· Clubs with only a few members eg 40 members that do not compete
· Clubs with 75 members but the club doesn’t run competitions
· Clubs that do not use VP but wish to compete in a council competition that is using VP
· Price for a club with 130 members where 65 compete and 65 do not
· Price for a club with 130 members but run competitions with OCCC software and do not use website judging in VP, just the VP website
Website judging for 3 real judges + 3 JIT on the same set of images Can Visual Pursuits handle this. Can we assume this does not increase pricing??
Subscription and pricing information is available from www.visualpursuits.com using the “Subscriptions” menu item.
Subscriptions only count competing members, which are people that can upload images. Associate (non-competing) members cannot upload images. Most clubs have different membership fees for the different groups. Each author of an image must be identified as a Competing Member.
A Premium Subscription provides many more features for your website, but at an increased price. Those features include Website Judging, PayPal payments, voting on images, custom pages and menus, and many more features. Most organization use a Premium Subscription.
Prices are in US Dollars. Payments can be made with a check drawn in US Dollars, but it is easier to pay with a credit card. We provide a button with a link to PayPal where you can pay with a credit card.
Member based subscription fees are $2.18US/member/year for a standard subscription and $3.28US/member/year for a premium subscription.
Subscriptions are available in increments of 25 competing members.
Having a club and website does not mean you must have competitions. Some clubs just display galleries of member images. Others will use the competition feature to have discussion and critique sessions without assigning scores and awards.
Councils are handled differently than a club because they do not have members in the normal sense. Instead, they have member organizations that usually submit images to competitions hosted by the council. We also refer to these as “regional” competitions.
Councils must subscribe at the equivalent of a 50-member club. That provides an image submission and judging allocation, which is rarely exceeded. Images uploaded by member clubs are not counted more than once, so images in a council competition normally do not count against the allocation if the submitting organization has a Visual Pursuits subscription. Website judged images, however, do count against that allocation.
Images for a council competition are usually submitted from winning entries in member organizations. This is done by a Competition Manager in each member organization using a web page submission process. There are videos on this process. You could optionally allow members in the member organizations to submit images directly to the council.
For council member organizations that do not have a Visual Pursuits subscription, a free subscription is available to allow submissions to the council. This subscription type does not allow you to create your own competition, but members can upload their own images to be entered into the council competitions.
Examples of subscription fees (US Dollars) per year:
30 (free option)
Up to 30
Up to 75
Up to 150
· Modification of the template to customize to suit the Club (style, colours, layout, etc) Don't want it to look like 10 other clubs’ sites
· Segregating data for Members only and public side (some data can be common to both, avoid posting twice)
· Auto Archive posts after a set time
· Auto Backup of Site on a schedule (Covered later, below)
· Ease of setting up a Members only section
· Adding Members (Assigning unique ID numbers, Divisions, general contact info: email, phone, etc)
· Ease of creating various custom Registration forms (Membership Renewals, Outings, Workshops, Events)
· Incorporating secure payment portals (eg PayPal, Interact, Credit Cards, etc)
· Extracting Reports from Registration Forms
· How many Unique Admins can be assigned for departments (Program/Education, Competitions, Outings, Club News, etc)
· Ease of adding content (text, images, downloadable files)
· Possible to have Forums/Chat rooms
· how much customization is available for our site’s appearance, and offerings (e.g. frequently changing descriptions and Zoom invitations for upcoming meetings and webinars)? Or, are we limited to choices of existing boilerplate site designs?
· how quickly can a change be made to the site? (E.g. a Zoom invitation for a new event)
Customizing the Website
With a Standard Subscription you can customize the Home Page and a Membership Information page with any desired content. Galleries of competition results can be inserted and updated automatically.
You can select from a wide variety of “themes” on your Manage Organization Profile page. This changes the overall color scheme of the website and other subtle changes. You can specify background tiles, which also specify a background color for your website. You can provide a banner or logo for the heading on each page.
Most pages cannot be customized, because they include functionality that is tied to a database that supplies the page content, such as image submissions, competition results, membership lists, etc. The theme you select, however, affects all pages.
With a Premium Subscription you can rename and rearrange the menu items and add any number of custom pages. You can specify any roles required to view the page.
Changes made to the website are immediately visible.
If you are not logged into the website, you are viewing the website as the “public”. Only menu items that you would expect to be public will display. Custom pages can be marked as public or restricted to certain roles.
Members belong to one or more “roles”. A role defines permissions for accessing certain portions of your website. A Competition Manager can update all the items related to competitions. A Membership Manager can update memberships. Administrators, naturally, can update everything on the website.
There is no limit to the number of people in each role. We recommend, however, that you do not grant more permissions to any member than that which is necessary to carry out their work. This is a “best practice” security policy. You should have more than one Administrator.
You must login to the website so that you can be identified and have your roles recognized.
Initially, you will probably import a member list from Excel. Login credentials can be automatically emailed to each member so they know how to login to your website.
You edit membership information, including roles and competition levels, using the Manage Members page.
New members should create their own accounts. There is a video on this simple process. With a Premium Subscription, membership can be granted automatically when a PayPal payment is made for your membership fee. Otherwise, the Treasurer and Membership Manager are notified and membership must be granted manually.
Members are expected to maintain their own information, such as email address and various options.
You can create “Discussion Forums” where members can post topics and replies. You can subscribe to individual forums or specific topics. The topics do not expire automatically and must be closed by the original author or a Moderator.
A “News and Event Manager” can post articles that may be of interest to your members or the public. Articles can specify an expiration date.
A “News and Event Manager” can create events that appear on your club calendar. You can require registration for an event and you can require payment via PayPal before registration is confirmed. A waiting list is available if the event limit is reached.
You can email registered participants for an event.
Documents and Files
A “Download Manager” or “Web Content Manager” can upload files and documents to the website. These can be downloaded by members via a page on the website. File access can be restricted to certain roles.
There is currently no membership form that must be filled out by prospective members. If you require such information, upload the form and provide a link on the Membership Information page.
We currently only support the use of PayPal for payments. Implementing payment buttons on our web pages is complex. If there is sufficient interest in other payment providers, we can consider adding that support.
There are several reports available for competitions. These are generated using the “Report” button on a Manage Competitions page.
Most lists of items are displayed in a “grid”. These grids allow the export of the grid data to Excel, where you can format and report the data.
· How many competitions can be live/open for upload at a time
· After Judging is complete, we need to allow judges to see the judged images in view only mode, so they can benefit from our scoring analysis
· We have one large annual council competition with over 3,000 images. Members tend to enter images that have done well in club competitions For this competition we use 4 judges and drop the low judge on each image. Can Visual Pursuits accommodate 4 judges?
· How many categories can we have per competition?
· Setting File size and length x width limits for uploads for various competitions
· Entry limits per competition / entry limits per category
· What is the max number of characters allowed for a judges comment on an image?
· Comment Request / Limit # of comments per competition
· Downloaded all images in competition + CSV data report (original and post judging)
· Admin’s ability to remove or move entries within categories
· Auto Rename options for image files upon upload
· Custom file naming based on data parameters (eg. Comp#-Category-Maker ID-Division-Title.jpg, Club Code-Maker ID-Category-File # in Category.jpg)
· Ease of assigning Awards, HMs, Etc.
· Auto Assign HMs based on Division and Points earned per entry (eg 21 points for Beginners, 24 points for Advanced)
· Ease of auto creating Results Gallery from Competition + adding a downloadable spreadsheet
· Online Judging Interface - how easy is it to setup to accommodate 3 - 4 Main Judges (split comment entries evenly)
· Ease of adding additional Judges in Training (1 or more) to shadow judge (these judges do not influence the main judging, but need comment boxes on all entries)
· Ease of isolating certain entries for reassessment (eg entries with score variance of 3 or more points)
· can image dimensions (e.g. 1600x1200 pixels) be enforced during member uploads? Can it be changed by the club, or will it require custom programming?
· Can we run live judging from the website when we return to physical meetings? (E.g. 3 judges plus up to 3 judges-in-training): assuming that the club can obtain a portable Internet router to run the Visual Pursuits website over its projector system.
· If not, can we upload/download images to/from the Visual Pursuits site? (For assembling live judging via Flexishow during physical meetings.) How can we post the scores to the site if this is done?
There is no limit to the number of competitions you can host. Any number of them can be open for submissions are the same time.
The council can indicate that competing members of the member organizations can submit images directly into the council competitions.
Each competition can specify many different types of limits, including image size, number of images allowed, etc.
A Competition Manager can move images between competitions and correct any errors made by the member or judge.
Competition Types and Levels
In Visual Pursuits, a “Competition Type” defines the default characteristics for a Competition. Some of the values specified for the Competition Type can be overridden by a specific competition. The Type usually would represent something like “Open”, “Nature”, or “Travel”. There is no limit to the number of Types, but it is recommended you create fewer, more general types. Avoid creating a new Type for each “assignment” competition and instead specify the specific assignment on the Competition.
A Competition Type can optionally use Competition Levels. Competition Levels are used to group people with similar proficiency, allowing people to win awards in a group with similar abilities. You can assign any number of Levels to a Competition Type, but it is typically 3 or 4 levels. Members are assigned a Competition Level for each Competition Type via the Manage Members page.
Website judging can be performed with any number of judges. Each judge must login (membership is not required) so they can be identified. Judges are assigned and associated with specific competitions, so those are the only competitions they can view.
A Competition Manager can view and manage all competitions and can correct judging errors.
Judging can also be performed with the ICM program. This mode of judging does not record individual judges scores and only records the final score assigned to an image. The name of the judge can be recorded as a comment on the competition.
When scoring images in a competition, you have several choices. We recommend using average scores instead of a sum of scores. This allows you to have a variable number of judges and allows a judge to abstain from judging an image. Judges are blocked from scoring their own images.
If you have more than 3 judges, you can select to “normalize” scores. This discards the high and low scores from the individual judges before computing the final score.
You can also avoid ties by using a “Computed Rank” method of judging. In addition to using a score, the ordered list of images can be considered when assigning awards. A judge uses drag and drop to order images, usually after sorting by scores.
If you have a very large competition, such as one with 3000 images, you can break that competition into smaller groups, perform an initial “acceptance” pass, and then collect the accepted images back into a new competition before a final judging pass.
Awards are defined in “Award Sets”. A number of system defined Award Sets are available, which cover the most common situations. You can define rules for when an award should be granted, such a limit on the number that should be granted.
Awards are not automatically assigned, but the process is simple. You want to sort images based on scores or votes. You then click on a button on a thumbnail or full screen image to assign an award. A judge or Competition Manager can override the defined limits, perhaps because of a tie.
The ICM program allows you drag thumbnails into a “winners” panel, which automatically assigns a HM award, which you can later alter. The ICM program allows you to select multiple thumbnails at once to assign the same award to each.
With a Premium Subscription, a judge, using website judging, can add written critiques for each image. Several pre-defined messages and ratings are available, which can also be customized. While there is no limit on the length of text that can be included, you should keep it short if the critiques are to be displayed at a meeting with the ICM program.
You can export images and competition data with the ICM program. There are several options related to the export, which are explained in the corresponding video.
You can export a list of competition images from the website, but you cannot export the images.
Members should upload their own images into competitions. While a Competition Manager can do this on behalf of a member, there should be no reason to do that. The process is simple and demonstrated in a video.
The file name of an image is the default title for the image. Once uploaded, the author has the ability to alter the title and other information related to the image.
The system supports “Image Sequences”, which is a group of several images treated as a single image in the judging process. Images in the Sequence are ordered by the author and displayed together in that order.
Images can be imported into the ICM program. If this is done, special file name formats can be used to identify the author and title. The same file name formats are recognized on the website but are not useful unless a Competition Manager is uploading images on behalf of a member.
If you use another system for judging, there is no import facility to bring those results back into the Visual Pursuits system. You would need to use the ICM judging mode or website judging and manually enter the scores and awards for each image.
The ICM program and website are very capable. There should be no need to use an external program for judging or for displaying images. ICM and website judging results are easily exported.
Once a competition has been judged and the Competition Date and duration have lapsed, the results can be automatically displayed on your website. Most organization also use a special “tag” on their Home Page to display the results from their latest competitions.
Competition data (results) can be exported form the ICM program or the website. The export can be by a group as well as for an individual competition.
Judges in Training
This feature is not yet available. We will commit to creating a feature where you can assign “Judges in Training” to a competition. Those judges can perform all the same judging actions, including critiques, but none of the scores or critiques are used on the competition entries and the scores and critiques are hidden.
Other judges assigned to the competition and Competition Managers can review the entries made by the Judges in Training. This would be done on the website Judging page.
Hosting, Security, and Backups
· where is Visual Pursuits’ data hosted? In Canada, USA or abroad?
· does Visual Pursuits operate mirrored servers to reduce response times (latency)?
· how would they protect our data: backups and restores?
· how quickly could they bring our site and data back online when they eventually suffer a ransomware attack or equipment failure?
Websites are currently being migrated to a server hosted by the Microsoft Azure cloud service. The North American server is located in Iowa. Another server is located in Australia. These are high performance data centers. Their location should provide good performance and minimal latency.
All website access is provided with SSL certificates, which we supply. This means your website access uses a HTTPS prefix and all transmissions are encrypted.
We do not store passwords. Instead, we store a “hash” computed from your password. When you enter your password, a new hash computed from your password should match the one stored in our database. The password cannot be derived from the hash.
Each account must use a unique email address to ensure that duplicate accounts are not created.
You must never share a password with anybody at any time, not even administrators. This rule, by the way, applies to all services from all vendors. Phishing attacks want to steal your credentials by asking you for your password. Never provide it. Administrators never need it, as they can reset your password if necessary.
Members can reset their passwords, as well as administrators. New random passwords are emailed so only the member knows their password.
Continuous backups are performed on your images. Competition data is backed up daily or more frequently from our databases. Servers are backed up daily.
Recovery can be expensive and time consuming, depending on the nature of the issue. We try to avoid recovery procedures if other options are available, like re-uploading an image. If we have a failure, we should be able to recover within a few hours, depending on what happened.
Our backups are located on other servers and most of the data is backup up to other regions. These are unlikely to be infected with a virus or ransomware. We have “point in time” recovery available.
The ICM program does not need to preserve any data. It synchronizes with the website data stored on our servers. If you delete all the ICM data, it is just downloaded again from our servers.
Why Use Visual Pursuits?
· A Visual Pursuits website should replace any existing website you might use, so you will save costs associated with website hosting. If you use a registered domain name, you will keep paying your existing registrar for that name.
· Your Visual Pursuits website can be maintained by non-technical people.
· Responsibilities can be delegated to other members for specific tasks, such as events or competitions.
· Numerous videos are available to train new people on how to use the service.
· Your Visual Pursuits data is secure and backed up.
· Software Pursuits, which provides the Visual Pursuits service, has been in business since 1975. Its primary business is synchronizing files between servers worldwide. We have extensive experience in security and reliability.
· The Visual Pursuits service has been available for nearly 20 years. Over that period of time we have listened to our customers and added the features they need. The result is a mature and robust environment for managing your organization and competitions.