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Fri Dec 16, 2005


UPDATE #1: Lots of you have written in about this. Selected comments can be found at the bottom of this post. We'll continue to post selected comments as they're received.

UPDATE #2: We were curious to know how many link names in any given Challenge have characters that fall outside the proposed revised character set. We whipped up a few lines of code to answer that. Have a look for yourself, if you're curious.

We're about to release a significant change to the scripting that publishes your links to our site and we really want your opinion about something.

But first, here is what's definitely changing:

  • Speed up link posting time (Posting will take milliseconds, give or take.)

  • Significant spam blocking enhancements (Wheeee!!)

  • Prevent badly formed submissions (No more blank names, empty urls, etc.)

  • And more goodness (Too geeky to explain here.)
All good stuff, huh?

Now here's the part where we want your comments:

We're considering restricting the range of valid characters that can make up a link name (not the URL) to just:


Some participants enjoy expressing themselves through their link names with all kinds of wacky hearts, strange symbols, and textual widgetry we never even knew existed. Hey, it's all good, except it tends toward the extreme with some.

So what's your opinion? Make the change and restrict the range of characters to those listed above, or leave things as they are? Let us know!

Selected comments may be published in anonymous form, so speak your mind. You certainly won't hurt our feelings!

No Challenge will be posted on December 23rd.

We'll be back on December 30th with a new Challenge, and it will be... hey, you can figure this one out! Look in our archive for a clue!



leave it

I am in favor of the ascii character restrictions! I'd like for folks to not be subconsciously directed to a site because of a funky link name.

re link names. while my link name is fully alphanumeric the participants in the challenge are an extraordinarily creative lot and being restricted to the basic latin alphabet and indo-arabic numerals would be take some of the sparkle out of their self expression. personally -> i enjoy the special character icing sugar that people add to their aliases -> as long as it doesnt break the browser or server - that is. here is a thought. photofriday enjoys the participation of people from around the world, it would be even more fun to see some non latin scripts supported if this was technically possible.

I support this suggestion. It would very nice viewing only letters and numbers. Go for it!

On the subject of what characters to allow in the post name, I would suggest allowing two characters beyond what you listed in the weekly email.

1. Space (okay, you probably already planned that...)

2. Hyphen

I don't use hyphens myself, but it seems like something that should be allowed.

In response to using special characters as a link name:

I say let's just use the common keys that are used to form actual words. By using special characters you are drawing more attention to your link.

I agree the range of characters should be restricted. I already don't click any links that have other characters in them - I feel the authors are trying to somehow cheat the people to click their link more often.

Restrict the range of characters! Yes!

I think you should limit them the characters that can be used. Though I would also include a . in the list of items.

YES - it would be nice if all names were on an equal footing. Then the photos would stand out.

As I am looking at the list as it is right now on Friday morning at 8:22, numbers 183 - 217 are mostly alpha-numeric characters and nothing more. It looks like a nice simple list, like it should!

RE: restricting the entry names. I'd suggest you limit to characters on the key faces. That would still allow ~, {, *, etc.

Make the change to allowing just the basics in the title field! Will make them much easier to read.

What a good idea! Sometimes it gets out of control (in my opinion) with the number of %!@$##%@^ (<-----not intended to be a euphemism for an expletive!) characters. I find it distracting.

I'd be all for restricting the characters. Makes things less confusing and all.

Site is looking good, and the changes sound like great enhancements.

Concerning the restriction idea for link names, it sounds great to me (assuming, of course, that there was a space somewhere in the list :-)

Yeah, I think it's a very good idea to restrict name characters. I would also include some script to prevent ALL-CAPS names.

I think if you're going to restrict the characters, you should also allow for the punctuation symbols. Sure, maybe we don't need arrows and hearts (I have no idea how they do that!) but colons, periods, asterisks, etc. are part of a lot of people's tag & online names...

And besides, if you stick with just the straight and narrow letters and numbers, it seems a bit "square" for a site and movement full of so much great creativity and moxie.

I say leave the option for special characters in link names. I don't use them but it does help differentiate names on the list. I too have been impressed with the amazing creativity. When you get upwards of 500 entries 36 characters just aren't enough.

Re: restricting the range of characters -

Yes! Most asterisks, squiggly little characters and such used for link names are quite unnecessary. It'll be odd to see LEVITATION without the (↑) at the end, but for most people, just regular letters, numbers, and spaces as you suggest are completely adequate. But I do think that periods should also be allowed so that .com, .ca, etc can be included in the names.

Please do not restrict the range of characters in link names!

I think that adds to the site.

regarding the link name restrictions:
i think people should be allowed to express themselves as they feel, but if you feel such a restriction is necessary, at least allow for a period, please.

My vote is to EXCLUDE all the whacky characters from the link names.

Restricting the character set for link names is a wise idea; at best, special characters are unneeded decorations; at worst, they're to separate the link from the crowd, thus giving more visibility. Please end this silly 'hack' that people are using to their advantage!

I might even be best if all-caps link names were disallowed as well.

I don't think there is a big prob with non-alphanumeric characters. If you do limit, please leave periods (.) and hyphens in.

I think restricting the characters in the links would be a generally good idea, but I would allow for normal language punctuation, such as spaces, full stops and apostrophes and just restrict out the characters that can't be produced with a key on the keryboard or a shifted key on the keyboard.

I would appreciate your leaving a pipe "|" in your legal characters field. Honestly, I think the additional characters you are suggesting deleting make it easier to find a specific blog in the list. Looking at the list now, it doesn't look junky to me and the characters go beyond "expressing themselves" and define the identify of the blog in many cases.

If it doesn't cause any technical problems, I don't have a problem with people expressing their creativity this way :-)

Removing hyphens will not allow anyone to post if their site is named after a number from 21 to 99, which are correctly spelled twenty-one, ninety-nine, etc. (though many people probably just spell them incorrectly.) This only affects a few, of course.

I agree that there needs to be character limits for the links. Personally, I'd say restrict it to the characters you've outlined AND force capitals on all characters. People are so desperate to stand out in the list that you'll find people playing with the lower and upper case, so you might as well keep everything on a level playing field.

Do not change it.

Continue to allow special characters, because while some will argue that it attracts more viewers to their links, isn't that what this is all about? Creativity. I seldom see "Peter", "John", "Mary" in the link names, people who use alphabetic characters only, also use their creativity to attract visitors, or to express something about themselves. I think you should not restrict this creativity. e.g. I am just as curious about "BLUE SKY KYOTO", "KK", Fixed in time, than I am about "~sun straws~".

I think restricting link character is a good idea. However, the proposed restriction is a little bit too restrictive. If you limit, please leave standard puctuation or, at a minimum, the "-" "_" and "." characters which are often used in people's actual site domain names and theremfore allow for name-consistent link names.

I vote to restrict the numbers and characters.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Within any boundary, there will be some that stay in the middle and some that try to bend the edges. The names we choose for our projects reflect important aspects of the projects themselves. Arbitrary limitations like this proposal only make more work for the webmaster, not a better environment. Anything that can be used correctly can be used incorrectly, whether it is a special character, a camera or a hammer.

Maybe add a "." too. Whenever I enter I use my site URL sans the http://www stuff ie

Whatever the choice, its up to you. Its your efforts in creating and keeping the site going. And its definitely appreciated.

I like the creativity. I think you should leave it the way it is...people like to feel that their name stands out. If a photo is really good, it doesn't make a difference. If it's still won't make a difference. It's all in the photo, not the name!

Leave it. It's harmless fun.

I like the idea of using basic characters for link names. People should look at your site for the photography not for the ___KILLER SITE NAME___

I think you have stumbled upon a great idea, with restricting the link names to the 63 American characters. Finally, no more having to look at silly names with umlauts and tildes and all of those otherr crazy things foreigners use. Just because they have those things in their legal names doesn't mean they should clog up my screen. USA! USA!

PS -- You should find a way to make it so people with green eyes can't post either, they freak me out.

I find this site extremely difficult to make an impact on. Those who already have a large fan base (I feel) are more likely to receive votes. The names are irrelevant (due to sheer numbers of participants a good image actually being noted on more than one occasion is at best hit and miss), each post should contain a thumbnail, this will allow people to make an informed decision as to what images they look at. How many images do I see that are really mediocre? So many I give up scrolling through after 30 odd and I feel I have staying power. What am I basing this on? How many people do you feel actually trawl though nigh on 800 posts for each challenge? A limit to numbers and a change to the voting is desparately required.

OUR REPLY: Agreed, on some points. Substantive changes are in the works for 2006. Stay tuned for announcements. Recent changes to the site are but a taste of what's coming.

I would agee that it does get a bit excessive and I guess I would vote to limit the characters.

I think restricting the character set is ok and good too. But the site is not very user friendly to pass that message. At the first go even i have submitted my entry "[BLANKED]" with an unacceptable character just because the restriction message did not caught by my eyes :-)

May be you could do some validation for name Validation there itself.

OUR REPLY: Yes, perhaps we weren't clear - if we do decide to restrict the range of valid characters, the new link publishing script will tell you if your submitted link name contains any restricted characters, and you'll have the chance to revise them for submission.

The funny characters are used to find oneself in the 100s of posts. I started using that because others did and I thought it was kinda fun.

Course fun can be a bad thing right...wait a minute, what am i saying!!??

Hell no don't drop the fun.....

As for the site names - I think they should be limited to your list of characters, plus standard characters like ".", "-", and "_".

As for the thumbnail idea - I could not agree more with comment #39 on your home page. That is the best suggestion I have heard yet. I also check out alot of links each challenge. But having thumbnails that would draw my attention, and other people's attention to the really "noteworthy" entries would be a major imporvement. You can often tell a great creative image, from peoples "typical snapshots" by looking at a small thumbnail.

Thanks for all of your time and efforts maintaining this fantastic challenge site.

i read you want to make some changes in restricting the range of valid characters. i used since the beginning this name "[BLANKED]" on your website, but if can't i would like to use my real website name, and it is [BLANKED]. and there's a dot... and i'm sure i'm not alone... you should permit restrictive characters but with some essential punctuation marks.

Allow only letters, numbers, and common name punctuations such as the apostrophe, hyphen, etc.

What's wrong with jazzing things up a bit, anyone can add the characters they like, those that don't are making a conscious decision not to do so, each to his own. I can't see anything the matter with wanting to be noticed, isn't that why we try to make our websites look distinctive? Sounds like a bit of a storm in a teacup to me!

Thank you for restricting to ASCII (=US) characters. Umlaute like ń÷Ř▀ÓÚ... and other special characters are used only in old Europe, Latin America, and other non-US-countries. May be you should accept entries only from US citizens....

let the kids keep their odd characthers, I haven't seen a compelling reason to do away with them listed here yet (43 and counting).

What you need to fix is the farce you call "noteworthy" photos. Your site has grown too successful to sustain a meaningful system of ranking the submissions. What you have left is a popularity contest.

I still enjoy submitting responses to the challenge, but I refuse to vote for noteworthies because I cannot possibly view all of the entries and it just isn't fair as it is.

I'm very much in favor of anything that allows the quality of the photographs to determine the outcome. This is in contrast to the current situation where factors such as fancy link names and the date/time/order of submission have a huge influence on whether a sumbission even gets viewed, let alone voted on.

I think it would be fairer if link names didn't appear at all! ... just an image number ... in a random order.

Hi, i don't think special characters should be banned as I do not believe that my attention is drawed more to strange links than to standard ones. My choice is usually taken on random basis, except for the photographers I already know: I do choose them first.

Er, there is an a˝omaly here I just do˝'t get, why do people šomplain that on the o˝e ha˝d they do˝'t get notišed a˝d o˝ the other šo˝dem˝ the possibility to use a bit of imagi˝atio˝ to bešome more visible. From some of these comme˝ts it sounds like the lights are o˝ but there is ˝o-o˝e home...Hellooooo. Imagination is fair play to everyone, after alll we've all got one...I hope. Just love my spa˝ish Keyboard.

N. B. [vote: restrict the use of 'special' characters to no more than two in a web alias]

There obviously can be 'abuse' of use special characters, however special characters have been part of creative web aliases *long* before there was a photo friday. Indeed the web is all about creative spelling and in my opinion the rules on the web should be as few, simple and necessary as possible. Perhaps we should dictionary check the words too, so that we get rid of the offensive or at least incorrectly spelt words that you miss:o)

However, restricting the use of more than two or three contiguous nonalphanumeric characters or no more than two 'special' characters in a link name, which would be a simplier rule, would be a nice compromise. Please let people to continue to express themselves creatively and in a manner consistant with the last decade of the evolution of the web as a media for creative expression.

It appears that people are worried that by using special characters that individuals are drawing attention to there links and perhaps getting more votes for the noteworthy section. A few points on this besides that they are taking things too seriously:

1) Most of us that review the submitted photos do it for *fun* and personal learning. That is to develop our own aesthetic tastes by looking at hundreds of photos by serious minded photographers every week.

2) Many of us have browsers that let us review hundreds of web pages simulateously. We do not even look at link names at all. I just select a bunch of links and open them. If you are not familiar with this technology have a look at some of the Firefox extensions that let one open 100 links at once from a web page (eg linky) and then thumbnail the images for quick review (eg xpose).

3) The Noteworthy section was a useful innovation when there was between 200-500 participants. I do not even look at it any more. Why is a picture noteworthy because people who are unlikely to have reviewed the 800+ photos voted for it. On what criteria is it noteworthy? Conformance to the rules of composition? A photo of something unique? Taken with a good camera and a steady hand? Colors that I like?

My very imperfect suggestion as an alternative to 'noteworthy' to offer a random selection of 10 submissions each week. It would be simple, based on fair criteria and would let people focus on the fun of it.

Anyhow, if you have read this far you more than deserve to hear my praise for your site. I have participated from near the beginning of the effort and have got a lot out of it. I admire your dedication, reliability and style. Keep up the excellent work and keep having fun!!!

democratic way brought big success to photofriday.

people love to post and view posts without any restriction. name is part of your creativity and add flavor to the site. by deleting this option you are getting more corporate and less public. honestly i do not understand what is problem about? thanks

I am one of the people who uses other characters besides the standard alphabet, and I vote for no restrictions, isn't this about creativity? I wouldn't be heartbroken if you told me to stop using special characters, though.

I just think it's funny that so many people are getting bent out of shape about the "unfair advantage" because even though I use other characters in my name, most of my photos have never been viewed more than 250 times. This is even true when over 800 people have posted in a week. So the unfair advantage argument really doesn't stand... obviously not everyone who submits something looks at every link, wacky characters or not.

Thanks for running such a great site!

If folks want to type crazy characters, I say let em. I'll only re-click their photo if they're that good...special characters in their name or not!

It's ok I believe to restrinct characters. But don't limit us latins :-)

I mean, becaue of the ˇ in my name.

Not that I will loose something if written without the accute (sp?) but I prefer to write it "correctly"

Merry Christmas!!

i don't understand what the problem people get creative with their link names, what's wrong with wanting to stand out from the crowd? seems like everywhere i turn these days some one is trying to restrict my freedom! et tu brute? et tu?

I already limit myself to characters that would not be restricted, so I won't be affected personally. If others want to be a little more unconventional, so be it. Unless there is a technical reason the restriction would improve the performance of the site, I wouldn't make the proposed change. Why censor free expression for no significant and offsetting improvement?

What I find both amusing and irksome about this question is that you have asked one, that in the scale of the issues that have been raised, is the equivalent of trying to resolve say, a dangerous rail infrastructure by posing an opening question of "Do you think that the trains would benefit from stripes down their sides?".

You say that you are working on larger things in the background. Perhaps consultation on those rather this would be constructive, or do we not get a say in what really matters?

Perspective I feel is very much necessary.

for me, there's only a need for restrictions as regards security and layout destruction matters (e.g. long words). actually, restricting the range of valid characters won't stop creativity in playing with them! x x x x x x

limiting characters is a good call. go for it.

Thanks to everyone who wrote in. We'll continue to post selected comments as they're received.

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