If spec is evil, then what are "contest" sites?

I admit that I feel a little sorry for Derek Powazek here, since he has the awesome trackrecord being one of the founders of JPG Magazine.

His new toy, Pixish isn't receiving the rave reviews one might expect. Why not? Because it smells like spec work and spec work is shit as we all know. Even if Powazek doesn't think it really is spec.
If you didn't realize spec was bad for you (and me, and everyone else) here's ten reasons to ponder over at No Spec! which we've shown you y'all before.
PDN Pulse sums it up with "Will Work For Prizes"

What's really scary is that young, tech-savvy artists are being groomed to think they are contestants reaching for a prize, rather than creative professionals with valuable talents.

Beckley works says "I beg to differ. Pixish is work on Spec".

The whole “contest” concept is the problem. If the winner gets paid it doesn’t mean the many others who submitted work didn’t waste their precious time, and undermine their field. The only party guaranteed payment in this scenario is Pixish.

I find it interesting that all this is happening after Lunarstorm launches Xtraworks.se, a site they describe as "job site for young creatives"!, though the whole concept is that young creatives pitch on jobs out in the open on the web, and somebody "wins" the job. That's spec baby.

Also related is Openad, which is a bit like a "stock concept" site that launched a few years ago.

To be clear, Pixish clearly isn't a place where the pro's want to play, it's aimed at the dabbler, the hobbyist, the n00b. Yaknow, so they can "get a great piece to put in their portfolio". Oh, wait, where have I heard that one before? Am I being cynical? Honestly. You can tell me. I won't bite.

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LeslieBAP's picture

Ack! SPEC...totally spec. What complete bullshit and an utter contempt for the professional photography world. They actually write that most spec is about design when, in fact, photographers are asked to do spec work every day, just like designers. Hell, just look at their other publication--should be called Spec Quaterly.

Shame on them. I'll definitely be warning my readers to stay away from that site.

Imanaddy's picture

...should be called Spec Quaterly.

That's hilarious!

caffeinegoddess's picture

The sad thing is that none of this will die until everyone realizes the negative effects. And, as long as someone can make a profit of some sort (even though they are devaluing their work and all others by doing so), it's not going to go away.

Allan1's picture

Actually being in a different business, my perspective is similar, because there are some similarities. (I'm a computer consultant).

As long as someone, somewhere is willing to work/bid on a contract for less than the going rate, they will undermine everyone else in the field. Sometimes this will backfire on the place doing the hiring.

For example, when I interviewed for a set of contract positions, I had the strongest skill set, was available, and lived nearby. They each chose someone who was willing to take $10-20/hour less. In one month, I had 2 places calling me to replace the people that they had chosen in my place. [They couldn't actually DO the job(s)]. I've been on the 3-6 month assignment for the past year (at my original rate). [Coincidently, both places called me back the same day - I went with the one I felt most confortable with, as they were definite in wanting me, and the other one was going to call back later in the day].

As it is, I am making $5.00/hour less than I made back in 2002, and this is my highest paying gig since then. The influx of cheaper labor, and outsourcing, dropped my job market down really hard for awhile.

The only time that I take significantly less money, is when I can both learn a new skill AND the place is a non-profit charity organization. (One place got $40000 worth of work for $4000). [A nice way to improve your skill set and give back at the same time].

Many years ago, there was an annual (one day) competition to build a complete database and working system [you didn't get to learn what the system was supposed to do until the event] for some chosen charity. People from all over brought their favorite database and went at it. This contest had several things to make it worthwhile:
1) It had some level of prestige - it was sponsored by a national database magazine. You and your group would be identified in the magazine article, and you could use the article to show potential clients how good you are.
2) It was for 1 day only - showing speed and accuracy, and didn't take away much from your personal bottom line.
3) It was for a charity.
4) It also gave the various manufacturers something to brag about if their database was the winning choice.

"Remember, no matter where you go... There you are." (Buckaroo Banzai).
"Hey, barkeep, 2 Rock Over Hip-Hops and 1 Bach Over Vivaldi with ice."

LeslieBAP's picture

This news has started hitting the pro photog forums...they are NOT happy campers. Woo hoo!

Imanaddy's picture

Which ones? Links?

darrylohrt's picture


 AND - a contest of 'make our commercial for us' is NOT a social media campaign!

areia's picture

No Spec! have a post about Pixish: "Pixish is Spec-ish".

Like other posters, I hold Derek in high regard so his waffly stance - professing to be against spec yet promoting spec - was a confusing surprise.

There's many links to others comments in that post. I'm confused, he's removed the Graphic Design work/competitions from the site but not "parts of design" like photography and illustrations. That to me makes it even worse as it insults photographers and illustrators.

areia's picture

Also, darrylohrt is right on. Those "user-generated" contests are not only costly and bad but insulting to the professionals that actually created them, which is even more confusing.

beckley's picture

Hilarious, and right on.

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