..Entering contests (and winning) is a horse of a different color...
Yes, that's why I believe there would have to be a lot more contests for it to work (as in a lot more often) for it to work. If it isn't fun though, it isn't worth it.
The part about the post boxes encouraging you to become involved is a good point. I wouldn't change that feature if it helps encourage people
The part about people being new is tricky. Many of us might not have had time to really participate in a meaningful way in 3D graphics till recently for instance, but might have had other involvement that contributes to our art. Photography, 2D art, crafts, gardening, hairdressing or modeling even. Anything artistic can contribute to our artwork in 3D... so, if we bring in skills from other areas but haven't a lot of hours under our belt doing 3D are we new?
For me, fun is playing with dials for my own amusement. Contests are scary, as is exposing my lack of knowledge.
I don't think bringing in skills from other areas would disqualify anyone from being new. Never using Studio before definitely would qualify one as new. A large part of it depends on the person's own assessment of their skills and comfort level. Some of may consider ourselves new for years; others jump right into the other forums without giving it a second thought.
Yeah, at first I had mixed feelings about the fact that "New User" isn't really defined, and in effect the contest is open to anyone aside from those who have already won it twice, but after thinking about it, I think this is probably a good thing. It's better to include people who might not necessarily be "new" in terms of join date, but still consider themselves beginners when it comes to using the software.
Personally, I've been using DAZ Studio for almost half a year, but with no prior 3D experience (and lacking talent in other visual arts) I definitely still consider myself a "new user" and probably will for a while. I've become fairly comfortable using presets and pre-made items (poses, textures, shaders and surface settings, lighting, cameras, and of course models), but I'm only beginning to venture into the realm of attempting to do some of these things from scratch.
one finds this contest intimidating, it might help to think of it as a workshop rather than a competition. Yes, there's a prize, but it's more about learning new skills rather than winning or losing. Prior to this contest I'd never done a pose from scratch, and had only infrequently attempted to modify preset poses. I've learned so much in this contest--I'm proud of my first entry and have high hopes for my second. Not sure whether I'll be in the running for a prize--I see lots of excellent entries and WIP's--but if I am, it's primarily due to the what I've learned in the effort. And if not, at least I've expanded my skills and raised the bar in terms of my own work. So either way, I definitely consider this a big win!
I understand where you are coming from, though. This is the first new user contest I've actually entered, but it's the third or fourth one I've thought about entering! The skill level shown by new user entries can be remarkably high. But if you enter, you might surprise yourself with how well you can do...
Edit: I should clarify that some of the above is intended as general advice to those who might be intimidated, rather than directed specifically towards you, AtticAnne. I know that you are participating already, and I'm looking forward to seeing where you go with it!