So, I was able to catch the last few hours or so of Premium Membership Day. Hence the journal skin, etc... I've been playing around with it for about half an hour now, and while I can see the perks, or at least some of them, I'm not sure that I'm impressed enough to pay money for the experience. Perhaps it is because I'm not an artist, but perhaps it isn't. The large previews of images are cool, obviously, but it also means I'm scrolling down a lot more. Being able to fav on the spot is also nice.
My evaluation of critiques, however, remains that it doesn't belong in the list of premium-only features. I maintain my stance that any user should be able to give and receive detailed, structured feedback and to counter-evaluate that feedback. I have seen far too many aspiring artists torn down by negative feedback in comments to ever want to read through that arena when looking for constructive criticism. They are too short, simple to post, and do not supply enough of a guideline to the person making the critique. Yes, I do believe that the way a person is required to submit feedback has a bearing on its quality. I could explain this theory in detail but it would most likely be tl;dr.
As for journal skins, I thought I would try this one out, since it is the most personally interesting one i could find to test with. Already I am seeing enough visual glitches that my HCI alarm is going off like crazy. I do like this skin, but the font for the journal content is small and the bottom of the graphical area is a bit too busy. The background also comes very close to the same color as the text near the bottom of the page. It does, however, blend with the color scheme of deviantArt a bit better than some other dark schemes I have seen, so kudos to the skin creator for that. Perhaps I would like the feature better if I invested time in tweaking the skin, or making my own, but I just don't have time for that today.
So in conclusion, DA's premium membership qualifies as mildly nifty. Critiques belong to everyone though, not just premium members and the staff would do well to consider opening the feature to everyone, if for no other reason than to set some standards in this community before they've completely bitten the dust. This is not facebook, or myspace. It is supposed to be art-centric, and people should not have to pay a premium to see the site from such a perspective. In any case, if I were a visual artist who was making money doing art, I might consider a premium membership, but I am not. I am a programmer and a writer, and as much of an art as that can be at times, it doesn't seem to be accepted as such by most of the community, so I am limited, for the time being, to the title of Art Enthusiast.
I do not leave comments, because they are too simple. I cannot leave critiques, because I do not wish to pay a third party to give them. If I fav your artwork, this means you were either using a stock image of mine, or your art is among the best I have seen on this site. And that, I think, is all I have time to ramble about.