HubPro Editor: Meet Brandon Gordon

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Who is your all-time favorite author, and why?

Oh, man. I have a Ph.D. in English, so asking me my favorite author is a bit like asking a parent to pick a child. If forced, I think I’d have to go with the late David Foster Wallace. I chose him partly because of the breadth of his writing: in addition to writing novels and short stories, he was also a prolific essayist, writing on subjects as varied as tennis, the films of David Lynch, cruise ships, grammar, the mathematical concept of infinity, and hip hop. Yet what I love most about Foster Wallace’s writing is how much of himself he puts into his writing: he has a truly distinctive voice that conveys an enormous amount of empathy for his subjects — even when he’s writing about the lobster he’s about to eat for dinner!

And since I can’t choose just one, I have to mention James Baldwin, Kazuo Ishiguro, Joan Didion, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Zadie Smith, all of whom are — to use a book review cliche — unflinchingly honest and beautiful writers.

Could you briefly tell us a little bit about your previous experience doing professional editing?

After graduating from college, I worked for a company that did editorial projects for educational publishers like Houghton Mifflin and McGraw-Hill. I really liked working there because I got to work on a bunch of different things, including economic textbooks, a series of inspirational biographies of people like Sally Ride and Cesar Chavez, and – my personal favorite – a collection of science experiments for kindergarteners. I learned a lot at that job about what it actually means to be an editor, but the most important thing I learned was that great editors should be invisible. I realized that I had to subordinate my preferences and my voice in order to help the author accomplish his or her goals and to meet the needs of the work’s intended readers. Since then I’ve also done a fair amount of freelance copy- and developmental editing, working on grant applications, essays, and web content.

Could you also talk about your academic qualifications?

I earned a B.A. in English from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where I graduated cum laude and with department honors for my thesis on Toni Morrison’s Beloved and nineteenth-century slave narratives. After working for a while, I began a Ph.D. in English at the University of California, Irvine, which I completed in 2012. A large chunk of my research focused on how contemporary American writers understood their writing as work and their own relationship to it as such: is writing a craft? a profession? a calling? a service? a political act? an art? So I’ve always been interested in thinking very granularly about the actual labor that goes into producing a particular piece of writing.

For the past seven years, I’ve also taught first-year writing to college freshman, which really helped me refine how I work with writers. The most effective way I’ve learned to help people improve as writers is to get them to really sit and think about what they are trying to accomplish with their writing and who they are trying to reach with it. In those years of teaching, I’ve spent countless hours thinking and talking about what good writing is and how to make it even better.

What’s your favorite thing about working in the editing industry and about editing Hubs, specifically?

I enjoy editing because it’s another forum to teach writing. I like to think of editing as not just about the particular article or essay or I’m working on, but rather helping the person I’m working with improve as a writer. I especially enjoy editing Hubs because I get exposed to a lot of interests and information that I never would have otherwise. I’m continually amazed at the breadth and depth of Hubbers’ interests and passions. I especially enjoy reading and editing “how-to” hubs and have definitely bookmarked a number of those as reference for the next time I get a hankering for homemade wine or need to install a porch roof.

Could you tell us a little bit about your personal process for working on Hubs?

First, I read through the hub so that I can get a sense of what I think the author is trying to accomplish. Then I look at Google analytics to see what search terms people are using to get to the hub, which usually gives me a pretty good sense of what kind of information readers are actually looking for when they navigate to the hub. After that, it varies, but it typically involves seeing how to make it easier for the readers to get the information they want while still being true to the author’s voice and intention. I often find myself focusing a lot on the layout and organization and working to create a consistent and more pleasing reader experience.

Is there anything you’d like Hubbers to know about you?

I’m an open book. If you want to know anything, please ask!

An Update on Spam and Product Capsules

Happy New Year, Hubbers! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season. As we get back into the swing of things at HubPages HQ, I want to share a bit about what’s in store this upcoming year. Our focus continues to be on improving the overall quality and health of the site. To that end, I’d like to talk about product capsules.

Our policies on product capsules have become stricter over the years, and we will continue to tighten the rules on how products can be used on HubPages. At this point we have definitive evidence that on average, Hubs with fewer words per product have less satisfied readers.

This graph shows the average search visitor rating (1-10,  "How good is this article?”) by words per product.

This graph shows the average search visitor rating (1-10, “How good is this article?”) by words per product.

Thus one of the biggest changes we implemented recently was in the way that the Quality Assessment Process evaluates product-oriented Hubs. If you’re not familiar with the phrase “spammy elements” by now, you should be! Spammy elements are things— products, links, text— that tend to make Hubs (even totally innocent ones) spammy, regardless of the intent of the author.

Hubs that seem spammy detract from HubPages’ mission to be the best place to publish original, in-depth, media-rich pages on topics you are passionate about. While we have a ways to go, we want all Featured Hubs to reflect this mission statement. Sadly, many Hubs do not use products judiciously. They tend to:

  • Lack depth
  • Borrow too much information from the seller or manufacturer’s site (e.g., Amazon)
  • Use products excessively
  • Use products that are unrelated to the content

OK, so what do these points mean? The first two are related to one another and have more to do with the content in product Hubs than the product capsules themselves. If you include products in your Hubs, make sure that they supplement your content and not the other way around. One litmus test you could run is this: if you were to remove all of the product capsules from your Hub, would the remaining content satisfy your readers? Would the Hub even make sense? If not, you know you’ve got a problem.

The last two bullet points above are probably familiar rules, but they continue to be important. When we use the word “excessive” we are not thinking of a magic number or a specific Hub-to-content ratio. It all depends on context. A Hub may have 20 products and still be excellent (admittedly, it would take a lot of work). In general, though, you should avoid placing description-less products in big blocks (e.g., two or more in a row). This makes Hubs appear spammy even if they aren’t. Similarly, only use products that are directly related to your Hub’s content— or, in many cases— to the reader’s search query. For more tips on best practices, please check out the Appropriate Use of Product Capsules section of the HubPages Style Guide.

We have a few more tips to help you decide whether or not your Hub should include products:

  • Only include products that are directly mentioned in the Hub, recommended by you in context, and useful to the reader. Ask yourself: if you were a reader, would you want to be shown this product and would it be valuable to you?
  • In a Hub that’s a curated list (“The Best Ski Poles for Kids”), you should show first-hand knowledge about the items on the list (the different ski poles and their nuances). Simply researching the topic and pulling information from Amazon or other sources is not enough. Curated lists with products need information that comes from hands-on or unique experience.

To further help illustrate the difference between spammy product Hubs and OK product Hubs, we have compiled a list of examples. The spammy product Hubs were specially created by HubPages’ moderators, and you may recognize some of the authors of the OK product Hubs as successful fellow Hubbers.

Spammy Product Hubs

Example 1: The content in this Hub is fluff and there are an excessive number of description-less Amazon products:

http://hubpages.com/sample/aj0hb

Example 2: This is a product review Hub (about multiple products) where the content is a regurgitation of Amazon’s product details page(s):

http://hubpages.com/sample/aj0Il

Example 3: This is a product review Hub (about multiple products) where the content is stolen from Amazon:

http://hubpages.com/sample/aj1Ce

Example 4: This is a product review Hub (about one product) where the author is more interested in selling the product than informing the reader:

http://hubpages.com/sample/aj1DN

Example 5: This is a product review Hub (about one product) where the review does not seem balanced or genuine:

http://hubpages.com/sample/aj3pa

OK Product Hubs

Example 1: The author actually bought and used the products in this Hub. They are being recommended from personal experience:

http://hub.me/acvpb

Example 2: This is an in-depth, instructional Hub on making a bracelet where the reader needs the products to make the bracelet:

http://hub.me/aiRx7

Example 3: This is an in-depth, project-based Hub (similar to the bracelet Hub) on decorating a nursery where the reader needs the products to complete the project:

http://hub.me/ahheh

Example 4: This is a product review Hub (about multiple products) where most of the products being recommended have been used by the author or suggested by her daughter. Products are used sparingly and content is original and in-depth:

http://hub.me/aj2QA

We hope those example Hubs are helpful. Next, we invite you to discuss and ask questions in this staff-monitored forum thread. Paul E, Robin, and I will be around to answer your questions. Thanks for your help keeping HubPages awesome and spam-free in 2015!

HubPro Editor: Meet Rebecca Schuetz

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What is your ideal vacation?

My ideal vacations involve visiting people who mean a lot to me and letting them show me their favorite things about the city. Right now, a friend is in med school in Baltimore, a city where my dad used to live, so I would like to visit there. Some of my family from Taiwan has been spending most of their time in China; I would like see them as well.

Could you briefly tell us a little bit about your previous experience doing professional editing?

I have professional experience as the editorial assistant for FourTwoNine, a national print magazine. I also have experience on the writing side—I still freelance for various Bay Area publications. So I understand what it’s like to have my work edited and take my job as a second pair of eyes seriously.

Could you also talk about your academic qualifications?

I graduated with honors in English from Harvard University. I also taught Reading and Language Arts after my time with Teach For America (quick shout out to the readers and writers of KIPP South Fulton Academy), so I have not only studied English, but I am comfortable explaining points of grammar and writing as well.

What’s your favorite thing about working in the editing industry?

My favorite part is reading about so many various topics—I feel like I am always learning.

What do you like most about editing Hubs, specifically?

I especially like editing Hubs because of all of the strong and unique voices I encounter. When working with a print publication, you often try to get all of the writers to share the feel of the magazine. Here, people are funny, informative, tongue-in-cheek, scientific, or something else altogether, and I can help them work within that voice.

Could you tell us a little bit about your personal process for working on Hubs?

Sure. First I read through the Hub to get a feel for the structure of the piece and the author’s style. Next, I think about the purpose of the Hub, what the writer did that really worked, and what was most helpful for the reader. I then work to make sure all the details—grammar, active voice, clearly organized subtitles, etc.—allow the writer’s strengths to shine through. If I think that the reader would benefit from any extra information, I consult the expert. (Hint: If it is your Hub, that expert is you!)

Is there anything you’d like Hubbers to know about you?

I’m a nerd for reading and writing. Can’t wait to see your work!

HubPro Editor: Meet Kate Rix

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What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

That’s a fun question to answer. I studied English literature in college and I still like to read the classics, because there are so many of them! I recently read Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, quickly followed by Light in August by William Faulkner. That was amazing because both stories are set in similar places and situations, and each has a magical quality, but the perspectives are so different. I also have two daughters, each of whom has influenced my reading taste. My 16-year-old likes a lot of the young adult fiction that’s popular now, so I check it out sometimes. I devoured the Hunger Games books. I was completely hooked. Then my 10-year-old recently got interested in the Percy Jackson series about a boy who is half-god, half-human. I enjoyed those books so much more than I thought I would too! I love the way the author writes about Greek gods in the voice of a 12-year-old boy in 21st century New York.

Could you briefly tell us a little bit about your previous experience doing professional editing?

Sure. I ended up getting my undergraduate degree in Journalism, mostly because I had so many course credits for the work I did at the college newspaper, editing stories about the arts. So, I guess I started editing in college. I loved it because I love collaborating with people to make something better. It was also a challenge, because writing about art isn’t always easy, because lots of artists aren’t particularly verbal about what they do. So, together with the other student writers, we had to figure out how to interview people about their passions and draw them out, even if language isn’t their main mode of expression.

My next editing job was completely different, yet similar in some ways. I worked for a big research organization called WestEd where professional researchers write about education and teaching. The researchers wrote drafts of their work and my job was to help them make sure that anyone—from a policy maker to an educator or even a parent—could understand what they were saying. So while the content was completely different from the college paper, the idea of working with people to make sure their ideas come across as clearly as possible was the same.

I worked as an editor again, years later, at a magazine in Berkeley called The East Bay Monthly. With another editor, we worked with writers who wrote about a whole range of news and other subjects. Looking back, that was some of the most fun I have had at a job. I loved working with the writers, who were all very passionate about their writing and really worked hard to make sure that their unique voice came through in the articles.

Could you also talk about your academic qualifications?

In addition to my BA in Journalism from U.C. Santa Cruz, I have a Master’s in Journalism from U.C. Berkeley. What does that mean? Well, it may not be true for everyone who studies writing in an academic setting, but for me it means that I’ve spent thousands of hours writing, editing other student-writers’ work, and talking about what makes for good writing in a seminar setting.

What’s your favorite thing about working in the editing industry?

Writing is hard and mysterious. It’s not easy to figure out what we want to say and it’s even less easy to figure out how to say it. I guess my favorite thing about editing is that there are certain basic things that are always helpful, whether it’s a newspaper, paper magazine, or website: Ask yourself, who are you writing for? What would you say to them, if they were standing right in front of you? And finally, what can you add to what you already know that will really make the piece you are writing unique?

What do you like most about editing Hubs, specifically?

Ok, this is my favorite question. I like editing Hubs because this publishing format is just fascinating. It’s like a puzzle that’s moving around while you’re putting it together. The audience is the world and there is a constant flow of information about what the audience thinks, wants to know, and doesn’t like. As an editor in this format, I have access to more data about what readers are looking for and which content they are really satisfied with, and which they aren’t. All of this is entirely new. When I am editing a Hub, I think about what types of queries the Hub can answer and how to best position the Hub to come up at the top of a search. I really like figuring out what the unique values are of the Hubs I edit: What makes them special? Then, the fun is figuring out how to highlight the strengths and even add to them.

Could you tell us a little bit about your personal process for working on Hubs?

I read through the Hubs before I “unlock” them and put them into edit mode. One of my goals is to keep the Hubs locked for a little time as possible. I can assess whether custom illustrations or photographs would strengthen the Hubs value without locking it, so that is one of the first things I do. After I have assigned custom art, I assess whether any other graphical elements will help with the Hub’s presentation. Could it use a table or chart? Are there quotes that could be used in a Callout Capsule? These are quick changes that can improve reader experience right off the bat. If I think that new information needs to be added, I send an email at this point to the Hubber to let him or her know I am considering this and to get his/her input. Then I open the Hub and begin editing, creating any tables I think are necessary and moving capsules around if needed. I do this “bigger picture” edit first, looking at the order that information is presented and fixing any capsules with broken links. After this is done, I go through and do a close edit. If I have the green light from the Hubber to add content, I do the research and add information that will make the Hub more complete and competitive. I go through again twice, closely checking for typos and anything that isn’t clear.

Is there anything you’d like Hubbers to know about you?

I have recently taken a class about how to tap into dreams to boost creativity. I’m not really a “class” person (the last class I took before this one was pre-natal yoga, and my daughter is now 10), but this class has really jump-started my creative writing. If you’ve ever felt stuck with your writing, or feel as if you have no good ideas, consider how free and uninhibited your brain is when you’re asleep. You’re making up stories (ok, maybe weird ones!) all night long! Writing down my dreams has been super inspiring and fun for me, as a creative writer.

HubPro Editor: Meet Katie Harper

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You have a history degree. What is your favorite time period to learn about?

My undergraduate degree and my in-progress Ph.D. are both in 20th-century European and British history. I like thinking about how societies deal with enormous change or sudden catastrophe, and modernity’s recurring dream of rebuilding society from the ground up. To that effect, my dissertation centers on the recasting of British society in the aftermath of World War II. I also have an ongoing fascination with utopianism and social experimentation: Robert Owen’s worker cooperatives, anarchist communes on England’s rural fringes, experimental boarding schools, urban squats, and even public housing projects and urban planning in the twentieth century.

Could you briefly tell us a little bit about your previous experience doing professional editing?

Most of my experience as an editor has been in a university setting. This past year, I assisted a Berkeley professor with his forthcoming textbook in British history. I proofread, fact-checked, and did a little supplemental writing. I’ve also been a graduate student instructor since 2010, and have been part of the writing and rewriting process for about 300-odd undergraduates.

Could you also talk about your academic qualifications?

I received my B.A. in history from Wellesley College, a women’s college near Boston. I graduated cum laude and with department honors in history for my thesis about Indian and Irish intellectuals in London in the early twentieth century. After working for a year I started a Ph.D. in history at the University of California at Berkeley. I received my M.A. from Berkeley in 2011 and advanced to Ph.D. candidacy in 2012. I’m still an active historian and continue to research, write, and present my work while being an editor at HubPages.

What’s your favorite thing about working in the editing industry?

My favorite thing about editing is also my favorite thing about teaching. I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of helping someone organize and communicate their thoughts effectively. Everyone is an expert in something, as showcased on HubPages. An editor is just another kind of expert who can help lend language to ideas and intent.

What do you like most about editing Hubs, specifically?

This is corny, but I like learning new things. My favorite Hubs to read and edit are tutorials for fixing, crafting, or building. I’m not very handy or mechanically-minded, and I really enjoy following an expert through the steps of making something. I just worked on a great one about building beautiful wooden-gear clocks which made me want to try my hand at woodworking!

Could you tell us a little bit about your personal process for working on Hubs?

My process is pretty straightforward. First, I read through the Hub and take notes. I ask myself, what does it seem like the author trying to say? Where do they succeed? Where do they fail? At the same time, I try to put myself in the position of a weary Internet traveler in anguished search for answers. How can this Hub serve their needs as well?

Is there anything you’d like Hubbers to know about you?

I think editing is a collaborative process and I value open communication with writers.

HubPro Editor: Meet Betty Wang

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Are you a cat or a dog person?

Totally a dog person. I might almost go as far as saying I’m a crazy dog lady. Almost.

Could you briefly tell us a little bit about your previous experience doing professional editing?

I’ve been involved with the world of professional editing since I was on my high school newspaper committee. I’ve freelanced for several regional newspapers and publications, and my most recent job before joining HubPages was as a writer for a series of Thomson Reuters blogs, where I had to work with editors to have up to 5-6 posts edited on the daily. I’ve also edited thousands of papers as a graduate student instructor during law school where I taught several undergraduate classes at UC Davis.

Could you also talk about your academic qualifications?

I have a BS from the University of the Pacific and a JD from the UC Davis School of Law. I’m also a licensed attorney in California, but my full-time passion lies in the world of writing and editing. :)

What’s your favorite thing about working in the editing industry?

I love wrangling with words and content, and I also love the fact that I am surrounded by like-minded people who teach me something new every day. I love that we are taking a piece, retaining its main purpose and form, polishing it, and shooting it off into the world (or, Internet) even better than it originally started off. Not to mention, HubPages is unique in that all our content is created by our users, which anyone can sign up to be.

What do you like most about editing Hubs, specifically?

I love that I learn something new and interesting with every Hub I edit. Hubbers are a diverse group of people from all around the world, all tied together by a love of sharing their experiences, expertise, and lives. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to not only help them boost their Hubs, but to be exposed to something new every time I go into work.

Could you tell us a little bit about your personal process for working on Hubs?

Whenever I start a Hub, I make sure that I give it a good read and that I understand the author’s primary purpose and get a good sense of his or her voice. If I’m lost on that already, I’ll contact the author directly for clarification. It’s important to me first and foremost that I don’t change a Hub to the point of it being a foreign piece when compared to the original. I don’t want edit a Hub to make it my own, I want to edit a Hub to make it the best it could possibly be, while still respecting and retaining the Hubber’s intentions, and to ensure a smooth reader experience.

Is there anything you’d like Hubbers to know about you?

I love what I do, and I will likely love reading and editing your Hubs! Please know that I’m here to help you and your potential audience before I help HubPages. This is really important to me, and if you land me as your editor, don’t hesitate to reach out with your concerns at any time. I’m a good listener on top of being a good editor. :)

Heads Up —  New Hub Design Coming Soon!

I’m super excited to announce that the Hub will be sporting a brand new look later this week! Our primary goals with this redesign are to remove ads from the main content area of the Hub and improve the overall reading experience. We also want to give more real estate to Hubbers, like we did with the mobile design roughly a year ago.

Because this will be the first iteration of the new design, we plan to do a few weeks of testing afterward to see how the changes are received by HubPages’ readers. Consequently, the first version will not be permanent and we’ll likely be making refinements based on the data we collect after testing. We would also love to get your feedback on the new design, so make sure to share your thoughts in the announcement forum later this week!

Here’s a list of the major changes you can expect to see on your Hubs:

  • The sidebar will be widened so that the main body of the Hub is 970 pixels (from 728 pixels).
  • The author section will be more prominently displayed at the top of the new sidebar. If you provided it, your real name will be displayed beside your username (like on mobile). Your avatar will also be much larger.
  • A More by the Author content module will be displayed below the first ad in the sidebar. It will look similar to the Hub of the Day module in the Feed and will feature one Hub.
  • A Recommended Content module will be displayed below the second ad in the sidebar.
  • The Hub title will be enlarged and span the width of the entire content area.
  • The Breadcrumb structure on subdomain Hubs will be reverted back to how it was before September 2013 —  it will direct readers to HubPages Topic Pages rather than a filtered view of your Profile.
  • The Ad Program ad layout will be revamped:
    • Ads will be removed from the main Hub content area.
    • The Related Searches unit in the sidebar will be removed.
    • The new sidebar will have three 300×250 ads (separated by the content modules above), two of which will anchor as the reader scrolls down the page.
    • There will be some new ads below the main Hub content area.
  • The AdSense Only ad layout will be updated as well:
    • Ads will be removed from the main Hub content area.
    • The Related Searches unit in the sidebar will be removed.
    • The new sidebar will have two 300×250 ads (separated by the content modules above), one of which will anchor as the reader scrolls down the page.
    • There will be one 520×280 ad below the main Hub content area.
  • The social buttons will remain anchored as the reader scrolls, but they’ll be displayed horizontally.

And, here is a sneak peak:

:)

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HubPro Editor: Meet Joanna Fonte

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Let’s start with an icebreaker: what is your favorite food?

Well that would have to be cheese. Hard, or creamy, nutty, smoky, or stinky, shaved, fondued, or simply grabbed with fingers and stuffed into mouth.  If you are what you eat, then I am made of cheese. (Either that or Oaxacan or Korean food or anything you can find to eat in New Orleans. Don’t get me started.)

Could you briefly tell us a little bit about your previous experience with editing and publishing?

When I started a blog in 2010, I wanted a place where I could share chapters of my latest novel. Then I began posting personal essays, short stories, poetry, and other literary experiments and today, with more than 4,500 subscribers, it has become more like a literary platform where I get to play the role of writer, editor, designer, promoter, and publisher. This experience has led to me being published various other places, online and in print, and it got me this job as editor at HubPages, as well. I guess the moral of the story is that if you want to do something so much that you’ll do it whether or not you get paid, and if your mania takes you beyond the point of casual pastime into full-time obsession, you may eventually find a way to make it a profession.

Could you also talk about your academic qualifications?

For ten years I taught public high school English. My favorite things to teach were American Literature (Zora Neale Hurston, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ken Kesey, etc.), the short story, poetry, and the personal essay. Of course, my real favorite thing to teach was teenagers. When I tell people I retired from teaching, they usually assume I left because it was hard working with adolescents but nothing could be further from the truth: those delightfully complicated creatures full of intemperate attitudes and hormones and swaggering ideas were what I came for and what kept me going for so long, despite administration upheavals, severe resource shortages, and teetering piles of papers to be graded.

Before teaching—so long ago it feels like a previous life—I got my Ed.M. from Harvard and a B.A. in English at U.C. Berkeley.

If I couldn’t be a writer or an editor, a professional student would be my third choice. I know, I know, there’s no such thing, but can’t a person dream?

What’s your favorite thing about working in the editing industry?

There is a myth that writers don’t need anything but their own genius to publish when, in fact, every book on the shelf is the product of a team of people working together to make it happen. It’s the same for movies only more obviously so, since they list all the contributors in the credits.

The actor Philip Seymour Hoffman said that “The film is made in the editing room. The shooting of the film is about shopping, almost. It’s like going to get all the ingredients together, and you’ve got to make sure before you leave the store that you got all the ingredients. And then you take those ingredients and you can make a good cake—or not.” I like to think of myself as being on the author’s team, standing just behind them and handing them what they need: some sugar, a shake of salt, a pinch of chile, or a sharp knife.
In my own writing, I can’t really be objective about what I’ve written unless I put it in a drawer and ignore it for enough time for me to finally see it with fresh eyes. This process works fine if it’s a literal drawer I’m putting the piece into but when I push “publish” online, that’s the opposite of tucking it away—it’s hanging it on a clothesline for everyone to see (picture undergarments flapping in the breeze). Time and perspective are luxuries that the prevalent online writing model doesn’t afford, and this is why people complain about the quality of writing they find. Most writing you read on the Internet is fast and furious and has not had time to ripen. Most online writing is unedited: we have the thought, press “Publish Now,” and move on.

Every time I read something I’ve written, I notice something I’d like to change and every day, I wish I had an editor.

So that’s what I like best about editing: I get to do for others what I can’t do for myself.

What do you like most about editing Hubs, specifically?

Every day, I get to visit a new idea, meet a different mind, and imagine another world. The HubPages community is an amazing gathering of diverse and fascinating perspectives. One day I’m in the trenches of WWI (or in Wisconsin or Arkansas) learning about cool usernames for girls or the best political protest songs of the ‘60s and the next, I’m in Pakistan (Tibet, Nigeria, or Iceland) learning about dubstep or how to play Pokémon or interpret a dream about a snake. I love British humour, a Southern anecdote, and a lilting Indian cadence. After a day of work, the world feels like a smaller, nicer, richer, and cozier place to be.

Could you tell us a little bit about your personal process for working on Hubs?

First, I read it once through to get a feeling for the overall gist and the author’s personality. I take note of the first visual impression the Hub makes and have custom illustrations made or photos taken if needed. Then, with that author’s point and persona in mind, I start going through, one capsule at a time, to gently comb through the writing (separating ideas that have gotten tangled, tweaking and smoothing grammar and language) to make sure the author’s point is coming through. I usually spend extra time on the first capsule because I know that’s where readers make their snap decision to continue on or press “back” to the search engine to look for something better. I may add lists, tables, or other means of helping the information jump off the page and I may add interactive elements like videos or polls to invite the reader to engage with the writing. I check Google’s webmaster tools to see what search terms are bringing traffic and make sure those words are focal. In some cases, I will add current research or information to help the Hub compete with other articles out there: when this kind of work seems needed, I always email the author beforehand. I try do all this with the Hub’s author’s personality, nationality, philosophy, style, and purpose in mind and always, as I work, I’m remembering every piece of feedback I’ve gotten on my writing in the past, from teachers and readers and publishers and friends, both useful and not, and I’m applying those lessons with every edit I make.

When I do this right and the Hubber likes what I’ve done, that makes my day. And if I miss the mark, a Hubber can simply undo what I’ve done. No harm, no foul.

Is there anything you’d like Hubbers to know about you?

I have a short list:

I am a tea-drinker, a thrift-shopper, and I turn the music up very, very loud.

Every day I take care of of two kids, one cat, a garden full of green things, and the flock of neighborhood crows.

I take my job(s) extremely seriously.

If I’m your editor, I’m on your team.

I work with a phenomenal group of people. They are sharp, funny, and imaginative. If I could afford it, I’d pay them to edit me.

HubPro Photographer Spotlight

As part of HubPro, we’ve contracted with some incredibly talented photographers to help us create the kind of beautiful, high-quality photos that many Hubs need. Today I’d like to introduce you to two of those awesome ladies and share examples of their work in Hubs. The best part? They’re fellow Hubbers!

Meet Julia Eppehimer:

“I recently graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with a degree in photography. Why did I choose IWU, you ask? Because they sent me a message in a bottle. Yep, that’s it. Before I graduated, I spent a summer in the Dominican Republic as a media intern for G.O. Ministries. I loved hanging out with the local people and the groups who came down on mission trips and photographing the genuine emotion that ensued from their encounters. But my favorite thing to photograph is food; especially because I get to eat it afterwards! It is sometimes very challenging to wait until I get the right photo before I can start eating. Cookies are the best because you can snag one (or two) freshly baked cookies for yourself and still have plenty left to photograph.”

Here’s a stunning example of Julia’s work (and her cookies): Bacon Bit Chocolate Chip Cookies

Meet Glimmer Twin Fan:

“Basically, I’m a 50-year-old woman who stayed at home to raise my daughter for 12 years. I started writing Hubs about 2 1⁄2 years ago and soon realized that I needed good photos for the types of articles I was writing because the ones I was taking weren’t very good. I dusted off our nice DSLR camera and, after a little research on the internet, started experimenting with it. Based on my results, and the many positive comments from readers about my photos, I think I’ve done pretty well. One of the aspects of photography that I have really enjoyed is making collages using photo software. I still learn something new from every picture I take, and taking photos for the HubPro program has been an inspiring and enjoyable challenge for me.”

This is an excellent example of Glimmer Twin Fan’s fantastic work: How to Make a Felt Hair Clip

You can see more photos by both of these incredible artists if you stop by their Hubs. Prepare to be impressed! :)

HubPro Questions Answered

We recently ran a survey asking the 16% of Hubbers who opted out about why they chose not to participate in HubPro, our free editing service. These Hubbers have concerns about HubPro; we hear you! We want to address the big fears and also clear up some of the misinformation surrounding the program. Ultimately, HubPro is intended to help both individual Hubbers and the HubPages community as a whole by raising the quality of the Hubs that have the most impact on our readers. The survey asked Hubbers to choose the following statements that addressed their concerns:

HubPages hasn’t sold me on the benefits of the program.

There are two major goals of HubPro: to fix up the Hubs that are seen by the most readers in order to improve the overall reader experience on HubPages right now, and to improve the reputation of the site over the long-term by making sure all of our most frequently viewed Hubs are our most beautiful and helpful. In other words, each Hub that gets a makeover is helping both that Hubber and the HubPages community as a whole. But how do we know we’re really making Hubs better? Take a look at the data:

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Displayed above is a chart that shows the reader satisfaction for HubPro Hubs before and after editing. We measure reader satisfaction with a metric similar to NPS (or Net Promoter Score). We ask readers to rate the Hub from 1-10 based on their level of satisfaction. The NPS is found by subtracting the percent Detractors (people who rated the Hub a 6 or less, shown above in red) from the percent Promoters (people who rated the Hub a 9 or 10, shown above in green). As you can see, edited Hubs have about the same number of Passives (people who rated the Hub a 7 or 8, shown above in yellow), but significantly more Promoters and significantly less Detractors, meaning more readers are satisfied with the Hub in general, and less are having a bad experience. Moving the score from 8 to 25 is a huge improvement!

I’m worried that I won’t be told before my Hubs are edited and that I won’t be able to talk to my Editor.

Communication is a very important part of the editing process. If your Hubs are eligible, you will receive an email notification one week before editing begins; plus, there will be a notice in your My Account Page. You will receive a second email on the day that your Editor is scheduled to begin working on your Hubs. The second email introduces your editor and lists the Hub(s) that he or she will be editing.

Once you have received the second email notice, you are encouraged to email your editor directly and let him or her know how involved you would like to be in the process. If you’d prefer not to be bothered, you don’t need to email—we’ll take care of everything for you. If, however, you have concerns that you would like to discuss with your Editor, don’t hesitate to write a note.

I’m afraid the Editor won’t respect my voice as a writer; I’ve heard about some bad experiences like this in the Forums.

Our Editors are primarily concerned with spelling, grammar, formatting, and factual accuracy. They work as hard as possible to maintain the tone and style of the original work.

It’s true that a very small number of Hubbers were not happy with their edits, but it’s also important to keep in mind that our feedback from Hubbers who have been part of the program so far has been overwhelmingly positive. Asking to be kept up to date with the changes your Editor is making can go a long way to make your experience a good one too; the Editors are professionals and want to work with you, not against you.

I’m concerned about the changes going live before I have the chance to look them over.

It’s true that you won’t be able to edit your Hubs for about one week on average while a HubPro Editor is working on them (simply because the HubTool is not built to accommodate more than one user at a time and we don’t want to risk losing any of your Hub’s content), and that the changes to your Hub will go live automatically as the Editor makes them. However, your Hubs will remain published throughout (meaning you will continue to earn from them), and the Editors are careful to always leave your Hubs in a presentable state.

Additionally, you are free to revert any changes you aren’t happy with when the process is over (you’ll be provided with before and after versions of your Hub for comparison), and through close communication with your Editor, you can retain a lot of control over the types of edits that are made and the information that is edited. If you ask, your Editor will be happy to explain the changes made to your text and check with you first for approval before adding content or making factual corrections.

I don’t trust the Editors. What are their qualifications?

Our HubPro Editors are all highly qualified with postgraduate degrees and extensive professional editing experience. We chose the best of the best from a very large pool of candidates, and we think you’ll be impressed with them too. That’s why we’ve decided to start a new HubPages Blog series introducing each of the Editors and taking a more in-depth look at their qualifications starting next week. Stay tuned to meet them! You won’t be disappointed. :)