Hub Design Part Two

Happy Monday, everyone! Today we rolled out the latest iteration of the Hub redesign. I covered the changes from the first version in my blog post a few months ago, so now I’ll focus on the revisions we’ve implemented as part of the latest update.

Social Buttons
We heard your feedback and have moved the buttons to the left side of the Hub in response. Additionally, they will anchor for the entire duration of a user’s scroll. Isolating the buttons from ads and other content to the right of the Hub will bring more prominence to them and should result in increased social shares.

Comment Count Icon
Hubs with 5 or more comments will have a brand new comment count icon next to the social buttons. Clicking on the icon will scroll a user down to the comments section of the Hub. This is a great way to showcase how popular Hubs are with their readers.

The “Last Updated” Date
Many of you made the excellent point that the “last updated” date was vague and awkwardly positioned in the previous version of the design. We agree, so we moved the date below the Hub title and specified that the date refers to when the Hub was last updated, not when it was first published.

Breadcrumbs
We removed the Hub count from the category breadcrumbs.

The Author section
The font used for Real Names (or username if no Real Name is provided) is a larger size. We also removed “HubPages Author” as a qualification. Lastly, we replaced the date with more information about you, like the number of published Hubs and followers you have.

The “More by this Author” Hubs
We changed the look and feel of “More by this Author” and moved it right below the main author section for improved continuity. We replaced the HOTD-like photo with three links (just like on mobile) so that we could showcase more of your Hubs to readers.

Related Hubs
To augment page views per visit (an important user engagement metric) and diversify the content in the sidebar (so that it’s not only comprised of ads), we moved Related Hubs to the sidebar of the Hub and anchored them. We hope that this placement change will make a positive impact on the clickthrough rate of Related Hubs.

Matched Content
Matched Content is finally ready to go and will be placed below the Hub Feedback Bar (i.e., where Related Hubs used to be.) For those of you who haven’t heard, Matched Content is a Google content recommendation engine currently in beta. It will show readers recommended Hubs based on both their interests and topical similarity. More specifically, Google’s algorithms generate recommendations based on:

  • Contextual signals: pages with the same keywords and/or the same themes
  • Audience signals: pages that interest readers within the same audience
  • General popularity: pages that are popular amongst site visitors
  • User Interests: based on the site visitors’ interests

We’re optimistic that Matched Content will help increase page views per visit, resulting in greater overall traffic for the site.

In addition to the changes listed above, we made some small tweaks to the visual design, including font sizes and link colors, in an effort to streamline the look of Hubs and make the content in the sidebar more easily distinguishable from the ads. The social buttons got a fresh new look as well.

While we don’t plan to make any more major adjustments to the Hub design right now, we do plan to do some more fine tuning. We’d love to hear what you think about the latest iteration to the Hub design!

Check Out The Latest HubPages Viral Hit!

Good morning, Hubbers! Today I’m thrilled to share the inspiring success story of Hubber Carisa Gourley (blessedmommy on HubPages) who, through a collaborative effort with HubPro Editor Kate Rix, has gained a huge readership with her Hub Military Diet: Lose Up To Ten Pounds In Three Days. Carisa’s Hub was already popular, and with the help of a HubPro makeover, its popularity has grown by leaps and bounds, culminating in a viral Facebook explosion. In fact, as of last week, it is one of the most successful Hubs of all time!

Although the current viral wave is due primarily to Facebook traffic, her Hub has also improved in search rankings and holds top slots for several prominent Google keywords. It remains extremely popular on Pinterest as well.

Carisa has very graciously given us permission to share the before and after HubPro versions of her Hub and answered a few questions about her Hub and the HubPro process.

Here’s a sample of Carisa’s Hub before HubPro Editing:

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The same Hub after Editing:

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You can see the entire HubPro Edited Hub here.

Carisa talks about going viral and the HubPro process:

Your Military Diet Hub has received over 24 million page views since you wrote it 7 and a half years ago.  How did you feel about your most successful Hub being selected for HubPro—did you think it could be improved?

When my Hub was selected for HubPro, I had some mixed feelings, to be honest.  I was excited that HubPages saw the Hub as worthy to be selected for HubPro, but I was a little nervous to let someone else work on it.  I thought it was already a pretty good Hub and it had already been pretty successful.  However, I’m not a professional and I’m also teachable.  I thought maybe HubPro might offer something that I couldn’t do for the Hub myself.  I have also learned that good things often come when different perspectives and different talents come together with a common goal, so I decided to go through with it.  I’m extremely happy that I did.

What was the HubPro process like for you? (communication, collaboration, etc.)

I cannot say enough about how pleasant that the HubPro experience was for me.  Kate, the lady that worked with me on the editing process, was very kind.  She never once made me feel like my Hub was inferior; she was only enthusiastic to offer her service on making it better.  She kept up timely communication with me during the whole process and explained every step in detail.  She respected my input when I had something to say.  She was a team player and never did anything that took me by surprise.  I was able to see all the changes as they were being made and give feedback if desired.

How do you feel about your Hub now that it has been through HubPro?

I’m very proud of my Hub now and I love the end result!  It’s like I built a house and HubPro came and painted and decorated it for me.  It looks so polished and professional.  It’s colorful and beautiful.  I love it!

What’s it like to have millions of people engaging with your Hub and wanting to share it with their friends?

It’s an overwhelming feeling to say the least.  I just can’t wrap my mind around it.  It’s a feeling of awe.  After my Hub came through HubPro there was an enormous traffic increase!   I went from having pretty good street traffic to having a full blown interstate!  The traffic increase has been so amazing that sometimes I just open up my stats and stare at the page with amazement!

You have 70 other Hubs. Do you plan to update and edit any of them?

Yes, I do plan to update several of my other Hubs.  Now that I have seen what a little color and strategic wording can do for the success of a Hub I’d be foolish not to try to make some changes.  I also hope to submit some new material in the near future.

Google’s Mobile Algorithm Release

Toward the end of February, Google announced that they plan to place increasing importance on a site’s mobile-friendliness in search results for mobile devices starting April 21st. This is great news for HubPages because Hubs are already optimized for mobile. Mobile traffic is currently on the rise and with the release of this algorithm, we expect to see it increase even more dramatically.

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As you can see from this month’s data, mobile traffic to Hubs already exceeds desktop traffic. With the release of the new mobile algorithm, we expect mobile traffic to comprise at least 60% of our total traffic (and possibly as much as 70%) by the end of 2015.

The new Mobile Friendly label in mobile search results:

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What this means for Hubbers:

A high percentage of the people reading your Hubs will be doing so on smartphones. It is more important than ever to double check the layout of your Hubs to make sure they look good on mobile. We recommend making all capsules full-width wherever possible because while all capsules are automatically displayed full-width on mobile, the capsules may not display in the order you intended. Making them full-width means your capsules will always display exactly the way you want them to and offer a consistent experience for mobile and desktop users.

We understand that there may be reasons why you are unable to make all capsules full-width. For example, if your Hub includes photos that become blurry or pixelated when expanded to full-width size, it’s better to leave them half-width until you can replace them with better quality photos. However, it’s important that you check the Mobile Preview option for each Hub that contains half-width capsules to make sure the capsules will appear in the right order on smartphones.

To see the Mobile Preview of a Hub, simply edit that Hub and choose the “Preview” option at the top of the HubTool:

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Then make sure the Mobile Preview tab is selected:

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.47.54 AM This preview shows your Hub exactly as it will look to users on smartphones. Take a quick look at the entire Hub to be sure half-width capsules appear in the correct order. If they do not, you may have to tweak your Hub’s layout to ensure that all the capsules display correctly on mobile.

I know this is potentially a lot of work for Hubbers with tens and hundreds of Hubs, but more and more people are using search engines from their mobile devices, and it’s critical that we as online writers prepare our content for the search traffic of the future.

HubPro Best Practices: Give Your Own Hubs a HubPro-Style Makeover

So far, the HubPro program has been even more successful than we hoped.  HubPro Edited Hubs have seen a 20% traffic increase (and still growing) compared with equivalent non-Edited Hubs, and edited Hubs have also seen significant gains in reader satisfaction, which we believe is one of the most important factors in protecting a Hub’s existing traffic for the future. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to share some of the HubPro findings and best practices today.

First and foremost, we have strong reason to believe that Google is increasingly placing a higher value on engagement and reader satisfaction. Accuracy and trustworthiness are very important to readers, so some of the key tasks our Editors tackle are fact checking and bringing outdated information up to date. These are things every Hubber should be doing regularly; if a Hub hasn’t been edited in over a year, it’s time to make sure all your facts are still current and correct. Take some time to check your Hub’s content against the latest news, peer-reviewed journals, and other credible sources on the subject. Having a second (or third) pair of eyes on your content, if possible, can also make a huge difference.

Second, it’s a good idea to review your Hubs to make sure they contain all of these elements:

  • Excellent grammar and spelling. Pay special attention to cases in your title and subtitles; this is one area where mistakes are common.
  • Free of spammy elements (Hubs should contain no unrelated or tangentially related links, excessive products, etc).
  • High-quality, clear, attractive images (avoid pixelated images, blurry images, and images with watermarks).
  • Search-friendly and descriptive subtitles.
  • A relevant summary.
  • A mobile-optimized layout. Making all capsules full-width can make a big difference for mobile.

It’s also a good idea to consider whether your Hub might benefit from the addition of some of these elements:

  • Data summary as a numbered or bulleted list, just like this one.
  • Additional beautiful, relevant photos (Creative Commons photos are a great place to start if you don’t have time to take your own).
  • A user opinion survey on the Hub’s topic using a  poll capsule.
  • Relevant, related video.

We’ve also discovered that one format tends to work particularly well for improving the traffic and visitor satisfaction of Hubs. Here’s the secret recipe if you’d like to try your hand at making an organized, scannable Hub that readers are crazy for. If your Hubs are not yet eligible to be HubPro edited and you’d like to take a crack at editing them yourself, or if you’re looking for an advantage when publishing new Hubs, I encourage you to try out this format:

  1. Start with a topic that consists of a list of related things (5 Delectable Chocolate Cake Recipes, 10 Best BBQ Sauces, 8 Ways to Cook Salmon, 6 Ways to Tie a Tie, etc).
  2. The first capsule should be a beautiful full-width photo. Bonus points for including the Hub’s title in your first image. It’s great for Pinterest traffic.
  3. Intro paragraph. Include lots of relevant content.
  4. Beautiful full-width photo of option #1.
  5. Paragraph with more information about option #1. Include any information your reader might find useful and interesting (like background on why option #1 is great, fun facts about option #1, or interesting details about its history).
  6. Recipe or instructions for option #1. Be as detailed as possible.
  7. Repeat this formula for all of your options. Beautiful photo for option #2, paragraph about #2, recipe/instructions/explanation of option #2.

Here are a few examples of great Hubs using this format that have benefited from a significant traffic increase after editing:

Keep in mind that these Hubs all have at least 1,000 words of content; all Hubs should be substantial, in-depth, and completely cover the subject promised in the title. They should also include personal experience. If you haven’t actually made all of the recipes or tried all of the methods you list, you probably shouldn’t be writing a Hub on it.

By following these guidelines, it should be possible to give your own Hubs a HubPro-style makeover. Best of luck and happy Hubbing!

Increase Your Pinterest Pins with These Simple Tips

Pinterest aficionado Glimmer Twin Fan has shared some helpful tips that I’m very pleased to pass along to you. I mentioned some of her advice in the recent Weekly Newsletter, and I’d like to elaborate on it some more here in the Blog. Regularly updating and improving Hubs is such an important ingredient for continued success here on HubPages that I hope you’ll take a fresh glance at your Hubs with an eye toward applying some of Glimmer’s advice.

As you can see, when she updated some of her old photos with Pinterest in mind, she was able to get significantly more Pins and Repins to the same Hub:

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 11.11.40 AM vs. Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 11.20.35 AM

A few tips for your images:

  • Focus on your Hub’s header image. While any of your Hub’s photos might be Pinned, the first one is the one that’s Pinned most frequently. Make it fantastic.
  • Take food photos with lots of natural light. Take your food photos outside if possible. If not, photograph the finished dish in whatever room in your home receives the most natural sunlight.
  • Add short descriptive text (like the name of the recipe) where possible. But if you can’t add text without covering the good parts of the photo, don’t fret. Great photos of food speak for themselves.
  • Put a little effort into the background. It’s ok to get creative here. Some good ideas include dishes and tableware that compliment the colors of the food, solid color backgrounds can keep the focus on the food, and adding a lighted candle, a flower, or other small embellishment can make the photo look more attractive.
  • Take a lot of photos. Try different angles, closeups, farther away photos, etc. This will ensure that you have a wide variety of images to choose from. Keep the best and delete the rest.

How you pin matters:

Keep in mind that there are a number of different ways your readers can Pin your Hubs and the images in them. Using the Pinterest option from the official HubPages social buttons on the right of the Hub will automatically Pin your Hub’s first photo plus the text from your Hub’s title. Using the hover-over button that appears on any image in your Hub will Pin that particular image along with the text from the description field. If your readers use the Pinterest browser extension, they will have an option to choose between all the photos in your Hub to Pin, and whichever photo they select will include its descriptive text.

Most readers use the HubPages Pinterest button (which is why your header image is the most important), but some readers will want to pin other images within your Hub as well, which is why it’s so important to give each photo a great description.

Remember that it’s not just recipes that can benefit from a Pinterest revamp. Craft Hubs, DIY Hubs, gardening Hubs, and lots of other types of Hubs stand to gain from a little bit of Pinterest improvement.I hope you found some of these tips helpful!

Happy Hubbing (and editing)!

An Update to HubScore

Happy Thursday, Hubbers! Today I’d like to announce some updates to the HubScore algorithm. As you may already know, HubScore is the score that is assigned to an individual Hub. It is displayed privately in My Account > Statistics and is not visible to other Hubbers or search visitors. Up until fairly recently, HubScore was intended to measure both a Hub’s quality and activity— things like the amount of traffic it receives, comments, shares, and Hub Feedback. These days, we want HubScore to be mostly a reflection of the quality of a Hub and not the amount of traffic it receives. Sometimes those two things are correlated, but many times they are not.

Before I get into the changes, I want to highlight the fact that HubScores and the factors used to compute them are updated regularly to improve their accuracy and usefulness. Please expect fluctuations—  both HubScore and Hubber Score are dynamic and will change often, particularly as we collect more information about your Hubs. Apart from fluctuations, there may also be anomalies from time to time. Anomalies are more common with HubScore than with Hubber Score. This is because we have more data at the account level, so Hubber Scores tend to be more reliable and stable overall.

Please keep in mind that HubScore was never intended to be be looked at in a vacuum or as a grade for a particular Hub. In fact, it’s much more useful to look at the range of scores across all of your Hubs so that you can prioritize the ones that need improvement (when reviewing your lowest-scoring Hubs, for instance, consider whether they are making readers happy; is there something you can change to do a better job at answering their queries?) To further illustrate this point, please take a look at the distribution of HubScores across all published Hubs on HubPages:

HubScore Distribution

As you can see, a score of 70 is above average and considered pretty good! OK, so what are these changes to HubScore? The table below shows the factors that made up HubScore before the update, the factors that will be deemphasized as part of the update (i.e., traffic), and factors that will be emphasized as part of the update.

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If you notice your HubScores adjust in the next few days, it is probably a result of this update. And since HubScores are used in calculating Hubber Scores, the latter might change as well. We just want to give you a heads-up so that you don’t worry if/when you notice your scores change

That’s it for now!

HubPro Editor: Meet Emily Drevets

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You spent some time in Egypt. What did you like most about living there?

It was magical to live near the Nile. One of my friends lived in a houseboat. Occasionally, he would host parties and there was something so special about getting to watch the city lights of Cairo in the river water.

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

I worked in digital marketing at a tech company for almost two years where I was responsible for editing the abstracts, titles, and content of professional webinars. In some ways that work reminds me a lot of what I get to do at HubPages, where I help subject experts get their message across clearly to as many people as possible.

Could you also talk about your academic qualifications?

I graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in International Relations, focusing on the Middle East and Arabic. A large portion of my studies involved writing long academic papers—often at the last minute. I was also nominated for a writing award for a paper I did on T.S. Eliot and Cubist art.

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

I love working with words. I wish I had something more profound to say, but it’s really as simple as that. I’m a believer in the power of words to change hearts, minds, and the entire world. To me, the editing industry is vital to the new media landscape.

What do you like most about editing Hubs, specifically?

I love editing Hubs because of the variety of topics. In a typical day, I might edit an article on the symptoms of pregnancy, how to save a failing marriage, or how to fix a guitar string. I feel like I’m constantly learning. Hubbers are a diverse bunch!

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

Each Hub is unique, but there are some similarities in my process for working with them. First of all, I make sure that the organization of content is as reader-friendly as possible. How do the images look? If I clicked on the article from a Google search, would I want to continue reading it or would I click the back button? Once the article looks good, I make sure that the reader can get the information they are looking for as fast as possible. Finally, I read the article out loud to myself to make sure I catch all the spelling and grammar errors. Reading it out loud slows down my eyes so I don’t skim over any thing.

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

I want to make you and your articles look as good as possible. Also, I live in San Francisco and have a plant named Deb.

HubPro Editor: Meet Helena Bonde

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You’ve lived in a number of places. Which was your favorite and why?

I’ve lived in Washington, DC, Stockholm, Sweden, Concord, NH, a small town in northern Germany, and San Francisco. There are things I love about all of those places, but I live in San Francisco now, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I love the culture here the most. Out of all the places I’ve lived, San Francisco is the most accepting of weirdness. In fact, it even celebrates it! In San Francisco I feel like I can be myself without ever worrying what anyone else thinks.

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

Most of my professional editing experience has been in academia. In grad school and in undergrad I worked as an essay tutor helping students plan and revise their research papers. I loved that job because I got the opportunity to work with each student closely and experience first-hand how their confidence in their writing grew and improved over time. As a freelance editor, I’ve also edited short stories, poetry, cover letters, resumes, and even an application to a PhD program in Electrical Engineering (I’m happy to report that my client was accepted to her program).

Could you also talk about your academic qualifications?

Sure. I have a BA and MA in English from Stanford University. I minored in Ethnic Studies (at Stanford it’s called Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity). I’ve always been interested in literature and pop culture’s effect on society, and vice versa. Though there are many traditional works of literature in the Western Canon that I love, I’ve had the most fun applying critical theory to works that seem less academic at first, like comic books, and applying feminist and race theory to all literature.

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

I get a strong feeling of satisfaction from taking a piece of writing and trying to make it the best it can be. This is connected to the fact that I’ve always been a writer and avid reader, and so having a job in which I can employ those skills makes me feel like I’m doing exactly what I should be. When I edit, I sometimes like to think of myself as a writing fairy godmother. We all know that Cinderella had the beauty within her the whole time, but her fairy godmother helped her bring all that beauty to the surface and show it off to the folks at the ball. That’s what I do: I find the message in a piece of writing and I bring it to the surface.

What do you like most about editing Hubs, specifically?

I love the huge variety in subject matter at HubPages. Since I started working here, I’ve learned how to fix an Xbox, how to make all sorts of Halloween costumes, how to hypnotize somebody, and, at least in theory, how to exorcise a ghost. I know a lot about language and writing, but I’m completely ignorant about most of the crazy, fascinating topics addressed on HubPages. My favorite Hubs are humor pieces that deal in satire, but I find myself unintentionally learning from everything I edit.

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

First I read over the whole Hub and decide if it could use any additional photos or illustrations, since we like to commission these from our artists early on in the process. I then ask myself, “What question is this Hub trying to answer?” Some Hubs have a very clear message all the way through, but in others the essential information can be harder to find, and so I sometimes reorganize the structure of the article to make the most important information stand out.

This usually involves breaking up long paragraphs and text capsules, organizing instructions into lists with proper titles, and adding subtitles to grab the eye of the reader. I also look at the search engine stats for the article and make sure it’s got the main keywords featured prominently without sounding awkward. Throughout the process, I check the text for spelling, grammar, and general word flow. My final decisions usually involve me adding interactive elements such as a chart or poll, but that depends on the article.

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

If you’re anything like me, your writing isn’t just a creative project: it can feel like part of your soul. If I’m editing your piece, I want you to know that I respect you as an author, that I will treasure your unique voice, and that I am super stoked to learn everything you can teach me.

If you’d like to bribe me, send fish to the HubPages office c/o The Sea Goddess. I prefer herring, but mackerel and sardines will also suffice.

HubPages Welcomes Back an Old Friend: Introducing Engineer Tim

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Today I’m pleased to announce that an old staff member from the early days of HubPages has returned to the Team. After some time off traveling the world with his lovely wife, Engineer Tim Martin is back with us! We’re sure happy to have him. You can get to know Tim better in his interview below:

What made you decide to come back to HubPages after a few years away?

I just couldn’t stay away any longer. :)

What will you be working on at HubPages?

I’ll mostly be working on server infastructure. HubPages has some great infrastructure but the servers are nearing the end of their useful life. We are using this an opportunity to both upgrade them and take advantage of more cloud services. The upgrades should allow us to more quickly respond to changes in demand, be more resilient against hardware failures, and build and deploy new hubpages.com features more quickly.

What do you do for fun?

I enjoy cycling around the Bay Area, woodworking, travel, and Scrabble.

What are your favorite Scrabble words?

I’m glad you asked. My favorite Scrabble words are ones that are both fun words that also score a lot of points. Some examples are SQUAWK, KLUTZ and JAMBOREE. My vocabulary isn’t as broad as most players so in general I try to make good use of the short “Scrabble words” like QAT, ZA, JO.

What’s your favorite HubPages feature?

I really like the question and answer area. When it was first released I think I asked at least one question every day for the first couple weeks.

Editor’s Choice Gets an Exciting Upgrade

Hi there, friends! I have some great news today. We’ve been saying for a long time that we want to give more exposure and recognition to the Editor’s Choice Hubs on HubPages, and I’m thrilled to announce that we’re finally doing it! As part of our long-term commitment to the Editor’s Choice program, we’ve decided to offer these additional benefits to participants:

  • Editor’s Choice Hubs will soon display an EC banner label over their thumbnail image on Related Hubs, Topic Pages, and Profiles.
  • The Editor’s Choice Accolade will now be a numbered Accolade.
  • Hubs of the Day will now be selected exclusively from the corpus of EC Hubs (Starting Friday, January 30th).
  • The best EC Hub of the previous week will now be highlighted in the Weekly Newsletter.
  • EC Hubs will now have preference among Hubs shared on the HubPages Facebook Page and Tweeted on the HubPages Twitter Account.
  • Each month for the next year, an EC Hub will be chosen randomly to receive a bonus of $50 to reward the author’s commitment to quality (Hubbers must be enrolled in the HubPages Earnings Program to receive their winnings).

Here’s what the new EC banner will look like:

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Pretty awesome, right? If you’re interested in writing Hubs that have a very good chance of being chosen as Editor’s Choice, be sure to check out the last section of the EC announcement Blog post.

On a related note, it is with a twinge of sadness that I must also announce the imminent retirement of the Rising Star Program. This program was intended to offer encouragement and recognition to promising new writers on HubPages, but it never received the traction we hoped for. New users will still have the opportunity to participate and gain similar recognition by creating EC-worthy Hubs (and will receive a congratulatory email and accolade for their first Hub chosen as EC), and Hubbers who have already won a Rising Star Award will get to keep the Accolade. The last Rising Star Contest ended today (results are in this week’s Newsletter). Farewell, old friend, it’s been fun! Onwards and upwards. :)