Happy HubTrails with Ohma & Friends!

One of the things I love about working at HubPages is the amazing community of smart, innovative Hubbers.  While the forums can sometimes be overshadowed by personal drama and political conflict, they’re also a great source of teamwork and ingenuity.  Case in point: the HubTrails project, conceived by user Ohma, which has gained momentum at an astonishing rate!

Ohma herself was inspired by another Hubber’s pet project – sunforged’s 60DC.  She had a few stray Hubs about little-known attractions in Pennsylvania that weren’t getting much traffic, to the point where she was so discouraged that she even considered deleting them.  Following the progress of the 60-Day Challenge, she came up with the idea of an interlinking web of location-based travel Hubs.  After posting an initial feeler thread in the forums, she found the response to be overwhelming.  sunforged himself jumped on board to promote, Cagsil helped with organization, habee and Sufidreamer stared recruiting more participants, Marisa Wright purchased a domain name, and Urbane Chaos started a HubTrails wiki.

I think of HubTrails as sort of a “tree” of Hubs about various locations all over the world, starting with higher-tier Hubs about a large region, which then link to “branches” (Hubs about smaller portions of those regions), which in turn link to Hubs about even smaller subdivisions of those regions. Using the “hubtrails” tag and including the feed for that tag on your Hub ensures you’ll get a share of the love, and pass that love on to your fellow participants. For full instructions, see Ohma’s new Official HubTrails Hub.

It’s been amazing to witness all the positive energy and collaboration that has gone into making HubTrails a rollicking success.  Ohma is very modest about the whole project, but there’s no denying the achievement. She has personally received emails from many Hubbers saying they have never felt closer to the community. It’s a perfect example of how one person’s idea can blossom into a full-blown phenomenon with the help of a group of great writers like we have on HubPages. You too can get in on all the link-juice and community spirit.  Check out Ohma’s hub, and the HubTrails thread on the forums!

Happy HubTrails to all!

Note from Jason: OK, got the map embedded here. As you can see, there are only a few blue pointers for those that have been added. If you want to add your Hubtrails destinations (they need a specific address, not at the city/country level), email me and I can add you as a collaborator on the Google Map. Email me at Jason (dot) Menayan (at) [this domain]

Update: As you can see, the number of pointers has multiplied! Impressive work!!!

Hint about June’s contest

Hey everyone!

March’s Helpful Health Hubs contest was a great success: Over 1,100 high-quality Hubs on a wide range of health-related topics. We congratulate the winners, and hope everyone who participated enjoys years of readers for a job well done.

We hope to hold a similar contest every quarter, so in June we will have our next one. We’re just now kicking off the planning, but I will give you one hint right now:

It will whet your appetite.

Stay tuned!

Unbiased?

Lady Justice

A Japanese statue of Lady Justice

The accusation of bias is a common occurrence in the life of a moderator. As human beings, we are a product of our life experiences and our biology. Several psychological studies over the past twenty years have asserted that all individuals unconsciously harbor bias, though only a fraction demonstrate it in overtly destructive and abusive ways. Admitting that a decision is potentially biased is a useful starting point for making a fair decision. Analyzing the source of a like or dislike is a useful habit for anyone who finds themselves in a position of authority. Likewise, maintaining an emotional separation from the work at hand is also useful, though difficult to achieve.

The benefit of being unfamiliar with the community before I started at HubPages has allowed me to maintain emotional distance from arguments between hubbers. Despite this, I find myself continually challenged by the ‘spirited’ discussions that occur in contentious threads. As is the case with any other individual, I have many years of life experiences that influence the way I think about situations. When I feel unduly invested in a moderation decision, I review the forum rules and Terms of Service to reassess the flag or request. Sometimes, I walk away from the decision and come back to it with a fresh perspective. If this does not help, I ask for a second opinion before proceeding. No matter what feature or tool we build, hubbers will always be the best feature on HubPages. Community members deserve a fair review of their posts, work, and images before a decision is made.

Rather than ask whether a moderator is unbiased, a much better question is whether a moderator is good at making judgments that are consistent. HubPages has very detailed rules on what is and what is not acceptable, leaving judgement in charge of only a limited set of decisions for a well-informed moderator. Community manager Maddie Ruud has written thorough and detailed hubs that outline our policies on substandard and spam violations that also serve as a resource to moderators. Having clear guidelines does not mean that moderators are automatons, but rather all decisions are based on a framework of thought-out, well-established rules. Based on my experience moderating for social networking sites, clear and consistent rules are the defining factors in the effectiveness of website moderation. Without expectations clearly stated to users and standardized rules for moderators, inconsistencies in moderation decisions foster animosity while the quality of user generated content plummets.

Is it possible to be unbiased? One would have to sacrifice all of one’s learned preferences, traumas, and joys in order to do so. There would be no gray area in any decision, and no judgment would require quiet introspection. Who would want that?

Paul Edmondson speaking at PubCon South/Dallas

Any Texas-based Hubbers going to PubCon South/Dallas this year? It takes place next week, April 13-15, at the Richardson Conference and Civic Center.

HubPages’s CEO, Paul Edmondson, will be speaking at the event, delivering a presentation entitled How to Start and Grow a User Generated Content Community. I’m sure you can guess which user generated content community he’ll be talking about. Paul’s presentation is on Tax Day, April 15, 2:55-4:10pm.

Want to save 20% on registration? Use our promo code: rc-2304720.

As someone who has attended PubCon, there is no other better event to learn intermediate to advanced SEO techniques and to network with other prominent personalities, such as Rand Fishkin (SEOmoz), Aaron Wall (SEObook) and Google’s Matt Cutts.

Hope you can join Paul there!

Announcing the HubPages Store!

In response to numerous requests for HubPages apparel, gear, and shwag, at long last we offer our debut line of HubPages goods.

The HubPages Tee

Shield onlookers from your middle with this American Apparel fifty percent cotton, fifty percent polyester tee. Men’s and women’s sizes small through extra-large. $20.00.

The HubPages Mug

Don’t be fooled—this styrofoam-looking receptacle is spectacular! Made from double-walled porcelain, you’ll be the toast of the water cooler, and that attractive administrator you’ve had your eye on will become giddy with anticipation. One sip and you’ll be on a boat ride to ecstasy island. $10.00.

Stickers

Do you like sticky things? Of course. We all do, just don’t tell the wife. HubPages stickers are stickers that say HubPages on them. Made from 100% endangered species bone marrow, you can rest assured knowing this sticky critter will cling to most anything… except your own dignity. In white, black, and white on black. $2.00.

The HubPages Fanny Pack

Do you like carrying things but hate getting caught with your hands in your pockets? I don’t, but this isn’t about me. The HubPages fanny pack lets you live out your fantasy of light city toting without the hassle or price tag of a briefcase. Watch as your friends compliment you on your “go-anywhere,” “do-what?” style. Moms and step dads agree, there’s no better way to embarrass your child. $18.99.

The HubPages Turd Furnace®

Do you have a dog? Chances are, he excretes a smelly substance known as fecal matter. This waste product can be a fragrant challenge to creatively destroy. Let your conscious be your guide, with HubPages’ new Turd Furnace®. Make short work of your dog’s short work and save yourself thousands on trash can liners, soiled carpet and rueened shoes. And don’t tell the wife, but it works on human feces too! $38,999.00.

The HubPages Toaster Fork

If you’re like me, you hate how your toaster never wants to give up that toast when it’s done. You romance it, tell it you’re sorry, you won’t do that again, she meant nothing… we’re still talking about toast here right? Well hold those canned lines, and step up like a Big Dog with Hubpages Toaster Forks. No matter what that bread has done, this is a sure fire way to coax it out of that warm little slot and teach it a lesson in morals. Your toast should know it’s place. Keep it in line with Hubpages Toaster Forks. They’d be a deal at $19.99, but they’re actually twice that.

HubPages Brand Piano Hampsters

Are you sick of paying “professionals” top dollar to tune grandma’s old piano? Unleash the power of nature and watch as Hubpages Brand Piano Hamsters get the job done in no time! Our Piano Hamsters are bred with perfect pitch, dust attracting fur, and super strong forearms for tightening down those tough knobby things. Each Piano Hamster comes with a flashlight and helmet to ensure his safety and your piece of mind. Let God’s most wonderous hamster creation work his magic on your upright, baby grand and even concert grand piano! Supply is limited, the time is now and yesterday was already too late. Get yours two weeks ago. Cats will be refused orders, and trust me, we’ll know it’s you (“Meow, I’d like a Piano Hamster, meow. What meow? I’m not a cat!”). 100,000¥.

That does it for our spring 2010 line. Is something for which you’re looking not on the list? Please direct all suggestions (in the form of watercolor paintings) to:

James Edmondson
HubPages
95 Minna Street, Floor 3
San Francisco, Ca 94105

We are very excited about our Fall 2012 collection, which is due out next month.