How HubPages Moderation Works

Moderation Work Flow I attended a launch party for a new user generated content startup here in San Francisco three months ago. I asked one of the co-founders how they were going to handle undesirable content. His answer was to make the platform as open as possible and use automated systems to take down rules violations. He figured that they would eventually need to get a part-time person, perhaps an intern, to help review the more tricky issues. He even used the dreaded word “outsource” to describe what would happen if the site outgrew this process. His response was not an outlier. This is an unfortunate and common approach to content moderation among budding web companies. Having no plan for consistently and thoroughly enforcing a website’s Terms of Service results in user confusion and advertiser dissatisfaction. Maintaining a high standard of quality for a large user generated content site requires a dedicated, trained team of moderators.

The HubPages moderation team is six people strong, more than enough to handle our current workload and enough time for some of us to take on fun side projects, like being a judge for the HubPatron of the Arts contest. We handle most of the support emails sent through the contact us form, and ensure that at least three moderators are working every day.

Of course, an issue every company has to face is scalability. To review all 1,700 Hubs published every day, our moderation team would have to become larger than the full staff of HubPages. For a scrappy startup, growing a single department to this size is not possible.

To help bring the review process to scale, our engineers have built many wonderful and fabulous tools. First, they created several automated systems that run at all times. Our main system is affectionately known as the Maddie Bot, so named for Maddie Ruud, the HubPages Community Manager and first dedicated content moderator. Along with the Maddie Bot, we have over 40 filters that crawl all content on HubPages as it is created. These filters are fed words from several sources, including moderators who notice a pattern of negative behavior associated with a word or phrase (“umpteenth” is favorite of article spinners, for example). Anything the filter feels is suspicious may generate a warning for the author, and will be flagged for our review if it is published.

Another tool that might look familiar to Hubbers is the Moderation Hopper. Though it shares some DNA with the Hub Hopper, it is much more robust. This hopper is a HubPages moderator’s home base. From this tool, a moderator is taken to a flagged hub, where the content is reviewed and a moderation decision is entered into the database. Once this decision is saved, the moderator is taken to the next Hub in the queue automatically. This repeats until all the Hubs have been cleared, moderated, or republished.

Unfortunately, moderators and our trusty robots can only do so much. Along with our automated systems, we rely on Hubbers who familiarize themselves with the rules and flag content for moderator review. These flags are necessary for ensuring HubPages remains a high-quality option for authors seeking an open publishing platform.

9 thoughts on “How HubPages Moderation Works

  1. Now I have a better understanding of how moderation works. Only one of mine has ever been flagged and it was a recipe Hub. I couldn’t figure out how to make a sauce recipe original so I deleted it.
    Should HubPages ever need a moderator to work from home, I would be very interested. Meanwhile I shall continue to flag spam and spun content. Thanks for the detailed explanation.

  2. I want to mention dear HUBERATORS that your work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Hubpages have moved far from it’s earlier stage where it was used by “SEO” experts as a link building tool. And even though one can still find an occasional “spun” article here and there, Hubpages is no longer a “Tool”, it is now a community!
    Thank You Huberators we can see the fruits of your labor and more power to you! 🙂

  3. Question re using a recipe: can you use a recipe if you give have permission from the originator? Some chefs are happy to share. And sometimes, you can devise a recipe that has been created simultaneously by someone else. Would appreciate clarification. Thanks.

  4. Umpteenth? Really? REALLY!? I mean, I’ve heard people use that word, but I really can’t find a purpose for it in an article. And who would program a spinner to use such a word? Unless they pull synonyms from a colloquial dictionary.

    As horrible as it sounds, one of my goals in programming is to help make things like article spinners better at what they’re supposed to do. But not really for the aid of the article spinner, but more to make robots speak and “understand” colloquial language in a more lifelike way. But hmmm, I should really stop talking about it. This is like the umpteenth time I’ve mentioned artificial intelligence on HubPages.

  5. Great explanation and comes at the right moment – just few days ago I read a hot discussion on moderation or actually lack of it here on HubPages and there we go – a blog entry on moderation 🙂
    I love the picture as well but some people might start thinking that only female hubbers flag the content 😉
    Still I will keep doing it (gfalgging spam and low quality stuff) as I prefer if HubPages was perceived as being a quality and not a spammy portal.

  6. Go Maddy Bot! You all do a wonderful job. I have had a few hubs moderated that were caught by changes to the TOS, and Google sensibilities, and, though, I found it a bit frustrating, it’s part of life in a community that depends on advertising for income.
    You do a great job moderating, and Hurray for the hubbers who help out by flagging spammers and low quality content!

  7. I wonder what would happen if I used the world “umpteenth” in a hub I wrote. I wonder if it would get me flagged. Such a rebel I am.

    I try to hop a few hubs every time that I publish. I rarely flag stuff, although I often skip over hubs that don’t ring my bells or speak from a different worldview. I try not to let my judgement be influenced by my personal opinion on a topic.

    Thanks for the explanation on how things work.

  8. LOL I wondered if you had hundreds of people moderating our hubs.
    At the very least there is no bias because it is all code that moderates us. I got moderated once and learned that you can’t have duplicate hubs anywhere online. Which makes me wonder how others have more than one blog if they are writing a niche subject? I don’t have time to rewrite stuff. Can anyone tell me that little dark secret? go maddie!

  9. @Brooke Lorren

    We have come across that word used in Hubs several times in a totally innocent fashion. Usually “umpteenth” appears with a sentence like this gem:

    “Mermaid alliance dresses are accession in accepting with brides abominable out aesthetic and admirable non adequate attire.”

    @alpha girl

    I wish it was just code that moderates Hubs! Or maybe I don’t, because I’d be unemployed 😉

    A human has to review most of the moderations and make a judgement call. We try very hard to synchronize our judgement as much as possible. Our general rule is if the Hub is a borderline violation, it remains published. Of course, if an entire account contains borderline violations, we will be a bit more firm in our review of that content.

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