Meet the Staff! An Interview with Fawntia Fowler

Fawntia Fowler has been an engineer with HubPages for over three years and has made features such as the Map Capsule, HubNuggets, Hub of the Day, the signed-in homepage, new Hub designs, and the Apprenticeship Program possible. Aren’t you curious to know more about the woman behind these fantastic aspects of our site and community? You should be- Fawntia is a really cool and interesting person (who also happens to have the world’s cutest dog). Check out her answers to various Hubbers’ questions below!

Can you tell us more about the Japanese themed public school you attended in Oregon? Do you feel it affected how you approach the learning process? -rebekahELLE

Sure. The school that I went to was started by a group of parents who were unhappy with the regular public schools in the district. The original plan was to have ALL of our classes taught in Japanese (except English class, I suppose!) but it soon became apparent that we didn’t have the resources to make that happen. So, instead, we had a single Japanese class every day and sometimes Japanese culture classes.

Another unusual thing about the school was that every class had blended ages. The school only had about 50-60 students ranging from 4th to 12th grade, so it was commonplace to have kids a few years younger or older in your classes. Sometimes, that meant that students were expected to work independently and only occasionally get help from teachers. That was especially true of our mathematics classes, which many kids hated, but it worked well for me. I suspect that being forced to work through problems on my own gave me the confidence to major in mathematics in college. I wish that I could say that I use the Japanese that I learned, but I don’t really! I’m still glad that I learned it, though. I’m also happy that I got to know several people from Japan. (Some exchange students and teachers lived with my family for a few years.)

Another good thing about the school was that it introduced me to programming when I was pretty young (about 10 years old), and that certainly had an effect on my life. (Programming is my job at HubPages.)

What do you love about your job? What do you hate (or love a whole lot less)? -Marcy Goodfleisch

I love that I get to create things that other people care about. I love that HubPages is flexible about when and where work gets done, as long as it gets done. Sometimes I get sick of being in front of a computer screen all day, but there’s not much that can be done about that!

Are you strictly a 9-5 outfit? Or do you have workaholics that work into the night, holidays and weekends? – Arlene V. Poma

Most people show up at the office between 8 and 10 and leave between 5 and 7, but there’s no set schedule. Sometimes people work from home for all or part of the day, too, so it’s hard to say for sure! Our moderators probably have the craziest schedules.

Does HP have any Friday traditions? Things like casual day, big box of donuts next to the coffee machine, group lunch at TGIF, etc -paradigmsearch

We have a group lunch on Thursdays, actually. Lately, salads have been very popular, but last week we went out for Dim Sum together.

What’s your favorite thing about San Francisco? -wordscribe43

Either the restaurants, or the fact that you can get almost anywhere without a car.

What’s the best restaurant close to HP headquarters? -wordscribe43

The best restaurants I’ve been to in San Francisco are, sadly, not near our office. The area around where we work is known as SOMA (which stands for South of Market Street). A lot of people work in this neighborhood, but live elsewhere, which means that the restaurants here cater to the lunch crowd far more than the dinner crowd. (It’s amazing how deserted this area gets in the evenings!)

But as for lunch, I think that takeout from Mehfil Indian Restaurant is the best combination of quality and reasonable price. Their lunch menu changes every day, which is nice. I try to bring lunch from home most days, though.

Do you still watch cartoons? What cartoons do you like to watch? -prettydarkhorse

I don’t regularly watch cartoons, but one of my favorite shows is a cartoon. It’s a Nickelodeon show called Avatar: The Last Airbender. Don’t judge it by the movie version, which I heard was terrible! My dog is named after the character Appa in Avatar (who is a flying six-legged sky bison). I’m watching the follow-up show called The Legend of Korra now.

Meet the Judges: Jennifer Farley of Savory Simple

We continue our “Meet the Judges” series with Jennifer Farley, culinary school graduate and blogger extraordinaire! Jennifer’s evocative food writing has been featured on such high-profile websites as Williams-Sonoma and Washington Eats. Here, she shares a little more about her passion as well as some great insights into turning recipes into an artform!

Jennifer Farley, Author of Savory Simple

Jennifer Farley of Savory Simple

Maddie: Tell us a little about yourself and your blog!
Jennifer: I’ve always loved food, but it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I developed a passion for cooking.  Several years ago I decided to change careers and attend culinary school. In 2010 I graduated from L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, MD.  I’ve been cooking and baking professionally ever since! I currently work as a cooking instructor and social media marketer.  Savory Simple was originally created to document my time in school, but has evolved into a creative outlet for recipe development and food photography.

 

Maddie: What’s your typical breakfast?
Jennifer: I have a green smoothie every morning, typically consisting of almond milk, a banana, an apple, almond butter, flax seed and spinach.  It’s filling, delicious, and energizing.

Maddie: What key elements do you look for in a good recipe?

Jennifer: If someone takes the time to include cook time and yield information, I’m more likely to try the recipe.  That indicates attention to detail and testing.  I also really like a quality photo that shows me what the finished product will look like.

Maddie: Speaking of photos, what role do you think visuals play in recipes?
Jennifer: If I find a recipe online or in a cookbook, I want to see what it looks like and I want the photo to make me hungry.  Sharp, bright and colorful photos sell the food.  We eat with our eyes first.

Maddie: In food writing, there’s a fine balance between information and anecdotes. What are your tips for including personal touches without overwhelming the content?
Jennifer: Personally, I don’t read long anecdotes or stories that don’t relate to the recipe itself.  I follow a lot of blogs.  I don’t mind a paragraph or two, but I prefer not to have to skim over irrelevant photos and anecdotes in order to get to the recipe.  I think it’s similar to the philosophy behind food photography.  Highlight the food and focus on the important details.  On my own site I often include a paragraph about current life events or details about the inspiration behind the recipe, but that’s usually it.  I know a lot of people love reading blogs for the stories, though, so it’s a matter of preference.

Maddie: Finally, what are you most looking forward to in this contest?
Jennifer: Finding new and delicious recipes to try!

A New Learning Center Guide to Google+

With our series of Learning Center entries on social media, we have already offered advice for Hubbers who seek to make the most of Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, and our latest guide addresses a fourth popular social network: Google+.

Even if you do not have time (or motivation) to be an active participant on Google+ (so many social networks, so little time…), you can still reap major benefits from setting up a nice Google+ profile and connecting it with your HubPages account.

We cover tips on doing just that in The HubPages Guide to Google+, as well as:

  • Setting up a good profile
  • Claiming authorship of your Hubs
  • Proper use of +1’s
  • Utilizing circles
  • The importance of moderation
  • Tips on sharing
  • Interacting with others on Google+
  • HubPages on Google+

We hope you find it to be useful!

 

Discovered by a Greeter: Haunty Interviews Dirling

Our Discovered by a Greeter series continues with a look at another promising new Hubber discovered by the ever-dedicated Greeter Haunty.

Dirling, called Lisa Simpson by her friends, describes herself as an activist, historian, and world traveler. Though she has only published a small handfull of Hubs so far, they are exceedingly fascinating. Of course, we can only know so much about this promising Hubber from her short bio and small (but growing) collection of Hubs, so Haunty asked her some fun interview questions to give us a better peek at this history-loving Hubber.

Your profile on HubPages is brief, but that much more intriguing. Could you tell us a little about yourself? Why do they call you Lisa Simpson?

I studied Library and Information Science for my masters degree, with a focus on archives and records management. I am tremendously excited by historical materials – personal papers, photographs, official documents – in an archive, your collections are not only unique, but also often haven’t been seen in years, sometimes decades. It’s endlessly fascinating.

I was born in Hollywood, Florida, and moved to Colorado when I was six years old. I absolutely love living here; the beauty of this state is incredibly inspiring. When I’m feeling weighed down, a drive to the mountains is all I need to feel once again that wonder and awe of nature, of life itself. I’ve traveled all over the world, but there’s no place like home.

As for “Lisa Simpson,” well, it’s better than Cliff Claven. 🙂 “It’s a little known fact…” is definitely one aspect of my personality. I have a gift for obscure trivia, dates and names, and quotations. I worry that I can come across as an insufferable know-it-all, but those who love me seem to enjoy benefiting from my random knowledge.

How did you find HubPages and what is your impression of the site and the community so far? Have you set any goals in regard to publishing on HubPages?

I stumbled on HP while I was looking around at freelance writing options and just thought I’d see what kind of reception I get. Writing is a little scary, as you know; you never know how your work will be received. I haven’t set any goals yet, but I have a lot of ideas I’ve always wanted to explore, such as Women in History. There are so many great stories waiting to be told! It’ll be interesting to see how much of an audience I have for that.

As someone who has joined us recently, how easy do you think it is for a new Hubber to navigate HubPages and find the information he or she needs to get started quickly? Is there room for improvement?

I found it easy to get started. I published my first post within a few hours of joining, and messed around quite a bit with the text and photo capsules to get it formatted just right. I couldn’t figure out how to put photos where I wanted them initially, but was able to get an answer to that easily enough with the FAQ page.

As you know, I’m fairly new here, but I’ve noticed a few Hubs with errors in grammar and spelling that would be easily caught by a proofreader. The overall quality of Hubs might be improved with the addition of a place where contributors can have their work checked before posting – pointing out that sort of thing isn’t the kind of remark I want to leave in comments, who likes a grammar Nazi? (Maybe such a place exists right now, and I just haven’t seen it?)

Your first Hubs are some of the best descriptive essays I’ve read recently. They are carefully planned, packed with information, and extremely well-written. What inspires you to write? Can you teach me the process of writing such amazing pieces?

Thank you! I have loved writing ever since I was, oh, about twelve years old. I think a passion for your subject is probably the most important thing to have, but there’s no denying that the getting a handle on the mechanics of writing requires a great deal of practice. I wrote a ton of papers in college, where I was able to hone my research-writing style. For descriptive and informative essays, I feel it makes for a more exciting and interesting read if you have an opinion about your subject, and try to convey that without wandering too far into editorial or propaganda-type writing.

The Hubs you have published so far are concerned with historical figures. Where does your interest in history come from? When you study the history of different peoples are there any over-arching questions that you are looking to find answers to?

I’ve been fascinated with history ever since I did a report on Ancient Egypt in middle school. At that time, it was more an interest in how differently people lived, the kinds of clothes they wore, isn’t that weird how boys would shave all but one lock of hair from their heads? Yet the more I’ve learned, the more it’s become obvious that people really haven’t changed much since the very beginning. We’re still motivated in large part by our emotions, by fear and love and anger. To see how that plays out in world events, the stories of individual people – it’s fascinating. And the what-ifs, if things had happened differently, are equally intriguing to ponder. I’ve been on a Nazi Germany obsession for a little while now – talk about the characters in THAT story! Hitler always thought of himself as an artist – could it all have been averted if they’d just let him into art school?

What is the best or most curious thing that has happened to you in life and you would tell us about?

I participated in an anthropology/geology field school trip to Tanzania a few years ago. It was an incredible experience – five weeks living in a tent in the Serengeti. It made me realize how much we take for granted, the sheer abundance of what we have. Every day in the field when we stopped for lunch, some Maasai kids would turn up and wait to see if they’d be given anything extra. Seeing a boy of six or seven walking his cattle to the watering hole, using a Prestone jug for a water bottle – it’s a different world. Yet the strange thing is, it isn’t a bad world. It’s so simple. Our camp was next to a tiny village with a small hospital where the medical-anthro students were doing a malaria study, and it actually had a few computers and internet access; but the day to day life, just working from sunrise to sunset, taking dinner, and sitting talking around the fire – that’s a nice life in a lot of ways. I can’t make my life quite that simple, but it’s a good reminder to count my blessings.

Questions Moving to Subdomains

A few months ago, Simone announced that you’ve had the option to migrate Questions you’ve asked to your subdomain. At the time of the announcement, you could opt for an irreversible move, but the migration was optional. Now, most likely this coming Wednesday, we will complete the migration with all yet-unmoved Questions transferred to askers’ subdomains.

What does this mean? Questions you’ve asked will reside on  your subdomain, and the ads placed on Question pages will have their impressions shared with you just like your Hubs’ ads are. It’s a great opportunity to get others to answer your most pressing questions, like what causes the bumpy ridges in fingernails?

(The final migration will occur around Wednesday, but if you’d like to move your Questions even earlier, please visit My Account > Q&A > Question Statistics)

Meet the Staff! An Interview with Edward Zhang

Edward Zhang is HubPages’ youngest engineer, and a dang good one at that! When he’s not busy kicking butt (as demonstrated in his HubPages profile image), Ed is busy working on cool HubPages features such as Videos, our iPhone app, slideshows on Hubs, the Great Commenter Accolades, HubTool tips, and many more elements hidden within the site’s underpinnings.

To learn more about this up-and-coming builder-of-things, check out his answers to some of your interview questions!

Do you ever feel bad when after a hard job you do not receive the recognition and praise that you deserve from Hubbers? -ngureco

It’s always nice to receive some recognition and praise for a feature that I’ve spent a lot of time on. Other times, we receive negative feedback on our work, which always stings a bit, but life goes on nonetheless! Many times, if our work is not big enough to be announced on the blog or in the forums, it goes largely unnoticed, but I don’t think there’s any real shame in that. As long as we are helping HubPages as a whole, then I am happy with it.

Why do some staff members write lots of Hubs whilst others don’t? Aren’t staff members not as interested in making more money from HubPages just like the Hubbers are? -ngureco

Keeping up with Hub writing can consume a lot of time and energy. Most of us engineers don’t ever bother with, and don’t have the time to write, Hubs. Not to mention, us engineers are probably more lacking in the English skills department. However, the marketing team tends to write more Hubs (as demonstrated by Paul Edmondson, Robin, and Simone), but that’s just because they slack off all day at work (I’m only joking, they actually do excellent work!).

Do you still watch cartoons? -prettydarkhorse

Yes! Watching anime and cartoons is what keeps me sane! I also love watching Big Bang Theory, a sitcom about a group of nerdy friends. Imagine Friends, but with a bunch of nerds instead. It’s actually really hilarious!

Does Simone really wear big hair bows every day? -GinnyLee

Oh, that’s a good one question. In fact, YES, she does! Sometimes I have the urge to sneakily steal the bows from her head and hide it. It’s a shame that I don’t work on the same floor as her though…

When does your work day begin and when does it end? Do you work 24/7 or ever go through HP withdrawal when you are away from the computer? -AEvans

I usually arrive in the HP office around 9:30AM (I have a horrible habit of staying up late) and leaving at 6PM. There’s a bit of flex to that timeframe, but you get the general idea. It’s actually quite flexible here at HP, which is great. Say I needed to stay home to wait for a repairman… on those days I could work from home for the morning, and come into the office during the afternoon. Or even better, I could choose to work from home the whole day!

I personally don’t “work” past my work hours, but I do log into HubPages to browse around while I’m at home. I also use the HubPages iPhone app to poke around while I’m commuting to work, or when I’m bored.

While I don’t need to work 24/7, we actually do have someone that needs to monitor our servers near 24/7, in case any emergencies happen with our servers.

What sports do you like to watch and play? -prettydarkhose

I love to play badminton. Every weekend, I would go to a local indoor badminton gym to practice for a whole afternoon, from maybe 2PM to 9PM. I played on the school badminton team during high school, and have been interested in it ever since!

Fun fact about Edward: I went to high school with Simone Smith.

Pinterest Tips for Hubbers

Our social media-centric series of Learning Center entries (which has already addressed Twitter and Facebook) continues with a guide to Pinterest, which offers tips and tricks on making the most of this trendy, image-centric social network.

Our guide covers:

  • Using the Pin This button on Hubs
  • Including beautiful images in your Hubs to increase their chances of being pinned
  • Getting started on Pinterest
  • The importance of moderation and balance
  • Tips on pinning images from your own Hubs
  • The importance of interaction
  • Group boards
  • Pinterest and image rights

Be sure to give it a read and make a point of taking our advice to heart! Even if you do not want to have an account on Pinterest or be very involved within the social network, there are some very simple actions you can take to boost the chances of your Hubs’ images ending up on people’s pinboards.

Next week, our social media series concludes with a guide to Google+. Stay tuned!

 

Aviannovice – A Passionate Nature Advocate on HubPages

Having joined the community just a couple of months ago, aviannovice may be something of a HubPages novice, but don’t let her newness fool you! She has already published an impressive number of fascinating Hubs on birds, as well as other interesting subjects. After reading her bio, you’ll find that this Hubber has quite a few intriguing areas of expertise. We asked avian novice for an interview to learn more about them.

We hope the following interview will inspire you to dig into your own unique specialities- and write some Hubs about them! Aviannovice’s work truly attests to the wonderful impact one can make by sharing personal passions and skills with others.

___

After finding a baby bird on the sidewalk in 2004, you were, over a series of months and years, transformed into a bird watcher, advocate, photographer, and rehabilitator. If your pre-2004 self had been told that she would become a bird expert, would she be surprised?

I would not call myself a bird EXPERT, as I always find myself learning something new. I don’t feel that anyone can know everything about birds, as they will prove you a liar every time. They all have their own personalities, some are friendly and others don’t want to be anywhere near people. As far as photography, I just seriously began photographing birds in Jan. of this year, as I finally got myself a digital camera with a little zoom as a Christmas present. Prior to that, I had a little Minolta 35mm point-and-shoot that used film.

In addition to rehabilitating and working with birds, you work with K9 Partners for Life (which socializing helping dogs that accompany people with physical disabilities) and PAWS (which spays and neuters feral cats). Will you write about these subjects on HubPages as well?

Unfortunately, I have not done any rehab work with birds since 2006 for the most part, though I did raise and help raise a couple of baby birds in 2010, a Common Grackle and an American Robin. I was thinking about writing about both PAWS and K9 Partners for Life, both excellent organizations. When I was in Maine, I did a little work with Allied Whale, which was based at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME. Through that program, I worked with seals and porpoises, some living, and some not. I gained some good experience in necropsies, which was to determine how and why a sea mammal passed on. Sadly, I have been unable to find any good volunteer work with animals in Stillwater, OK, where I am now. I miss it greatly.

Many of your Hubs feature beautiful photos that you’ve taken. Do you sometimes write Hubs just to use a beautiful set of images, or do you typically take photos to illustrate something you’re describing in a Hub?

I am out photographing, and what comes, comes. The only times that I plan on using specific photos is when I write my weekly, Life at Boomer Lake with Deb. Sometimes, birds just present themselves, and when they do, I take those pictures, as I never know when I might need them. I have even provided a few photos to fellow Hubbers for their Hubs.

You are oil spill certified in two states. What does this mean? What do you do with this certification? Do you think you’ll be writing any Hubs on the subject?

Being Oil Spill Certified means that I learned information on how to safely work with oiled animals, plus I know how to take precautions to not contaminate anything with oil. Oil is very carcinogenic, a dangerous substance that we cannot trust. Petroleum jelly is refined from oil and people use it every day as a lubricant. I actually wrote a three-segment Hub called “The Real Story: Athos I Oil Spill, November 26, 2004.

What first brought you to HubPages? What are your future plans with the site, community, and platform?

I found HubPages on a nationwide job site, so I thought that I would see what it was about, and I like the fact that I don’t have to beg to get myself published. I have been trying for decades to get published, to no avail. One never knows, it just might open a few doors for me, as my stories are all over the internet now, being read all over the world, and I even get e-mails from people from the internet. I enjoy the community, all the people that I have encountered, and I see no reason why I would not stay here on HubPages. I might even be able to help new writers. I like to keep an open mind on these things. I believe in keeping doors open and not closing them.

With your writing, is there any overarching message that you would like to get out? What sort of impact do you aim to leave on your readers?

My general rule is to reach the general public about the beauty of nature and the fact that we should keep it beautiful and preserve it as much as possible. It is important to try to save what we have and not do any harm to the beautiful creatures and flora of our earth. We only get one chance, so we must preserve it as best as possible, so future generations may enjoy it, as well, and learn by example. My basic credo is that if I cannot impassion people about nature, nobody can. My Hubs are also on the on-line blog for the Stillwater(OK) News Press, the local newspaper. Everyone that I meet on my daily ventures to Boomer Lake is given a card with my Hub information, so they can read about nature, our local birds, and see the pictures that I provide with my Hubs. I’m having so much fun with this, and if I only got paid for writing, I would be in Seventh Heaven to support myself by doing something that I truly love. I try to share my passion and love for nature with all those people that I encounter, for it can be infectious.

Meet the Staff! An Interview with Micki Seibel

Though relatively new to HubPages, Head of Product Micki Seibel has been making big and splendid changes to our site. When chatting in the Forums, Micki is usually fielding questions about design changes and tests, but there is much more to this HubPages staff member (and impressive food Hubber) than new Hub designs! Check out Micki’s answers to Hubber questions to learn more about her background, motivation, and philosophy.

Do you ever feel bad when after a hard job you do not receive the recognition and praise that you deserve from Hubbers? -ngureco

No. In most cases, hearing no feedback is a sign of a job well done because the Hubbers that don’t like something will always say so!

On a more serious note, I do read comments and posts from Hubbers to look for indications that you are happy and to get feedback. For me, I know I’ve done a good job when the data says so…even if the Hubbers don’t. However, if you want to praise me for a job well done, I’ll gladly accept it. 😉

What motivates you to do the things you do for HubPages?

My professional mission in life is to use technology to improve the lives of millions of people. It’s why I came to Silicon Valley in 1996. It’s why I worked for Netscape on the web browser back in the day (bringing the Internet to the masses). It’s why I ran Product Management at eBay in its early days (democratizing the exchange of goods), and why I’ve done the start-up companies that I have. HubPages is a continuation of that mission: using the internet to enable writers to find an audience, and enabling readers to find and engage with what you write (democratizing the exchange of knowledge).

Ryan H. used to bring in his dog. Do you have any office dogs now? -wordscribe43

I can’t thank you enough for asking this question and giving me the chance to show you Kisha-pups. 🙂 Although Norah and Ari sometimes bring their dogs to work, our most regular office dog is Kisha. She’s my 11 year old Belgian Sheepdog/Chow mix. She and I walk to the office (30 minutes one way) 3 or 4 days a week to keep her fit. I adopted her from the Humane Society when she was 5 months old. In fact, here’s a picture of Kisha under my desk at HubPages HQ.

What are your goals for site in the future (one year, five years, etc.)? – Marcy Goodfleisch

Excellent question. The goal at HubPages is to provide a platform for you to write and find an audience. That’s always been our goal and it’s not going to change. What changes from 1 year to 5 years (or even from 5 years ago when we started) is *how* to fulfill that.

The key themes for the next year (and you probably already see these happening on the site):

  • Traffic growth. Search engine optimization is always an ongoing part of that, but also looking at other methods such as social media and mobile optimization.
  • Redesign of the site. This is to better communicate our brand (especially to readers) and to update our site design
  • Content Growth. How to keep you engaged in writing, working on features to make the site easier, and looking at ways to give you inspiration to write content where we are lacking in it.

Are you strictly a 9-5 outfit? Or do you have workaholics that work into the night, holidays and weekends? – Arlene V. Poma

Actually, we are neither. Let me explain.

We don’t have set hours that everyone works. Our company culture is very supportive of letting employees create their own work schedules, and we are allowed to work from home when we need. We’re definitely not a culture of late night workaholics. A lot of people have families, and everyone seems to have interesting extracurricular activities and interests.

It works well for us because…and I really do mean this honestly when I say it…we have a great team that is very good at what they do, passionate about it, and that makes them effective. I’ve worked at several high profile Internet companies over the years, and I definitely think that the team here at HubPages is one of the best with which I’ve ever worked. Everything gets done that needs to get done…and quickly. At the same time, I can still cook dinner, play tennis, and travel: my passions.

Do you read Hubs for enjoyment? – rebekahELLE

Every day. I don’t always get to comment on what I read, but I at least leave a Hub Feedback on good ones. I follow the Food & Cooking, Tennis, Travel & Places, and Dogs Topics, specifically.

Where are HubPages’ growth opportunities? -GinnyLee

These are very related to the question earlier about our 1 year and 5 year goals. There are three inter-related opportunities:

  • Traffic Growth. This is continued work on search engine optimization as well as better integration with social media.
  • Brand and engaging readers. Updating our brand and site design to better engage readers. If they start to remember who we are, they will pick us in search and that help traffic growth. This is why you are seeing the design of the site change: the header, the new slideshow player, the new Hub design testing. Coming later this year are the User Profile and Topics pages.
  • Content Growth. Engaging writers such as yourselves to create more, great content–especially in areas where we are lacking in it. This helps more readers find us, choose HubPages in search, share the content with their networks, and remember to come back to HubPages–all of which supports traffic growth.
  • And traffic growth = audience for your content.

What sports does each one of you like to watch and play? -prettydarkhorse

Tennis. I’ve been an athlete my whole life, but tennis is my primary passion. I’ve been playing since I was 12, played a bit in college, and now play competitive USTA league tennis. I’ve written a couple of Tennis Hubs. I’ve even attended each of the 4 Grand Slams of Tennis (some of them, like the Australian Open, more than once).

Did I mention tennis?

Does HP have any Friday traditions? Things like casual day, big box of donuts next to the coffee machine, group lunch at TGIF, etc. -paradigmsearch

We have several traditions. They aren’t specific to Fridays, though. We always have team lunch on Thursdays. That’s been great because it’s the one day that everyone who works for HubPages is sure to be in the office! We have fresh coffee from Peet’s made every morning. Sometimes we do Wednesday dinners.

Casual day? Ha! That’s every day.

I notice employees on the forums late at night sometimes. Are you “on the clock” for these late hours, or what? -wordscribe43

I’ll let others answer for themselves. For me, I’m on the forums late at night working sometimes for several different reasons:

  • Sometimes it’s because I’m working on something that needs fast turnaround and there’s a lot of feedback coming from Hubbers (for example, the Hub redesigns in Fashion and Technology).
  • Sometimes it’s because I left work early to play tennis. Ok, truth be told, it’s often it’s because I split up my work day and head out early to play tennis then work again after dinner.

Meet the Judges: Jess Kapadia of Food Republic

Jess Kapadia

Jess Kapadia, Assistant Editor of Food Republic

We continue our series of interviews with the judging panel for our Cookbook Contest with Jess Kapadia, Recipes Editor at Food Republic, a fast-growing food, drink, and lifestyle website for men. Jess’s love of food began before she could express it, but today she’s anything but lost for words. She’s made a career out of cooking, eating, and writing eloquently about it all!

Jess was kind enough to answer some questions about herself, as well as present some killer tips for the contest that you won’t want to miss!

 

Maddie: Tell us a little about yourself and your work with food.
Jess: I’ve been a food writer since college. When I started writing about food, I realized that recipe creation and sourcing was one of my favorite parts of the job, started a cooking blog and began focusing on finding great recipes wherever I went. I grew up in the kitchen with my mom, who’s a chef and caterer, and started using the stove without permission when I was 8. When you love eating that much, being surrounded by food all the time just seems like the most logical path. Since then I’ve written a daily column for Food Republic on what to eat for lunch, and forayed into professional recipe testing and food styling, which I find insanely fun.

Maddie: What is your favorite food? What do you love about it?

Jess: I like anything that can be described as a “sea oddity.” Sea urchin, monkfish liver, sea cucumber and the non-meat parts of lobster (green stuff, red stuff, stuff in the head) are all awesome. You get taste of the ocean without the distracting fish flavor or excessive saltiness, it’s really breathtaking.

Maddie: What’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten? Did you like it?
Jess: Camel brain kebabs in Marrakech, Morocco. I absolutely loved them, but did end up in the hospital towards the end of the following day with a fever of 105. The nurses said I spoke very good French. I’ve also dabbled in human placenta, but it wasn’t my idea (and the placenta’s previous home was inside a board-certified doctor who told her sister and me to “go for it”). I just don’t say no to eating things that are technically or historically edible.
Maddie: You’re a food tourist with an unlimited budget. What’s your first travel destination?
Jess: Brittany. I want to eat a whole shellfish tower by myself while one of my picky eater friends watches, helpless, preferably bound to a chair while “Hungry Like The Wolf” plays in the background.

Maddie: On to contest advice. What key elements do you look for in a good recipe?
Jess: Order of operations is the first thing I tackle, pretty standard. To make it easy for the home cook and maximize the success of the recipe, it’s crucial that the ingredients be listed in the order they’re used. This way you can prepare your mise-en-place without worrying that something will burn while you’re still mincing garlic. I also like to see phrases like “when the sauce has reduced by half” or “fry for 5-7 minutes, or until crisp.” That helps teach the home cook to pay close attention to the tendencies of the ingredient or technique and watch attentively for the defining moment between “not finished cooking,” “perfectly deep-golden brown and crispy” and “definitely slightly burned.” Recipes are more suggestions than concrete blueprints — everyone’s oven is different, pots and pans have different thicknesses and don’t get me started on electric or induction burners versus gas. Wiggle room in the instructions is very important.

Maddie: How do you think photos and videos can be best used to enhance a good recipe?
Jess: My experience with food photography is that it’s smart to highlight the best attribute of a finished dish, whether it’s a roast chicken’s crispy, shiny skin or the gooey stretch of a slice of pizza being lifted away from the pie. In the case of pizza, where the melty, stretchy cheese is the ultimate goal, an action shot can definitely set a dish apart and make it look especially appealing.

Maddie: In food writing, there’s a fine balance between being information and anecdotes. What are your tips for including personal touches without overwhelming the content?
Jess: If you have an anecdote that’s short and 100% relevant, definitely add it in. Grandma shout-outs are always fair game, they’re the best cooks. The cookbooks with the most effective recipes, in my opinion, are the ones that let the reader know why the cook chose it, a tip “from experience” on a step that may prove trickier than it appears, and the cook’s favorite way to serve it — on a platter, over crushed ice, with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, down by the river. What makes me skip straight to the ingredient list is a long-winded story, like a foraging “adventure.” I’ve been in the woods picking fiddleheads too. It mostly involved picking fiddleheads and dropping them in a basket.

Maddie: What are you most looking forward to in this contest?
Jess: I’d like to see if anyone can make me laugh without cracking an actual formulated joke.