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:

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 11.46.32 AM

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. 🙂

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!