A Blog Is Not Enough

In 2006, the research group Gartner made a very surprising prediction: they announced that the total number of bloggers would peak at 100 million in mid 2007.  Gartner reported that over 200 million people have tried blogging but then quit.

Later, in April, 2007, BusinessWeek reported that Gartner’s prediction seemed to be panning out.  With 15.5 million active blogs, the number of new blogs each week was decreasing.  The source for this was Technorati’s State of the Live Web, April 2007.  

I tried to find more current statistics but I could not find anything more current.  I did a search to see if there was an interesting blog on why someone plans to stop blogging.  I did find this one from April, 2008 but I’m not sure that it’s serious.

To me, this prediction sounds a bit premature.  Even if the rate of blogging growth is starting to level off, how can we be sure that this trend will be long standing?  Still, I think that these trends do show that people who recently blogged are not returning as quickly to blog again.

There are many reasons why this may be occurring.  It is getting more and more difficult to get yourself heard in the blogosphere.  With the increasing number of blogs, it becomes a challenge to stand out.  How do you get your blog noticed, linked to, and ranked high by the search engines?  How do you get advice on how to improve your blog?  How do you promote your blog?  How do you build a community around your blog?

Additionally, certain content does not fit in well with a blog.  Sometimes people want short, informative articles rather than personal viewpoints.  The rise of wikipedia has shown that people want more than just blogs.  They want focused, reliable content that is easily locateable.  Another plus with wikipedia is its professional layout with its images, text, links, and video all neatly organized.

While wikipedia provides an incredible, free reference, it offers little help for the newbie blogger.  Wikipedia does not readily link to unestablished bloggers.  There is no easy-to-find comment section to post your opinions on articles or engage in a topic conversation.  The discussion section which exists is more a forum for editors of the current article: what topics are appropriate to be included, what are the footnotes or references for certain claims, etc.

Wikipedia’s strength, in my opinion, is the “insider” community that supports it.  The quality content that makes up Wikipedia has emerged through the dedication and passion of a community of Wikipediacs.  For details on the Wikipedia’s make up, check out this recent article from PC World Australia.

While Wikipedia was not designed to promote existing web sites and blogs, there are other well known bookmarking and social network sites available for promoting a blog.  While their services sound promising on the surface for the newbie blogger, they are reader-focused rather than author-focused.  With these sites, the question becomes: how do you attract the existing community around your blog?  How do you get noticed by Digg, Deli.cio.us, etc.?  How do you attract a following from the existing users?

In my view, it is these pain points which HubPages seeks to address.  The goal of HubPages, from my view, is to foster a community of successful content builders.  I am very excited about joining the HubPages community as one of the new software engineers.  Please let me know what you think.  Do you agree with my observations?  What services or features would you like to see HubPages provide?

Whether blogging is on the rise or not, it is clear to me that blogging alone will probably not provide people with the best return on their time.  Utilizing social networks and bookmarking services are fine but in themselves, they are little different from chasing traffic by making numerous forum posts.  A better alternative is to join an existing community of web authors and promote your blog or other content by writing wikipedia-like articles.  Just blogging and waiting for people to come is not enough.

The New Poll Capsule

Two weeks ago, we released a new feature that enables writers to create interactive polls. More than a thousand polls have already been published. Polls seem to be useful because they involve the reader but don’t require as much effort as posting a comment.

The most popular topic for polls on Hubpages right now is the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Out of the 500 or so polls that have garnered at least one vote, 20 of them involve the presidential candidates or their running mates. John McCain and Barack Obama get mentioned by name in nine polls each, while Joe Biden appears a measly three times. Perhaps not surprisingly, Sarah Palin wins the poll popularity contest with 14 polls, nine of which are about only her.

The political poll with the greatest number of votes is crashcromwell‘s poll Would You Feel Safe Knowing That Sarah Palin Were A Heartbeat Away From The Presidency? Most people said no (so far).

The overall winner for poll with the most votes is 6th Pay Commission by Trsmd with 165 votes. Apparently this hub is about salary increases for government employees in India. Go figure.

As I was investigating how writers are using the new poll capsule, a couple of authors stood out because of their unique approach. ASHWINSPGA, a newcomer living in Singapore, has written a couple of riddle hubs. At the end of his stories, he asks readers to answer a riddle using a poll. One of these riddles is called 3 Men, A Woman and her Virginity. ASHWINSPGA says that he translated it from ancient Indian literature.

Christoph Reilly is another author using polls in creative ways. In his hub Ginger Or Mary Ann: The Eternal Question, Christoph linked together several related polls to create a personality quiz.

A final hub worth mentioning is Black Hole will Swallow Earth-10th September 2008. Author sangeetjass asks if you believe that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) can destroy the earth. The LHC is a giant particle physics experiment that just turned on today. (Today’s Google logo was inspired by the event.) Physicists around the globe have been assuring worried citizens that the LHC is safe and poses no threat to the earth. Given that I am still alive typing this blog post, it appears that they were right.

HubPages as a Research Paper 2.0?

As the official first post of the HubPages blog, I figured that I would throw out some thoughts that I have been talking to a few people about the past couple weeks or so. These thoughts in particular revolve around the ways that students are taught in schools, specifically college, how it hasn’t changed in the last hundred years or so and how HubPages can possibly help the situation get just a little bit better.

Yeah, I know that it’s a random subject, but it was something that I never really thought about until one of my friends and past co-workers, Mitch Maxson, emailed me a link to this YouTube video. This video was put together by a man named Mike Wesch who is a professor of Cultural Anthropology and Digital Ethnography at Kansas State University and he has become one of the huge supporters of changing the way that we currently teach students. Without going too much into it, he strongly believes that we need to better teach students how to utilize social technology and the information that it can provide us in a way that better prepares them for a very information rich world. So, as opposed to students all sitting in a packed classroom where they are only listening to and learning from a single professor, they should be collaborating with each other and using the information and platform that the web provides to learn more and to create more. He has done an amazing job evangelizing this idea and he really got me thinking how HubPages could potentially help out these up-and-coming students, too.

Seeing as our goal here at HubPages is to be the best possible place for people to write on the web, I got to thinking about the ways that I used to write papers in college, which usually went something like this:

  1. Pick a topic that’s assigned by the professor
  2. Do research online and figure out what I’m going to write
  3. Type out the paper into Microsoft Word(pure text) and cite all of my sources that I found online
  4. Either email my paper as an attachment to my professor or print it and turn it in(this is really crazy)
  5. The professor grades it, I move on to the next assignment and the paper that I spent so much time writing has been seen by one person, giving it a potential audience of exactly 1.

I’m not sure if you see the same same things that I do, but after reading through this list there are definitely a few things that I find a little backward and extremely limiting about this current process.

  • The paper is written purely in plain text. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing with writing in pure text, but I would think that adding in some more engaging elements that are found on HubPages such as video, images and linking would add much more relevance to the subject at hand. By not having the ability to bring in all of these elements that are so easily found and so commonly used on the Web today, we are limiting the ability for students to learn how to utilize them in an educational and informative way.
  • The content’s potential audience is only one person. Wow, all of that hard work and the maximum audience that this content will ever see is one person, the professor. Why sell our student’s work so short? Why not allow that research paper on cancer to potentially get read by other people around the world who are seeking that information? It just seems limiting to keep students thinking solely about whether or not their professor liked it – why not use a platform such as HubPages and potentially let the world read it as well?
  • No opportunity for revenue from the original content. I know, I know, these are college researcher papers that we’re talking about, but we are also talking about originally created content that could potentially help a college student buy a couple of those expensive books next semester. There are writers on HubPages that make some good money writing just a handful of Hubs a month and who’s to say that some of those student-generated papers couldn’t do the same? We’re living in a content-driven Web economy and just think about how much potential revenue-generating content is produced by college students each year and is still sitting on a laptop somewhere, never to be read again.

To wrap this up, I’m trying to get the point across that I agree with Professor Wesch in the fact that I think students need to be better educated on how to not only be able to create content on their own, but they also need to become familiar with how to organize, collaborate and create content with the incredible amount of information that’s already out there and available for us all to use. Maybe adding a required HubPages assignment to the syllabus here and there might just help the cause? Hopefully I can get in touch with a few professors and get their thoughts on the whole thing…and then maybe I’ll even write a research paper on it.