Share Your Custom Illustrations With HubPages!

This month, as we share tips and advice on working custom made graphics into your Hubs, we encourage you to share cool sketches, drawings, graphs, graphics, and other illustrations you have included in your work to provide our community with some inspiration.

Here’s how to join in:

  • On Facebook: Visit our Facebook page and select the “Photo/Video” option, then upload a custom graphic you’ve created for one of your Hubs, along with a little description explaining how you made it and the Hub it is intended for
  • On Twitter: Share your photo with the hashtag #HubPagesGraphic (and feel free to mention @HubPagesDotCom)
  • On Google+: Upload a photo and description of a custom graphic you created (complete with an explanation) and be sure to tag +HubPages
  • Email photos to us directly and let us post it to our official albums on Facebook, Google+, and/or Pinterest by sending a message to Simone (dot) Smith (at) HubPages.com with the image, a link to the Hub in which it appears, and some background on how you created it.

I can’t wait to see what you have created!

Topic Pages, HubNuggets, About Us, and Forum Styling Get a Makeover

After redesigning the Hub and Profile pages, the hard working team at HubPages Headquarters has turned their focus to Topics and special programs, hence today we are excited to roll out new designs for Topic Pages and HubNuggets Program, as well as an updated About page and some improved Forum styling.

Topic Pages

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 11.06.52 AMTopic pages have been given a sleek fresh styling by Derek Gulbranson that has been expertly implemented by Edward Zhang. Though most of the elements present on the pages remain the same, the page now has a greater emphasis on images, as well as a more tangible feel (see, for example, the shading that makes these pages look like open books).

As Gulbranson puts it, “I wanted to bring richer browse experience for articles, full titles and descriptions and larger photos, more of a magazine feel. Less focus on the navigation and topic hierarchy and more of a place to explore and find something you’re interested in. We also wanted to highlight the community more and give the sense that stuff is happening here.”

In short, our main objectives with this update were to:

  1. Create a great browsing experience for Hubbers and casual visitors alike
  2. Better showcase our community and make it easier to both discover great content and connect with the authors who created it
  3. Create pages that are better designed to drive traffic from search engines to your Hubs

HubNuggets: Now Rising Stars

Because HubNuggets voting takes place on Topic Pages, we took the Topic Page redesign as an opportunity to update the HubNuggets program as well so that it can be easier to interact with and more clear to those who are not yet familiar with the more esoteric ins and outs of the high power HubPages community.

This design update includes a new voting interface on Topic Pages (also designed by the Venerable Gulbranson), as well as some logistical changes (voting will no longer also take place in a roundup Hub).

Finally, to make the program more clear, we are changing its name from HubNuggets (which, while meant to evoke the sense of discovering nuggets of gold on HubPages, often evoked mental images of chicken nuggets) to the Rising Star program. Hence “HubNuggets Wannabes” will henceforth be known as “Rising Star Candidates” and HubNuggets winners will be known as Rising Stars. You can learn more about the new program in the Learning Center.

About Page & Forum Styling

In addition to significant stylistic changes with Topic Pages and the HubNuggets Program, you’ll also see that our About page now offers more of an explanation of what HubPages actually is (before, it focused primarily on staff bios) and also has a much more visually-oriented presentation.

Derek has also applied some more polished styling to forum posts by giving them a gradient and a drop shadow as well as making them a bit easier to expand and collapse.

 

We hope you’re pleased with these changes! Let us know what you think. 🙂

Illustration Tips from Shadesbreath

Shadesbreath is one of HubPages’ long-time artists; he has been incorporating original sketches into his Hubs for years. As he has quite a lot of experience with creating custom graphics for his work- as well as making the tough decision of when they should be used and when it is better to use other images- we asked for him to share some of his wisdom with the community at large. Lucky for all of us, he obligingly agreed. I hope that his helpful tips inspire you to have a go at creating sketches for some Hubs of your own!

How long have you been sketching? Have you always had a habit of occasionally including sketches in your work?

I’ve been sketching since I was a kid, even considered majoring in art for a while. As for putting sketches into my Hubs, that crept in more gradually. I started out trying to be serious—and I used graphics resources like everyone else—but then I realized I am far too immature for serious articles, and there are no Flikr or Wikimedia Commons sites with stuff goofy enough or sarcastic enough to help me.

How did you develop your signature style?

It’s sort of a combination of laziness and the careful black and white shading that I can do reasonably well if I take the time. My Vlad the Inhaler Hub was the first one I illustrated, and I think I spent about twenty-five hours drawing the pictures for it. While I thought they came out well, especially the bat on the roof, I knew after that hub I was going to have to tone illustrations wayyyy down. I don’t have twenty-five hours to illustrate on top of the time spent writing a hub, so I started going for faster sketches. That quick use of light and shadow eventually turned into the style you see on a lot of my stuff now.

What makes you decide to create an original illustration for a Hub?

Mainly it’s when I can’t find perfect graphical fits for my work anywhere else. I’m kind of a control freak when it comes to my writing, and I figure if I’m going to choose my words carefully, I should choose my images carefully too. Plus, obviously, I don’t have to deal with copyright issues if I make my own stuff.

What media do you use to create your illustrations? What process do you follow when scanning them in and preparing them for final presentation in a Hub?

For the goofy quick sketches, I draw on the backs of manuscript pages since I always have tons of those lying around. Then I scan them on a little scanner my wife got cheap at an office supply store, I think for under a hundred bucks. Up until the last six months or so, I used to do any modifications to the drawings in the simple MS Paint program that comes with windows, but now I’m trying to do everything in Photoshop—even though it is a thousand-million times more complicated and totally drives me to drink.

What would you say are the biggest benefits of using illustrations over photos?

Precision and “voice.” For me, I can sketch something that has the same attitude, the same mood and rhetorical flavor, as the prose in the Hub. And of course I can sketch something that is precisely what has occurred in the text which, when you are going for absurd (think of the whale lifting thing in my Hub about joining the gym for example, or the one where my wife is a mutant from the forbidden zone… where am I going to find that kind of stuff?). I suppose I could doctor photos for that sort of thing (and sometimes I do), but sketching gets me straight to what I want it to be.

What advice would you give to those who might be hesitant to consider creating handmade art to put in their online articles?

If you love making art, go for it. Don’t worry about what people might think. Just do it. You never know what will work until you try. Look at Mark Ewbie’s stuff. The guy draws stick figures for Pete’s sake. And yet, somehow, he manages to make them brilliant. If stick figures can work, and the silliness I put up can work, anything can work. Draw, paint, write from your heart, make is as good as you can, and that will resonate with people.

 

[For more illustrative inspiration, check out Shadesbreath’s Hubs!]

Hubbing with Pets

NettlemereAlthough we wound down our Hubbing space series earlier this week, we couldn’t help but post this latest photo sent in by Nettlemere. It reveals so much of what we love about Hubbers and their approaches to the Hubbing process!

Explains Nettlemere:

It is the product of an untidy mind, poor housekeeping skills, and an indication that I could be the laziest Hubber ever since – yes – that is my bed I Hub from. I moved my bed downstairs so that my elderly dog Nettle didn’t have to sleep alone once he couldn’t manage stairs anymore (that was five years ago! Nettle is still going strong). Some days I have to squish in between 3 dogs to write a Hub – it just depends where they have decided to crash out. But I wouldn’t be without their company when I write or without their gentle reminders that there is a world out there which wants to be walked in. The piles of slide boxes shout at one of my other enthusiasms – photography – which is an essential feature of my Hubs too. I’m in the process of scanning then all into my computer, but incapable of tackling the task logically or linearly.

The things Nettlemere shares in her Hubbing space photo represent several approaches shared across the HubPages community:

  1. A love of pets: Though her explanation, we discover the Nettlemere gets her HubPages username from her dog’s name. We’ve seen that many Hubbers are inspired by their canine companions and like to write Hubs in the company of their beloved pets. We love it!
  2. A habit of Hubbing in bed: Nettlemere isn’t alone in enjoying Hubbing from bed- I do the same thing, and bet many of us do. Hubbing makes for a great leisure activity, and we love that many Hubbers turn to our platform and community to wind down and explore a fresh, creative corner of their lives.
  3. A pinch of great creativity: That Nettlemere is slowly scanning her photos into digital formats into Hubs is excellent. It also reminds me that nearly every Hubber incorporates some sort of creative element into his or her Hubs, be it in the form of original sketches, great photos taken throughout one’s life, cool camera phone pictures, or beautiful graphs and diagrams.

Isn’t it fun to see how the things we share in common show up in the lives of others? Thanks for sharing your Hubbing space with us, Nettlemere. 🙂

Using Illustrations to Augment Your Hubs

We put a huge emphasis on using original (or at least super high quality and legally used and properly attributed) photos in your Hubs, and with good reason. We live in an age where some of the most successful online content is very visual. Attractive images encourage people to pin their sources on Pinterest or click through when they see alluring thumbnails on Facebook or Google+, hence those looking to build an audience should make a point of including as many alluring visuals in one’s work as possible.

While photos are a great option, they are by no means the only option. Many Hubbers also augment their Hubs with custom illustrations, and in many ways, these have an even more meaningful impact.

Original, author-created sketches, drawings, images, and graphics:

  • Stand out, as they are different from photos (which are still the most popular form of visual media on HubPages)
  • Show that the author was willing to go the extra mile to create a special graphic to support his or her content
  • More effectively illustrate complex situations or make it possible process statistics (via the use of diagrams, graphs, and charts)

As original illustrations can be so effective, we hope you’ll consider working more into your Hubs in the days and weeks to come. To help you do so effectively, we’ll be sharing tips and tricks on including custom made graphics throughout the month of October.

The World is Your Hubbing Space

Jill KostowI used to think that most people wrote Hubs in formal home offices, sitting in normal chairs in front of normal tables and surrounded by normal notes and books. I was wrong. If the Hubbing space series has taught me anything, it is that Hubbing takes place in all kinds of interesting places- from boats to bike paths to… kitchens! This is the case with JillKostow, who shared her cool Hubbing space with me last night. Here’s her description:

My Hubbing space is located in my busy kitchen right next to the refrigerator. I write most of my first drafts on notebook paper and then type it into the computer later when I am cooking or keeping one of my children company while they have a snack. This location also works best for me because I am able to hear my children while they are playing in the parlor or upstairs in their bedrooms. Hubbin’ Ain’t Easy most of the time with four children and our hectic schedules, but somehow I manage to find time for my writing and with luck it all falls into place!

It’s true that we don’t always have the luxury to sit down in a traditional office / writing spot, and I think it’s brilliant that so many Hubbers have found ways to write great Hubs despite very busy and active lifestyles.

SkeetyD

As we bring the Hubbing Space series to a close, I’d like to share an image from one more Hubber: SkeetyD. This new mother and writer has the following to say about what might at first seem like a surprising Hubbing space:

This is my primary hubbing space. I usually start my Hubs on my blackberry. Typing out things that inspire me or random thoughts since I spend a lot of time of the road commuting.

SkeetyD is not alone in Hubbing on the go, as we’ve seen from many other Hubbers who have shared their awesome photos with us over the past two weeks.

What I love about SkeetyD’s photo is that it reminds us all that Hubbing is less about a physical space and more about a state of mind. We’ve found that true Hubbers are always Hubbing, whether they’re researching furniture, taking photos on vacation, riding a bike, or writing up drafts on one’s phone while commuting, as SkeetyD does (and as I do as well).

So long as you have a phone, camera, notepad, or even a good memory to record your thoughts and ideas, the world is your Hubbing space- and with the ability to share and earn from your passions and expertise online, we say the world is your oyster, too!

Big thanks to everyone who shared their awesome Hubbing spaces with us. You can find an album of all of the Hubbing Spaces sent directly to HubPages in the Hubbing Spaces Facebook album and on Google+.

A Hubber on TV: Julie DeNeen’s Anderson LIVE Experience

Julie DeNeen and Anderson CooperYesterday was an exciting day a HubPages Headquarters- the office was abuzz with talk about Julie DeNeen, an Apprentice who was the featured blogger on Monday’s Anderson LIVE. The live talk show features a new blogger in each episode who tweets and blogs the episode’s events, and with her great Hubs, a carefully cared for personal blog, and social media savvy, Julie DeNeen made for a perfect candidate.

We asked Julie DeNeen to share more about her live television experience (and other media encounters) in the interview below. Read on for an insider’s view of an interesting combination of news, television, celebrity, blogging, Hubbing, and social media.

Prior to this experience with Anderson LIVE, had you worked at all with the media (be it in the form of newspapers, local news, magazines, or some other more formal establishment)?

Well, this is a bit of a longwinded complicated answer (laughing), but yes I have dealt with the media before. Not necessarily as a freelancer directly (since I am pretty new to this career), but back in 2011, I was involved in a very complex and traumatic adoptive reunion. This resulted in the launching of an online organization (with my dear friend and fellow Hubber Carly Sullens) designed to help those in complicated reunions. Because of our blog and online presence on the issue, we have attracted international attention. We’ve been featured on CNN’s Dr. Drew, and we also had a web article written up by ABC, along with other various global magazines and news. This November we’ll be in Madrid, Spain to speak at the national Spanish Adoption conference over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Were you informed of the opportunity on short notice? That seems to be common with situations like these, and if that was indeed the case, how did you deal with the rush?

Yes I was. The email came in on Saturday afternoon and I was on a train to New York City around 5am on Monday morning. The same happened with my other media interviews. The news circuit seems especially prone to “fast and furious” stories. I’ve quickly learned that if you want to get on television because of your work, you must be prepared for these on the fly interviews.

What advice would you give to other Hubbers who get last minute inquiries from the media?

There are simple things you can do to be prepared. Have a standard professional outfit available. Freelancers don’t often leave the house, so you may think, “I don’t need a fancy outfit.” Have one just for situations like these! Other than that, just make sure you are easy to reach by phone, email, etc. Producers want to be able to get in touch with you quickly, and they will move on to another candidate if you don’t respond. If you are a mom with young children, have babysitters you can call on short notice.

As always, keep your content fresh. As a writer for an online education commentary, I sometimes have to go looking on 50+ education blogs a day. If I see that a blog hasn’t been updated in a week, I move on. Others might do the same; so once you commit to an online platform (be it Hubpages or a personal blog), keep it organized and up to date!

Your role on the show was to blog and tweet about what happened live as events were unfolding. Each Anderson LIVE show features a blogger who does this, which we think is pretty neat! Why do you think a live television show has decided to engage with the online content world in this way? Do you think is the best way to do it?

You know, I haven’t thought about it much before this experience, but my first reaction is that they are ahead of the curve for television and I hope it keeps them on air for a while. Honestly, I think it is brilliant. How fun is it for audience members and viewers at home to be able to interact with each other? I think it draws the viewer in. For the audience members that get to tweet live, it is just another way to keep people involved.

As for the blogger idea, it is pure genius. The show gets free advertising from well-known (and little known) bloggers, as well as lots of backlinks to their site. The blogger gets promoted on the Anderson LIVE website. I hope other shows start doing this as well, since it is essentially a win-win situation. That is, unless some blogger writes a negative commentary. But come on, who can say anything negative about Anderson Cooper?

What was your favorite thing about the experience?

Is it lame to say my favorite part was the 60 seconds I got with Anderson? I have always admired and respected him as a news reporter and journalist, and had to pinch myself when I was in a photo booth getting my picture taken. I’ll never forget it.

Finally, what would you recommend to other Hubbers who might like to become more engaged with television, radio, news, or print?

There is a fine line between aggressively going after what you want, and becoming an obnoxious “toot your own horn” spammer. Know the line! While it may be difficult to decipher, online writers are in a seriously competitive market. You need some way to stand out from the crowd and that involves some risk taking. However, it is important to have an awareness of the writing community by supporting and promoting other’s work, and learning from those who are a few steps ahead. This will pay off later.

The HubPages Rigorous Review Contest

This November, we will launch the HubPages Rigorous Review Contest, an autumnal competition centered around the use of our Ratings Capsule, which adds a star rating to Hubs reviewing products, places, and services (you can choose whether the star rating is that of your own or the collective rating of your readers).

The contest boasts over 60 prizes, including:

  • $700 in $25 Daily Drawing Prizes awarded to one randomly selected review entry every day of the contest
  • $700 in $25 Weekly Prizes awarded to the seven best review Hubs each week
  • $50 Best Product Review Prize for the best product review
  • $50 Best Service Review Prize for the best service review
  • $50 Best Restaurant Review Prize for the best restaurant review
  • $50 Best Place Review Prize for the best place review
  • $200 Grand Prize for the best overall review

And comes right in time for holiday shopping season, so as you research various products and gifts for your friends, colleagues, and family, consider writing reviews of them using the Ratings Capsule!

Should you like to plan for the contest and start drafting Hubs ahead of time, here are the important starting, ending, and awarding dates to keep in mind:

  • Hub entries may first be submitted Wednesday, October 31st at 12:00pm (PT)
  • The deadline for Day 1 of the contest is Thursday, November 1st at 12:00pm (PT) Subsequent deadlines are always at noon (PT)
  • The final deadline for entries is Wednesday, November 28th at 12:00pm (PT)
  • Daily Drawing prize winners will be announced every weekday around 4:00pm (PT) (and on the Monday following Thanksgiving for entries submitted for November 22nd and 23rd)
  • Weekly Prize winners will be announced on Mondays (starting on the 12th of November and continuing through December 3rd)
  • Finalists and Grand Prize winners will be announced on Friday, December 7th around 4:00pm (PT)

Please also note that all HubPages contests are run on Pacific Time (there are plenty of handy reference sites for checking the current time at HubPages Headquarters should you not know the exact time difference between our home and yours).

To ensure that your November review Hubs have the best possible shot at success, keep our entry requirements in mind as you craft them:

  • Hub entries must contain at least the Ratings Capsule (see our Learning Center guide on the Ratings Capsule)
  • Hub entries must have at least one image
  • All images must be legally used (see our Learning Center guide on proper image use)
  • All images (unless original) must come with attribution and link to their source
  • Entries must be published for the first time on that given contest day
  • Hub entries must be a minimum of 500 words
  • Hub entries must be entirely original to HubPages

Throughout the month of October we’ll present you with tips and advice on creating review Hubs that have good odds of winning and have a better shot of seeing sustained success over time.

To read through the full contest details, review our judging criteria, as well as review the all important official rules, visit the dedicated contest page. We can’t wait to review your entries!