Staff Hubbing Spaces!

We may be HubPages employees, but we have preferred Hubbing spaces as well! Here’s a peek at where some actively Hubbing HubPages staff members like to write their Hubs:

Jason’s Hubbing Space

Jason Menayan’s Hubbing space overlooks a beautiful hillside- isn’t that nice?

Mark’s Hubbing Space

Mark Painter occasionally engages with the HubPages community and writes Hubs from his desk, and in a particularly artistic manner, decided to give us a view of his Hubbing space from his laptop’s perspective.

George’s Hubbing Space

George Edmondson also does some occasional Hubbing from his desk at HubPages Headquarters, which he keeps relatively unadorned:

… Though note the easy access to coffee, one of the most precious commodities in our office! As you can see, this is the real seat of power.

Now that you’ve seen where we do our work, we’d like to see some more of your own Hubbing Spaces! Feel free to email them to simone.smith (at) HubPages.com or share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

Meet the Staff! An Interview with Simone Smith

Aya Katz was recently interviewed for the HubPages newsletter and suggested that we give a bit of a behind the scenes perspective every now and then by sharing interviews with HubPages staff members. I’ll agree that the folks at HubPages headquarters are a smart, fun, and colorful group, so we’re kicking off a series of staff interviews!

Aya Katz is launching the series by asking me some interview questions. I’ll continue the tradition by interviewing a fellow staff member next week. If you have any questions you would like me to ask specific staff members, send me a message through my profile or tweet @harukosama.

Q&A With Aya Katz and Simone Smith

 

Aya: Ever since you joined the HubPages team, I’ve been curious about two things. One, why the big bow in your hair? Two: how did “Haruko” become part of your name? What is the provenance of this name? Is it your middle name, your maiden name or a name you gave yourself? What does it mean?

Simone: Over the years, I’ve developed a reputation for wearing (and loving) bows. I have a collection of over 40 hair accessories, most of which incorporate bows, and if I go out without a bow, folks will give me a hard time (or not even recognize me!). One of my favorite bows is a giant black bow which has ended up in various photos and profile images. Whenever I feel irritable or stressed, putting that crazy thing on my head gets me back on track. Silly accessories are a great way to add perspective and humor to one’s life.

Haruko is my middle name- I was born in Japan and my parents thought it would be fun to commemorate the logistical curiosity by giving me a Japanese middle name. Haruko means “spring child.” My parents chose it because they found out they were pregnant just as the cherry blossoms were blooming.

I noticed that you have a book out on Blurb: Trend Photography. Tell me a little about the book, what it’s about, what prompted you to write it, and how you chose to publish it on Blurb, rather than some other site, such as CreateSpace or Lulu.

That book was created as part of a photo book class I took in college. At the time, Blurb was known for having the best paper quality and user experience for people out to make custom-formatted photo books. Creating that book was a deliciously fun experience, and it gives me a much better idea of what Hubbers are going through when they self-publish. It’s a lot of work!

You describe yourself as an extremely driven generalist with a strong desire to learn what makes people tick. How do you approach the task of finding out what makes people tick? How do you avoid being sucked into a specialty? Are there good job prospects for generalists?

I ask a lot of questions and love observing small details- the way people move, react, blink, dress, talk, and react. As much as I would love to have the ability to develop a specialty, it seems to be my curse in life to feel like I can never really “belong” to any one cause, following, person, or group, so while I love to discover new things and people, I always do so from the perspective of a polite visitor looking from the outside in and never hang around long enough to completely fall down the rabbit hole.

There are many good job prospects for generalists, because these types can quickly adapt to new situations and social dynamics. I’ve found that it’s passion, persistence, and a willingness to learn that lands people jobs- not expertise. That is, unless you’re working in a training/education-heavy field!

You mention international travel as one of your interests. How many countries have you visited? How long did you stay? What languages do you speak?

I’ve visited (for longer than three days), China, Japan, Mexico, England, France, Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic, and have spent (collectively) at least a month each in China, Japan, and Mexico across multiple trips. Alas, I only speak a bit of Spanish and enough broken Japanese to be able to travel through the country without any serious trouble. Someday I’d love to learn Japanese properly.

You’ve written some Hubs about the benefits of playing dumb and of not being too attractive. Do these strategies for appearing less competitive in order to get along with others work equally well for men as for women?

Good question! Though women seem to be more likely to leverage those heuristics, men can use them equally well. It’s all a matter of honing in one’s personal style of playing dumb- a style that plays in to the (often inaccurate) judgments placed on oneself by others. Perhaps women are better at doing this because they’re more likely to be misjudged by people who assume they’re less aggressive, weaker, and dumber.

What is it like to work at HubPages? Did the aftermath of panda create a lot of changes? Do you feel that traffic to HubPages is equally strong now as it was before the panda update?

It’s a dream come true! The people here are cool, smart, creative, and passionate about making HubPages the best possible place to write online. It’s fantastic to work with a company whose employees care so much about the product. It’s also great fun to work with people that I genuinely feel happy to see every day. I’m a somewhat reclusive person, so when I began hunting for post-grad jobs I was looking as much for a social set as I was for a steady income and occupation. When I interviewed at HubPages, I knew I was home!

When Panda hit, the office was obviously an intense place as everyone worked extremely hard to figure out how to help the site recover. If anything, my respect for the company and the people working here grew after that traffic kerfuffle because it became perfectly apparent just how dedicated everyone was to remaining true to Hubbers and the site’s integrity.

What one thing would you like people to know about you that you feel most people overlook?

While I love things like skydiving and intentionally getting lost in remote regions of foreign countries, I’m horrified by very mundane things like going to parties and grabbing a meal with friends. If you see me smiling and laughing at a party, keep in mind that I AM SCREAMING IN ABJECT TERROR ON THE INSIDE.

A Visit & Interview with Lela Davidson

LelaDavidson and the HubPages Team

Paul, Robin, Pia, Lela, and Jason at lunch

Not too long ago, Lela Davidson was in the neighborhood (visiting San Francisco on business) and stopped by HubPages headquarters to say hello! Paul and Robin Edmondson, Jason Menayan, Pia Chatterjee, and myself got to catch up with her over lunch, and really enjoyed meeting this long-time Hubber in person- not to mention hearing about all of the exciting things she is working on!

Because Lela Davidson is such an inspiring HubPages community member, we thought it would be fun to share some of her advice and projects with you in a short blog interview. Enjoy!

Lela Davidson, it was so much fun to see you at HubPages headquarters, especially because you’re one of our top Hubbers! With four years of experience on the site, not to mention over 650 Hubs, do you have any simple words of advice you would like to share with the community?

Setting and meeting a goal at HubPages–whether independently or by participating in a contest–is a great way to strengthen your writerly discipline, which we all need to develop! Write what interests you, keep it simple, and don’t spend too much time on the whole keyword thing. (But if you figure it out, please let me know!)

In addition to being a mother and published author, you’re incredibly active online. In addition to your own website, you maintain a wonderful, humorous blog, are the Managing Editor of Parenting Squad, and maintain an active Twitter feed. How do you do it all?

I have no idea how I do it! And what you mentioned isn’t even the half of it. I used to make a big list every week and then beat myself up when I didn’t accomplish everything. Then it got to be too many items for one list. Now, it’s all about priorities. I make a list of just 5 must-do items each day, and those items make the list based on their ability to generate income, advance my platform, or if they are just creatively fun. And, after 41 years of tracking my days with pen and paper, I have recently become addicted Google calendar.

Your book, Blacklisted from the PTA, just made its debut. What inspired it you to physically publish your work, and do you plan on publishing more?

I decided to publish the essay collection because I was tired of feeling bad about myself every time I received a rejection letter for my novel. I’d been selling the essays to magazines for a few years and I knew readers liked them. I also knew I had built enough of a presence online that we could generate some word of mouth buzz, and that’s what sells books. I’m proud that my tiny little “indie” published book ranks right along with the heavy hitters of its genre on the Amazon charts. (Even if they did terminate my affiliate contract!) The response has been wonderful, so yes, I predict there will be more!

Answers with Ari

Though it is the fastest growing portion of HubPages.com, the Answers section on HubPages is overlooked by many Hubbers.  That, my friends, is a terrible shame, because HubPages software engineer Ari Lamstein has been making some major improvements to it!

In the interview above, Ari shares some of these changess, namely spam reduction, improved answering time, and a recommendation system, however Ari has done much more than that!

Below are some other significant changes (in his words) that Ari has brought about:

  • If a question was asked on a Hub (or of a Hubber), we now link to the Hub (or Hubber) in the question.  Previously, without this information, it was difficult to understand many of these questions.  This feature was often requested by the community, for example in this thread.
  • Questions also “stay with” a Hub, like comments do.
  • Users now have the ability to “follow” questions.  So if you see a question that you like, you can “follow” it and get a notification when new answers to the question come in.  Many users like this feature because it allows them to “bookmark” questions so they can answer them at a later date.  One piece of feedback which we got from users who like to use Q&A for Hub ideas is that they would see a good question, but couldn’t “find” it later to answer it.  Many Hubbers like to think for a while before answering a question or writing a Hub.  You can see all the questions that you are following in the My Account page.
  • Lastly, to improve question quality we now have a clear, written set of Q&A rules.  The first time that a user asks a question, or if a user’s last question was moderated, we display the rules and make the user agree to them.

Props to Ari for making HubPages Answers better than ever!  If you’d like to thank him personally, check out his profile, and also have a look at his awesome classical guitar Hubs. 😀

It’s Been a Great 2 1/2 Years!

Friday, February 18, will my last day as a HubPages staffer.  You will still see me in the forums but I will no longer have the official H on my profile photo.  Also, I will no longer be posting my occasional “Larry’s Random Thoughts” in the HubPages blog.  This post is the last one before I leave.

I joined HubPages in June of 2008.  At that time, HubPages had just launched its Yieldbuild Ad Optimization technology.  There was excitement in the air as the company attempted to duplicate its success with HubPages in a new space.  Because many of the existing team would be transferring to this other project, they were hiring engineers and marketing folks to work on the HubPages side of the business.  One month earlier, they hired Fawntia FowlerMaddie Ruud was already on board as the community manager, Paul Deeds was staying as General Manager of HubPages, and then there was me. Next came Ryan Hupfer as the Director of Awesomeness.  I still smile when I remember the job title that Ryan chose, the giant HubPages business cards he handed out at conferences, and his blog posts on a street performer who was performing just outside the HubPages officeJames Edmondson was doing design work for both HubPages and the new Yieldbuild project.  Paul Edmondson stayed active in both HubPages and Yieldbuild.

Some of the HubPages Team and InspirePub in 2008

HubPages was #250 on Quantcast then.  For those who aren’t familiar with Quantcast, this ranking is based on the number of unique visitors who come to HubPages from the US.  I remember that a few months later, with roughly 200,000 Hubs, HubPages was attracting 8 million unique visits world wide.

One very special part of being on the HubPages staff is the great interactions with the Hubbers.  I remember when inspirepub visited the HubPages office right after I had first started.  She wrote a Hub about her visit and included the picture above.  DJ Funktual wrote a staff care package for each Hub staffer. More recently, wordscribe43 has noticed similarities between Hub staffers and famous celebrities.  I also enjoyed this year’s April Fool’s post by James.

The HubPages Community has always been great about providing suggestions and feedback for existing features.  The categories in their current form are based on feedback from the community.  Fawntia wrote the tools for implementing the categories.  I took the lead on coming up with the initial list and getting feedback.  I started out with two levels of categories and then Paul Deeds said that two levels was a good start.  Can break down each subcategory into a list of smaller subcategories?  That eventually led to over 6,000 categories.  Ryan identified me with categories so he took a bunch of pictures of me in a red shirt.  Ryan, Cam Edmondson, and James Edmondson were the one responsible for the “Larry” graphics if you have ever seen those.  The move toward categories went against some of the thinking at the time.  Many people asked me if I had read Clay Shirky’s classic criticism of categories.  After enough people brought it up, I wrote a response as one of Larry’s random thoughts.

Paul Edmondson is always trying to figure out how to improve the Hubber experience. He loves to meet with staffers and bounces ideas off them.  One of these ideas led to the Hub Feed.  This feature was a response to Hubbers who wanted Hubtivity to be more interactive.  I really think that Fawntia knocked the ball out of the ballpark with the feed.  It is a gem that greatly improves the ability to follow the changes that occur across HubPages.  It was featured in a TechCrunch article about HubPages.

Gosh, it amazes me how many different capsules that were added during the last two years:  amazon capsule, updated text capsule, quiz capsule, poll capsule, code capsule, map capsule, and table capsule.

We had a celebration inside the office on October 28, 2009, when HubPages shot up to #100 on Quantcast.  Just a month before, we had hit the milestone of 500,000 Hubs published.  The relationship between these events was not a coincidence.  I wrote a blog post in July, 2009 where I had compared the relationship between number of unique visitors and the number of hubs published.

2010 was a big year for HubPages.  We celebrated our 4th year birthday.  That team of 5 was now a team of 23.  A new HubPages awning and sign have been added to headquarters in San Francisco.  HubPages is now #46 on Quantcast with over 36 million unique visitors each month to the site and over 10,000 likes on Facebook.  We now have over 1 million Hubs published.  Paul Edmondson has recently begun telling the business story behind HubPages which I am looking forward to following.  HubPages was chosen Best of the Web by Family Magazine.

The event that really showed how much HubPages is growing as a company was when Robin Edmondson organized the first HubCamp in San Francisco on October 6, 2010.  It was a great evening.  Attending the event were many of the current Hub staff: Simone Smith, Ren Chin, the VP of Marketing, Jason Menayan, the Director of Marketing, who had done HubPages marketing before Ryan came on, Paul Deeds, Mausmi Deeds, Norah Casey, Maddie Ruud, Paul Edmondson, a large number of Hubbers, and a few members of the Google Ad Sense team.  Robin was masterful in her presentation and the number of HubCamps that have followed are testament to that first event.  It was a great opportunity to meet Hubbers face to face.  For example, I got to chat with Urban Farm Girl who wrote this Hub about the event.

I want to end this post by thanking the people who are most responsible for HubPages’s success: the Hubber Community!  Thank you very much for publishing so many high quality Hubs, for your requests, your questions, your comments, and your feedback!  HubPages will only continue to thrive if the Hubber Community remains active!  HubPages has always been about its community.  🙂

Happy Halloween from HubPages

Happy Halloween fellow hubbers!

We had our own little Halloween celebration this Friday at HubPages GQ – some of us came in costume (we had a mini-contest, for eternal honor) and Pia and Larry definiely came in as major winners.  Check out their nifty costumes below:

Can you guess who Pia is? Frida Kahlo, of course!  She does an amazing impression – and it takes talent to internalize all of that suffering and artistic genius!

And can you guess who Larry is?  A cowboy!  Not making sense? Well, that’s because he’s dressing as a cowboy from Kyrgyzstan!

Even those who did not come up in festive garb enjoyed the cookies and milk Paul Edmondson and Chris Little (disguised as an American cowboy and San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson respectively) brought in.

We hope that your Halloween weekend is full of fun costumes, good company, and delicious treats as well!

HubPages Behind the Scenes – Word of the Day

It has been a while since we’ve given you a sneak peek at HubPages HQ, so here’s a good one – our fearless moderator Maddie gave us a real vocabulary nugget some Thursdays back, and we thought you might enjoy it as much as we do!  Watch the video for the big reveal:

The word?  Defenestrate! To throw out the window.

It’s quite the fun word to use – perhaps you might include it in your next hub! Many of your fellow Hubbers already have, as a matter of fact.

Happy Hubbing 😀

HubPages Behind the Scenes: Larry and the HubPages iPhone App

With this installment of HubPages Behind the Scenes, HubPages’ very own Larry Freeman shares his experience with creating and working on the HubPages iPhone app!  If you listen carefully enough, you can hear Ren in the background 😉

If you don’t already have our fabulous iPhone app (which, BTW, is totally free), you can download it here.

Also, you might be interested in a more detailed walkthrough of the current iPhone app features that Larry shared earlier on the HubPages blog, and you might also like to have a peek at Appceletator’s Titanium software development kit that Larry mentions in our interview.

As you’ll see in the interview, Larry is already hard at work on some awesome new features that shall come to the app soon, so keep checking back- plenty of awesomeness is in store.

Happy 4th Birthday HubPages!

That’s right, HubPages is now four years old!  It is strange to think that only four years back, the site had only just launched- especially because today we’re ranked 58th on Quantcast with 1.2 million daily global visits.  Not bad, eh?

The most impressive thing about the past four years, at least in my opinion, has been the amazing community of writers that has sprung up around the site.  Over its short existence, HubPages has become an impromptu family, a place to sharpen writing skills, an online article-writing academy, and a vast pool of information for millions of people. Who knew that HubPages could be so many things to so many different people!

To honor this momentous milestone, the HubPages team got together yesterday to celebrate!

Paul Edmondson gave a speech, we sang in honor of HubPages and ate delicious cake…

… and Mellie wanted to try a piece too!

Celebration is taking place online as well.  From a festive forum thread to well-wishers sharing kind words on our Facebook page, we’re feeling quite appreciated, and want to share the love with you too.  We’ve got some really amazing surprises in store this September, October, and November already- and more is being planned every moment!  Keep a sharp eye out- this past four years may have been great, but you ain’t seen nothin‘ yet!