How to to Improve Your Skills by Hopping More Hubs

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 3.45.43 PMEarlier this week we alluded to Hub Hopping as a means of getting inspired. Indeed, Hopping a couple of Hubs every week can make a big difference in the success and failure of your Hubs. Here’s why:

  • You will see a wide diversity of Hubs outside of your normal circles of favorite Hubs and Topics
  • You will be exposed to a variety of writing styles and formats
  • You will see many different subjects that might encourage you to reach outside your comfort zone
  • You will see how each and every capsule is used, which can help you know how to begin using more yourself
  • Because you actively rate each Hub you Hop, you will get a better idea of the substance, organization, and grammar standards to which your own work is being held

As you can see, this experience can be very instructive!

Hub Hopping Basics

One of the best ways to share the love on HubPages is by Hopping Hubs. Your ratings of others’ Hubs will determine whether or not they are Featured, so your activity has a real impact on the community- plus Hub Hopping can be a great source of inspiration.

Rating

There are two important parts of Hub Hopping: rating and reporting. After reading a Hub you have Hopped, you can rate it by adjusting the scoring bars to the top left of the screen.

If you’re not sure how to rate a particular aspect of a Hub, slide the bar around and read the descriptions below to find a set that best describes the Hub. If you come across a Hub that is poetry or creative writing, check the “article is creative writing” box to get a more appropriate rating scale.

Reporting

Though we hope you will only see good Hubs in the Hopper, there is a chance that you will find Hubs that do not conform with our publishing standards (e.g. are spam, are written by someone under 18 years of age, have pixelated images, encourage illegal activity, etc.).

To get an idea of what should be reported on HubPages, stop by our Learning Center Video with tips on reporting Hubs.

Should you find a Hub that should be reviewed by our support team, please click the report link (with the red flag next to it) and select your reason for filing the report.

Hopping Hubs is like cultivating a garden- you can help beautiful plants grow, pull out weeds, and be inspired by the scenery. We hope you give it a go!

The Beautiful Illustrations of Rochelle Frank

Early on this month, Rochelle Frank wrote in to share some of her beautiful Hub images with me. Says Rochelle:

This drawing (pen and color pencil) was for my homophone Hub. I needed something to represent an eager “be” and a reluctant “flower”. I couldn’t find any free clipart that expressed that thought.

The ABC illustrations I did (below) were for a children’s book proposal. I used them with the Hub I did on trying to get a book published. The originals are marker and Prismacolor pencil. I like using the color pencils because they aren’t as messy as paint or pastel.

I found these illustrations to be so beautiful, I asked her to share a bit more about her image-creation process and provide us with some advice on making our Hubs more visually stimulating. Luckily for us, Rochelle Frank was happy to oblige!

Read on for this talented Hubber’s sage advice:

Like many new Hubbers, I started out wondering how to illustrate my articles. I was aware of copyright issues regarding photos and graphics.

I didn’t even have a digital camera at first, except for the one on my desktop Mac.

For a few Hubs that I recycled from my previous print publication articles, my photographer friend allowed me to use to photos which had appeared with the newspaper features, since we both still owned our rights.

I also set up displays of recipe ingredients (or combat boots, or other items) in front of my computer and took iMac photos. Free clip art and public domain images are sometimes also used.

I put small items on my scanner to make images for others.

Finally, I began using some of my own drawings to illustrate Hubs. Scanning original work and putting them into a photo application, I was able to size, crop pr ‘tweak’ them a bit.

Most of my original works are drawings are just pen, sometimes colored with markers or Prismacolor pencils. Even my larger, more detailed drawings are made with colored pencils. There’s no real secret to drawing with them, but they are much less messy than paint or pastels.

Since I “do art” infrequently (and when I do, I might do a little bit and then put it away for awhile, before finishing) I don’t have a dedicated space to make a mess. I can put the pencils and art paper tablet away easily, and get it out again when the inclination hits.

Yes, I was an art major, but my degree is in Art History. I have always drawn and doodled. In college I did cartoons and drawings for the CSULB paper (as well as writing).

Later, as a teacher, I made a lot of my own original teaching materials. As a substitute teacher, I sometimes would start the day by drawing a large outline of a shark or a cartoon character on the chalkboard. It got their attention and sometimes their awe.

They would ask,”Can you teach me how to draw that?”
“Yes,” I would answer, “if we get all of our regular work done.”

I’m a fan of how Rochelle Frank has used illustrations to inspire people and catch their attention in Hubs and classrooms alike. I also appreciate the care she has put into only using images she has the legal right to use. If you’re not sure which licenses enable you to use another’s images, check out our Learning Center guide on proper image use, which will give you an introduction to common image licenses and the manner in which Creative Commons images should be attributed in the Photo Capsule.

Thanks for sharing your beautiful images and insights from us, Rochelle Frank!

Wayseeker’s Words of Wisdom on Images

While most Hubbers who create custom images for their Hubs find one style and format and stick with it, one can find an incredible variety of imagery in Hubs by wayseeker. From specially-edited photos and hand-drawn illustrations to purely digital graphics, a very wide assortment of carefully created eye candy appears on this Hubber’s work.

Because wayseeker puts to much thought into the images he creates and uses, we asked him to share some of his reasoning and advice with the community at large. Read on, and be inspired.

For how long have you been sketching and creating art? Is this a regular activity of yours?

I have always loved to make thoughtful visual creations through drawing, painting, sculpting, and all manner of crafts since I was very young. I have some minor training (art classes in high school), but it’s mostly just a history of dabbling in creative crafts. While I do a little of it here and there every year, I simply don’t have time to do it on a regular basis.

When did you first create an image for a Hub (or include an existing sketch in a new Hub you made), and why did you do it?

While I have been including personal photos since the beginning, my first real “art” work would have been the images I included in the first Hub of the Day I wrote, “The Art of Constructive Criticism.” While still technically digital photographs, these images were heavily edited and digitally manipulated with a specific focus on the content of the Hub.

Mostly I added them because the content was too abstract for traditional pictures to add any real value to the piece. As I thought through what I was writing, I decided it would be fun to “play” with some of the ideas and create silly images–images that resembled, to some extent, the way I carry myself when I actually teach these concepts to my students. It took some time, but it was great fun and they were well received.

My first actual art piece came with the cross I drew to include with my piece on Christianity, which also involved a lot of digital manipulation though it did start with a basic pencil drawing. From there, I’ve done a large number of different things.

What tools do you use to create and then convert your art into digital images?

While I use all kinds of things to create art, for the most part the work I have done on HubPages has been done with either a simple ink pen or water color pencils (colored pencils that move and blend like water color paints when water is applied to them). The ink pen drawings are primarily simple cartoons with stick people. The colored pencil drawings are often taken from real life by first taking a photograph, then transferring the figures in the photograph by placing the picture up on a window and hand tracing the images onto a fresh piece of paper, and finally using those figures as a base for the drawing and painting process.

Once it’s finished, I simply take a digital picture of it in high light, use iPhoto to touch them up a bit, and then load them up. It takes more time (sometimes a lot more time) to develop original images that way, but the result is much more personal.

In addition to putting physically drawn sketches into Hubs, I’ve seen you use images that have been digitally created. What do you use to create those images?

The primary tool I use in creating digital images is a fancy, though free, paint program for Mac called “GIMP,” available at gimp.org. This, combined with a simple digital camera, iPhoto, and the occasional use of the effects found on Mac’s Photo Booth, is where my digital image creation takes place. Once you start to let your imagination wander through the possibilities, it’s amazing how easy—though sometimes time consuming—it can be to realize what you see in your head with the flexibility of modern digital image tools.

As an afterthought, I forgot that I also make pretty heavy use of Microsoft Word 2011. They have some very fun shape tools that allow you to create a wide variety of shapes and then manipulate their shadows, coloration, and 3D effects. I use this mostly for what I call “banner” artwork to create artistic titles to introduce various segments of of my Hubs. These can be cut and pasted into Gimp and used to great effect.

How do you decide between including photos, sketches, or digitally created images in Hubs?

This question is a bit tricky simply because it depends so heavily on the topic of the Hub itself. Generally, I come ups with the images for my Hubs after they have been written. I’m thinking about it all along, but the final ideas don’t solidify until the writing is locked in. I then have to think about what kind of images would be of value to the reader.

Now that you have me thinking about it, I could say that they fall into three categories: informational, thought provoking, and entertaining. In many cases, the images I use cross over from one category to another, but they generally flow out of one of these uses.

Informational images are those like the ones found in most recipe Hubs, mine included, where the image demonstrates how something is done. Another example might be from my Hub on Theme in Literature where I used a pic to show the reader the a basic plot map.

Thought provoking images are like those I often use in my more creative works like my Hub “Five Love Poems About Family,” though I also use them in more informational work like my Hub on parenting by building relationship. In each case, the image is designed to somehow reflect something that is discussed or mentioned in the writing, either making it more visually concrete and experiential for the reader or somehow extending it into another area the reader may not have initially thought about. I like the challenge of making this kind of image.

Entertaining images are like those I have used on my piano Hub about Robert Schumann’s “Carnavale” or the relatively “silly” drawings I’ve used in my essay Hubs and Socratic Seminar Hubs. These are used in places where pictures are not really necessary to what the words are trying to communicate, but they add a fun edge to the experience, hopefully helping the reader to stay engaged by giving them a few more things to do than simply reading text.

Do you think that the images that you create by hand have an edge over photos in any cases?

I don’t think this is necessarily always the case, depending on the topic of the Hub, but I don’t think it’s at all unusual for original photos and artwork to be an advantage. The core of modern writing is still the written word, but effective images are absolutely essential in the world of the internet. By creating your own images, you are able to customize them to reflect specific elements of your writing in ways that stock images simply can’t manage.

I think they also create a sense of warmth and unique personality that is hard to capture in an online experience through writing alone. It has been an honor for me to have four of my Hubs selected as Hub of the Day Hubs over the past year and a half, and I am absolutely certain that part of the reason for that in each of those cases was the original images—some drawn and some digital—that were a part of each of them. I think the artwork contributed to a unique experience within each Hub, so that certainly counts as an advantage.

I have seen many Hubbers do this through great “traditional” artwork as well as really effective original photography. Either way, I think it creates a more welcoming place for readers to spend time, which is what everyone is looking for as a writer.

What advice would you give to those who have yet tried creating their own images for Hubs?

First, I would encourage them to be adventurous in they way they think about images in their Hubs. Instead of just tacking on a pic related to what you happen to be talking about, think about how something could be added visually that extends, deepens, or somehow entertains the reader. Just like we have to move into the reader’s frame of mind as writers when we are composing words, it is equally important to think about the reader’s overall experience of the page including all of the visuals.

As for artistic skill, even if you are not an artist or great photographer, there’s a great deal you can do with today’s computers and manipulating images. On top of that, with digital cameras, you can easily take 100s of photos to get just 1 that’s good at no real cost—this has been a life saver for me.

Many of my original drawings are, literally, stick people. You can look up cartoon expressions online and get a host of easy to draw “smiley face” expressions that are simple to re-create. These simple drawings have received more positive feedback from readers than anything else I’ve created. People appreciate the thought that goes into them as much as the artistic “quality” itself.

Just try it, and soon you’ll find your own unique way of creating, which is exactly the point.

Spartucusjones on the Discovery and Sale of Hubs

spartucusjonesMany Hubbers on HubPages hope to use their work as an online portfolio that attracts potential clients who would either like to purchase an article or two or hire them for specific work. Some are very new to the game, others have been freelance writers for years.

How does one receive inquiries from potential clients? What is the process of freelance writing or selling articles like? We’d like to give you an inside view as often as we can, and as spartucusjones recently sold one of his Hubs to Polo Club Magazine, we can give you a peek at the process. Check out the Q&A below to get a feel of what it’s like to be serendipitously discovered by interested clients.

I understand that you just sold one of your Hubs for the first time. What was the Hub about?

The Hub was on The History of Music Festivals.

How did you hear from the party making the purchase?

One day I received an email from the marketing director of Empire Polo Club Magazine. She was doing a Google search for articles on Music Festivals, because Empire Polo Club is the venue for two major music festivals (Coachella Music and Arts Festival and Stagecoach Country Music Festival). My Hub already featured info on Coachella.

She mentioned that my Hub was the kind of info the magazine was looking for. So I was asked if I would be willing to rework the article to include more info about Coachella and to add info about Stagecoach. We came to terms on the price and I sold the reworking of the Hub.

Also the marketing director has expressed an interest in me composing future articles for them. So if in the future you see me publish a Hub related to Polo or the luxury lifestyle it was probably based on a print article I wrote for Empire Polo Magazine.

I understand that you also compose online business guides for various websites. Do you engage in freelance writing more related to the types of Hubs you write on HubPages, or is this the first time you have been paid for work that you first created recreationally?

I do have some experience with online content writing for different websites. Generally the content is very specific to the need of the client. For example, in the past I got a lot a work through a web developer who had a major client who build and sold hot dog carts. In that instance I would specifically compose content that would relate to the purchasing and operating of hot dog carts.

There have been Hubs that I composed that were revamped from content that I composed for online business guides, but up to this point it hasn’t been the other way around.

What are your personal and professional goals with HubPages in general?

On a personal level, part of what drew me to HubPages is that I have the opportunity to write about subjects that I didn’t have the opportunity to write about with other content writing. For example when I first started on HubPages I wrote exclusively about music because that is a passion of mine. Since then I have broaden out on the topics that I write about, but I still make sure I compose at least a couple of music hubs a month. It also happens that it was a music hub that I sold, so that makes me really happy!

As far as professional goals in connection with HubPages, I want to continue to build my online portfolio. Over the past few months my traffic and earnings have continue to grow, so I am hoping to keep that momentum going.

Also with HubPages I have benefited from being in the Apprenticeship program. I have two months to go. My goal isn’t just to complete the next two months, but I want to continue to apply the lessons that I learnt.

What advice would you give to those who would also like to receive inquiries from those interested in purchasing or using their work?

In my case I wasn’t anticipating it. It just happened that my article was discovered from a Google search. So if I was to give any advice it would be do your research and select search engine friendly titles.

[Thanks for sharing the process with us, spartucusjones!]

If you work as a freelance writer and use your HubPages portfolio to showcase your work or attract clients, we’d love to hear from you! Drop me a line at simone (dot) smith (at) HubPages.com.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner! – The Cookbook Contest Concludes

The HubPages Cookbook Contest has drawn to a close, but the amazing recipes published throughout will live on! We read so many fantastic entries — from frosty drinks to decadent desserts, from culinary classics to untried originals. With a whopping 1828 entries and 792 participants, the judging panel sure had their work cut out for them. It was tough to choose our winners, but we finally did! While these recipes represent some of the best HubPages has to offer, visitors will be enjoying all the recipes submitted during this contest for years to come!

So without any ado whatsoever, your HubPages Cookbook Contest winners!

  • Grand Prize Winner: Curry Corn Chowder With Pancetta by pennylu: This top-of-the-line Hub includes a fantastic step-by-step photo guide with detailed, full-width, original photos, plus ends with a short quiz filled with fun facts!
  • Best Dessert Recipe: Horchata Ice Cream With Bananas & Butter Caramel Sauce by vespawoolf: This recipe has an extremely unique topic that has not already been exhaustively covered online, and includes helpful ice cream making tips.
  • Best Drink Recipe: How to Make Drinks that Glow in the Dark by cocopreme: cocopreme’s Hub features multiple, very unique and playful recipes with cool explanations of the science behind glowing drinks as well as three original videos (added in Video Capsules via YouTube)
  • Best Family Recipe: Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag by ktrapp: Featuring an original video, fun stats on favorite ice cram flavors, this Hub also offers an explanation of what chemically happens during the freezing process!
  • Best Healthy Recipe: Nut Burgers with Shiitake Mushrooms: a Gluten Free Recipe by Melovy: Melovy offers very helpful nutritional information, tips on substitutions, alterations for people with additional dietary restrictions, and a complementary dish recipe.
  • Best Budget-Friendly Recipe: Roast Turkey Thigh and Salad Wraps: A Budget Family Sharing Platter by Gordon Hamilton: This Hub provides readers with a detailed cost evaluation (in two currencies) and helpful explanations of specific ingredients and tools!

Congratulations to all our winners, including all of our Daily Drawing and Weekly Winners (complete list available in the forums). We hope you enjoyed writing these recipes as much as we enjoyed reading them!

Stay tuned for our next contest, coming this fall!

How to Regularly Publish When You’re Crazy Busy

Chances are you’re incredibly busy. So are we! That said, just because we have a lot of responsibilities does not mean that we have to sideline our writing careers. There are plenty of ways in which one can regularly publish online articles while still managing a rigorous work and home life. In this week’s podcast (Creating Hubs while Crazy Busy), we outline three ways in which this can be easily done:

  1. Make use of your old work by converting essays and research papers into rich online articles: We outlined this process in last week’s podcast. It’s quite easy, and is a great way to make the most of great work you’ve already done!
  2. As you explain something to a friend, colleague, or family member, record your explanation for use in a Hub: You can do this by copying the text that you wrote in a letter or email, or turning on a dictation app when you’re explaining something to a friend verbally. Doing so kills two birds with one stone, and also makes it easier for your friend to find your advice should they forget it! Besides, if your tips are useful for one person, they’re more than likely useful to many people, which means that Hubs you create in this manner may get a decent amount of search traffic.
  3. Write your articles while you wait: Make the most of your commute, time spent queueing, and hours wiled away in waiting rooms and airport lounges by pulling out a notebook, laptop, tablet, or smartphone and writing drafts for Hubs. You’ll be staving off boredom AND getting in some much-anticipated writing.

 

Here’s one more bonus tip in regard to getting great videos and images for your Hubs: ask friends and family members to do the photography and videography for you! If you’re making dinner for your family, ask one of your kids to film you in the kitchen. If you’re teaching your child how to ride a bike, ask a neighbor to snap a photo for you. Usually, people appreciate being involved in your writing process, and as an added bonus, they may be more likely to share your article once it’s published because they have a stake in its success.

On a somewhat unrelated note, we have decided to put the Online Writing Insider podcast on hiatus. We have had a blast creating these podcasts, but we’re running out of online writing issues to cover. What would you like us to focus on in future blog posts? Let us know in the comments below!

Testing a New Hub Design on Technology Hubs

A couple weeks back, we rolled out a new Hub design on Fashion and Beauty Hubs and have been monitoring its performance while making small tweaks. Before we settle on a new site-wide Hub design, we have decided to test out another new Hub design that adopts a radically different approach.

The new Hub design that we are rolling out as a test on Hubs within the Technology Topic is a clear departure from the Fashion and Beauty design. In this case, we have stripped away all but the most essential features on the page, leaving the look as streamlined as possible. This is done in an effort to reduce the time it takes for the page to load, eliminate distractions, and allow the content of the Hub itself to truly shine.

While we have removed all unnecessary components from this experimental design, we have also made some attempts to make the page more attractive. Notice the new background, which has been given a tech-related treatment. Should this new look be adopted site-wide, each Topic on HubPages would have its own distinctive but subtle background image.

As we experiment with this new design, we will slowly add back elements to the page to see what mixture of features leads to optimal performance. Because there are fewer ads in this initial test, you may see a slight drop in the ad revenue you earn from your Technology Hubs. Then again, you may see an increase in earnings as fewer distractions may lead to higher clickthrough rates. Keep in mind that this is a test, and that in the end, we will settle on whatever design leads to the best user experience- both for readers and Hubbers.

Big thanks to MickiS for championing this test, props to Fawntia for quickly executing the change, and a hearty hat tip to Amy Liu, who created the new Hub’s design!

You Can Now Convert Hubs to Videos

Great news, Hubbers! It is now possible to convert Hubs into Videos.

Up to this point, Videos had to be started from scratch, but now, by clicking “edit” on any of your existing Hubs, you can turn them into Videos.

The process is simple:

  1. Click the “Convert to Video” button under Special Layout Options in the HubTool
  2. Select the video you would like to meld with your existing Hub
  3. Click OK when prompted with the warning pop-up window

 

What exactly does making this conversion mean?

  • What was once a Hub will now have a HubPages-hosted video featured at the top
  • The video cannot be moved, but the original Hub will remain unchanged below the new HubPages Video Capsule that has been added to the top
  • You can always switch out videos and edit the other capsules below
  • Your Video will get special treatment in search engine results (which is to say that searchers will see a pretty thumbnail instead of just a title and summary)
  • The video will play automatically when people visit that page
  • You will be able to earn additional revenue from advertisements featured on/before the video

Keep in mind that this change is irreversible. Once you have made the conversion, you will not be able to change your Video back into a Hub- it will always have to have a HubPages Video Capsule floated to the top, and while you will be able to switch out the videos you feature in that capsule, you will never be able to remove the capsule itself. We therefore urge you to think carefully before making this permanent conversion. This change is irreversible because the URL and class of your page has been physically altered and it would be detrimental to your page’s success if you changed its class back and forth.

Though the conversion should not be taken lightly, there are some major benefits that come with converting existing Hubs into Videos. Videos stand to make a significantly higher amount of money in ad revenue, which means that you can earn even more from highly performing Hubs by turning them into Videos (provided, of course, that whatever Videos you add to the Hubs are just as high quality as the Hubs themselves).

We hope this change encourages you to think about Hubs of yours which might make good Videos! This update is a great opportunity to turn many of your established articles into even richer resources.

Big thanks to Edward Zhang for the update. It’s great to have the ability to do this!

How to Effectively Update Your Hubs

Did you know that online articles should be updated from time to time? Aside from the obvious benefits that come with revisiting and improving one’s older work (which include catching old typos, updating outdated information, and adding new, relevant information), you may be surprised to learn that Google pays attention to the last time an online article was updated and may adjust its position in search results accordingly.

In this week’s Online Writing Insider (How to Effectively Update Online Articles) we share a 12-step process that can help you increase the effectiveness with which you update Hubs as well as other online posts and pages. The steps are as follows:

  1. Analyze keyword data on your Hub
  2. Add new content to your Hub
  3. Add original (or at least legally used) and high quality photos
  4. Add at least one poll, table, map, or other rich, relevant feature
  5. Remove broken links
  6. Make sure that your Hub adequately addresses what is proposed by its title
  7. Analyze view duration on your Hub
  8. Reduce the number of Amazon or eBay products (if any) that are featured
  9. Moderate your comments and place the most recent comments at the top
  10. Make sure your Hub has an original summary
  11. Make sure your Hub has attractive, readable formatting
  12. Know when to delete a Hub that is unredeemable

 

You can find detailed written explanation of each step in our Learning Center entry on updating Hubs to improve traffic to your work. We hope you find our tips to be useful!

Are there some other online writing tips you’d like us to share with you in podcast form? Tell us about them! Send all feedback, suggestions, and requests to podcast-at-HubPages-dot-com.