HubPages: Authors Get a Share!
So, I have lately been doing more research than usual on interesting startups. One that seems particularly interesting to me is called HubPages.
The idea is to make it easy for people to write up an ever-growing collection of informative articles, and to give them incentive to contribute their knowledge. They provide a nice, dynamic interface that allows authors to very easily mix written content with images. Users then get a chance to vote on what content they like, which should allow for quality control, as well as ego stroking, since authors can then rise in popularity through an online social network.
HubPages then cranks it to eleven by making it trivial to integrate your Google AdSense or Amazon.com Associates accounts with their infrastructure, which allows you the chance to share in the revenue opportunities that HubPages might gain from your writing! I gave it a try, and I found the linking surprisingly easy. This looks like a really easy way for authors to earn a little money by contributing knowledge.
“Big deal,” I might say, “I have my own blog, and I keep all my ad revenue! I don’t need someone else’s publishing platform! MUHAHA!!”
On the other hand . . . I’d like to think that if HubPages does a good job with the content ranking, they will do well with PageRank, and if they do well with PageRank, they get more new traffic. By publishing the occasional article with HubPages, authors could expose themselves to a wider audience, and an opportunity for readers to discover their own web site.
Now, understand that I take online publishing as a fun, informal hobby. These days, I earn about $10-$30 a month from advertising, which makes things just a wee bit more interesting. When I first saw that I could write reviews on Yelp, I thought “big deal” . . . but as I figured out the social network aspect, I noticed that by linking user-provided content to user profiles, and thence to a user’s web site, the user has greater incentive to contribute great work. So, I write reviews on Yelp because it is fun, and I also write more “bloggy” stuff on Livejournal, because its fun, but then also, there’s more chance for people to run across my writing. So with HubPages, it would be neat to contribute a good, general-knowledge HOW-TO article . . .
Going forward, it looks like they’ll have to figure out better ways of mediating newer content to reduce the “schlock factor” . . . sometimes I have logged in to see that they are full of new articles by beautiful women who want you to visit their adult web site, but they seem to be holding the worst spam off.
On the next level up, there’s the obvious scam of using spamming the system with plagiarized content . . . they have a “flag” mechanism, and I suppose they could deputize users, but a batch process to scan and flag content might also be a good idea. If they let that get away, they may get in karmic trouble with PageRank.
The other thing that raises my eyebrow is the flat URL namespace: all articles, or “hubs” get a URL like
http://hubpages.com/hub/Title_of_Article which looks to me like they are just begging to have lots of “dead” nodes with poor-quality, out-of-date, or just plain empty articles, and aggravation among authors who start to run into name conflicts for the articles they’d like to write.
They might kill those two birds with the stone of giving each user their own host-based namespace, like
http://authorname.hubpages.com/hub/Title_of_Article which would obviate naming conflicts between authors. If PageRank distinguishes different hostnames as related-but-distinct namespaces, that might also mitigate the spammers-cause-bad-PageRank-karma problem.