Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Money is the root of all evil? I don't think so

I've been a member of Hub Pages for four months. I originally joined in order to revitalise my interest in writing, and to a large extent this objective has been met, which is great! Hub Pages is in fact strangely addictive, to the point where not only have I written 35 hubs to date, but I've also been spending quite a lot of time on its forums, which are a great source of ideas on stuff to write about and give a good insight into how people in other parts of the world think. (OK, perhaps I should change that last part: they give a good insight into how Americans think, because Americans make up by far the majority of HP members.)

However, I'm bemused by a lot of the threads/topics on HP. For a start, there are many, many threads on religion. A lot of the posters are either hardcore fundamentalist Christians, or they're equally hard line atheists. Flame wars are commonplace, as you can imagine. I don't participate in the religious threads, although I have dipped in occasionally, taken a look round and backed away quickly. Life is just too short. I'm actually tempted to publish a hub on creationism versus evolution, but I'm very wary of the idea because of the avalanche of ill-informed comments that might come its way. I think that's one article I might want to sell/promote via other means.

Then there are the "So and so has xxxx fans. Woooo-hooo!!!" type threads. If you've never been on Hub Pages, the "fan" thing is like having friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter. Many people on HP misuse the fan system by fanning scores of people at a time in the hope that people will fan them back. (This phenomenon is so common on HP that the site's old hands have come up with a word for it: "famming".) As if famming weren't stupid enough, serial fammers will often post forum threads begging for more fans. This mindset is so alien to my way of thinking that I can't get my head around it at all. Surely you should become someone's fan when you really like their writing, and not otherwise? Given that HP sends you an email every time one of the people you've fanned publishes a new hub, there must be an awful lot of HP members with very full inboxes. Obviously they can't have thought that one through, which is hardly surprising perhaps.

The political threads are another big component of forum life at HP. Sad to say, they're a lot like the religion threads in that they very quickly become polarised - at one end, you have the "liberals" and at the other, the "conservatives" (using the American definitions of each here). Sometimes issues do get discussed on their own merits, but often the whole thing just becomes a pissing contest. Really, if I want to sniff a latrine, I'll go to my local public toilets.

However, there is one strand of threads which stands head and shoulders above the rest, both in terms of actual content and the all-round decency/urbanity of the people posting there. It's the "How do I make money on HubPages?" type threads. If you're not familiar with HP, the ways to make money there are by garnering Google Adsense revenue from your hubs (HP takes 40%, and the hubber takes 60%), or by becoming an Amazon and/or eBay affiliate. You can also post links to your other web sites (blogs, business sites or whatever) on your profile page, and some people have even had offers of freelance writing work via their hubs. As I'm discovering, the road to real earnings is a long, hard one - at the time of writing, after four months' HP membership, my Adsense account has just £3.94 in it. The people on HP who do really well (as opposed to making a bit of regular extra dosh which is my goal) are those who treat it as a 6-day week full time job; moreover, they don't use HP as their only source of revenue, but also post to other, similar sites and promote/backlink their work via other means such as blogs and sites like or They're very savvy about SEO and what today's consumer actually wants. But these same people take the time to help newcomers find their way about and give them advice. People swap information gladly. This is a huge step up from the religion threads!

I've always been rather suspicious of the idea that money is the root of all evil, and now I've got real evidence to back up my suspicion. I suppose it helps that Hub Pages isn't a zero-sum game. In other words, if I earn more money through Adsense, it's not at the expense of other hubbers. In fact, the bigger HP gets, the higher its Google PageRank and the higher people's hubs come in search engine results, which means more Adsense clicks, not fewer. Provided of course that the overall quality of HP's output doesn't go down. That is a real danger, because there are a lot of crap hubs on HP - poorly written, spammy and keyword stuffed to the nines. And don't get me started on the "sweaty Indian aunties" photo hubs LOL. They're just incredible, and I don't mean that in a good way!

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