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Clean Up the Garbage on HubPages

Updated on September 22, 2011

Periodically, our attention on HubPages becomes so focused on current issues that we sort of lose sight of the flood of garbage Hubs that seems inevitable on a completely open publishing platform.

From time to time, Hubbers beg for some sort of filter in the publishing process that will stop the problem before it begins. But until an effective filter is devised and utilized, the staff has made it clear that their policy is to allow publication of these Hubs while at the same time requesting Hubbers to "hop some Hubs" often, in order to rate up the good material, rate down or flag the poor material, and – we all hope – completely weed out the real garbage.

It is a daunting task. In a recent, non-scientific survey, I discovered that within the previous two hours there had been at least 300 new Hubs published. Perhaps more. Five new Hubs every two minutes – at least. Perhaps more! What happens when an especially zealous spammer takes advantage of this site and pours multiple articles of zero or very low quality into the stream? It would seem to be nearly impossible to keep up with the potential garbage.

Some Hubbers don't like to take time to flag material that they believe should never have even made it through the publishing process to start with. And even when we do it, it seems to require a lot of time to achieve only modest results. I find that I myself work as well and as fast as possible when I use a relatively mechanical method.

Gibberish Receipt - I've even seen Hubs that looked a bit like this!


Tips to Help You Locate Garbage Hubs

Here are some ideas to help locate garbage, including spun content and foreign language Hubs:

1) Hop Hubs often. Often! It's pretty rare not to find something worth flagging each time you Hub-Hop.

2) Periodically review the most recently published Hubs and see what you can find. To do that, click on Hubs (top left of any page, near the HubPages logo). By default that will show you the hottest Hubs; click the latest tab to sort for the most recent Hubs. A scan of summaries will help to identify Hubs (and accounts) worth investigating. But note: at ten titles per page, the most recent two hours' worth of new Hubs could require thirty pages!

3) Keep a text list of common foreign-language words on your computer. Use them in the search function on HubPages to see if they can help identify Hubs that are not written in English. (Some examples: guter, wegen, wie; parce que, votre, être; este, porque, tengo)

4) Actively search for spun content in the same way. Keep a file of seldom-used English words that pop up occasionally in spun Hubs you have found (for example peradventure) and run those words through the HP search function. In an account I flagged recently, one specific highly unusual word – a word that I have never heard and have never seen outside of the dictionary (other than in spun Hubs) – was found in 90% of the Hubs in that account.

5) Actively search for spun content by running a search on topics that tend to attract spam, such as earning money online; Acai berries; weight-loss and relationship tips. There really are some very good Hubs on those topics too. But it stands to reason that Hubbers who write good Hubs on those topics would probably appreciate having the spammy ones identified and weeded out.


My Mechanical Method

This method makes it possible to flag many, most, or all of the Hubs within one account in a smooth and efficient manner. It does not necessarily speed up the process greatly when several different accounts are involved, but these principles can be adapted to make that process quicker and smoother too.


Identify the offending account. In the sidebar to the right I have listed several methods for finding flag-worthy accounts. My assumption is that someone who spins content in one Hub will very likely do the same thing in most or all of their Hubs. Until I see evidence to the contrary, a spun Hub tells me that the entire account needs to be flagged, but I still flag each Hub individually (along with the entire account). The same is true for poorly translated, very short, spammily linked, and otherwise very low quality Hubs.

I will freely admit that one spun article does not always identify the entire account as being spun. Today, in fact, I flagged a Hub that was clearly spun or poorly translated; the other Hubs in the same account (the ones that I read) were not obviously spun. I was so surprised by that discovery that I checked to see whether they had been put together from copied content, but I was unable to make an accurate determination. And so, I only flagged the one clearly spun Hub.


Within the (flag-worthy) account, go to the full list of Hubs by clicking on the More tab at the top of the featured Hubs on the profile page. If you work from the full list, you can see quickly which Hubs you have previously opened (identified by a different link color). It is very simple to work one-by-one down this list; the summary can give you a clue about the quality of the Hub, but you do need to open the Hub to verify that it needs a moderator's attention and, of course, to actually flag it.


Open one Hub, and scan quickly to find a sample sentence or two to copy. In many cases, the first paragraph – or the first sentences of one of the first paragraphs – will be sufficient. Highlight, right click, and copy. When this process is new and unfamiliar, you may wish to paste this material into a text file for safekeeping; once you are comfortable with the process, that won't be necessary.

If you are trying to be quick and efficient with this "mechanical method," resist the urge to try to figure out what the spun content is saying. It's a fun and interesting exercise, even a game, at times; but it is not necessary or helpful – and certainly not efficient – for this process.


Click on the "rate or flag this page” link at the top of the Hub; this will cause the page to scroll quickly to the bottom, where you will need to click on the Flag button, opening a dialogue box.

And finally:

In the dialogue box, click the appropriate problem. "Spun or poorly translated content" is listed in the left column, about midway down. When working on an entire account, you will probably use the same button each time, since offenders often tend to have the same kind of problem in every Hub. It becomes a snap to move the cursor right away to the same button for each Hub being flagged, when you know exactly where it is. Place the cursor in the "Brief Explanation" box, right-click, and paste the sample sentence. Click on the link that says "Flag for Review," and then you can leave the Hub via the Back button to access the full list of Hubs once again.


One More Wish

Numerous Hubbers have offered suggestions for tweaking the filters to do a better job of slowing the flood of garbage, to make the rating process more manageable. Some of those great ideas will be published soon in another Hub. If you have some thoughts that you would like to include, please send them to me via the Contact link.

If you have correctly identified an offending account, it is possible for the flagging to take less than one minute per Hub in that account, including copying and pasting a sample in the "Brief Explanation" box. As a matter of fact, you may be able to flag two Hubs per minute, once you get into a kind of rhythm.

For Hubbers who feel hesitant about flagging offending material, it helps to remember that flagging is nothing other than a way of calling the moderators' attention to a specific Hub and/or account. Flagging, by itself, does not close the account; it does not put the account on notice; it does not unpublish any Hubs; it does not mark the Hub as having a violation. Only the moderator can do most of these things; the automated filter can identify violations, but flagging by other Hubbers does not do that. Flagging is really nothing more than a way of waving at the moderating team to say, "Hey, please take a look at this. There seems to be a problem here – what do you think?"

A Real Drawback

There is one clear drawback to having individual Hubbers do the flagging. That is, at the present time there is no way of checking to see which Hubs or accounts have already been flagged and are currently in the queue to be checked by a moderator. If they are in the queue, then they haven't been checked yet and so are not unpublished, but someone could already have flagged them for review. That could potentially cause some wasted time, if numerous dedicated Hubbers found and worked on the same accounts, while ignoring other ones that need attention.

My hope is that the HubPages staff will see the value in improving the filters to prevent publication of garbage Hubs before they ever see the light of anyone's computer monitor. But until that happens, let's all do what we can!


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    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Indiana, USA

      I appreciate the comment and sentiment, gmwilliams. There are times when quality administration seems to be an overwhelming issue. It's a good thing there are numerous Hubbers who can help with the process, if they choose to!

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      6 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Excellent job Aficionada. We need more people like you!

    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Indiana, USA

      Thanks, James. I understand why you would be reluctant to flag someone else after those experiences. I believe you do understand that it is not really that kind of flagging that I'm talking about. But of course when someone has the courage to write about controversial topics, as you do, some responses will likely be highly charged and emotional - an indication that the Hub was/is very important!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      6 years ago from Chicago

      hmmm . . . well, I have not flagged any Hubs. A number of mine have been flagged—not for spun content and not for poor spelling, grammar et al. but because they were politically incorrect. People told me they flagged my Hub because they disagreed with what I said. And sure enough, maybe a dozen of them were demonetized because of these flags and a couple were removed altogether. One was a Hub where I displayed a photograph of an aborted fetus. A pro-death person was offended, flagged the Hub, the Hub was removed until I removed the photograph, and the flagger proudly bragged about it later. I decided right then that I would never infringe on anybody's right to free speech that way.

      But I do get your drift. And I enjoyed this Hub. :)

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 

      7 years ago from Southern Georgia

      I admire your determination, AF! I wish I felt as loyal to the site as I once did.

    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      And I see your point as well, Randy. I am very encouraged to hear (read in the forums) that the engineers actually are working on a filter that will prevent some of the junk from being published at all. It won't come a moment too soon!

      They have asked for ideas for the filter(s), and I am trying to gather up suggestions to put in another article. I have some great ideas of my own, but since I know less than nothing about computer programming, I don't know how feasible any of my ideas are. I will still offer the suggestions, though, and while the engineers are designing the filters I will flag Hubs when it seems like the right thing to do.

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 

      7 years ago from Southern Georgia

      I do understand your point AF, but there's too much junk to ever keep up with even with the help of members. I don't make enough money here anymore to give 40% of my page views and affiliate sales AND police new hubs for a company which allows anyone to publish at will.

      I would help screen new hubbers before they are allowed to publish, but not after. I disagree with the present scenario and my volunteering for something I see as ridiculous goes against my principles. But feel free to do as you like.

    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      Oh my, Randy, how infuriating! I won't try to talk around that other than just to say I can understand why you wouldn't want to Hub-Hop any more after that.

      But one of my points here is that it is possible to find the garbage in other ways too. Often I just see spun or low-quality Hubs in my feed, and then I head off and aim for bear.

      The figures that I mentioned - five new Hubs every two minutes - may not be consistent all the time. But even so, that's an awful lot for a team to keep up with. And since there's already so much here that needs to be found and weeded out, the task is even greater.

      I just want to make it simpler for those who choose to flag to be as efficient about it as possible, freeing more of their time to flag other garbage or to write more great Hubs of their own.

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 

      7 years ago from Southern Georgia

      I used to hop regularly in the belief it helped with quality. But when I discovered HP was reluctant to remove those with huge traffic no matter how bad they were (millions of views to deceptive and misleading hubs) I stopped.

      Only when these type hubs were posted on the forums where everyone could see they were still there would HP do anything about them. Mere coincidence, I'm sure. LOL!

      No hopping for me anymore.

    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      I do *so* understand that feeling, CMHypno. It can be so frustrating and demoralizing to have the sense that we are getting nowhere with our efforts. Still, I have seen that the HP engineers are working on filters that will prevent a lot of it from making it onto the site in the first place. That gives me hope and definitely makes me more willing to put in this effort from time to time. I do hope your stats will improve. I feel ready to call a boycott of Google, to be honest!

      @manthy, thanks for the comment. I wish I knew of some way to measure the overall effectiveness of flagging. But I guess, until I'm convinced it it hopeless, I will continue flagging when I can and hope others will do the same.

    • manthy profile image


      7 years ago from Alabama,USA

      I report them often but I don't know if it is doing any good, Thanks for the hub to remind us.


    • CMHypno profile image


      7 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      I have spent hours flagging substandard hubs on this site, but really until HubPages start putting some will into it and resources behind it it will not happen. A mass delete of any account with a hubber score of 30 and below after having been signed up for more than 6 months would clear out literally thousands of dross hubs.

      But as my stats are still way down, and the HP staff have not been particularly helpful, I am no longer inclined to spend the time I used to flagging - nobody wants to feel like they have been taken for a mug!

    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      Thanks, Painted Seahorse. I agree that it's easy not to be aware of the size of this problem. One reason for that, I believe, is that it tends to come in spurts.

      For example, one person may join HP and start flooding the site with spun articles immediately. They may post dozens of articles within a very brief time - too short a time to have written them all separately (another clue that it is spun or spam), unless they were all written first in a word-processing file and then copy-pasted.

      But since these spurts can happen off and on, if we are not looking at the right time, those floods of spun Hubs may become lost, buried in the long line of new Hubs that are published every day.

    • Painted Seahorse profile image

      Brittany Rowland 

      7 years ago from Woodstock, GA

      I wasn't aware there were so many spammers on Hubpages putting out garbage hubs! I guess I need to hop hubs more often. Thanks for the great info.

    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      AMEN, Dolores! While on the one hand I sympathize with people who are just learning to write or whose first language is not English, and even those who are trying desperately to find a way to earn a living, I don't believe that the extremely low quality Hubs help those Hubbers either. I believe that ultimately everyone benefits when readers can associate the name "HubPages" with decent quality. The process may be painful in the short term, but in the long term the entire site improves.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      7 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I never used to flag hubs. I thought it was mean. But after the Panda update, I started flagging. We want this site to rate in the search engines and must function as a team. But I do think the staff could implement some measures to weed out, say, hubs that are only 3 sentences long, stuff like that.

    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      I will be so happy when some method of stemming the tide is implemented, brake12! I would so much rather some of this were stopped before publication. I don't really know how long it takes for the Moderators to get around to all of the flagged Hubs, but I believe your patience is the best way to wait.

    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi - I flag hubs all the time, and there is one on the site that I flagged that is way below standard that I hope HP fixes soon. The article aggravates me, but I must be patient. All your suggestions sound wonderful. You sound like me. I am a doer. I hope that the site can get better soon. Your proposals are written well and easy to understand. I even read your article twice. Good luck and thanks for your initiative.

    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      Thanks, Case1worker! I think that finding duplicate content is a longer process, and so I don't actually do that quite as often. But I do check for it when I read a Hub that is in perfect, beautiful English while the profile is in substandard English or "textspeak," or if I have encountered someone in the forums and feel that the writing style of the Hub is too vastly different from the style of their comments. Obviously, in this last case there could be many valid reasons for the discrepancy, but it does sometimes prompt me to check for the source of their Hubs.

    • CASE1WORKER profile image


      7 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      I hop and flag quite a lot- I have also used your method for looking at the latest hubs- I am not good on the duplicate content yet but will try harder!

      Voted up, great hub that all hubbers should read and heed. Self policing is the only way to rid the community of these spammers.

    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      Thank you, IzzyM. I really do look forward to the day when there will be filters that can take care of a great deal of the junk. I would so much prefer that good Hubbers use their time to continue writing high quality Hubs! ... and helping the less-skilled Hubbers learn their craft and so lift the overall quality of this great site.

    • IzzyM profile image


      7 years ago from UK

      Fully agree with you here and thanks for pointing out the easier ways to flag the obviously substandard and spun/translated garbage that have brought this whole site down in the past.

    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      I agree that this is a sensitive topic, michele. It's easy to see in these comments that many of us tend to shy away from flagging others. I think that all of us want to give one another the benefit of the doubt, and we can imagine ourselves in the place of the other person who (we think) may be doing the best they can.

      The truth is, though, that there really are some people out there who are just trying to take the easiest way possible and who really don't care about trying to make their material useful or helpful in any way for the reader. I hope that all of us would not feel bad about saying to a Moderator, "This needs some attention here; something isn't right. Please check it out."

      Thanks for your comment. And you too, jami. I hope you have a great day, as well!

    • profile image

      jami l. pereira 

      7 years ago

      Good Hub , have a great day

    • michelemacwrites profile image

      Michele McCallister 

      7 years ago from USA

      I attempt to "hop some hubs" as often as I possibly can to do my little part in improving the quality of work published here on Hub Pages. Thanks for addressing this sensitive yet important topic. Here is hoping that all who rate hubs would be brutally honest in their critique. Voted up and useful !!

    • Iintertrans profile image


      7 years ago from New Delhi

      Thank you sir ,

      Your feed back has given me a better understanding of the hubbing Ideas.

      Yeah I felt those with pure intention for excellent writing should be here who is always should have sporting spirit for helping every one who deserved and not the one who after three years of membership does not know how to behave in hubpages or ezine or any online writing sites.

      thanks a lot.I am following you with a liking.

      wish you all the best sir.


    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      Even though you are brand-new here, lintertrans, you have picked up on something really important. That is, that we have the ability to point things out privately to one another to help gently correct minor mistakes.

      If you read through the other comments, you may see that even some of our long-term Hubbers have not been aware of the real garbage that sometimes invades here. That's the kind of stuff that I want to help weed out. And, of course, flagging is really just a method of drawing the Moderators' attention to something that is questionable so that they can take action - *if necessary.*

      Welcome to HubPages!

    • Iintertrans profile image


      7 years ago from New Delhi

      If any thing is objectionable we can lag it,But if minor mistakes are made then I think we should help each other by pointing out.

      Your hub clearly explains all the flagging pattern and how and why should do it.

      That way it is informative.

      I will vote this in interesting.

    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      Thanks for reading and commenting, FitnezzJim!

      I understand your point about what most of us are here for, and I believe that by the numbers you are correct. But just a few who are here for other reasons (gaming the system, basically) occasionally spew muck into the stream of Hubs and - oh dear, I started a metaphor, and I'm not sure how to complete it!

      At any rate, if you run a search for "spun content" on the forums, or if you look at some of the forum threads that obviously refer to spun content ("Spin, Spin, Spin" and "Spinners" are two, I think), you can see some examples of what I mean. That kind of material is not innocuous and it is not well-intentioned.

      It's quite possible that some of the hubs you have seen (where it seemed that the quality had deteriorated) may actually be part of an overall pattern, rather than a real decline. I know of several Hubbers who have huge numbers of articles, all of very good to excellent quality, so I know that it can be done.

      I hope that the next time you see something questionable you will remember that flagging does not cause anything to be unpublished or deleted or anything similar. It simply identifies a Hub for a Moderator to check to see whether it does fit the HubPages TOS. It's safe!

    • FitnezzJim profile image


      7 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      I may be too tolerant, I rarely flag Hubs. I assume most writers are here to learn how to write, or to publish for others to read. I'm naive, I guess, because I too have noted that some authors are rather prolific, and their quality seems to suffer or degrade when they are writing too much.

    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      OMGoodness, Will, there is a *bunch* of it here! There's one recent forum thread (Unstoppable Flood) that shows some examples. And some of the spun content that I have come across is truly hilarious - and infuriating at the same time.

      It would be really cool if you would check out some of it, and then write a short story about the person who posted it. Are they malicious? lazy? ignorant? desperate? What happens when they get banned from HubPages and/or their Adsense account is taken away? There are all kinds of twists and turns that could result - but I don't have the great imagination that you have to see the plot through to the end.

    • WillStarr profile image


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I had no idea! I read only those I follow, so I guess I'm naive!

    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      Thank you, MME53 and FBR! I like your criteria, Flora. My theory is that if we can get a filter that will weed out the obvious problems, then human brain-power can be released from that task to focus on the tasks that an automated filter can't do - like ID hate speech.

      MME53, I'm wondering if the people who publish such useless garbage are banking on the fact that the material will sit unmoderated for many months, possibly drawing some sort of traffic before it is taken down. I can't see any other possible way it could be worth their time. I'm sure in many cases, they publish it simply because they haven't learned how to write good content, or perhaps they are following some con man's guidelines for How to Make Money Online. They're in for a rude shock, aren't they?

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image


      7 years ago

      I hub hop and flag hubs for: hate speech, low quality, spam, non-English, too few words overall and for the number of amazon ads.

      Congratulations on 200 followers.

    • My Minds Eye53 profile image

      My Minds Eye53 

      7 years ago from Tennessee

      hear hear!

      Some of these hubbers can't speak correct English, some don't care if they have any quality at all. It might be the lure of money, but I can't see them making all that much with how they write.

    • Aficionada profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      I think we are all hesitant about flagging at first. The main thing to remember is that it is nothing other than a way of asking a moderator to look at a Hub.

      Think of the numbers: five new Hubs every two minutes! It is not physically possible for someone to check every single one of those, and many of them actually will float around, published, for weeks or months before someone looks carefully at them and says, "You know, this sounds like spun content."

      Since you're not comfortable with doing that just yet, don't worry about it; simply flag the ones that you do know should be given some attention. But as you do become more confident about flagging, don't let a Hubber's number of Hubs or time on HubPages stop you from being honest about what you see. :)

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Being a new hubber, I have been hesitant to flag many hubs, although I have done my share. Sometimes, I think something might not be written very well, but not wanting to be too critical, I'll look and see how many hubs they have published. If they have a bunch and have been here a while, I let them slide because obviously others have decided there is value in their writing. I don't know if that is a good approach or not, but that is how I have done it.


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