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The mystery of HubPages

Updated on June 1, 2012

There’s the Hub. What am I doing wrong?

I don’t understand.

I have been a professional newspaper and magazine writer (Confession: under another name) for more than 25 years (Okay, that profile picture is not recent. It dates to when I lived in England quite a few years ago.) I have been a section editor, executive editor and editor-in-chief. I have published thousands of words, beginning with more than 750 opinion columns and including a couple thousand articles, features and editorials in local, trade and national magazines and newspapers. But I am the Rodney Dangerfield of Hub Pages (with the notable exception of being alive).

A few days ago, I wrote a Hub about the Franciscan Monastery in Washington. I thought (humbly) that it was particularly good. It had only one link, but it was informative, carefully written, and illustrated with nearly thirty good images. It scored a 64. I also noticed that my “personal” score, the score next to my profile picture had dropped from 82 the previous day to 81.


I began researching why my scores seemed to be progressively lower and learned that they are not based so much on the quality of the article, but on whether one asks Hub questions, makes Hub comments, or hops Hubs.

I confess: I had never heard of Hub-hopping, but I looked at the top of the page with my record of decreasing value, and there it was, a frog at the top of the page next to “Help us out, Hop some Hubs.”

Not one to bite the hand that feeds me, I will not point out that that is a run-on sentence (also known as a comma splice).

I hopped to a Hub, which I found so badly written that I ignored it and hopped to the next. Dreadful. It was a list that was supposed to be on the topic of travel but included non sequiturs and bullet points that left me utterly baffled. A commenter described it as “heavenly”

I tried a few more and found that I grew frustrated at the sheer amateurish quality. If I wanted to rack up points, though, I had to also “make comments.”

In a (much) more recent photo, the author (right) and friend look over Sheephaven Bay and the town of Dunfanaghy in County Donegal
In a (much) more recent photo, the author (right) and friend look over Sheephaven Bay and the town of Dunfanaghy in County Donegal

Its called “reciprocity”

When I was an undergraduate, one or more of my psychology classes required students to serve as lab rats. In my one memorable experience, I was attached to electrodes, as was someone in another room. Ostensibly. I was never sure that I believed that it was not only a sadistic graduate student.

I don’t remember the sequence or catalyst, but my unseen adversary and I had to choose the degree of electrical shock to deliver to the other. For a long time I continued to dial low doses in the belief that my invisible (and probably non-existent) rival would take the hint and reciprocate, but wowzer! I was zapped hard again and again until I dialed it up to 11 in the great hope that someone was actually getting reciprocal torture on the other end and that I was not only causing a mad scientist to grin.

And that is why I am reluctant to bash fellow Hubbers.: I want neither unseen adversaries nor invisible mad scientist administrators to retaliate or (shudder) escalate.

So I tried to be gentle and nurturing; I tried to show restraint. I played the circumlocution/euphemism game.

“This sucks! Did you even proofread after you dashed it off while you were watching professional ‘wrestling’?” translated into: “I’d suggest that you work on polishing your writing before you post. Perhaps ask someone to look it over with you.”

Several had multiple misspellings in the first paragraph.

One was empty after the title.

Their scores were similar to mine.

But there is the money to consider. And thereby hangs a subplot.

The subplot: Gold, moolah, filthy lucre

I signed up for Ad Sense so that I too could profit from click- throughs on my Hubs. I could see no reason not to and it might be better retirement security than the Mega Millions lottery.

The very first day I made 10 cents.

The next day, my personal score had dropped to 81 but 12 more copper coins piled on. I was working the program, making comments and hopping Hubs.

By the third day, I had 20 Hubs, one unpublished. My personal score had fallen to 79, but I had accumulated 50 cents.

Despite having been a successful professional writer—largely under another name--for more than 25 years, my scores ranged from two 80s to seven between 70 and 78, nine between 60 and 66, and a 55.

My ego is taking a thrashing and I am not sure what to do about it. If the money were not pouring in, I might return to investing in the lottery. At least my feelings would be spared.

Before I conclude my diatribe, I am going to do some Hub hopping. I will comment on the first five –which I have not yet seen—to make my point.


#1 What is Contemporary Art? Louis XXX at LAB ART Los Angeles (52)

I was surprised. It was the best that I had read in my recent hoppage. The opening sentence ran a little long and the second used passive voice, but it wasn’t until the picture at end of the article that I realized that the “young contemporary artists” whose work (on the sides of recycling bins) was being reviewed are apparently elementary school artists. The picture at the top of the piece might have given it away, but that might be indicative of my semi-ignorance. (About which, more below)

I enjoyed the second paragraph: “While perusing the LAB ART walls full of their normal gallery artists I came across….” , I see where they had packed the usual artists to make way for the younger set, although I doubt that the walls were full of artists—no matter how much I enjoy Poe’s “A Cask of Amontillado.”

The author described the art as “The kind of work that you hear semi-ignorant people [there it is!] sometimes remark upon, "My five year old could have painted that."

I think that she might have made her point without setting up straw men (straw persons?) to insult, based upon her conjectural idea of their reaction. In fact, doesn’t it suggest that she saw the art that way?

I am gratified by the idea that “semi-ignorant people” frequent art galleries.

The author continued: “I always cringe when I hear that because yes, anyone can paint a kindergarten style house with a stick figure human, but to accentuate that with sweet snippets of romantic young lyrics of longing that instantly take one back to the place of first love, innocence, simple unadorned moments, attraction, and belly-tingling butterfly desire is a admirable feat.”

Again, lovely—at least, I am not going to critique it— but the picture the author included at the end of the article contains actual primitive stick figures and art that looks as if it should be hanging on a refrigerator—probably a walk-in because it is, after all, on the side of a recycling can—and the only human I see in the picture appears to e a young child, leading me to wonder whether the entire piece is an ode to daughter’s art project.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Or it could be that she was being ironic and I was being semi-ignorantly clueless.

I will try to be briefer with the rest of my hop harvest. (Beer here!)

#2 Lemon Sun Daydreaming (45)

Poem 15

Because I referred to them in my comments to the author, I will cite stanzas 4 and 6:


10 pound catch

Slippery, splashing

hook released




Fish frying

Strawberry wine

Out of sight

Out of mind.

My initial impression was that the pace of the poem—which struck me as very much like my middle school students wrote during that period in my life— is at odds with the pace of fishing, but as I reread it, I enjoyed the flashing images, much like a hooked fish struggling in the sun. However, based on the "hook released, water crashing" in the fourth stanza, I wondered about the provenance of the frying fish in the final stanza.

Moving on:

#3 John Stuart Mill's Theory of Ethics (55)

I was impressed that someone chose to tackle that topic of a Saturday morning, even as I wondered what fresh point of view it would bring. That is what I call the “so what” of an article. Another way of putting it is equally blunt: Why are you telling me this? As it turns out, it hasn’t one, just a simplistic recap of Mill’s theory and a sentence or two in rebuttal, however…

The first sentence explained that Mill’s theory “is based on hedonic utilitarianism.”


If I don’t know what that means need I read further?

The second sentence explained: “Utilitarianism is the attempt to explain that man's actions should be geared toward acts that produces the best consequential result as possible.”

Okay, let’s assume that “acts that produces” was a typo. “The best consequential result as possible” is a bit more problematic. As an obsessive Strunk and Whiter, I strive for concision—unless added verbosity lends snarkiness—I maintain that any result is consequential and any consequence a result. I further maintain that impossible results should not be considered and would, therefore, eliminate the last two words resulting in “…man’s actions should be geared towards the best result.” I might add result for whom.

Third sentence: “…Mills argue that utilitarian includes all the good and bad outcome ….” OK, I am going to speed read the rest, because if I see three obvious agreement problems in as many sentences, I decide that your attention to detail makes anything you say suspect.

It is hard to skip over, “For Mills there are three kinds of pleasures—one is the intellectual and moral pleasure, and the physical pleasures.”

Maybe I am the one who miscounted.

My comment to the author: “Although I see your point, I am distracted by mechanical flaws that might be the result of being more interested in content than delivery, not being a native speaker, or not assigning value to standard mechanics, especially subject-verb agreement.”

And now, Are you ready?

#4 Are You Ready For His Return? (48)

“We know Jesus will soon be returning

We are sure the time is so very near.

We can read in Matthew Chapter 24,

And the end time signs are very clear.

If we are not ready we will surely miss it.

What a horrible place this world will be“.

These are only the opening lines. Need I say more?

I chose not to make any comments because I thought that they would be hurtful to the author who seemed sincere.


#5 Missing Teen: Sierra LaMar Reminds America of the Evergrowing Child Abduction Market (58)

The Abduction of Sierra LaMar only reminds America of the Underground Groups that continues to prey on your children as the rest of the Population clocks in for there 8-5."

Let’s see…Misspelling in the title, Teutonic capitalization of nouns, misspelling of their….This is an alarming topic, but by the end of the first sentence I have decided that this sounds like an alarmist who is casual about accuracy and decided not to read on.

My comment to the author: “You might have a valid point, but when I see that you have so many errors in grammar and mechanics, I am inclined to disregard the message. If you want people to take your arguments seriously, it might be a good idea to have a friend or family member proofread.”

Conclusion (This is what I conclude)

Those are the first five that I read after beginning this diatribe, (Although the next one I read included this memorable line: “Point is, it's usually not prudent to get rid of body parts unless you absolutely have to.”) and those are the ones I promised to report on. They represent better work than the ones I had read previously, but I hope that they support my premise that much of what one is asked to hop is poorly written. That is the point of asking for Hubbers to evaluate the work, but it is difficult to read once piece after another, suspecting that it is taking longer to read and respond than it took the author to write.

On the positive side, it is day four, I have earned 69 cents, and my personal score has held steady at 81, so what is a few hours of grading papers?

Like the shocking laboratory experiment above, this essay could end in reciprocated pain. It seems axiomatic that whenever one offers correction or criticism, he will commit an egregiously laughable error. My writing is not perfect, and after careful and repeated proofreading and revision, I have on many occasions been appalled at errors I see in my published work, errors that are mine. That remains true even when multiple editors have been through it. Mistakes happen.

I also use sentence fragments and slang for effect. Students used to ask me why my columns included conjunctions (“Because I could not stop for death….” Well, Miss Emily wrote that, but because is used as an introductory element for a line of poetry that include a subject and its predicate and expresses a complete thought.) and fragments. Once in a while I threw in a little slang to show that I am down with it. (Being cool ain't easy.)

I explained that before intentionally breaking the rules, it is necessary to know and understand them. I get to break the rules. It makes writing more lively (which I choose over livelier because of the rhythm of the sentence) and distracts would-be critics from finding substantive fault.

However, I find writing fun, and I make a committed effort to present only writing that I have tried to make as engaging and error-free as I can.

All that said, I would prefer to be scored on my ability to provide fresh, engaging, informative content—and maybe to understand why I keep getting poor to mediocre grades.

Maybe HubPages should add a copy editor or writing coach to its team. (If you need me, just whistle—better still, email me. My rates are (what I consider) reasonable.

In this Hub, I have no images or links. Let’s see what score it gets, shall we?


Did you find the seven errors I included in this essay?

After writing, I have added links because it seems that each tiome I do so or add/change tags, I have a rise in readers.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Sad, true, and funny....


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