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Is Personal Experience Important in the Process of Writing a Page?

  1. Will Apse profile image90
    Will Apseposted 21 months ago

    The current mantra on HP is that personal experience is everything. Research is not worthy.

    Where did this come from?

    I recently published a page about Animals that Fly, it got a score in the nineties and went straight to Owlcation. Well done to me.

    But of the twenty or so species on that page how many have I seen? None. A few close relatives, but none of the actual species. Sorry, I applied research skills and writing skills, only.

    Would it have helped if I had personal experience of those animals? Unlikely.

    If I had studied one of those species for a year or more, I might have had something to say that was not already in the journals. Even after a year's work, I would have needed to very lucky and discovered something very big to warrant inclusion on a general page about a broad subject.

    What about product related pages? Do we need to have used every product we describe?

    That is impossible if you are covering a large category. And again it is not especially helpful in many cases.

    I have a page on coffeemakers. I have owned several but several very popular products I would never buy for a whole range of entirely idiosyncratic reasons.

    Should I exclude the latter?

    If I want serve the reader, the choice is clear: forget my prejudices, or at least minimize them. Point out what is popular, maybe hint at my dislike but let readers decide for themselves.

    Anyway, HP does not do stuff without a reason and the 'personal experience' thing can only be seen as a lack of trust in writers to research competently and present valuable info.

    It is harder to mess up a purely personal narrative and it does not matter if it is unbalanced and not especially well informed.

    1. Wesman Todd Shaw profile image97
      Wesman Todd Shawposted 21 months agoin reply to this

      I've had success here with pages about animals I seldom if ever see. But for the most part, what works for me are product articles.

      Doesn't take a long look to see I write a tone about guitars. Well, I've had my hands all over thousands of models of guitar. So I know the subject. Some companies make more models of guitar than I could have possibly seen. But once I'm familiar with a manufacturer and its ways, I know I know what I'm talking about even if I've never laid eyes on a very specific product I'm discussing.

      Not sure if I'm being helpful here, but this is what passes as socializing for me.

      1. Will Apse profile image90
        Will Apseposted 21 months agoin reply to this

        You make the point perfectly. The fact that you have touched a guitar is not as important as the fact that you understand guitars and know what you have touched.

        I imagine you know how to interpret other people's impressions of guitars, too, and get something valuable from them.

        If someone tells you what you what they are looking for in a guitar, you are in a good position to make some recommendations.

        All in all, it's what is in your brain that matters rather than the fact that you once bought something.

        1. Wesman Todd Shaw profile image97
          Wesman Todd Shawposted 21 months agoin reply to this

          Yeah. There are all manner of descriptive words and phrases that convey a lot of meaning that only persons who are into a thing or subject can interpret right.

          Words on a page can seem dry. But within a subject's domain there are all the thoughts and feelings and energy or whatnot conveyed from writer to reader that an outsider may not be able to pick up on.

          Nuances. Language is such a powerful thing. It can be hard sometimes to put words to the 'sense data' or impressions or whatever. Thus the challenge of effective writing.

          Well, you don't often get worse at a thing by working harder at it. So I keep slogging onwards.

          The past six months or so this website has really turned around. Or my success here has. The niche sites are working, and I'm getting some decent results from things on the main domain too.

          All the nay-saying and negativity of a few months ago, as has happened many times previous, has proven (it seems to me, anyway) to have been more misfires of doom.

          1. Will Apse profile image90
            Will Apseposted 21 months agoin reply to this

            The fact the website (or ring of sites) has turned around is obviously great.

            For one thing, there is no need to be protective of HP anymore. Better to point out it's continuing weaknesses. Those niches are not yet fire proof, for thing. There are still needlessly spammy elements.

            But enough of that for now.

            HP should be thinking how they can encourage good writers to get involved. People who tell you what they had for breakfast before sharing their thoughts on their new shower mat are not going to get you readers.

            1. Wesman Todd Shaw profile image97
              Wesman Todd Shawposted 21 months agoin reply to this

              With the niche sites. I'm pleased for the things I've done that got moved. But there are cases where, looking at the stats, it seems like they jumped the gun and picked some of the wrong ones to move, and left some of the better ones here.

    2. Marisa Wright profile image97
      Marisa Wrightposted 21 months agoin reply to this

      Will, we used to cross swords in the past, but these days I find we agree absolutely on so many things, it's scarey.

      I have absolutely nothing to add to your post, it is 100% spot on.

  2. lobobrandon profile image90
    lobobrandonposted 21 months ago

    A few years ago I knew nothing about a particular kind of product. But that's what interested me and I got into it to see what people are looking for, how the products and its variants are going to be used and who'd need what (in a way). Today, after a few years and lots of reading, watching videos, chats with manufacturers and a few customers I can say I'm an expert on the topic. An expert on the internet is someone who can offer an unbiased view, with facts and stated sources in a way that helps the readers who have less knowledge about the topic than you.

    I don't really write about my own experiences. Growing tomatoes for instance. I've grown a lot of other fruits and plants when I was a kid. Tomatoes just once and I got cherry sized tomatoes (and they were not cherry tomatoes hehe). So out of interest I learnt all about getting a good crop and what needs to be done and wrote a few hubs on it. I've had people commenting that I've helped a lot and they have had an amazing crop. Then again there was one parent who commented on my tomato series saying that she used a lot of information on her daughters school project.

    All in all, personal experience is one thing which I'm sure is important and can lead to amazing hubs. But, that's by far not the main criterion. Research skills is what's needed in any field. Even if you've got hands on experience, there are possibly other ways (better ways, maybe?) to do something and only then can you compare options and provide a best solution - for a DIY project or such.

  3. profile image0
    calculus-geometryposted 21 months ago

    Most of the site's contributors are people who think research is a quick skimming of Wikipedia, so I prefer HP stick to the drumbeat of personal experience, lest the site be filled with articles that summarize Wikipedia.

    1. lobobrandon profile image90
      lobobrandonposted 21 months agoin reply to this


    2. Will Apse profile image90
      Will Apseposted 21 months agoin reply to this

      Gosh, I didn't know you invented mathematics!

      1. lobobrandon profile image90
        lobobrandonposted 21 months agoin reply to this

        This sure is getting funny. Good one Will.

        EDIT: I must admit that calculusgeometry did say a vast majority of the authors and I do agree with him on that, as I think a huge chunk of the authors are people looking for web 2.0 links to their site. HP was famous for getting high quality links. But today it's a whole different story and Calculus and the others should realize that. There are editors to block out the people just looking for a link.

      2. profile image0
        calculus-geometryposted 21 months agoin reply to this

        LOL, but do you remember eHow and Demand Studios?  Demand Media web properties are what research article content farms look like, not pretty.  That's why I want HP to continue to encourage the "write what you know" school of content creation.

        1. Will Apse profile image90
          Will Apseposted 21 months agoin reply to this

          What people know is what they have learnt on the whole. Anyone who can take what they have learned and apply it fruitfully to new situations has value.

          You cannot expect writers to have many original thoughts but you can expect that they do at least one of these things:

          explain difficult issues clearly


          save readers time and effort by assembling pages that answer particular queries

          make a few connections, offer a few insights (the fewer the better perhaps, lol)

          I am beginning to think that the most useful thing that I can do is hint at the possibility that evidence has value.

          1. profile image0
            calculus-geometryposted 21 months agoin reply to this

            I think we simply have different perceptions of the typical HubPages "writer."

            1. Will Apse profile image90
              Will Apseposted 21 months agoin reply to this

              Therein lies the route to misanthropy and solitary drinking. I should write a page about that.

              But seriously, there are some diamonds out there.

              1. profile image0
                calculus-geometryposted 21 months agoin reply to this

                You're being a tad dramatic, and downplaying the role your own botany/biology expertise has in the writing of your articles.

                Donny the stay-at-home-dad from Kent can probably research an article on edible cacti of the American Southwest.  But Mary, a former park ranger from New Mexico can write a better one combining research and her experience.  HP is more Donny than Mary.

                1. Will Apse profile image90
                  Will Apseposted 21 months agoin reply to this

                  If Donny has good writing and research skills plus an interest in cacti and Mary is a typical scientist (writes in a form of Latin) then the better article might come from Donny.

                  Expertise is vital but can be acquired, as Lobobrandon and WryLit suggest.

                  For writers, writing skills are far more important than any other quality.

    3. Marisa Wright profile image97
      Marisa Wrightposted 21 months agoin reply to this

      But I think that's exactly what Will is saying.   Personal experience is NOT necessary to write well about a topic.  What HubPages is doing is taking a shortcut - because they want to exclude the "cut and paste from Wikipedia" mob, they go overboard and also exclude writers who are capable of writing excellent research-based Hubs.  Another example of a policy that causes major collateral damage, like the Amazon and Featured/unFeatured policies.

      1. profile image0
        calculus-geometryposted 20 months agoin reply to this

        It's not a policy so much as a suggestion, and not even an enforced one.  When has HP de-featured-for-quality an article that was well-written and based purely on the author's research?  I don't think ever.  They de-feature when the writing is bad because bad writing highlights the lack of authority.  If a person can write well and research well, HP is none the wiser and Will & Co. can keep doing what they do.  The bad writers (which are legion) should be gently guided toward "write what you know" and not be given the notion they can do otherwise.

  4. agilitymach profile image97
    agilitymachposted 21 months ago

    My expertise is dog training.  I have read maybe a hundred dog training articles here on HubPages.  I cannot tell you how many were flat terrible, filled with advice that could even harm a dog.  That said, I have also read dog training articles written by others with personal experience training not only their dogs, but others' dogs.  These articles were excellent, filled with wonderful, helpful advice.

    I have also read a few Hubbers who wrote about their personal dog training experience with humor.  These articles were designed not as much to give advice as to commiserate with the reader also struggling with the same issue.  These were great Hubs too.

    The long and short of it is that most people aren't journalists.  They don't understand research.  They don't understand talking to experts to get their information correct.  They are looking for what they feel is a "fast buck," and researching is never fast.  Their Hubs are filled with bad - and sometimes dangerous - information.

    Also  I believe Google is not looking for author's experience.  It (somehow) is able to tell if an author has experience in that field.  I suppose if I write a ton of articles on dog agility, Google will begin to think I know what I'm talking about when it comes to dog agility. 

    I hope HubPages continues to stress personal experience.  It doesn't mean your birdy Hub isn't great, well researched and wonderful, but it will hopefully stop someone from writing a Hub on how to train a dog to sit that doesn't cause damage to the dog's hips. (Never push on you dog's rear end to get a sit, folks.  Very bad for the hips!!)

  5. LuisEGonzalez profile image86
    LuisEGonzalezposted 21 months ago

    In my particular place I have over 30 years experience in photography (all types and techniques) so I do considered it worthy to share my expertise in that arena. For some of the other articles dealing with short stories and recipes most come from my own experiences too but not all.

    BTW I have given up bad mouthing the site where photography is associated with felt and magnets as well as cutting wood at the Home Depot, how to cut a t-shirt, balloon twisting, making rubber band bracelets or painting fiberglass or even how to make roses from dollar bills!



  6. WryLilt profile image91
    WryLiltposted 21 months ago

    I absolutely agree with you. Out of my hubs (and the hundreds of articles on my own sites) I've experienced less than 10% of what I write about. But I get millions of views for my compilation research - because there are MANY topics online that no one has bothered to collate.