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Is HubPages a Reliable Information Source?
When I first started writing for HubPages a couple of months ago, I was under the impression that they were looking for writers who had some expertise in a particular knowledge area and the skills to put together informative, well-written articles. I still believe that this is the kind of person that HubPages is looking for; however, it may not be representative of what they’ve got. I’ve noticed a lot of good and bad on HubPages, and I’ll bet you have too.
HubPages is a lot like Wikipedia in some ways. Articles can be generated by anyone. You do not have to be an authority on anything to write an article on it. A Hubber could be a true, credentialed expert, an untrained “enthusiast” or a complete loon. Different people have different motivations for writing. My own personal motivation is professional. As an unemployed professional, I need a forum for my work so I can keep my name out in the open, demonstrate that I am keeping current in my profession, and hopefully catch the eye of a prospective employer. It is in my best interests to write as well as I can on relevant topics. Others may be motivated differently. Some may want to vent and therefore use HubPages as a blog. Some may be looking for publicity for their business ventures and use it as a cheap way to advertise. Whatever the motivation, it will have a direct impact on the information quality of the article.
HubPages authors are not necessarily anonymous. The good ones will tell you a little bit about themselves. The really good ones will tell you the basis of their expertise. Look at my profile. The first thing you see is my credentials. I am quite open about who I am and why I write. I use my real name as my Hubber ID. If a Hubber won’t tell you much, be suspicious.
How to determine if a hub is a good source of information
1. Language usage: Is the article written professionally, using good English, or is it full of subject/verb disagreement, misspellings, run-on sentences, and paragraphs that seem to go on forever without coming up for air? These are all indicators of a poor article.
2. Opinion: It’s OK to write an opinion piece, but there are right and wrong ways to do it. A good opinion piece keeps a calm and rational tone, builds arguments logically, citing information sources, and leads to a logical conclusion. A poor opinion piece is a rant, with very little supporting evidence, lots of text in ALL CAPS and more than the normally accepted number of exclamation points. I have seen very poor pieces by authors with whom I tend to agree, and very good pieces from people with whom I strenuously disagree. A good, high quality opinion piece is not contingent on point of view, as long as it is well-presented.
3. Length: Good, complete information is usually found in more than one short paragraph. Enough said.
4. Citations: Magazine-style articles with ideas that come primarily from the author’s head (like this one) do not necessarily need to have citations, however, any that purport to have factual information or take part of their ideas from others should have at least a link to the original source. Some use formal, peer-reviewed journal-style citations. These are great too!
How to help HubPages maintain quality hubs
HubPages, like Wikipedia, is partially self-policed, meaning that members assist in ensuring the quality of the site. How can you help? Well, if you’re a registered Hubber, the first place to start is at your own keyboard. Make sure that you write the kinds of articles that somebody would like to read. Avoid introspective, personal pieces that may be of no interest to someone who does not know you personally. Run everything through your spellcheck software, but don’t stop there! Proofread your work at least twice with a critical eye. If you do not have a perfect command of English, do not just run your article through translation software. Those articles can be spotted a mile away, and believe me, they are impossible to read! A better idea would be to have an excellent speaker/ reader of English proofread your hubs. It’s really a shame that so many people’s good ideas are never read because their translation is poor. Don’t let this happen to you.
Carefully choose the elements other than text that you include in your hubs. Pictures should be original, sharp, well-composed, and relevant to the topic. If the first thing a reader sees is a big, pixilated photo that looks just like that omnipresent, overused Microsoft Office Clip art that we are all sick of seeing, he or she is likely to vote your hub down and move on to the next hub. Consider taking original photos that match the subject matter of your hubs. For example, when I was writing my article on medical patient issues, I took a picture with my cell phone camera of the room where my husband receives his treatments. It was a simple picture but it’s my original work, it exists nowhere else on the internet, and it goes well with the article.
Don’t overload your article with ads. A light touch will serve you well here. If you use Amazon, try to display only products that are very relevant to your subject matter. When I mention a book in an article, for example, I often have my Amazon capsule display that book only, or just a few books that are related to the topic. Keep all of the other revenue sources to a minimum. Remember that the point is to have a high-quality article that people will want to read. If nobody reads your article, there is zero chance that you’ll make any money from it.
Another way for Hubbers to help keep quality high is to Hub Hop! On your “my account” page, click “Help us out, hop some hubs.” This will take you to several hubs randomly. Read each hub and, if its quality is severely lacking, flag it. You’ll have to explain why you flagged it, of course, but bringing poor quality hubs to the attention of the staff is an important way of ensuring the quality of the site, as well as the reputation of HubPages and YOUR hub! If you see particularly good articles, vote ’em up! Consider writing a brief comment letting the author know you appreciate the great article! Make it a habit to hub hop often. Finally, reward authors who consistently produce good hubs by following them. This will indicate that they are well regarded by the HubPages community.
So, the question remains: Is HubPages a good source of information? I’d have to say “It depends.” I have seen good, well-written, authoritative articles on HubPages; in fact there are some scholarly articles with good citations. Unfortunately there is a lot of trash too. Like Wikipedia, HubPages may be a good “jumping off” point for further research. If you trust an author’s credentials and references, make your own decision about using the information in your work. Remember that citing resources from the open web is always risky.
I’d love to hear from others about how they have used HubPages in research or other work. Feel free to comment with your own experiences!
Wendy S. Wilmoth, MLIS is a librarian, independent researcher and doctoral student.