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Bogged Down in Bubblews - My Personal "Experiment", Good Times, and Present Disillusionment with the Writing Site
I am a bit hesitant to write this post because I am not prepared to make a clean break with Bubblews just yet. I am cautious because the website's founder Arvind Jay Dixit and his minions have been known to be rather merciless about deleting the accounts of those who speak words of Bubblews heresy - this even though their motto is "Speak Freely, Write your World." So at the present time I keep looking back over my shoulder for the Bubble police while treading with very light steps through the Bubblews quicksand, hoping that my 230 pound frame will never again get sucked down into that quagmire..
I proceed timidly because a very good friend of mine on the Bubblews site was deleted twice for speaking "freely." He managed to sneak back in using new usernames, but for me it is not worth the effort to start over. Still, I just can't bring myself to cut the chord completely, because I maintain some worthwhile connections on the Bubblews site that I do not wish to abandon. All the same I write these words because I need to exorcise my own writing demons, and also because by sharing my personal experience maybe I can save another writer from getting sucked into the Bubblews quicksand, a veritable Bermuda triangle of aspiring wordsmiths who go in and are sometimes never heard from again.
This article, therefore, is an expose of my personal Bubblews experience, which was altogether a positive one until very recently, when the goose that laid the golden egg was finally sucked dry and unacceptable changes in the format caused me to quit wasting my time.
Is Bubblews a Scam?
Over a year ago Hub Pages writer Thomas Swan wrote an article entitled "Bubblews - An Experiment to Test the Scam." Although this was an extremely well written and informative piece I took a bit of umbrage to it because in spite of its severe technical issues and payment inconsistencies I would not say that Bubblews is a scam. Nonetheless, there are serious problems with the Bubblews writing platform that Swan's article and many similar reports on Hub Pages have pointed out.
Although I have one pending payment that seems to have mysteriously vanished into the Bubblesphere, I still do not think that Arvind and his associates are scamming anybody on purpose. I think that when the Bubblews founder rolled out the red carpet on his brainchild he wasn't intending to deliberately defraud anybody, but was merely deluded by wildly unrealistic expectations about what he could afford to pay his contributors. At first Bubblews was a generous, bountiful bonanza and many writers were making excellent money by contributing up to ten posts per day. Some, but certainly not all of the Bubblews detractors who complained of being scammed I believe were plagiarists and other rule breakers whose accounts were deleted.
During my first year on Bubblews I was paid regularly and made a few hundred dollars writing about a post per day on average. No doubt I was one of the more casual users - if I had depended on that money to live I would have withered away from starvation a long time ago, but it was a bit of extra cash that accumulated happily in my Pay Pal account and eventually bought me this new laptop. The writing on the wall grew clearer, however, when the redemption amounts were set higher and the time required to process these redemptions dragged on interminably, suggesting that it is not all happiness and dancing in the streets behind the scenes in Bubbleland.
Although I don't have any data to back this up, I believe that Bubblews is financially strapped, and one doesn't have to be overly adept at reading through the lines to see it. To reinforce this theory, recently Bubblews stopped tracking post views and has now ceased paying for views altogether. To back up my supposition that the website may be going through financial woes, an article by fellow bubbler and hubber kalinin1158 pointed out that the site recently began setting payment amounts on a regional basis. This means that a Bubblews user in the Philippines, Vietnam, and other "third world" countries will be getting paid 1/3 of a penny per like and comment, while the rate in the western world stays at a penny a pop. Sounds like Western imperialism revisited, and if I was a hard working Bubbler in Manila or Kuala Lumpur I would not be overly motivated to keep working through this injustice.
Losing the payment for views was what really made me take a few reflective steps back from the site, because my Bubblews posts used to accumulate up to a dollar a day just sitting there taking random Internet hits, even when I wrote nothing. Since I recently ceased contributing articles to Bubblews there has been virtually no "residual" income, and the accumulated dollar amount in my bank is stuck somewhere around 32 dollars and creeping upward slower than the San Andreas fault is carrying California into the ocean. One positive I take away from this development is that I will be spending more time on Hub Pages now, since there is no way I can find the time to do the prodigious amount of liking and commenting that Bubblews presently requires to make real money.
My Bubblews Experience
I joined Bubblews on August 7, 2013, at a time when I was disillusioned with Hub Pages because I had not been paid a plug nickel here yet. I was thrilled to see my Bubblews account climb almost immediately, penny by penny, as I composed mostly postal related articles and shared them on Facebook and Twitter with fellow postal employees. In the beginning I relied mostly on these social media generated views and did not spend too much time liking and commenting, as a great many "Bubblers" do, some of them full time. In spite of the more comparatively "casual" nature of my own Bubblews experience, I gradually collected an intimate group of fellow Bubblers whose accounts I would visit regularly and religiously.
Eventually I got to the point that I was writing and posting "Bubbles" from my smart phone, taking advantage of Bubblew's emphasis upon brevity. Sometimes my postal lunch break was spent hashing out one of these micro-bubbles (although most of my Bubblews friends would still say that I am tediously long winded), and I have to say that I am damn proud of many of these writings. I edit everything I write at least once, and this included everything I wrote for Bubblews as well, all 400 posts to date!
I also tried my hand at a little poetry on Bubblews. Meaning no insult to all of our wonderful Hub Pages poets, I maintain that the overall quality of poetry is a little better over there. Hub Pages seems to discourage poetry and unfairly penalizes poets with a lower hub and hubber score, but poems are perfect on Bubblews, which has a 400 character minimum and no frowning Pandas to slash a poem's score. The concept of a score or grade for a bubbler or bubble simply does not exist on Bubblews; so many capable poets have migrated to the Bubblews site and have produced some really delightful work there.
It doesn't take the regular Bubbler long to realize that many of his counterparts and compadres are scamming the system and being rewarded for it. I would often sit scratching my head and pulling on my whiskered chin as I contemplated how someone with only 100 "connections" could already be getting 300 likes on a post, where here I was with some 2000 plus connections and I could barely rake in 30 or 40 likes on a good day when the bubble winds were blowing perfect.
Then my jaw dropped to the floor as I realized that a great many of these overnight Bubblews success sensations were cheating! Fancy that! There were rumors of illegal Bubblews Facebook groups, connection strings, and traffic exchange sites. Stories of computer based "bubble-bots" were in circulation; these being computer programs that would surf Bubblews and automatically dole out likes and comments by the thousands as the human bubbler behind the bot slumbered blissfully away, probably dreaming sweetly of redemptions that required very little work and absolutely zero writing skill to produce.
Many Bubblews shysters manage to steal away with hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars before they are discovered and have their accounts deleted. After deletion the lion's share of the scam artists still manage to sneak back in under a different username to begin the cheating process anew.
Unfortunately, Arvind and cronies seem to encourage the malicious activity of this seedy lot. Unlike Hub Pages, where front page posts seem to require a certain level of quality, on Bubblews articles make the front page based only on the number of likes. Therefore, although this may have been remedied recently, the front page of Bubblews is littered with crappy posts that got there mostly through ill-gotten likes generated by responses to the Bubble-bots.
The scam artists were just an acknowledged part of the Bubblews culture. Like ants and flies at a picnic, they were an annoyance that had to be shooed off, an ugly and undesirable part of the landscape that did not deter me from trying to make my own honest income on the site. The policy change that really did cause me to drift away occurred in recent weeks, when Bubblews elected to stop paying users for post views. Prior to this bubblers were paid a penny per view, and random search engine or social media hits could produce a fair amount of income for the writer who had a mediocre flair for SEO and/or a reliable social network following.
It seemed to me that paying Bubblews users for views was a perfect symbiotic relationship for Bubblews users and management alike. Bubblers made money, and the site raked in advertising revenue from outside visitors. I think it is safe to say that contributors to writing websites become jaded by ads and avoid them like West African vacation packages, so it made absolutely no sense to me when Bubblews decided to end this practice. The Bubblews brain trust released a statement in which they called views "counter-intuitive," which if it is not the most meaningless euphemism in the history of the Internet it has to be at least in the top ten. It could be possible that I am missing some important facts about how writing websites operate, but Hub Pages seems to thrive on encouraging and generating outside readership, whereas Bubblews finds it "counter-intuitive," an expression that still has me scratching my head like good old George up there.
So where is the motivation to try to create search engine friendly titles for my Bubblews articles and to share my bubbles via social network if I'm not getting paid for views? Quite frankly there is none. I had a few posts that topped over a thousand views, almost all of them generated outside of Bubblews. Alas, those days have sadly departed, and it looks like I have too.
Stuck in the Bubblews quicksand
Therefore, since Bubblews no longer pays for views; only for likes and comments from other users, it seems to me that it has been reduced to a mere paying social network, which sounds nice except that this payment requires an immense amount of time and effort that I do not have, literally dozens of hours weekly in order to accumulate the 50 dollars in the piggy bank required for redemption. By contrast, Hub Pages is more "fire and forget." I'm not saying it's a good idea - I am very fond of my friends here in the Hub Pages community; but a skillful hubber can, theoretically, make money from articles without interacting with a single Hub Pages user. It is a great deal less labor intensive.
Does the serious writer have time to get bogged down in the Bubblews morass? I love my Bubblews connections, but since my objective is to become a published author I think I am better served steering clear of that quicksand, that perilous suckhole in which writing ambitions are traded for a pocketful of pennies. I have wasted away many precious hours watching the Bubblews penny counter click enticingly upward as I read and "liked" one nauseatingly repetitive "redemption" and "I love Arvind" post after another, then wondered where all the daylight went.
Is Bubblews in my Future?
I intend to stick around Bubblews for a while at least. Since I started this article the site finally came through with one of my missing payments, which increases my motivation a bit. All the same I will become increasingly stingy with the pennies I dole out on the site. I don't mean to be elitist, but I'm going to save my pennies for my small circle of articulate friends who write meaningful, interesting posts. I just can't afford to waste time trying to swim in that quagmire anymore. I can only afford to wade, and carefully at that. It's time to move on.
Afterword - Life after Bubblews!
The most positive thing that has come out of my Bubblews withdrawal is that I have seriously started to submit articles to various publications. My good friend and mentor Bill Holland (billybuc), who is someone of a rock star here on Hub Pages, urges his writing disciples to go out and get a by-line. That is what I have been trying to do, and I have made a good start in that direction.
On Thursday an article I submitted to Counterpunch Magazine was accepted, and has now been published on the online version. Counterpunch is edited by Jeffrey St. Clair, a former journalist for the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as the author of several books. I invite you to read my article via the link below and to sample Counterpunch for yourself.