The Devtome writing situation

The Devtome of course is growing and developing as a project.  New writers continue to come on board.  As a signup admin, I get asked to create accounts several times a week.  It did slow down when the Devtome was having its technical difficulties, but I expect the pace to pick up again.

Part of that development is that it’s a bit harder to earn by writing now.  To earn the full amount for your writing, you also have to promote your articles and help increase the overall page views.  The reason is that the Devtome is seeking to earn ad revenue, and ad revenue is generated by page views.  There’s a formula in the earnings calculations which takes into account the number of words and the overall popularity of the writer.  If you are a very popular writer each of your writing shares is multiplied by 1.5.  If you are holding your own in popularity, then you earn one share per thousand words.  But if you are a very unpopular writer, then you only earn half a share for every thousand words you write.

I believe my multiplier was around 0.8 or 0.9 in the last round so I only lost 1,000 words or so, but I suspect that eventually, my multiplier will drop down all the way to 0.5.  This means that for me it will take 2,000 words to earn one share.  That part doesn’t bother me too much.  Although I know some of the basics of how to promote my work online, I would personally rather not.  It’s actually much easier for me to simply write twice as much than it is for me to expend any kind of sustained effort into marketing my work.  The big draw of the Devtome for me was that I got paid to write and marketing was unnecessary.  I knew it was only a matter of time before that changed, and now that time is here.  The timing is a bit ugly because with my computer breaking down and the inevitable delay before getting up and running with a new one, it’s much harder for me to produce a lot of content.  I will probably have to live with a thin month, but this is of course only temporary.

My only real concern is that the earnings multipliers eventually get moved beyond the 0.5 to 1.5 range.  It’s easy to write more content, but there does come a point where it’s no longer worth it.  For example, if the earnings multiplier ever got down to zero, then I would be forced to become a marketer or I’d be writing for free.  If it got to the point where I’d have to write ten times as much, that might not be worth it either.  I’m not sure where the line is, but I hope I’m still a long way from crossing it.

There’s the usual debate people have about the ramifications of rewarding writing vs. marketing.  In general, the two are not as closely related as one would think.  Poor writing that is well marketed will attract more traffic than good writing that is poorly marketed.  That’s the nature of the Internet.  So, it follows that if the Devtome project wants to continue to attract good writers who may or may not be good marketers, then it should keep a significant portion of the rewards tied to writing alone.  However it does make sense to also tie some portion to marketing, as ultimately, we don’t write in a vacuum.  At some point someone should be reading what we write.

There is also the thorny issue of how to determine writing quality.  To help address this, some of us Devtome admins now get to rate writers based on quality.  The writers will be rated by different people each round.  Their scores will be compiled and somehow included into the earnings formula, though exactly how I do not know.  Writing quality is of course highly subjective.  When I’m rating a writer I first look for obvious spelling and grammatical errors, and seeing them causes me to significantly lower my score.  In my opinion, proofreading one’s work for spelling and grammatical errors is the most basic necessity.  If a writer doesn’t do it properly, then it’s going to reflect negatively on his or her work.

Once the spelling and grammar is taken care of I consider how well the article reads, how the sentences are put together, and how well I can understand it.  There are ways to make highly technical material understandable to a lay reader.  It’s not that the reader understands every detail that the author knows, but the reader should be able to get a general sense of what’s going on.  It is difficult to explain how to get there but I can recognize it when I see it.  I can also recognize when I’m getting lost in the technical details and have no idea where the article is headed.

I am not too concerned about how I’ll be rated.  I expect I will score quite well.  I hope that getting good ratings as a writer will help balance out the hit I take from not bringing in the page views.

I believe the added incentives for marketing as well as the writer rating system will ultimately serve to attract and encourage writers who produce quality content and who do a decent job of promoting it.  The successful Devtome author will be one who can both write and market well.

The days when word count alone earned you Devcoins are fading, and that’s a good thing.  The first major step taken to assure some quality standards was to recruit some article administrators who screened out the articles which were clearly spam or drivel.  And now a more generalized rating system is being implemented to further distinguish the great writers from the average and poor writers and reward accordingly.

It’s a bit more challenging to be a Devtome writer, and while there are some annoyances associated with the more complicated earnings calculations, I believe the end result will be to raise the quality of all the writing.  The bad writers will either improve or move on, and the great writers won’t have to compete as much with the verbose but poor writers, but can focus more on producing higher quality content.

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