The Devtome is growing

Yesterday morning I signed up eight new Devtome writers. This may be a record for me. It wasn’t even counting the requests I received which I couldn’t accept at the moment, usually because the applicant hadn’t included a writing sample. For some reason there are always applicants who forget to include the writing sample. If their application letter was long enough that I can get a sense of their command of basic English language and grammar, then I often let that go and consider the cover letter itself to be the sample. But if all I get is a one line request for an account I really need more to go on.

With more people taking advantage of this amazing opportunity I’m noticing that the requirements to accept new writers are getting a bit more difficult. I well remember round 24 when a number of drivel writers got paid before their content was removed. This issue was quickly resolved so that by round 25 articles had to meet some minimal requirements, and the position of article admin was created to enforce them.

A new writer requesting an account today can expect to be publishing articles for at least a week or two before being added to the earnings list. After a new writer publishes his or her first thousand words, an article admin will evaluate the content and make sure it at least adheres to the minimal standards. If the article has any problems either the article admin or an earnings admin will reach out to the writer to address any concerns. If the writer cooperates and everything checks out then the writer will get added to the earnings list.

As a signup admin I accept the new writer’s request for an account in the vast majority of cases. The main reason I deny a request is if the writing sample shows poor command of the English language. If I were to accept such a request, that writer would get rejected further down the road without ever getting paid for his content, because the other Devtome admins would flag the content as unacceptable. If I can predict this up front it’s better to save everyone the trouble and effort.

My initial acceptance of a new writer and setting up his or her account is only the first step of the application process. The writer needs an account in order to publish content which can be further evaluated by the article and earnings admins. When the article and earnings admins have both cleared the content as acceptable, then the writer’s Devcoin address gets added to the earnings list and their content is accounted for in the next share count. It is possible for a writer to get rejected and his or her account deleted during this next stage of the application process. Basically, their first few articles are submitted on a probationary status. Once the writer has proven his ability to write through having published high quality articles, the writer will then be free to publish more content and watch his or her share count increase with each new article of a thousand words or more.

Even after a writer is accepted and begins getting paid he or she still needs to produce good quality articles. Although his articles are no longer being specifically evaluated for acceptance at that point, they are being looked at by various people. The category admins have to skim over the article so that they know where to best file it, especially if the writer has not categorized it. The category admins are on high alert for spam, drivel, or really bad writing, and they will flag it and report it to other admins. If they see too much from one writer that writer is at risk of losing his or her account. Normally the admins will reach out and give the writer a chance to address the problem. Sometimes writers make mistakes and as long as they are willing to correct them it’s all good. But a writer who will not cooperate, or whose work is in flagrant violation of known standards, could simply be terminated. In addition to the quick look-see given by category admins, all writers are rated each round. Raters read a randomly chosen article from the ongoing or previous round, but they are free to read any other articles they wish. Rating is pretty subjective and up to the discretion of individual raters, and the effect of differences among raters is smoothed out by each writer being rated by a different rater each round. So far it seems to be working well. Good writers generally get good ratings, and good ratings favorably affect earnings for the round.

For writers who are getting paid, which means all writers who have passed the initial application process as well as those writers who continue to maintain the high standards that got them accepted, their earnings are impacted by several bounded multipliers which were succinctly explained by UnthinkingBit in this Bitcoin Forum post. The base earnings payout is one share per thousand words. This base payout is either increased or reduced depending on the writer’s performance in the following categories as applied by the associated bounded multipliers: popularity (as measured by page views, ad revenue, etc.) 30 percent, categorization of articles 10 percent, writing quality as measured by writer ratings 60 percent.

In my opinion getting the page views is the most difficult part because I simply do not enjoy marketing. I’ve personally chosen to simply ignore that and take the hit to my earnings because it’s easier for me to just write a few thousand more words during the round to make up for any earnings loss. Still, it was good news to me to learn that its impact was reduced on the grounds that advertising (and the page views that come with it) is cheap. The easiest part to get full credit for is article categorization. It’s simple. Add a category to the end of your article and you get full credit; neglect to do so and you get docked. It’s also a one time thing–once all articles are categorized they won’t count against you anymore. The reason this part is tougher for me right now is that I didn’t categorize my articles until recently, so I have a backlog of uncategorized articles to work through. My plan is to categorize two old articles for every new (and categorized) article I publish. By the end of round 33 submissions I should be all caught up. Ratings is pretty subjective and depends a lot on what the raters think of your content. The raters who have talked about it have expressed their desire to be fair and objective and reward good writing. It is reasonable to believe that if you write well, the raters will give you good ratings. If you, like me, do not wish to put any effort into getting page views, then make sure your articles are well written, free of grammar and spelling errors, and categorized and those multipliers should make up for any docking from the popularity multiplier.

Another recent change made to Devtome payout procedure is that the number of words to be credited (and then run through the bounded multipliers) per writer per round is now capped at 50,000. Up until round 31 the cap was 80,000. This meant that a writer who maxed out and scored well on everything could have raked in 120 shares worth of writing earnings. With the new cap at 50,000 words those writers can earn a maximum of 75 shares from writing.

I had said once on the forum (and that message was referenced in the request to lower the word count cap) that I’d hardly notice if the 80,000 word count cap was cut in half to 40,000. I’m happy with the new limit of 50,000. It means that Devtome monthly word count goal matches the ambition of NaNoWriMo. We could now have a motto: “Make every month your own personal NaNoWriMo!” More importantly it means that the super prolific writers, or the ones who publish a bunch of previously written content, are more limited in their ability to take away from my earnings, which at this point all come from original content, or that of others.

I remember when the subject of limiting writer earnings started coming up in the Devcoin thread. The suggestions were fairly crude at first and for the most part, appeared to be ignored. But every so often UnthinkingBit would pop in with a way that he was going to implement a change in the way the pay script ran. My initial reaction to even the suggestion of limiting writer earnings was to worry about my own ability to earn through my writing, but I always acknowledged that the Devtome as the client has the right to set the standards and the limitations, and as long as I knew what they were I could make an informed decision about my own future relationship with the client. So far I have found the limitations to be both effective and fair, and they work just fine for me. Other than my own share count getting docked a bit because of lack of categorization and marketing (which I accept and am changing what I easily can), I believe the limitations and multipliers along with vigilant admins are helping to keep the overall quality of Devtome content much higher than what I initially expected it to be.

The Devtome opportunity has evolved from being more of a free for all rewarding anyone willing to type to a growing stable of high quality writers producing high quality content. It’s been a process to be sure, but one with a good positive direction and outcome.

I also remember the days when I felt very nervous about the increase in the number of new writers taking advantage of the opportunity. When it was more of a free for all, each new writer represented more share dilution for those of us who were already here, and this really impacted the writers who were on board long before I was, as they were used to being able to write just a little bit and take a large piece of the pie. But now I welcome the new writers. I know that not all of them will make the final cut. I also know that not all of them will prove to be consistent writers. And I know that the writers who make the cut and write consistently are going to be good writers, and rating them will be a joy, not to mention I’ll learn a lot. Those writers will also prove to be an asset to the Devcoin community and help with getting the word out, and ultimately the value of Devcoin will increase, leading to less need to write so much to earn a decent living.

The best part is that the Devtome opportunity is turning out to be far more stable and long lasting than I ever expected. This has been helped along by the current high price that Bitcoin is enjoying. The Devtome opportunity itself and its associated publicity is keeping the Devcoin price at a good level as well. It’s pretty close to the level where a writer who steadily publishes content could actually live off the fiat proceeds from trading out the Devtome earnings. Even with new writers joining every day, I’m cautiously optimistic that there will be enough for all of us to make a very good living from our work. I’m also even more optimistic that we’re not too far from the days when we will be able to buy the things we need directly with our Bitcoins and Devcoins.

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