Sunday, December 30, 2007

Leapfrogging on Helium

One of the quirks of Helium, one of several online paid to write sites that I belong to, is the ability to “leapfrog” one of your own articles. Leapfrogging involves replacing an article that you are unhappy and not earning anything from, with an article that is you believe is better. Leapfrogging is a necessary option given the Helium system.

Helium, named for the concept that the better articles in a title will rise to the top, uses a rating system. It is an old fashioned system in the sense that it uses writers to rate the work of other writers. It is a new fashioned system is the fact that the ratings are ran though an algorithm to figure out exactly where your article should end up in the stack. Thanks to the combination of fashions, one’s article can sink in the ratings like a stone, or rise very rapidly to the top.

The rating system is one of the most hated things about Helium. Given the fact that many writers don’t really understand how the system works, and that it is based on other writers’ opinion of the merits of one’s work, conspiracy theories arise about it.

Quite honestly, given the randomness of the selections that are presented to rate, I doubt that anyone is gaming the system. I will admit that it sometimes moves very slowly, especially when it comes to contest entries; but given enough time, at least for myself, my articles end up exactly where they are supposed to be. Others may disagree with me on this; after all, we all think that we are the best writers in the world, therefore rightfully deserving the number one slot.

Besides egos, there is also the small fact that Helium pays writers using a revenue sharing system. (Other revenue sharing sites include MyLot, Yuwie, Associated Content.) In the interest of attracting users, and keeping them, some web sites are beginning to share some of the ad revenue that they collect with the people using the site and providing useful content. On Helium and Associated Content, that content is articles.

Many people prefer Associated Content over Helium, due to the fact that Associated Content does not rate articles in the same manner that Helium does. On AC, each article is rated only against itself, and it has no bearing on your revenue share (AC calls it “Performance Bonus). Your rating on Helium does affect your earnings; even if only because the top five articles in a title get seen more than the others in the title.

So in light of this, writers on Helium are allowed to attempt to replace an article with another version; hopefully, one that does better in the ratings. It does not always work, causing many experienced Helium writers to wait until their work hit rock bottom before they attempt to write a better version.

This year, during my winter break from college, some of the writing that I am doing is revisions of my bottom dwellers. Not all of them. Quite frankly, some of my lowest rated articles are there simply because I don’t care enough that they are sitting on the bottom (if I think the shelf-life of an article is over, there is no point in wasting time rewriting it).

And besides, some of these articles are no longer current with my skill as a writer. Thanks to college, a couple of novel rough drafts, and just sheer experience as a writer, many of the articles I wrote there when I first joined are articles I now am horrified to have written.

Say what you will about Helium; but at least they allow you to replace your trash with something more readable. I know that many people prefer Associated Content, due to the lack of a rating stack; but considering that an article there is forever and non-replaceable, perhaps Helium is the better vehicle for your writing if you are getting better as a writer.

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