Saturday, June 28, 2008

Helium Front Page Results

Last week, as my regular readers know, I made the front page on Helium. It is not the first time that I have made the front page; I have done it twice before. Once with my review of the TV show “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader,” and once with a humor piece about me ignoring my wife’s hints that the house needs to be cleaned.

I have always heard (read) on the community boards on Helium that making the front page is good for some extra earnings. Past experience on my end has resulted in just a couple of extra pennies, and a rush of competing articles that demoted my own article rank inside of its respective titles.

Until last week, that is. My article on “How the FICO 08 will affect your credit score” was the first time that I saw that making the front page does make a difference in one’s earnings. Before this point, making the front page was merely for my “ego department” as Eddie Izzard would describe it.

When I logged in that day, I was surprised by the spike in my earnings. I had looked at my Helium earnings late the night before because I was approaching one of those magical markers, and I was three cents short of it. So there was no doubt in my mind that I had an earning spike.

I didn’t immediately realize why. I had looked at the front page with a plate of eggs in one hand, and a cat crawling onto my lap trying to get them. It wasn’t until I checked my email that I learned that I had a front page article.

So what did I learn from this front page earning spike? That writing on Helium, like everywhere else, is all about Content, Content, Content.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Friends without faces

FRIENDS WITHOUT FACES
(Unknown Author)

We sit and we type, and we stare at our screens,
We all have to wonder, what this possibly means.
With our mouse we roam, through the rooms in a maze,
Looking for something or someone, as we sit in a daze.
We chat with each other, we type all our woes,
Small groups we do form, and gang up on our foes.
We wait for somebody, to type out our name,
We want recognition, but it is always the same.
We give kisses and hugs, and sometimes flirt,
In ICQ we chat deeply, and reveal why we hurt.
We do form friendships - but - why we don't know,
But some of these friendships, will flourish and grow.
Why is it on screen, we can be so bold,
Telling our secrets, that have never been told.
Why is it we share, the thoughts in our mind,
With those we can't see, as though we were blind.
The answer is simple, it is as clear as a bell.
We all have our problems, and need someone to tell.
We can't tell "real" people, but tell someone we must,
So we turn to the computer, and to those we can trust.
Even though it is crazy, the truth still remains,
They are Friends Without Faces, and odd little names.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Break in the gloom

Well, finally got myself pulled together and started writing again. Added the Hearthstone Community Church (Wiccan) Open Full Moon Dates and the Esoteric Titles of the Major Arcana to the Bast Temple website.

Also started working on a set of Tarot articles for Helium that I hope to start to post there next week. Hopefully, they do not mess up my titles for them.

It is good that I am starting to write again. I was beginning to get worried; it almost seemed like writer's block.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Helium upgrade blues

As regular Helium writers know, Helium started doing a round of upgrading Wednesday.

First, there was the time that the site was down for them to do the upgrade.

Then on day one, there were the many bugs that go along with an upgrade. The one that annoyed me the most was the ghosts. I was getting double printed and half seen sentences, buttons that was not where they appear to be, and ghost images as I attempted to look around the pages.

And I am prone to migraines, so ghosting is not good for my head.

Then yesterday, they had a big notice up saying that no one should submit anything, or leapfrog anything, because there was an error in the system that was removing all the paragraph spacing from submissions.

And today, half the pages can't be found.

Sigh. My earnings were already dropping on Helium, due to the economy (advertisers are not paying as much to Helium, and it flows downhill from there). I really don't need the site to be all buggy; it turns readers off.

Hopefully, they get all the bugs of this upgrade worked out soon.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Pet Peeve: Percent

Today, I was reading a news article about a man who tried to get money from a police department for shooting him while he was holding a gun.

And I encountered one of my pet peeves.

His lawyer said that the court was "a thousand percent wrong in their decision."

Yes, a lawyer said that. Now, I would think that a lawyer would know better; and while a thousand percent sounds better than a hundred percent, it is still wrong. You can be completely right (zero percent wrong), or completely wrong (a hundred percent wrong), or any range in between. You can not be more wrong than completely wrong.

What would ten times completely wrong be like? Won't that void the universe?

Of course, the biggest violator of "percent" are college coaches: "We are going to give a hundred and ten percent!" No, you can't. You can give it your all, or slack off, but you can not give more than your whole capability.

Unless you use voodoo to steal the other team's mojo. Then maybe.

The only time that it is proper to use a figure higher than one hundred percent is when it is actually possible to do so, like taxes, book-keeping, fund raising, and mathematics. Example: "We are going to match the donations a thousand percent." Cool, my dollar will net the charity eleven dollars (my dollar and their ten). My favorite charity could only wish for such luck.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Money in science fiction

I started out wanting to be a science fiction writer. There are still days when I dabble in it, mainly those days when I am sitting in class trying to figure out how I am going to get hired by anyone with a degree in literature.

A few years ago, I read an article about what you named the currency in science fiction indicated a lot about the economics of your fictional world. (I would love to be able to cite the author and title of the article, but it has slipped my mind completely.) The example from it that sticks in my head was the "Golden" which indicated a world that went back to the gold standard.

Today while reading the financial articles on MSN, I came across a term that a columnist has been using to describe our own monetary system: Xera.

The exact quote is:

Xera: The dollar is in need of a name change. Xera is a combination of: (a) Xerox -- for the piece of Xerox paper that it is, (b) lira, which in the past was one of the world's chronically weak currencies, and (c) most importantly, the fact that it sounds like zero. Which is ultimately where the Xera is headed.

The scary part is that it is true.

But I digress; it got me thinking about naming money in science fiction. What you name your money in science fiction says a lot about your world.

For instance, in Star Trek we do not hear much about money, at least in classic Star Trek. We know that flame gems and tribbles can be traded, and once we hear Scotty making a joke about his pay, but it was not until the Ferengi come along that we learn of latinum (something that can not be generated by a replicator; ahhh, no printing money for the Federation). There is something to be said about a society (Starfleet Command) where its members care more about starships than they do their paychecks.

In the TV series show The Prisoner, they had work units. The most important inhabitants of the Village, including Number Six, did not seem to work---exactly what that means is unknown to me.

Of course, we must not forget the most commonly used fuctional currency: the credit. Fictional is the sense that it really does not exist, despite the fact that we use it all the time at the shopping mall. Nevertheless, when it comes time to write my next science fiction story, I think that I am going to use the Xera. I hope that Bill Fleckenstein doesn't mind.

Earning slowdown on Helium

One of the disappointments of being an online writer is that occasionally earning are not as good as projected. At the moment, one of the sites that is disappointing me is Helium. Earnings are down for everyone, outside of those who do well in the marketplace and contests, about 90% based on comments on the community forum, which are matching my own earning drop.

(Ok, maybe, it is not everyone, but there is enourgh to be concerned about.)

Helium has been doing their best to soothe concerns about the drop. They point out that Helium is "revenue-sharing" which means that if advertising income is down, writers earnings also will be down when viewed as a whole.

One of the ways that they are trying to help out the writers is to award a bonus to those writers who maintain both a writing and a rating star. Unfortunately, this leaves three quarters of the writers still in the cold; a writing star is earned by having your articles on average rank in the upper quarter of their titles; considering that not everyone can be in the upper quarter, someone will be a loser with that bonus program.

So is this going to cause me to abandon Helium? Probably not. My view of Helium is a long view, and I am treating it as a long term investment. And the articles that are in my speciality, Wicca, pagan and Golden Dawn, are still pulling in money, though at a slower pace than I would like. Those articles, which I would write anyway, are still viable for me to write.

It is only those articles with a short and limited economic life that are no longer worth writing for Helium; fortunately, I have an outlet for them: Associated Content.

To illustrate how low earnings have dropped on Helium, the articles that I have on both Helium and AC are earning more from page views on AC than they are from revenue share on Helium.
So I will probably be focused on writing for Associated Content for general articles, with Helium only getting articles in my speciality until the ecomony improves. It is the only way that I can justify my opportuntiy costs at the moment.


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