MAbtc’s Devtome log, #1

Now that Round 28—my first round—has come to a close, I figured it was as good of a time as any to start a log of my journeys writing here at Devtome. It has been a mixed experience, and I’m not sure at this point how much energy I want to continue putting into it.

I came across Devtome early on in Round 28, around mid-September, and got set up to become a writer shortly after. My original goal was to write 40,000-50,000 words for this round. I figured that 80,000 words—equivalent to the max shares one can receive per round—sounded quite daunting, especially since I began as a writer after the start of the round. So, earning half or more of the maximum possible shares seemed like a good bar to set for myself.

Once I got rolling, the words started flowing. Admittedly, I formatted and re-worked a handful of research papers that I worked on previously, which allowed for a healthy start. Still, I certainly surprised myself with the level at which I was able to produce what were—in my humble opinion—solid, well-written articles. At the close of the round, I had written and posted 71,802 words. I was very happy with this number, as it went far beyond the original goals I had set for myself. That’s not to say that towards the end of the round, I didn’t doubt that I might break 80,000!

The day following the close of the round, Unthinkingbit posted the file that displayed our word earnings. This was about the time when my bubble burst, and my excitement about Devtome turned to a mixture of disappointment, and wonder about whether or not I could succeed here.

It turned out that 71,802 words, which apparently worked out to 72 base shares, was drastically reduced by the earnings multiplier that is applied before our word earnings are finalized. According to the Earn Devcoins by Writing page:

“The number of unique page views are divided by the number of words, then the root of that is taken and the roots of all the writers are normalized. That earnings multipler is multiplied by a goal seeked revenue neutralizing multiplier, then bounded from 0.75 to 1.25, and multiplied by the words to obtain the number of generation shares. To summarize, an unpopular writer will get 0.75 generation shares per thousand words, an average writer will get around a share per thousand words, and a popular writer will get 1.25 shares per thousand words.”

I knew this coming in. However, I had taken this to mean that the lowest possible bound for our multiplier was 0.75. It turned out that even though I had read this correctly, the lower bound had been changed to 0.5 and the upper bound changed to 1.5. This wasn’t, at the time, reflected in the “Earn Devcoins by Writing” page quoted above. So, my admittedly sparse traffic reduced my earnings another 25%. Instead of what an “average” writer would get—72 shares—I receive 40 shares. Had I known that the lower bound of the multiplier was in effect prior to beginning writing, I may have given up right there, knowing that I—not being an online or social marketer—can’t generate the sort of traffic that some people can.

As it stands, I am receiving little more than one third what some writers are receiving at Devtome. While I understand the rationale of the earnings multiplier, I think, for one thing, that the system can be gamed, in terms of unique page views. For another thing, if we are trying to have a wiki comprised of high-quality writing and a useful web of information, then this should be about more than online marketing.

The draw of Devtome, to me, was that it allowed me to share my perspectives and art—and be paid for it. I am not an online marketer—I am just not capable of generating massive viewership, especially when I see others coming off quite spammy trying to attain such viewership. That just isn’t me. Unfortunately, that may be what it takes to do well here.

I understand the basis for tying earnings to ad revenue—to make the project somewhat self-sustainable. However, the fact that it is tied so closely to it, to me, goes against the atmosphere of producing open-source creations for the sake of it. I didn’t plan on marketing the crap out of my articles, and I didn’t plan on spamming people with links. Since I still don’t plan on doing so, I will have to think long and hard about whether or not to continue writing for Devtome—and if I do, what kind of effort I am willing to put in. There is no question that I will not be putting in as much effort from here on forth as I did in Round 28—not on writing, anyway, since I will have to concentrate on marketing anything that I post.

Anyway, I’m sure part of the disappointment I am feeling is due to the excitement of having far out-done the goal I had set. I think I will continue writing here, but it’s hard to be optimistic knowing there are writers that can churn out tens of thousands of unique page views, while I have no network to compete with that. I’d be starting from scratch—or at least close to it, considering the small Twitter network that I used to have. Realistically, it’s a bit difficult to imagine being able to help but tread on the bottom of the earnings multiplier, so I may just have to get used to the fact that I may only make one third, or if I am lucky, perhaps one half of what some writers do. C’est la vie.

There has been an introduction of a rating scheme to add another multiplier into the mix for the next round. Since I feel that my writing is of high quality, generally, this could help me achieve a more satisfying share. I'm not sure how it will work in practice. I may wait until some of my writing gets rated before I spend any more time writing for Devtome—if this is another multiplier that places me even further down on the totem pole, I may have to move on to other projects entirely. I'm crossing my fingers, but I've learned by now to set my expectations low.

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