As part of today’s release Helium has made some upgrades to the assignment system. Members can now quickly accept or withdraw from multiple assignments by clicking the check boxes next to titles and then clicking “Accept,” or conversely “Withdraw.”

One thing to note, if you click the check box on some assignments on say page 1 of 10 but don’t click the “accept” box and move on to page 2 to claim some more titles before clicking “accept” those titles will not be added to your My Assignments. You have to click “accept” before moving on to the next page of titles.

We’ve also added question marks for members who have questions about what each section — Announcements, My Assignments, and Available Assignments — of the My Helium page means. Clicking on the question mark image will show text explaining everything in detail.

Another helpful feature is the numbers next to Open, Restricted and Personal assignments. This number reflects the number of available titles for each section.

We’ve also added some new details associated with each title. You can now see the title, article type, number of submissions (meaning how many other writers have claimed this title), payment, when it was posted and when it closes. The number of submissions area, for example 1/5,  is a new feature and one members really wanted.

Sorting assignments also got an overhaul. Now simply click once on “Payment,” “Posted On” or “Closes” and it will sort titles from, for example, highest paying to lowest paying, or lowest paying to highest paying title.

In Open Assignments you can filter titles by channel. In Restricted Assignments you can filter by any writing group you are a member of, for example, Marketplace Approved, Marketplace Premier or Home & Garden – Home Interior Senior Writer. If there are no titles available for that group it will not appear in the list. You can also search for a title in the “Title Search” bar.

Changes to the My Helium page 

Members’ My Helium page also got a fresh look. Writers’ stats and photo are now at the top of the page so you can easily see your writing score and rating score.

The Announcements section on the My Helium page has changed as well. Now there’s only only section of announcements at the very top of the page, under your writer stats.

To read all new announcements simply click on “Announcements” in the left navigation bar. This will show all active announcements for members. Helium can now share news, promotions and updates to not only the entire community, but to specific writing groups, or to individual writers. We hope you enjoy the new Announcements page and visit it often. The number next to the “Announcements” in the left navigation is the number of active announcements for you. It is not the number of unread messages.

Check out the changes as part of the Aug. 17 release and share your thoughts and opinions here!

As part of our upcoming release on Monday, Helium will get more social! We’ve cleaned up the social media sharing icons at the top of each article page and included the Google +1 button.

We’ve also created an action bar that moves as you scroll down the page. This bar includes social buttons for Facebook, Twitter and Google +1. You can even click “hide” if you want the toolbar to be hidden. When logged in as Helium writer, you will also have additional tools in the action bar. They include “Article Tools,” “Print article” and the “Write now” button.

It’s important to note that the “Write now” button will no longer be at the top of the article. It will now be housed in this action bar.

If you’re not logged in to Helium, the action bar will look a little different. It will not include the “Write now” button, and it will not include “Article Tools.” This creates a cleaner and more user-friendly presentation for readers of the site.

Earnings & Payments changes

We’re also adding a new feature to Earnings & Payments for all writers. Writers will be able to download an Excel spreadsheet listing their earnings on every article they’ve written on Helium (up to 1,500 articles). Now you can clearly see how much each article has earned, making it easier to see which articles have been more successful and which ones need some editing, or some promotion.

Become a subject-matter expert, show off your expertise, and get rewarded! As part of our release this week, Helium laid the foundation for new Writer Quality Groups.

Every night we run an algorithm that determines the writing quality of your articles. We then calculate which writers fall into the top 10 percent based on those quality ratings and place them in a Senior Writer group for that leaf channel. So, say you know a ton about cameras and love to write about them. If your camera articles show expertise and quality writing skills, you could end up in the 10 percent of writers in the camera channel — you are now a part of the “Consumer Electronics – Cameras Senior Writer” group.

Some Helium writers will notice they were added to Senior Writer groups today. Others will see it happening over the course of time — we run the process nightly to determine who has qualified for the groups.

What if I wasn’t added to the Senior Writer groups in my favorite channels?

Don’t worry! You can:

1. Working on improving your writing (we have lots of helpful posts here in the Helium blog!)

2. Write some new articles to those channels

3. Take advantage of leapfrogging

Every time you write a new article or leapfrog an old one it goes back into the pool to be rated, giving you more chances to advance to a Senior Writer group.

Why Senior Writer groups?

By creating Senior Writer groups, we can now target titles to those writers. These assignments will show up in the “restricted” assignments tab. We’re posting the first batch of targeted titles tonight. If you don’t get one, keep checking back because we’ll be targeting different groups every day.

Or, better yet, use our new Notifications feature to sign up for text alerts for the groups you really care about! Just go to your Account Settings and go to the Notifications tab.

If you do happen to drop out of the 10 percent of writers to a channel through rating cycles, don’t worry, we won’t remove you from the Senior Writer group.

Why am I part of the Baking Senior Writer group?

You may see some you’ve been added to some groups where you did not write much to the channel, but you wrote well. This process is not interested in quantity — it’s interested in quality. We can’t go into depth about how the ranking works, but I can assure you that if you got assigned to the group, you were in the top 10 percent in our quality ranking. So even if you wrote hundreds of articles to a leaf and half of them rated well, if you were in the top 12 percent but not the top 10 percent, you wouldn’t be in the group.

The Creative Writing channel has not been included. Creative Writing is a slightly different beast. It’s not that we don’t love it, but it’s more esoteric than knowledge writing. We are not trying to downplay Creative Writing; rather, we’re trying to recognize the difference between it and everything else.

How can I find out what Senior Writer groups I’ve been added to?

Go to your Notifications tab on your Account Settings page. It’s after Contact Info, Pen Name, Charity, etc. Not only can you sign up here to get text messages to your cell phone, but you can also see which writing groups you are a part of.

You don’t need to have a smartphone. Any cell phone that allows you to receive text messages works! If you do have a smartphone, you can go to HeliumNetwork Mobile on your smartphone browser, click on the Restricted button and accept your assignment right from your phone.

Start getting targeted assignments today by writing high-quality articles to any leaf channel. Need more motivation? Take advantage of our 10 Squared promotion!

Helium now offers members the option to receive SMS notifications (better known as text messages) about new available writing assignments. If you’re a member of any writing groups on Helium you can choose to receive text message alerts about new assignments that have been uploaded to the assignment system for groups you are a part of!

For example, say you’re a Marketplace Premier writer on Helium and you want to know every time new assignments have been posted, now you can!

To subscribe to receive SMS notifications about new assignments, visit the Account Settings page (accessible through My Account on My Helium) and click the “Notifications” tab on the top menu. It’s listed right after Contact Info, Pen Name, etc.

In the fields available, enter your mobile phone number, select the country your phone is registered to and select your mobile carrier. After entering this information, click “submit.”

A confirmation will appear at the top of the screen indicating an activation notification has been sent to your phone. Now an activation code box will appear in the “Notifications” tab. Enter the code you received via text message into this field.

Helium writers can select which writing group assignments to be notified about. They can also select to stop receiving notifications at any time too. It’s an opt-in program! Check out our Help page to learn more about how to set up your alerts.

Got a smartphone? Don’t forget to check out Helium’s mobile assignment system!

Helium editorial staff battled it out against tech staffers mano-y-mano in a competition of lightsabers and bowling during Wii Wars today. The May 2 throw-down was in celebration of a great deploy of Helium’s assignment system last week.

Brett and Jim battle it out in "Star Wars The Clone Wars."

Beginning at noon, in the big conference room, staffers got their competitive juices flowing.

First VP of Product Development Lorinda Brandon and Sr. QA Engineer Cindy Berube took on Content Source Assignments Manager Sarah Menesale and Sales Exec. Christine Otis in a game of Wii bowling. Sarah and Christine destroyed the competition and took the first win of the day!

Next up playing “Star Wars The Clone Wars” was fellow Sales Exec. Alyson Graves against Sr. Software Engineer Kim Kantola. Alyson took the win. Then Engineering Director Brett Edminster stepped in to take on Alyson, but the Wii shut down and no winner could be declared.  Senior Tech Support Staffer Jim Logan replaced Alyson in a matchup of lightsaber skills against Brett.

It was a stalemate, with each gaining one point for their teams.

“Return of the Developer Jedi was I,” said Brett.

Tech battled back winning the next two rounds. Principal Software Engineer Brendan Clemenzi beat Christine in a game of Wii tennis. Then Cindy showed off her serving skills beating Product Manager Dave Roh (filling in for an Editorial staffer) for another point.

The score is now tied 3-3.

The score is now 3-3 with the tiebreaker game set to begin shortly between CEO Mark Ranalli and VP of Content Source Janice Brand.

Results of Wii Wars will be announced as soon as a victor has been crowned. The winner gets bragging rights around the office; the losers, well they have to host a pot luck for the winning team.

UPDATE: Tiebreaker game set to begin at 4 p.m. Eastern!

Mark and Janice put on their boxing gloves.

The winner is tech over editorial as Mark knocked out Janice in a supreme battle of wills in Wii boxing. Congrats to Tech! Go ahead, send over your list of favorite foods.

Mark goes for the KO!

So early Wednesday a new release was pushed to Helium.  The boards have been active with people asking what exactly we did, what it affected, and what new features they can expect.

This release contained several bug fixes – including the “featured article” fix.  However, the vast majority of it was devoted to improving, upgrading and expanding Helium’s widgets.

You may have noticed that for awhile now we’ve had a “get a widget for this title” link at the top of article and list pages (as well as side by side for debates).  This enables anyone to get what we call a “public widget.”  This means that all the links go back to Helium, it has standard branding, and goes to the top article for a title.

With this new release we now have “partner widgets.”  This means partners of Helium can get special widgets that can point either to Helium or to their own site.  Why would they want a widget that points to their site?  Simple – for our new full article widget.

The current public widget is what we call our “top article” widget.  A top article widget points to – you guessed it – the top article (articles in a debate) in the title.  It contains a “teaser” blurb and then links to Helium to read the full article.  However, if a partner has a full article widget they can instead point the “read more” link to that on their site.  This widget will display – you guessed it again – the full text of the article on their site.

What does this mean for you, the Helium user?  More exposure for your articles.  More people seeing Helium content on partner sites, following links from there to Helium, joining Helium and growing our ranks.  More writers, more content, more revenue, and more earnings for you being the end result.

So, directly, there weren’t many features that you, the average user, gets to play around with in this build.  Indirectly though, the benefits are there.

Remember that although you can’t always see what we did or have a tangible feature that you can use that doesn’t mean that we haven’t tweaked something behind the scenes – to either make you more money, optimize the site (SEO or performance wise), or do some other small change that improves the overall Helium experience.

And don’t worry – some of those cool tangible features that you get to play around with are coming soon in near future builds.  But that’s for another post in the near future.

I hope this helps.

If I’m not mistaken – we work on current and future builds in development, so it happens sometimes – with our release last week you should now see title when you select “praise and feedback for writer” from the rating screen.

Many users have expressed confusion because there was no reference when they got these e-mails – usually with edit suggestions for their articles.  It should now say something like “This is in regards to your article on: [title]” at the top.

As I said, I’m pretty confident it was in the release last week however it might not have been communicated.

Hope this helps.

We could post on the boards but there’s already dozens of threads.

We are aware of the issues.  We are working on it.  We have backups.  The sky is not falling.

Don’t panic.