Catch of the Month: Preparing for the Java Interview

Each month I’ll feature a lens that I discovered while exploring Squidoo.

Installing JavaMost people want a job. Getting a job requires doing well in the interview. To land a programming or software engineering job, you better be prepared for that interview.

Interviews for programming jobs focus on your understanding of languages, concepts and how to use them effectively. You’ll also be expected to talk about how you solved technical problems in prior projects.

To help you get ready, there’s the Java interview preparation guide by TheLastResort. The guide provides background info on Java, employment trends, sample interview questions, tips and recommended books.

The book lists are comprehensive, covering Java and software design concepts that are applicable to most languages. Each recommended book has a detailed description of why it’s recommended and for what purpose.

If this is your first programming interview, the list of example questions will open your eyes to the level of technical questions you can expect. I’ve been on both sides of the table in programming job interviews during my career and like this list.

While the guide focuses on preparing someone new to Java for an interview, there’s good info for long time programmers as well.

The best way to be prepared for any type of interview is to do. Work on your skills every day.

Image Credit: hillary h used under Creative Commons.

Catch of the Month: Star Wars Action Figure Price Guide

Each month I’ll feature a lens that I discovered while exploring Squidoo.

Grr-ROOWWWRRR!!!*C-3PO, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Bossk, AT-AT Driver, Chewbacca…those are a few of the Star Wars action figures I had growing up. That was a long time ago and they’ve all since gone to the great toy box in the sky. But if I ever want to replace them, there’s a lens to help me determine a fair price for each.

The Vintage Star Wars Action Figure Price Guide by lensmaster Grumpy-Fett (great nic) covers current prices for all of the original Star Wars figures from the first 3 Star Wars movies. It’s a must read for new and experienced collectors of these toys.

Don’t take my word for it, scroll down to the lens’ guestbook. Most of the comments are from non-lensmasters. That means real web surfers (the visitors who matter most) find it useful and worth their time.

Three key lenscrafting lessons from this lens…

  1. Establish credibility. Grumpy-Fett details their experience as a Star Wars fan, vintage collector, collectible toys merchant and sarcastic galactic bounty hunter. They also explain how these prices are researched and how the guide is intended to be used.
  2. Be a total nerd about your topic. You’re not going to build and maintain a lens like this unless you love your topic and know it well. That shines through in Grumpy-Fett’s writing.
  3. Keep it current. Compiling and publishing all of this info doesn’t help readers if it goes stagnant. The lensmaster updates pricing info, answers questions in the guestbook and updates the title with the latest revision date.

Even if you’re not into Star Wars toys, Grumpy-Fett’s advice on price versus value and how to use price guides is applicable to any collectibles market. It’s well worth a read.

Image credit: JD Hancock, used under Creative Commons.

Catch of the Month: My Favorite Quotes by JRR Tokien

Each month I’ll feature a lens that I discovered while exploring Squidoo.

The J.R.R. Tolkien Deluxe Edition CollectionThere are many good lenses on Squidoo. When reading them, I look for the unique and good elements of the lens. Yet I’m often tempted to think about what I might do differently if it was my lens.

Not with this month’s catch. My Favorite Quotes by JRR Tolkien is the best lens I’ve discovered on Squidoo in many moons.

Lensmaster Greekgeek has crafted a personal tribute to one of her favorite authors, JRR Tolkien, focusing on Tolkien’s quotes. She explores the meaning behind each quote and how it relates to her (I loved the English teacher story).

The lens seems so simple but is very powerful. Greekgeek’s elegant use of language in her descriptions and the way she weaves a consistent flow through the intro, module titles, sub-titles and body are a lesson in good writing and lens crafting. She keeps everything focused. There’s nothing to distract the reader from the purpose of the lens. Best of all, the content is interesting.

I found this gem while reading Greekgeek’s blog post on using CSS with Squidoo’s new responsive design. She used it as an example of using CSS smartly to serve a functional purpose. In this case, for highlighting Tolkien’s quotes.

Enjoy, learn and have a Happy New Year!

Image credit: Jemimus, used under Creative Commons.

Catch of the Month: My New Jersey Wine Quest

Each month I’ll feature a lens that I discovered while exploring Squidoo.

NJ winesThis month’s catch highlights the value of personal recommendations in a lens.

In My New Jersey Wine Quest, lensmaster Sockii shares her quest to visit every winery in the Garden State. I’m originally from NJ and enjoy wine, so this lens got my interest when I found it.

The lens includes a listing of all the wineries in the Garden State Wine Growers’ Association and Sockii’s detailed review of each winery she’s visited including pictures she took there. She also explains the motivation behind her quest.

Her reviews of the wineries are honest and personal. They include her impression of the winery and each wine she tasted. I like that she shared her wine preferences (dry vs. sweet, oaked vs. unoaked chardonnay, etc) which helps the reader relate each review to their own wine tastes.

The review that interested me most was for Auburn Road Vineyards. It’s not far from the route we travel when visiting family in NJ and, most importantly, Sockii describes their wine as, “very good, some of the best I’ve tasted in New Jersey to date.”

She was right. When my wife and I were in NJ this month, we visited Auburn Road and really liked it. Definitely the best NJ wines we’ve tried so far. It’s also a cool place to hang out and enjoy the wine. We bought several bottles. Two of them (we’ve already given the rest as gifts) are in the image above with the other NJ wines in our wine rack.

Thanks to Sockii for the reviews, spreading the word of NJ’s growing wine industry and the tip about Auburn Road. Without her lens I might not have discovered this outstanding winery.

(Sockii still has over 20 NJ wineries to visit and review. So visit the lens and give her some
encouragement!)

Image by Mac33

Catch of the Month: Visit My Tasmania

Each month I’ll feature a lens that I discovered while exploring Squidoo.

Buy at Art.comI’ve been a fan of throughglasseyes‘ tall ship lenses for a long time. This week I found her lens on visiting Tasmania, Australia, where she lives.

Margaret writes about many of the unique places and things this beautiful island has to offer. She shares her favorite Tasmanian sights and the reasons why she fell in love with the island.

There are plenty of her own photos to share the island’s scenery. Some were taken from the deck of a tall ship, the Lady Nelson, that she sailed on.

Australia is one of the top 3 places in the world I want to visit. When I go, I’ll want to visit Tasmania as well, thanks to Margaret’s lens

Image: “Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia”, available at Art.com

Catch of the Month: Toads in the Garden

Each month I’ll feature a lens that I discovered while exploring Squidoo.

Toad in a potWinter is a good time to start planning your garden. There’s a long list of things to decide. What kind of flowers or vegetables to plant, where to plant them, when to plant them and where the toads will live are a few.

You read that last one right. Toads like to eat critters that eat your plants, so encourage them to hang out in your garden. How do you do that?

Read AnthonyAltorenna‘s DIY lens on how to build a toad house. It covers all the steps and material needed to build one for your garden. He’s included photos of his own toad houses and helpful info about toads. I think it’s also the first lens I’ve seen that mentions using wampum.

It’s a good, easy to follow how to guide on an unusual topic. Perfect combination for a Squidoo lens.

Making one of these sounds like a good project for the kids, too. I’ve got an old cracked terracotta pot that I’m sure my kids would love to decorate and turn into a toad house. Thanks for the idea and info, Anthony!

Image credit: champmankj75, used under Creative Commons License.

Rethinking Costume Lens Strategy

Costume lenses are popular on Squidoo…they’re fun to build and it’s rumored that they can make money. There are over 2,300 lenses with the tag “costumes” and probably many more that don’t use that tag. Only 7 of them are mine.

There are two styles of costume lenses:
1. Costume Catalog – A pictorial list of Amazon or affiliate links to costumes and accessories.
2. How To Make Your Own Costume – Step by step instructions and tips to craft a homemade costume.

Many costume lenses are a hybrid of the two styles. They offer a mix of how to info with costumes and accessories featured for sale.

Each style serves a different audience. Some people want to buy a costume and have no interest in making one. They’re looking for a catalog. Other people are do-it-yourself types, like to save money or want something unique. They want to build their own costume and are looking for instructions and tips.

My costume lenses so far are all in the catalog style. The only how to stuff is a few accessory ideas. Most were built to complement an existing non-costume lens. Colonial costumes for a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, caroling costumes for people planning a Christmas caroling party and so on. The others are costume genres I thought were cool.

I had fun searching for good costumes to feature on these lenses, but I didn’t enjoy writing them. It felt like writing a sales pitch vs. providing helpful info to readers. Writing helpful stuff is more fun. My costume lens ideas list is growing but I delay starting any more because I dread writing them.

This Halloween season I stumbled across a couple good how to costume lenses that got me rethinking my costume strategy. They are artvixn‘s Steampunk Costumes Made Easy (a former LOTD) and Nerd Costume Ideas by emmalarkins. Both offer quality tips based on personal experience (with photos to prove it). And they blend in Amazon modules where it makes sense. Now I’m inspired to think of how to build how to costume lenses.

Side note: If you were playing a variation of “Hi, Bob!” called “how to” when you started reading this post…you’d have a good buzz right now.

My wife and I do make costumes so I have experience. And I enjoy writing how to lenses. The challenge is the costume photos. Most costumes we make are for our kids and I don’t publish photos of my family on Squidoo. So I’d be making costume lenses without photos. Not a recipe for success.

How can I make my costume lenses more “how to” without posting photos of my family? A few ideas (please let me know if you have others) are:

  • Use a mannequin for pictures of the costume. I could probably find one on Craigslist. Not sure how readers would like pics of a costumed mannequin.
  • Take photos of the costume laid out on a table. Won’t pack the same punch as on a person but could be useful in small doses.
  • Add more ideas on personalizing store bought costumes. This could be a good starting point and improve the quality of my existing costume lenses.
  • Use Flickr pics of people in similar costumes. Might be tough to find good shots and I don’t like using close up pictures of people. Yeah, they’ve posted it online for all to see and granted CC license, but I don’t know if they really want to be a model on my lens.

Hopefully this will get me back into the costume lens making spirit. Eventually, I’d like to have a good mix of catalog and how to style costume lenses. There are people searching for both.

What are your thoughts on costume lens strategies?

Image Credit: zol87, used under Creative Commons License.

Catch of the Month: Delicious Dump Cake Recipe

Each month I’ll feature a lens that I discovered while exploring Squidoo.

This month’s catch was discovered by my wife (who is not a lensmaster, despite my best efforts). She was recently at an event where she tried dump cake for the first time and loved it. Last week she went online, found the recipe and made one.

As we were enjoying the delicious cake she made, my wife told me there was a Squidoo lens on page one of the recipe search results that she visited and liked. Naturally, I was curious to see it…right after a 2nd serving of cake. The lens she found was Delicious Dump Cake Recipe by Susan52. It’s a good one and worthy of representing Squidoo on page one.

Susan does a nice job of providing the right amount of recipe related info. There are tips on making a bigger or smaller cake, ideas for recipe variations, a video and links to helpful products. My favorites were the apron and refrigerator magnets with the dump cake recipe on them. Brilliant idea.

This was the first time I’ve seen the recipe module in action (I haven’t visited many recipe lenses). The module looks clean and professional with a pic of Susan’s dump cake and a link to the printable version. Definitely make use of it for your recipe lenses.

Susan’s recipe is almost identical to the one my wife used. The key difference was shredded coconut…the dump cake my wife first tried had coconut and she wanted a recipe with it (maybe Susan will add it as a variation). We learned after making the first dump cake with 1 stick of butter that Susan’s recommendation to use 1 1/2 sticks is better. That’s how much we’ll use next time. Recommendations based on personal experience like that will help any lens stand out and add value for the reader.

The cake is delicious and the kids loved it. Maybe now I can convince my wife to build her own recipe lenses…

Image by Mac33

Add An FAQ Section To Your Lens

One way to add more on topic content to your Squidoo lens is with a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section. Providing an FAQ helps visitors who may be looking for the answer to a specific question on your topic.

Where can I get ideas for FAQ questions?
Watch your lens stats for questions in the search terms. If someone is looking for an answer, it’s likely that others are, too. Adding the question to your lens helps the search engines know you have the answer. All of the questions in the FAQ section at the bottom of my fantasy football commissioner guide lens came from search stats. (A bonus of doing this is that you may find search terms that spawn ideas for new lenses to build.)

You might also find questions in your guestbook comments. Another way is to look at the lens from a visitor’s perspective and think of questions you would have about the subject. The cool thing is that you can add to the FAQ over time as you brainstorm or find new questions.

Where do I get the answers for these questions?
Write your own original answers. You’re the expert that wrote the lens so this should be the easy part.

What Squidoo modules are good for an FAQ?
The Text List and Text modules are naturals for an FAQ. They look good, the content gets crawled by the search engines and you have formatting options. When using either module, I like to put each question in bold so it stands out.

What types of questions should I add?
Only feature questions that complement your lens topic. If the FAQ list gets too long, consider building a new lens that covers a subset of the questions and point readers to it.

Any other FAQ tips or ideas?
Another option is to write most of your lens content in a natural question and answer format. Phrase the module title in the form of a question then answer it in the body.

If you have a lot of lenses in a niche, you could build one lens that’s the FAQ for all of them. Each lens in the niche would link to it and the FAQ lens would link back to the other lenses in its answers.

Experiment with different formats and have fun adding an FAQ to your lens! Let me know what you discover.

Image credit: Steve, used under Creative Commons License

Catch of the Month: Toronto Pearson Airport 5k Runway Race

Each month I’ll feature a lens that I discovered while exploring Squidoo.

Airplanes and airports have always interested me and I enjoy running in 5k races. So when the title for bassetmonkey‘s lens about the Toronto Pearson Airport’s 5K runway race popped up, I had to check it out.

Wow…this is a very good example of a lens showcasing an annual event and it makes me want to run this race!

With a descriptive title and photo from inside a hangar, the first module creates a sense of excitement similar to what a racer feels waiting at the Start line.  That’s followed with info about the race, pre and post race pictures (including the unique finisher medals) and a thorough race review from the lensmaster, who ran the 5k in 2011.

The thing that makes a race like this unique is access to a place that’s normally off limits to most people.  Bassetmonkey captures that restricted access vibe in a fun way in the lens.  It also highlights the cool stuff race organizers did to make the race experience extra special.

Hopefully I can get to Toronto to run this race one year.  If you run this (or any other) race, bassetmonkey reminds you to thank the race volunteers!

Side note: About a week after discovering this lens, I got excited when I saw an ad for a 5k at a local airport.  Sadly, the map showed that their course is only on access roads, not the runway.  And it doesn’t look half as cool as bassetmonkey makes the Toronto airport 5k look.

Image credit: Paul’s Best Shots, used under Creative Commons License.