Farewell to the Flickr Module

Last month Squidoo abruptly retired the Flickr module because Flickr appeared to be blocking most of their images from loading on Squidoo lenses. Squidoo HQ and several lensmasters tried to get Flickr’s technical assistance on this with no success.

I’ll miss the Flickr module. It had some shortcomings but was an easy way to add good photos to lenses. It was also helpful in generating click outs and getting traffic from image searches.

I understand and agree with Squidoo’s decision to retire the module, but the way they did it was horribly executed. The retirement decision was announced on June 15 with no date given for when it would go away. The module disappeared from public view 3 days later. That doesn’t count as good advance warning for lensmasters to prepare and make changes before the module went away.

In the announcement, HQ said that, “When the module goes away there’s nothing you have to do. It will simply disappear from your lenses.” They got that half right, it did simply disappear. But there’s lots that this sudden disappearance required lensmasters to do if they were using the Flickr module.

Depending on how you used it, a disappearing Flickr module could mean anything from losing a few non-essential images to your lens morphing into an empty site because the bulk of your content went missing. For anyone that wrote text in their Flickr modules, this module retirement was devastating because that text also disappeared from your viewable lens and the sight of the search engines.

I had some lenses in that latter category. Worst hit were my tour an aircraft carrier, tour a battleship and sail a tall ship lenses. All of them used a Flickr module for nearly every ship featured. Each module had images and all of my written info for that ship in it. When the Flickr module disappeared, so did the content for those lenses.

Fortunately, I saw the announcement that the module was gone from view and was able to add Text modules and copy the content into them within a day of the Flickr modules disappearing. The lenses didn’t have many images, but at least the written content and links to the ships’ websites were available. If I’d been on vacation, those lenses would’ve been sunk.

Most of my Squidoo time over the last month has been spent fixing up existing lenses with Flickr modules instead of working on new lenses. I’m still in the slow process of finding, selecting, downloading, recording and uploading images to those text modules and updating other lenses that used Flickr images. Since Flickr’s image blocking also impacts images linked to in HTML code, I’m updating lenses that used that, too. (I mostly did that in Text List and Link List modules so I sent a feature request to HQ asking for the image upload functionality be added to those modules. Please do the same, hopefully they’ll add it if enough of us ask.)

What should Squidoo have done instead?

  1. Communicated the date when the module would be retired and no longer publicly viewable. This is one of the original Squidoo modules, used nearly 400,000 times according to the Add Modules tool. How could HQ not give lensmasters a date and time to prepare for its retirement? Makes no sense to me.
  2. Modified the module so that the images and their links wouldn’t display but the module’s text would still display. That would’ve given lensmasters time to adjust without taking away our content overnight. The module already had the ability to not display a selected image if it didn’t have an appropriate Creative Commons license. This filter could have easily been modified to not display all images.

This is a good reminder of why it’s important to back up your lens content (something I don’t do but should start). The wording of the June 18th announcement sounded like HQ considered deleting all of the content in the Flickr modules before they realized how many people had written content into them. That would have been disastrous.

Farewell, Flickr module, you’re already missed.

How did the Flickr module retirement affect your lenses? Are you still making changes because of it?

Image credit: simminch, used under Creative Commons.

Celebrating Six Years On Squidoo

My Squidoo TrophiesYesterday was my 6th Squidiversary on Squidoo! Here’s a pic of the new 6 year trophy that appeared on my Squidoo bio page last night. I’m not sure if that’s a cake or a cupcake.

My Squidoo journey started as an experiment. I had no idea that I’d stick with it for six years. But I’ve had fun building lenses and learned a lot along the way. Making a little money helps, too. I wouldn’t have been able to invest this much of my time on Squidoo if not for the money.

Speaking of money, did you know that when Squidoo came out of beta, lenses made about 25 cents per month from the ad pool?

That was before the pay tiers were added. Now, a top tier lens gets over $50 from the ad pool payout. So Squidoo has grown at a strong rate. I’m looking forward to being part of Squidoo’s continued growth for (hopefully) many more years.

I was also reminded yesterday of how strong and helpful the Squidoo community is. That’s something that I’m glad has been a part of Squidoo since the early days.

To everyone who’s ever rated, liked, lens rolled, blessed, commented on, shared or just visited one of my lenses in the last six years…Thank You!

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.

Reasons To Publish A Lens The Same Day It’s Created

There are two reasons why I try to publish a Squidoo lens the same day it’s created.  The first is all about lens stats.

I’m a stats junkie and like using graphs to analyze lens performance trends.  One of my Squidoo pet peeves is that an unpublished lens’s lensrank is included on the stats page lensrank graph. A newly created, unpublished lens currently gets a lensrank around 1,400,000. Since the graph includes all values, lensranks that high increase the y-axis (the vertical line) range so much that it’s difficult to analyze trends of the published lensranks.  Those are the values that matter since they determine pay tiers.

SquidHQ improved this some with the recent graph redesign. Only plotting the monthly average lensrank can reduce the max value if the lens is published within the same month. There’s now a mouse over showing the actual value and date for each point. Squidoo also went from a linear graph to a log-lin graph. That gives the lower values more space than the higher values. It’s why the y-axis intervals will be 0, 40000, 160000, 360000 on a graph instead of in even increments.

Best of all is the option to click “By day” and see only the last three month’s daily lensrank graphed.  You won’t be able to see the lifetime trends in this view, but if your lens was published more than three months ago, the graph will be scaled to a usable range.

Below is the lensrank graph for a lens not published on the day it was created…

Lensrank Graph

Fig. 1: Lensrank Graph of a lens not published on the same day as created.

The lens was created in July (point A) and had an average lensrank of just over one million. Note the huge span of the y-axis, from 0 to 2,250,000.  After the lens was published in August and lensrank moved to a normal range, its best rank was at point B and then fell off to point C.  But how bad of a shift was that?  It doesn’t look like much on the graph. Is it a difference of 5,000 spots?  10,000?  30,000?  I can’t really tell without using the mouse overs.  The answer is nearly 81,000 spots.  It went from a solid Tier 3 to well into Tier 4.

To get around this, I try to create and publish a lens in the same day.  Doesn’t always work out that way, but I try.

How does that help? By publishing the lens before the next daily lensrank calculation, its first lensrank will be that of a newly published lens (currently around 260,000, assuming no traffic). So the y-axis scale doesn’t have such a large range and the lensrank graph is more usable. Here’s an example…

Lensrank Graph

Fig. 2: Lensrank Graph of a lens published the same day as created.

This lens launched at point D with a lensrank of 205,000.  The y-axis range is 0 to 360,000…not ideal but much better than the values in Fig. 1.  It’s easier on this graph to gauge the ups and downs of the lensrank value thanks to a smaller y-axis range and the line at 40,000.  You can see that when the lens hit its best lensrank at point E it was below 40,000 and above 40,000 when it got to F.  The actual values are 9,101 for E and almost 62,000 for F.

This graph would look even better if the lens had seen some traffic and interaction on its first days at sea.  That would’ve earned it a better lensrank at the start and a smaller y-axis range.

The second reason to create and publish in the same day is to get the lens done…or at least presentable. If I let an unpublished lens sit longer than a day or two, I might switch gears to something else. It could be a week or more before the lens finally gets published.

No matter if you publish your lens on the day it’s created or not, only publish a lens when it’s ready.  It should be coherent and offer value to any readers that may stumble across it. If the lens still looks like it’s under construction, then leave it in WIP status. Many of my lenses didn’t get published on the same day they were created because I couldn’t get a sufficient amount of content written or organized in time. I may obsess on stats sometimes but I’ll never sacrifice quality for stats.