What I Like about Squidoo

Squidoo is a personal web content aggregation tool. In classic Web 2.0 style, Squidoo lets you collect a lot of online content about a specific topic and add your own text and images to it. I’ve given it a try, and I think it’s worth my time to put some effort into it. I do have some gripes and comments, though. Read on if you’d like to know more.

Since I’ve met a number of people at Viget Labs, the folks who built Squidoo, I thought I ought to give it a try. I signed up and went ahead to create my first “lens”, that is, a page about a specific topic. Since I didn’t happen to have anything handy, I made a personal (vanity) lens, about myself.

A lot to like

The lens editor, called the Lensmaster Workshop, is a pleasure to use. It’s an Ajax application that breaks the lens page into modules — Introduction, Text Fields, RSS feeds, del.icio.us links, Flickr photos, YouTube videos, books at Amazon.com, and more — and allows you to update the modules and see your changes in place, on the page.

I quickly hooked up my blog’s RSS feed, and delicious bookmarks. I set the delicious module to look for links tagged “for-squidoo”, so now I can use that tag on delicious if I want it to appear on my lens. Neat.

You can amass photos and videos on your lenses too. I don’t have any YouTube videos to share (sorry, world), but I did put some Flickr images up quite easily. I chose to display them in a slideshow, which looks very good.

You can also embrace the chaos of the world wide web and allow content to be chosen for you. Want to have some YouTube videos on site, but don’t have time to make or even find good ones yourself? No problem. Let YouTube pick for you, based on search terms. I chose “Apple, Microsoft” thinking that would get plenty of options. It sure did: two of the thumbnails has computer chips and iPhones in the them, and the third had a woman in a bikini. Yay, YouTube! (since I first typed this, the thumbs have changed. The bikini woman has been replaced by Steve Ballmer. Oh well.)

I like the Amazon book list module too. A little popup tool makes it very easy to search for books and then place them on the page. Since I do a lot of self-guided study professionally and enjoy a wide range of fiction and non-fiction reading, I think I’m going to get a lot of use out of the Amazon module.

Small gripes

The search seems to bring up some odd results. When I tried “javascript”, the first result was a site on insomnia (which might be relevant in a poetic way). I also got a fair number of multilevel marketing (mlm) sites. It would be great if you could cordon off the mlm content: maybe in your profile you could choose to never see it. Squidoo allows you to set up your profile so that you won’t see adult content. Users should be able to avoid mlm content just as easily.

Also, I don’t like the way the delicious links are displayed: in a list without bullets or indenting and in a bold font. It looks like a mistake, as though someone forgot to close an h2 tag.

Stuff I didn’t try

Squidoo is also set up to allow you to monetize content. If you’re an eBay seller, the impetus to post your wares on your lens is clear. Plus, the Amazon and eBay products you feature can earn you affiliate royalties. There’s also the SuperStore, which gathers loads of small sellers together for more affiliates action. It might be possible to make a few bucks this way, but you don’t have to take your royalties as cash. You may elect to donate them to a charity instead.

I did not try Plexo either. I couldn’t imagine hundreds of people clicking my links up and down, at least not yet. If Squidoo makes me famous, I’ll consider it.

Overall, thumbs up!

I found myself spending a lot of time thinking about what to put on my lens, and how to present it. That kind of engrossing attention, the kind that makes you look up and realize three hours have gone by, is a good sign. It tells me this may be a useful tool. Or that I like to type and type and type about myself. But hey, isn’t that what Web 2.0 is all about?