Sunday, January 6, 2008

John McPhee Lens and Page Done

Not long after I started doing lenses on Squidoo, I created one for the books written by John McPhee, a master writer of nonfiction who can make any subject he writes about interesting. I discovered him back around 1979 or 1980, when I was looking in the library in Fitchburg, MA for information about nuclear power. I got interested in his book Encounters with the Archdruid. It's not about nuclear power, but about David Brower, who had been the head of the Sierra Club and then went on to start Friends of the Earth and the Earth Island Institute. The book reports on Brower's trips to a wilderness area in the Cascades with a mining geologist, to an island on the coast of South Carolina with a developer, and to the Colorado River with the very pro-dam head of the Bureau of Reclamation.

I also read McPhee's The Curve of Binding Energy, in which nuclear physicist Ted Taylor expresses worries about nuclear material getting into the wrong hands. He explains to McPhee this may not be as hard as some people think, and he also tells, without revealing any classified information, how a nuclear bomb could be made by people without access to huge and expensive equipment. I read several of his books in the 1980s, and after not reading any for a while, rediscovered him in the 1990s and now have all of his books except the John McPhee readers which have excerpts from books I already own.

When I set up the lens, I made links to Amazon for each of McPhee's books. These links split the commission between me and Squidoo 50/50. But another lensmaster made a utility which gives people who are also Amazon Associates, like me, more of a cut, although one in five links give the revenue to the guy who made the utility. 80/20 in my favor seems like a better deal. So in December I began converting things to use the better links. I'd made seven modules with five books in each and got the first one done.

Then I got the idea for the Hugo Awards lenses and also expanded it to Nebula Awards. That kept me busy for a while. But over the past few days I got back to John McPhee's lens and completed revising it, and got it published yesterday.

Last night I started building a table in Dreamweaver to be imported to Have Pun Will Travel for a John McPhee page. I got all the book text plugged into the table, and copied the ISBN numbers into the space where the Amazon book links would go. That proved very handy as I used them for the Powell's Books links. Those are simple text links, and they are all identical except for the ISBN number, which was very easy to change. Once those links were set, I highlighted the first ISBN number, went to the Associates page on Amazon, got the HTML code for the graphic link, copied it, and pasted it in over the ISBN number, then highlighted the title and made it into a text link.

Then I repeated that copy, paste, copy, paste routine another 30 times. Needless to say, it took a while. While it's a fairly mindless task, it does require some attention to make sure all the cutting and pasting is done with the right elements in the right places. One thing I had to be careful of was picking up and copying something I'd used for the previous book. It was just a little tricky because covers for McPhee's books are very similar. More than once I had to correct some mistakes.

Eventually, that part was done, and I plugged in the introduction and photo, added the Amazon and Powell's search boxes, previewed the page, and got it published.

Several weeks ago, I'd signed up for something called Site Meter which was supposed to give me information about how many people were visiting Have Pun Will Travel. I really don't think it is working properly. According to reports I get, nobody has visited the site. But I know my friend Dick Ford has been to it, because he's looked at it while we were online chatting several weeks ago. And yesterday, when I talked with my sister Marilyn, she went to the site. I even guided her around a bit so I know she really was there. Yet today, when I accessed the Site Meter site, it still reported no activity. Also, somebody followed a link to Amazon and bought something, and I'm pretty sure it was from the site because it was for a Kindle accessory, and I don't think I have anything about the Kindle on Squidoo.

I don't expect tons of people visiting the site, at least not yet because it's new. But surely there has been some traffic. I am getting views of my Squidoo lenses, and they have links to the site, and I've mentioned it in forums on Delphi and the Delphi blog. Surely somebody's been visiting, but Site Meter doesn't seem to think so.

So I went looking to see if I could find stats on the GoDaddy site. They're so busy making sure they put offers in front of you that finding anything useful can be a real search. Eventually I found something to get stats and had to set it up. But when I tried to log in, it kept rejecting the user name and password. So I tried resetting them. When I first set things up, I'd established a user name, but for some reason, Website Tonight wouldn't allow it and I've been signing in there with my account number and a password. But when I looked on the page to change stuff for getting into the stats info, the name was there, so for that I have to remember to use a name, not an account number, and a password. They just don't make anything easy, it seems. And once I finally slogged through all that, I was informed it may take up to 24 hours before I can look at anything, and this was after thinking earlier tonight I'd be able to see stuff within 30 minutes, not knowing I hadn't jumped through all the hidden hoops yet.

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