Thursday, May 29, 2008

23 Squidoo

Today marks a couple of milestones. I created Squidoo lenses in the Celtic Music group for the Bothy Band and for the CD Music at Matt Molloy's. That makes 23 lenses in the group, including the Celtic Music: Lenses lens. That meant I got to use a groaner of a pun in the blog entry title, and who am I to resist? Follow the links to the lenses, please; I'd really appreciate it.

More of a milestone perhaps is that this means I now have a total of 50 Squidoo lenses. The vast majority of them took several hours work apiece to get initially published, and many have been tweaked here and there, sometimes rather extensively, since. While the folks at Squidoo say you can put together a lens in five minutes, any lens done that quickly is going to look like it was thrown together in five minutes. There's plenty of lenses on Squidoo that look like they were started and published in a hurry and then abandoned. I don't publish a lens until I feel it will look decent, even if I know I will probably come back later and make some changes.

If you're reading this and you're not an American, or maybe even if you are, you might be scratching your head at the entry title. Around 100 years ago, the phrase "23 skidoo" became popular. It means to leave quickly and was often used by a police officer or property owner to get people to move along. So, why don't you 23 skidoo on over to my lenses!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Clannad's Lens Finished at Last!

I've just published the last of the six lenses I started at the same time a while back. Clannad has 20 albums listed on Amazon, with some available as MP3 downloads. Unlike De Dannan, there was a lot of information available online for Clannad. This highly successful group (15 million albums sold) has had several hits, including "Theme from Harry's Game." The original group consisted of three siblings and their twin uncles, and for a while in the early 1980s sibling Enya was a member.

The photo was used for the cover of their 1982 album Fuaim, the only one for which Enya was a full member of the group (she'd contributed a vocal on one track of their previous album Cran Ull). She's the woman on the right. She has gone on to sell 70 million albums, so she's been able to update her wardrobe a bit.

The Celtic Music Lenses lens was updated, of course. Clannad is the 18th artist/group featured in my series, and along with lenses for The Thistle & Shamrock, and the lens that keeps track of them all, there's a total of 21 lenses.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Gráda and De Dannan: Two New Squidoo Lenses

I've put up two new Celtic Music lenses, one for De Dannan (one of the six I started a while back) and Gráda, a fairly new group compared to many of the others. They've been added to the Celtic Music: Lenses lens. The lens for Gráda came about when I heard them on and decided to see if Amazon had any of their recordings. They did, and since they have been around only a few years, they don't have that many yet, although I expect there will be more in the future.

I've gotten used to finding a fair amount of information online about artists I've created lenses for, and was a bit surprised there wasn't more for De Dannan. But I put together what I could, in a hopefully coherent fashion. This was made just a bit difficult for another reason: the group changed the spelling of the name after a few years. They started out as Dé Danann, but by the time they recorded Ballroom, they'd dropped the accent mark and shifted an "n" and from then on were known as De Dannan. I like spelling things correctly, yet sometimes I see what I expect instead of what's there, so it was a bit confusing, even after I figured it out. It doesn't help that Amazon, in spite of the group's name change, lists them for all recordings as De Danann (no accent mark, but with the "n" in its original position). It also doesn't help that Squidoo's modules sometimes accept the accent mark and sometimes don't. It will take it in the title for the introductory module, but not in the text, while in text modules, it accepts the accent. In text descriptions of albums, it doesn't like the accent.

As always, I'd appreciate it if you'd follow the links over to my Squidoo lenses. I've noticed people did that for my lens on Enya, since Squidoo's statistics for each lens show what websites referred people to the lens, although I can't tell who visited (unless a comment is left, and you're always welcome to do that).

Monday, May 19, 2008

New Lens for Celtic Music: Planxty

If I'd set out to do the Celtic Music lenses in any kind of order, the lens for Planxty might've been among the first. The four original members, Christy Moore, Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine and Liam O'Flynn will be familiar to anyone with much interest in Irish music They helped popularize the bouzouki, a Greek instrument introduced to Irish music by Johnny Moynihan. Moynihan was a member of the group Sweeney's Men when he introduced it, and later he was a member of Planxty. My lens for the Celtic music lenses has been updated, of course.

I haven't been following any set course in putting up these lenses. I started with Altan because they're probably my most favorite Celtic music group among those still actively recording and touring. New lenses get created at times because I've found a new group, like Flook, and sometimes because I want to highlight groups or artists I've known about for a long time, such as Silly Wizard.

While I didn't do a new lens yesterday, I did add quite a bit to The Thistle & Shamrock lens. In looking at the show's website during the broadcast Saturday night, I got interested in reading some of the interviews Fiona Ritchie had done with performers, and also I read some of the articles submitted by performers. I added some related albums and included links to those interviews and articles.

Friday, May 16, 2008

New Squidoo Lens for Loreena McKennitt

I'm glad I continued work on the lens for Loreena McKennitt, one of the six lenses I'd done basic work on several days ago, early in the day. While it was very warm yesterday, today was downright hot, with temperatures in the mid-90s, well above the average high even in mid-summer. Considering most of our days have had below-average temperatures since last September, it was uncomfortable.

I got everything done this morning except the writing of the introduction and general text, always the hardest part of a lens. This evening, I was able to get to work and complete that part, get the lens published, and update the Celtic Music: Lenses lens. It was nice to find out from the Wikipedia entry that Loreena's production company, Quinlan Road, has made two photos available for people to use legally as long as appropriate credit is given. (Photo credit: Richard Houghton, Copyright Quinlan Road, by courtesy of Karen Shook on behalf of Quinlan Road). That of course applies to using them in a blog. I was a bit disappointed to find that only one of her albums, An Ancient Muse, is available as MP3 downloads from Amazon. A bit less work for me in making the lens, but also less opportunity to make a little money from the downloads, which Amazon is paying a 10% commission on (most commissions are lower, in the area of 4% to 7.5%). But hey, over time, people have the opportunity to learn a bit about Loreena from my lens.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New Lenses for Enya & Silly Wizard

I was only going to do one lens today, the one for Enya. But as I was looking up information for her, I realized she hasn't released as many albums as I thought, and somehow I found myself looking at what Amazon offers for Silly Wizard.

I got Enya's lens done in plenty of time to get to work on Silly Wizard's. Amazon is offering five of their albums directly from them, plus MP3 downloads of those five, plus two more are available from them through third party partners. I didn't find a good YouTube video of the whole group, but there was a great one of Johnny and Phil Cunningham tearing into some very lively music with the fastest fingers you're ever likely to see.

The Celtic Music - Lenses lens was updated as well, of course. Counting that, I'm now up to 16 lenses, and I still have four that I got some basic work done on the other day, so when those are done, there will be 20. Or more, if I get distracted again.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Celtic Music - Two New Lenses

Yesterday I decided to get basic work done on six Squidoo lenses I knew I'd eventually want to get published. So I began setting up each lens, adding YouTube videos and photos or album covers, deleting stuff Squidoo puts in the basic setup and adding what I felt I'd need. Other than selecting YouTube videos, which goes fairly quickly since I just look for a good quality one that's long enough and if possible one I know I'll like, it's fairly straightforward. So I was able to get all that done yesterday. I even had time to go on and complete the lens for the Boys of the Lough. Then I added it to my Celtic Music - Lenses. Before I could blog about it, it seemed like I ran out of steam - it was late by then.

Today I had intended to do one of the remaining five lenses I'd started, but I also chose to listen to the Poozies' album Changed Days, Different Roots. The lens I'd first thought of doing involved quite a few listings for CDs and MP3 downloads from Amazon, and I decided to check out how many CDs the Poozies have. They don't have nearly as many, and so I switched course and set up a lens for them.

Two of the founders of the Poozies are Patsy Seddon and Mary MacMaster, Scottish harpers who had started playing together as Sileas, and they had recorded several albums. I'd gotten interested in Sileas back in the '80s and saw them perform at the Old Songs Festival near Albany, NY during that time. I have three of their four albums. I decided to make a lens about both groups, so although the URL only has the name Poozies in it, both groups are in Celtic Music - The Poozies & Sileas.

While my initial thoughts were it would be easier to do a lens for a group that had five CDs, expanding it to include Sileas meant adding more CDs, another cover shot, and a video, plus writing text for two groups instead of one. Writing the text about the artists takes a bit more effort than just adding elements such as videos and the Amazon links for the CDs and MP3s. In the end, it seems like it was probably just as much work as doing the artist I'd originally thought of for today's lens. But I'm glad I did it because as is usual with doing these lenses, I listened to some good music and learned more about the artists.

So there's still five lenses to go that have been at least started. Then nice thing about Squidoo lenses is you can start one, but nobody else sees it until you publish it. While I hope to get those lenses finished fairly soon, you may have noticed I haven't said what artists or groups they're for.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Some Tweaks, and Thoughts on Squidoo

Since posting the three Squidoo lenses on May 5 for The Battlefield Band, Capercaillie, and The Tannahill Weavers, I haven't started any new lenses. I never intended to keep adding lenses at an almost daily rate anyway, but I haven't given up adding. I may add lenses for Loreena McKennitt and Enya, and I've looked into other artists as well.

One thing I've done is go back to the lenses already done and create text links to Amazon's MP3 pages for recordings wherever they're available. I got the idea for adding those links after my sister sent me an Amazon gift certificate for my birthday. I used it to download two Alasdair Fraser/Natalie Haas albums, and two from Flook. Sticking with lens subjects, I also ordered Nevada Barr's latest book, Winter Study, and a CD/DVD combination, Reunion: A Decade of Solas.

Except for The Battlefield Band, every artist has MP3 versions of their recordings available through Amazon, although not always every recording - Capercaillie, including Karen Matheson's solo works, only had four, for instance. It wasn't too difficult to add those links, which are text links, to the description section of each recording's entry. And the nice thing about those text links is they contain my Amazon Associate number. That means that if someone follows one of those text links to Amazon, I get commissions for anything they might order in the next 24 hours, and I get it without splitting with Squidoo. The CD links still mean splitting, so they get something. Of course, since I've made less than ten bucks so far off of Squidoo, it's not a big deal.

The nice thing about MP3s on Amazon is you can download a whole album or individual tunes from an album. MP3s are a good deal less expensive than CDs, which typically run around $15.98 to $17.98 for Celtic music, while MP3 albums run around $7.99 to $8.99. The highest price I've seen for an MP3 album is $9.99. It's a legal download, and you can burn the album to a CD legally. Individual tunes are typically 89 or 99 cents. The album prices often represent a savings over downloading tunes individually. You don't get the CD case, cover art, or liner notes, but instead of waiting several days to be able to listen, you can download in a few minutes and listen right away. Burning a CD only takes about five minutes.

Now, the numbers might start to rise. The latest payout covers March, and it was something like 63 cents - big whoop. But then again, I really didn't do much during that time with the lenses. Even the April payout, which will be reported in early June, probably won't be too much, since I didn't start the Celtic music lenses until around April 22, and I'm not exactly setting any records for visits. I think turning on the Table of Contents feature in all of my lenses may have helped a bit, but there's no indication it's leading to people following links to Amazon and buying anything. Also, it does take a while before Google starts listing pages.

Even though I've created a lot of pages for Celtic artists and shows in a short time, I'm still doing it mainly because the subject interests me and it's good to let people know what's available. I made the decision to start the series without any big hopes for income from them. It's probably better to be more interested in getting information out than in making money. That being said, if you'd like to start a Squidoo lens or two, or two dozen, use this link (we'll both get $5 when your lens makes its first $15, but let's not hold our breath, OK?):

The Celtic music lenses might become my more popular lenses, and currently my lens that points to the other Celtic music lenses is third in my overall lens rankings. My Spider Robinson lens is my #2 lens, and my John McPhee lens, which has gotten increased hits in the past month, mostly from Google, is #4. I've put a fair amount of work into both. But my #1 lens is the one I made for the Kit Kat Clock after reading an article on the lawsuit brought against the clock's makers by the people who own the rights to Felix the Cat. This lawsuit is recent, even though both Felix and the clock have been around since the 1920s and 1930s. It was something I created on a whim because of the lawsuit and the Kit Kat Clock is an interesting bit of Americana that people can get really attached to. I wondered at the time if it would turn out to be my highest ranking lens, and so far, I've been right. The funny thing is I don't own a Kit Kat Clock. Not yet, anyway.

Even with the clock lens, though, we're talking pretty small numbers. Squidoo assigns rank numbers based not just on how many people visit, comment, or click on links, but also on the lensmaster's changes made to the lens. So I could go into a lens every day and fiddle with something, and it would positively affect my rating. That's why I'm pleased to see the relatively high ranking for the John McPhee lens. I haven't done too much with it since I got all the descriptions completed and made sure the links to Amazon were set so I get more commission, and that was probably three months ago. So its high relative rank comes mostly from people visiting, and mostly from Google. In fact, I just entered "john mcphee" into Google, and my lens is in the #14 spot, which puts it on the second page. I looked further to see what other entries came after it, and found a YouTube video I just added to the lens. It'll make my lens a bit more interesting.

There are several reasons I like doing Squidoo lenses. Their modular construction makes putting together a page relatively easy, with very little coding knowledge required. I can get by with just knowing basic HTML coding for making text bold or italic, and knowing how to create a link by hand. It's very easy to make a change, save it, and see what it looks like, and then get the whole page published or re-published with changes. Thanks to Squidoo, I get higher rankings on Google than I would if I were just putting pages up on my own. Squidoo makes it very easy to create references in one lens to other lenses, and there's some feedback from readers, although on that latter point, I haven't gotten too much yet.

One last word about Amazon: I mentioned I'm an Amazon associate, so if you click through to Amazon from a link that has my associate ID attached to it, I get the full (though small) commission. I also have a website, Have Pun - Will Travel, and there's an Amazon search box right on the front page and just about every other page. So if you buy anything from Amazon, you'd be helping me out a bit, at absolutely no cost to you, if you went to my site and clicked on a search box or any Amazon link on any of the pages. Once you enter through my links, I get commission on anything you actually order within the next 24 hours after that click. That's anything you order, even if I don't have a direct link to the item on my site. I'd certainly appreciate it, even if it won't make me rich. If you like my blogs, my Squidoo lenses, my Robinson's Place forum on Delphi, or my posts, keep me in mind any time you want to order from Amazon. Thanks.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Celtic Music - Lenses for Scottish Bands

Thanks to the influence of, I've tended to focus on Irish music for the Celtic music lenses I created first, although I did get the lens for Scotsman Alasdair Fraser in there. Over the past few days, I've created three lenses for the Scottish groups The Tannahill Weavers, Capercaillie, and The Battlefield Band. The page for Celtic Music: Lenses was updated as well of course. (Photo below - The Tannies)

Normally, I'd been creating one lens and seeing it through to publishing before starting on another one. This time, though, I wanted to get some Scottish music represented, and the three groups were the ones I chose. I got all three pages going on Saturday with some of the easier elements such as links, YouTube videos and pictures. I had almost all of Capercaillie's page done yesterday and thought it would be the first one done today, but I wasn't feeling too inspired about writing the introductory text, so I went on to get the CD listings for the Tannies instead. I just stuck with that lens until it was ready to published, then followed up with completing Capercaillie's lens. I got both of them done just before Klara McDonnell's show on After that, I filled out what was needed for The Battlefield Band's lens and updated the Lenses lens.

So now I have an even dozen Celtic music lenses - nine bands, one broadcast radio show, and Internet radio station, and the summary lens. (Photo at right - Capercaillie CD cover)

I'm not sure what will be next, although I have started gathering some information for a lens on Celtic music compilation albums I've seen on Amazon. A lot of those tend to give a New Age interpretation of Celtic music. Also, I haven't done lenses for Enya or Loreena McKennitt yet, and they're a couple of Celtic favorites.

The lenses, in order of creation, are:

  • Altan
  • Flook
  • Sean Nos Nua
  • The Thistle & Shamrock
  • Alasdair Fraser
  • Celtic Music Lenses
  • Lunasa
  • Solas
  • The Tannahill Weavers
  • Capercaillie
  • The Battlefield Band
Altan's lens was started on Monday, April 21 and published on April 22, so it's only been two weeks since I started on the series. (Photo at left - Battlefield Band CD cover)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Celtic Music: Solas

My Squidoo lens for today is about the Irish/American band Solas. It's yet another one inspired by music heard on The band can play straight Irish traditional music with the best of them, but specializes in giving it their own twist on it. From the start, they've garnered a lot of praise from mainstream media and Irish/American publications. Based in the United States, they give American audiences a chance to hear traditional Celtic sounds, and many are instantly won over. They also play some dates across the pond in Ireland, the UK, and Europe.

As usual, a short blurb has been added to my Celtic Music: Lenses page, where you can find out what other lenses I've created. Including the Lenses page, I'm up to nine.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Celtic Music: Lunasa and Celtic Music Lenses

My latest Squidoo lens in the Celtic Music series is for the Irish traditional band Lúnasa, another group I discovered by listening to They released their first self-titled album in 1999 and it became an immediate best seller in Ireland, and was named one of the top ten albums of the year by the Irish Echo in the US. With the release of a "best of" album this year, they now have seven to their credit. The band tours extensively, playing 140 dates in 2006 alone.

Before creating the Lúnasa lens, I built Celtic Music: Lenses to help people (and me) keep track of and find my lenses in the series. Each time I add a lens, it will be the first one listed, and the entry will include a photo if one is available.

I recently stopped ignoring a Squidoo feature in the Introduction module of lenses (the one that has the first picture). When editing that module, there are three tabs. One is labeled "Table of Contents." I'd always just used the first tab, but when I checked out the ToC tab, I saw that it adds the headings of the rest of the modules as clickable links below the introduction. The Squidoo folks say this helps increase clicks and revenue. So I went through all my lenses, over 30 of them now, and turned that feature on. It can't hurt, and if it increases revenue, that's fine with me. I haven't exactly been setting any records revenue-wise, having made less than $10 total from October through March. That's six months, although October was a partial month. It's been a couple of days since I did that, and I noticed that a couple of my lenses are ranked in the top 10,000 (out of over 500,000), something I hadn't seen in a while.

When I started the Celtic Music lens series, I decided I wasn't going to be all that concerned with revenue. I link to Amazon in all the lenses except the "Lenses" one, but I didn't use the utility that would allow me to get all the commission instead of splitting it with Squidoo. It's a fair amount of extra work making those types of links and so far it hasn't been worth the effort. So I stick with the standard links for the 50/50 split.

More Celtic Music lenses? Most likely there will be, but I've decided not to make committments ahead of time. When the lenses happen, they'll be noted, but I don't want to make promises that I'll create lenses for specific artists. I do know one thing: I shouldn't run out of subjects for lenses in the series anytime soon.