Friday, October 31, 2008

New Squidoo Author Lensography

After doing some revisions mentioned in the earlier post today, I revised the Celtic Music: Téada lens to include the videos from the video showcase, then deleted the showcase lens. Btw, Téada is pronounced "tay-dah."

The next thing was to create a lensography for the author lenses I've created over the past year. In my earlier post I'd said I probably would not include science fiction authors, since I have a lensography for science fiction. But I changed my mind and included the four SF authors, so there are 14 authors in the new lens.

It went together relatively quickly because most of the elements already exist. I took the opening paragraph or two from each author's introduction, with occasional modifications. I used the intro photos, and included a link to the author lenses. I also added some fancy drop caps in different colors for a little graphic interest. The authors are listed alphabetically by last name.

Squidoo Revisions

As usual for a Friday morning I updated my Squidoo lens for Best Sellers - Fiction - Hardcover. Later on, I realized I hadn't added links on my J. K. Rowling's Beedle the Bard lens for the Harry Potter books and DVDs, so I did that and changed the lens title from just "Beedle the Bard." That turned out to be a bit more complicated than I first thought since in the United Kingdom the Harry Potter books and boxed sets are published in adult and children's editions. DVDs come in several flavors as well, with 2-disc, single disc and Blu-Ray versions. I also realized I needed to label the lens on my Squidoo dashboard so it shows up in the Authors category.

The plan from there was to go on to create a lensography for authors. I have a lensography for science fiction authors and Hugo and Nebula award winning and nominated novels, so the authors lensography will include other authors aside from those who write SF.

But in looking at my dashboard, I noticed some of the video showcases are ranking even lower than they were even a week ago. I took a look at the one for Eileen Ivers which was my lowest ranking lens. It had gotten a whole three visitors since I created it over a month ago. It seemed to be an excellent place to start with integrating the videos into the regular lenses. Even better, there's a new video module that shows only one video and it shows them a bit larger than the older YouTube module. There was already one video in the module I'd made earlier for Eileen, so I replaced that with the new one and added five others. Once that was done and the lens published, the video showcase was deleted.

I doubt I'll add any more video showcases in the Celtic music category. With the new video module allowing slightly larger videos than the YouTube module had, it makes sense to have the videos right inside the lens that gives all the other information and CD choices available for an artist or group. A half dozen well-chosen videos or less seems the way to go. So for a while my total number of lenses won't rise much. I'll integrate videos into a Celtic music lens and eliminate a video showcase after I've created a new lens.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Celtic Music for Christmas

My latest Squidoo lens is Celtic Music: Christmas. I went through my Celtic music lenses looking for Christmas CDs. I found fewer than I expected. A check on turned up some more, but most were compilations. I finally settled on featuring CDs by artists I've already got lenses for. I have a CD for Moya Brennan - An Irish Christmas - and while I don't have a lens for her solo albums, she was part of Clannad. The one compilation CD is related to a lens: A Thistle & Shamrock Christmas Ceilidh. Other artists include Loreena McKennitt, Enya, The Chieftains, Magical Strings, including a second CD for Philip Boulding, Golden Bough and Eileen Ivers. All the CDs are available from, although Enya's Oiche Chiun (Silent Night) offered there is different from the version offered in the US. I also discovered that Enya has a new album with a holiday/winter theme, And Winter Came that I'll need to add to her lens.

I got the lens listed on where I've also been adding lenses for authors. It'll be interesting to see how much activity this Christmas-oriented lens generates over the next couple of months and where it ends up in the lens rankings. Last year I was too new to Squidoo to get in on making lenses for the holiday season.

Using Squidoo's new starting page for creating lenses, I forgot that it wants to put a hyphen between "celtic" and "music" in the URL, so the URL is stuck with it now. On all my other lenses its "celticmusic" including the lens I made the other day for Julie Fowlis, where I noticed the hyphen and took it out. It probably won't matter to anyone other than me, and it's not even a problem if I copy the URL from the browser address bar. I just have to remember if I'm typing it in manually. I had to go back to my Celtic Music: Lenses lens to correct it because I did type it in manually there, and of course the uncorrected link went to a default Squidoo page.

There's several things I have to do each time after I hit the Publish button to put up a new lens. I send out a Twitter tweet about it - usually one I type in to the twhirl application which is usually running on my desktop. I ping it using one of the SquidUtils from thefluffanutta, wait a few minutes, then ping it through, and then I blog about it on (MobyD's Soundings) which I then copy over to my blog on (Moby's Soundings). If I want to see a little quick traffic, I'll post about it in the SquidU discussion forums. For this Christmas lens, I may alter my forum signature to include a link. Oh yeah, it also helps to ping the blog entry too. If it's a Celtic music lens, I need to add a module to Celtic Music: Lenses, then publish, tweet and ping that lens as well.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Squidoo Glitches Lead to Punnery Changes

The folks at Squidoo are always making changes, and occasionally they end up not being quite as behind-the-scenes as they might like. Today, when the lens rankings updated in the morning, I was startled to find my lens The Punnery had somehow rocketed from somewhere around 15,000 to 536. It would only have been the second time one of my lenses has made it into the top 1,000 on Squidoo. The first was Girls With Slingshots, and that was due to a link on the webcomic's page courtesy of Danielle Corsetto, the comic's creator.

Usually there's a good reason, but I couldn't figure it out. Since I'd updated The Punnery on Have Pun Will Travel to add posts from several of my old GEnie friends, I hadn't done all that much with it. The lens is intended as a guide to the HPWT version of The Punnery. I checked the stats to see if there were a lot of visitors, even though that didn't seem to be the case. I Googled "punnery" and found my lens on the first page, but while that's nice, it didn't answer anything.

I decided to just let it be and took a trip into town to visit Powells Books. That was a successful trip as I was looking for Tony Hillerman's earlier books. When I'd moved here in 2000, I'd only brought along his books I had in hardcover. Today I got three omnibus volumes covering his first nine Navajo Tribal Police mysteries, plus two others to complete my collection of those mysteries.

Returning home, I checked my Squidoo dashboard and found the lens rankings were different. My Sarah Vowell lens was back on top as it has been for several days now thanks to her new book, The Wordy Shipmates, released earlier this month, and The Punnery was ranked at 9,672, which seems more reasonable and marks its first time in the top 10,000.

With The Punnery moving up in the ranks, I took another look and found there was nothing in the lens that would generate any income other than what I'd get due to its standing in the lens rankings and the associated sharing of ad revenue, which usually amounts to pennies a month, although lenses that average in the top two tiers can make somewhat more. So I decided that since Richard Lederer, author of several books on puns and many more books about the English language, had been the unofficial guru of those of us who gathered in The Punnery on GEnie, I'd add some of his books. I also realized a couple of videos had disappeared somehow, so I had to search them out and add them again. Is Strange, a site that will ping 92 services after you enter the URL of the site you want to ping, does not always play nice. It appears the first time you try to ping a page, it will force you to enter everything twice no matter how careful you are entering the information.

It also appears that the next time you try, you may still have to enter everything twice. Several times now I've had to re-enter information because it's reported I entered the captcha information wrong, even though I was very carful about getting it right, especially after the first time I got that message. That's what happened just now when I attempted to ping my Tony Hillerman lens, which I've just updated today (more to do on that, but I wanted to get something updated). After the second attempt, I was told I've already pinged the lens once today. So now I'm thinking you can't ping a page more than once in 24 hours.

I don't have a problem with that rule, but it would be more helpful if a ping would go through the first time one attempted to ping a page, and then, if a subsequent attempt can't go through, it would be more helpful if the site gave the real reason for the attempt's failure the first time rather than deliver some bogus message about failing to enter the correct captcha code.

Still, Pingler does ping 92 services, so I'll keep using it unless something better comes along.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Experimenting with a Squidoo Page

I was poking around in SquidU forums and came across a message from TriathalonTraining in which he said he was pretty much getting out of ecommerce since it's taking up a whole lot of his time and sales are declining. His Squidoo Tools, Resources and Guides lens is ranked #1 in Squidoo Tips. In it I found a site for pinging,, I thought I'd start using when I update or create a lens.

That, of course, meant I had to update a lens in order to have something to ping. I'm not sure why my Spider Robinson lens has been slipping in lensrank lately, but it certainly has, so it seemed like a good test lens. Since I've been looking into ways to spice up text and such in lenses, I thought I'd experiment a bit.

Yesterday I came across stargazer00's lens on The Orphan Trains. In it she uses bordered boxes and drop caps in a way that looks really nice. Also, in Advanced HTML for Squidoo by N376 (aka Glen) there are some interesting drop caps. I liked the one with an inset box that created a shadow effect.

Taking the coding from both the text box and the drop cap, I decided to create an inset box for text with a thicker border to resemble a picture frame and use it for Callahan's Motto: Shared pain is lessened; shared joy is increased. It worked, but not without a lot of tweaking to get the size of the box right and get the text more or less centered. After a while, I had it so it looked nice in the edit version of the page, so I published it. You'll have to follow the link to see it. I tried putting it in this blog but it didn't look good. [Edit: After a few hours I went back and changed the border style from inset to ridge - looks better, I think.]

Another thing I'm trying is linking from this blog to a specific module in a lens, which involves finding out its module number. That was a bit tricky because the motto's module doesn't have a title, so I had to go into Edit mode and hover my mouse over the Delete button for the module and write down the number. Then I took a look at the page as others see it and scrolled down to the motto.

Yuck! It looked horrible! It turns out the edit version's text area is about 50 pixels wider than the published version's text area, so my padding on the left and right, 80 pixels each, was too much and forced the word "Motto" onto another line. I reduced left and right padding to 60 pixels and that didn't work, so I went back and tried 50. It worked, but all the text wasn't quite centered. 60 pixels on the left and 50 on the right worked to get everything close enough for folk music. Each time I had to go from the published version to the edited version, make a change, publish, then view the page. But now it seems OK, at least on my Firefox and IE browsers.

Oh, and the link to the module worked fine. Also, I was able to successfully use TT had a note about it that information might have to be entered twice the first time the service is used, and that's what happened.

After a year of creating lenses, I still feel like I've got a lot to learn, but I'm finding information on Squidoo from folks like TriathalonTraining, stargazer00 and Glen, among others, and learning more about HTML attribues, then experimenting a bit.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Julie Fowlis - New Squidoo Lens

After spending so much time revising existing Squidoo lenses, I've finally created a new one and it's in my Celtic Music series. Julie Fowlis is a singer from North Uist, one of the Hebridean islands west of Skye, off the coast of Scotland. She sings mostly in Scots Gaelic, a language still spoken by about 60,000 people, or about one percent of the population of Scotland. She's been a member of the Scottish traditional group Dòchas since 2000. They've won several awards, and so has Julie. She's won Gaelic Singer of the Year award twice at the Scots Trad Music Awards (2005 and 2008), Her second album, Cuilidh, won an award as well.

I've been rethinking the idea of creating video showcases for Celtic performers. They're interesting to put together, but even though my Celtic Music: Lenses lens has been getting some visitors, they don't seem to be looking at the video showcases, most of which are languishing near the bottom of my lenses in my listing. So for Julie's lens, I put more videos in it.

There's a very well-done video of Julie talking about her music and influences, with some singing and lots of scenic shots from her home island. So I kept the text relatively short and put that video near the top of the lens. I knew I'd much rather watch her and listen to her wonderful voice and great Scots accent than read a whole bunch of plain old text, so I figure other people would want that as well.

Five more videos alternate with other modules. All of the videos are of professional quality. There were more videos available, but many of them didn't have great sound. They'd probably be OK for someone who's seen Julie perform live or is familiar with her CDs, but I don't think they make a good introduction for someone unfamiliar with her and her music.

I played around a bit on this lens, adding some colored drop caps, then I went through my Celtic Music: Lenses lens and added a drop cap to each performer's module as well. They're even color-coded: green for Irish, blue for Scottish, and red for performers who are just generally Celtic.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

SF Awards Lenses Updated

I've just finished adding links for Nebula and Hugo Award-winning books, plus some Hugo-winning DVDs, so people in the UK and elsewhere in Europe who might order them through can do that. That covers nearly 700 links, more than I realized when I first made the lenses back around late December.

Going through all those lenses became rather tedious after a while, and I'm really glad to have the job done. This comes not long after I'd updated the Nebula lenses with links to the books that were nominated. Previously I'd only linked to for books that had won the Nebula award. And it also wasn't that long ago that I went through all my lenses adding some tags, donation modules, and referral text, so in the past month or so I've done a whole lot of updating. Overall, though, I think it'll be worth it, although it may be some time before that becomes evident.

I haven't really created new lenses in a while, so with all this updating done, that's one thing to get back to. Not that new lenses will come along at the same pace they did in the six weeks prior to Sept. 30, unless I come up with a new niche that might result in some money coming in. Also, I need to look for new ways and places to do some promotion for what I've already got.

The lenses can be found by checking out MobyD's Science Fiction Lenses.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

One Thing Leads to Another with Sarah Vowell

If one were to search "james a.garfield high school letterman jackets" on Google, the fifth page listed would be my Squidoo lens for Sarah Vowell.

Why is that, you might ask? In her book Assassination Vacation, Vowell writes about President Garfield. That he was assassinated is probably the only thing most people remember about him, if they even remember he was president at all.

They probably know more about him at the James A. Garfield High School in Garrettsville, Ohio. And it must be the time for ordering letterman jackets.

So one thing led to another, and when my attempt to put Sarah's appearance on The Daily Show in my lens didn't work because it's not a YouTube video, I put in a vid of her doing a promo for the audio CD version of her newest book, which led to adding links to the audio CD and the audio CD for her two previous books. And that led to me deciding to post something about it in Squidoo's SquidU Lensmaster Lounge, which led me to think what I was posting there should be a blog post, and here it is. Now if I could just get the Amazon graphic to work with text wrapping....

Thursday, October 16, 2008 Is Fast!

Late this past Sunday I discovered was having a 25% off sale. I have three Brian Froud posters on my Brian Froud lens that are sold by them and the prices even without the discount are reasonable - one is $6.99 and the other two are $9.99. The sale ended Sunday so I decided to go for it and ordered them.

The order was confirmed around 3 a.m. Monday and shipped at 8 a.m. the same day. Just now the mailman delivered them.

"The Faerie that Was Kissed by the Pixies" will go on my bedroom door and the other two, "Gwenhwyfar" and "Dreamweaver" will go on the sliding closet doors.

Kissed By Pixies
Buy at

Brian Froud - Dreamweaver

Buy at

Brian Froud - Gwenhwyfar

Buy at

If you like these posters and would like to buy them, I'm an affiliate, so clicking on the posters will help me earn a little money.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Amazon UK Associate

I signed up to be an Amazon UK Associate. I figured Squidoo has a fair number of lensmasters from the UK and elsewhere in Europe, and Celtic music comes from that side of the pond, so perhaps I'll get some folks ordering CDs if they can do it through

Signing up turned out to be easier than I thought it might be. That's probably because I've been an Amazon Associate here in the US for about a year now. My Associate's ID is the same as for the US site except the last digit, so it'll be easier for me to make sure it's right. Unlike the US site, I can't have them direct deposit earnings into my bank account. I have to have them send me a checque (not a check - it's British :-) and they won't send one until my earnings reach £50. Today that's just shy of $87 which is more than I've made so far from the US site. I'm not going to be holding my breath. I won't try asking for an exception because I wouldn't expect Brittania to waive the rules.

I've started adding text-only links to each product description on my Celtic music pages. I started with Flook just to make sure everything worked as I expected and everything did. So far I've added Clannad, Capercaillie, Loreena McKennitt and De Dannan. It doesn't take too long if all I'm doing is adding the text links, but sometimes I discover other things that need fixing, such as finding a boxed set for Loreena McKennitt that I hadn't listed previously, and that led to adding track titles to all the CD listings. I also put a box on my Celtic Music: Lenses lens that directs people to's main page. It's kind of ugly, so once I've got the product links done I'll take it off.

I've added an widget to the left side of the blog. The search term "Celtic music" can be changed, of course. I just put it in so the items that show in the widget at least have a chance of being relevant.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

It's Early, but Maybe It's Working

It has only been about six hours since Squidoo updated its lens rankings. As soon as I saw that my Novelty Songs lens had gotten the green check and had moved up in the rankings to around 118,000 (out of more than 700,000), which is typical for a new lens, I got to work.

First I lensrolled Novelty Songs to the lenses listed in the lens itself. Then I went through each of the six lenses and lensrolled them to the Novelty Songs lens and to each other, and I lensrolled the Yankovic lens by the Polish guy to Novelty Songs and the Dr. Demento showcases.

I added Novelty Songs to, which only allows two lens submissions per day (I just added Ground Fog Day before starting this post). Then I went through all seven lenses with Sharaholic, a Firefox addon that connects to places like, Digg, Facebook and StumbleUpon, adding each one. The other six are video showcases are:
I really think I'm only scratching the surface with those listing sites. There seem to be quite a lot of them. But even at that, I've seen some results. In just this short time, the sites, some of which hadn't had any visitors since they were created nearly a month ago, have had a few visitors - it looks like three people have looked at all of them. It's not much, but it's a start.

On a more positive note, for yesterday and today I've had eight lenses in the top 10,000. That's the most ever. Those are:
My lowest ranked lens is in the 143,000 range, which tells me it isn't hard to keep a lens in the top quarter of all lenses. Of course, so many lenses on Squidoo were thrown together hastily and never updated. Some, unfortunately are very spammy and giving Squidoo a bad reputation in some quarters, or so I've heard. But Squidoo is also home to very useful and entertaining lenses by some very interesting people. That's what I'm aiming for, and I think I'm doing fairly well at it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Novelty Songs

In going over the rankings of my Squidoo lenses, I noticed one group, the six novelty songs lenses, weren't getting visitors. The first one, the Dr. Demento Hit Parade, has had a few, but some haven't had any. I came up with the idea of doing the lenses to help me reach my goal of 100 lenses by Sept. 30, and I'm a little perturbed at the lack of traffic.

To help remedy that, I hope, I created the Novelty Songs lens. It's basically a short lensography the uses the Featured Lens module. That module has been around for a while, but until recently I managed to remain unaware of it. I'd seen it used elsewhere, but didn't know what it was called. It uses the photo from the introduction and about three lines from the intro.

Sunday, after the lens gets its green check indicating it's a featured lens (as opposed to a work in progress), I'll be able to lensroll it to the other six lenses. I plan to submit it to some sites that should help get traffic and we'll see what happens to the novelty songs lenses from there.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Giant Squid Top 100 Club

I happened to wake up way too early and wanted to check something out online. I'd thought of seeing if had anything I could use for my Monterey Pop Festival lens. They do have some things related to some of the performers, although nothing specifically relating to the festival itself. My lens relates to the first festival in 1967. The festival may still be going on, so the festival organizers probably retain control of the images.

After checking that out, I decided to see if there was any news on the SquidU forum about the Top 100 club. Even though I'd made 100 lenses by the Sept. 30 deadline, and even got the Monterey lens published by then as lens #101, I wasn't sure I was going to get into the Top 100. I figured if I didn't make it, I'd still reached the goal I'd set of publishing 100 lenses by Sept. 30.

I made a post mentioning that in the forum, and less than 10 minutes later my email updated, and I got one saying I'd made it into the Top 100 club. The Giant Squid organizers include a little handbook which includes the graphic.

It all started last October, when FortunaLee from Delphi posted in her forum about Squidoo. Since I was looking for something to do online that might turn into a little money, I looked into it, and on Oct. 21 I published my first lens about Spider Robinson. I made a few other lenses, and around the end of the year I created a bunch for Hugo and Nebula award-winning novels. Not too long ago I decided to get all my SF lenses into what Squidoo calls a lensography, which is a lens listing all lenses in a topic with links to them. So I made MobyD's Science Fiction Lenses.

In April I began making what has been my biggest series of lenses: Celtic Music. I started with Altan and Flook, and kept going from there. My 23rd Celtic music lens was also my 50th lens overall. At the time - late May, I was more interested in using the pun "23 Squidoo" than making anything of having 50 lenses. I made a few more lenses in June, and in early July I saw a comment on my Spider Robinson lens letting me know I'd been made a Giant Squid. Someone was keeping track, obviously.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Spiffing up Squidoo

I've spent the past few days going over some lenses looking for things to improve. The biggest project I took on was revamping all my lenses about the Hugo and Nebula award-winning novels. There's 11 lenses in all. When I first made the lenses back around late December, I'd used a utility that created links to Amazon that would give me most of the commission instead of splitting it. But I found that in the vast majority of cases, that utility wasn't picking up the book covers, so the lenses didn't look that great. So my project was to switch them all over to just use the regular Squidoo modules and split commissions with Squidoo.

I used the Amazon Spotlight module, which shows a bigger book cover than the standard oone, for the winner of each year's award. Then I used the regular Amazon module for the nominees. If there was a Kindle edition available, I stuck in a text link for it using my Amazon Associates ID so I get a bit more money if anyone should happen to click on the link and buy something. It was tedious work for the Hugo lenses, but not too bad.

Things were a bit more challenging for the Nebula lenses. I'd originally only created links for the winning novels and simply listed the nominees. And where I'd written blurbs for the Hugo winners, I hadn't for the Nebula winners. So I had to write a lot more blurbs, although I could copy and paste for those novels that won both awards. Again, I created Kindle links where needed. I never did more than one or two Nebula lenses in a day.

About the time I got that done, I learned of a new site called SquidPedia. It's a new site where people can submit their lenses for listing. I submitted my Monterey Pop Festival and Brian Froud lenses yesterday, and they were accepted pretty quickly. Just a little while ago I submitted my Celtic Music: Lenses and MobyD's Science Fiction Lenses lenses.

I don't know what to expect from these submissions, but more visits would be nice, and some sales through Amazon would be even nicer. This is just one way to promote my lenses, aside from blogging about them, and I think that's something I definitely need to spend more time doing.