Friday, April 24, 2009

Best Sellers

Each week on Friday evening or Saturday morning (sometimes both), I update my Squidoo lens based on The New York Times Best Sellers list. I don't usually blog about it, but it seems like a good idea this time because recently the Yahoo search engine changed the way it lists web pages. The changed caused just about all Squidoo lenses to disappear from their listings. Unfortunately, the Best Seller lens was getting a fair amount of its visits through Yahoo's search. Once they changed things around April 7, the lens started sliding down in lensrank. Last week, even adding Kindle links on Friday and publishing the lens, then updating it on Saturday morning - two updates in two days, didn't halt the lens' slide.

It can take an hour or two to update the lens each week, depending on how many new books are on the list, because along with getting the new rankings from the newspaper's website and the information from Amazon plugged in for links, I write a blurb for each new book. Each description is in a box with a colored border and background, with the colors matching those on the book covers. (I wanted to show an example of an entry, and it looked OK in a preview, but it didn't work when I published this entry.)

It all took some figuring out with revisions happening over the months since I started the lens back last July 30. It really doesn't look too much like it did back then. I've learned a lot about HTML and CSS in figuring out how to make the lens look good. It was doing quite well for a while until the Yahoo search thing happened, so it's been disheartening to see it slipping over the past few weeks. One reason for blogging about it is to create a link that search engines will see, and just maybe Yahoo might pick up the listing again.

In seeing what's been happening with Yahoo, I've done some searches there for my Mount St. Helens lens, which used to get a fair amount of its traffic from that search engine. I can find several results for places where the lens is mentioned and linked, but not the lens itself. Very strange.

Catching Up

I didn't realize it had been over three weeks since my last blog post! Several things have been happening, mostly Squidoo related.

Not long after my last post I was named a Squidoo Angel. What that means is I get to see what new lenses have been submitted in several categories (which I'll keep confidential) so I can look them over. A lot of them are very new from new people, and often they were published too soon. Sometimes I'll see some pretty good stuff.

If I spot a really good lens, existing or new, I have the option to give it what's known as a Squid Angel blessing, which gives it a boost in lensrank, although that does fade over time. It's nice to find a really good lens and go beyond just giving it a five star rating and making it a favorite. A blessing is sort of like a sixth star, although I think it gives more of a boost.

On the other hand, if a lens is really bad I can ding it, which will push the lensrank down. It's not about the subject matter usually but more about how well the lens is made. Subject matter enters into the equation only if it's spammy or violates Squidoo's Terms of Service. I've been finding quite a few of those, but that's partly because I've been looking for them. I've gotten to know a lot better lately the Terms of Service and what Squidoo doesn't want to see as lens subjects.

Part of what Angels do is look over the top 100 lenses in the categories we've been assigned with an eye out for lenses that shouldn't be there like ones that are spammy and violate TOS. I spotted several in my first week, but with other Angels also looking at the lists with that in mind, they're not found as frequently.

Early on I went looking for lenses linking to sites offering illegal music, movie and game downloads. Most such sites like that charge people to join, then give them software so they can pirate stuff online. The software is available free, so really people who join are paying out money to do something illegal that, if they really want to do it, they can do for free.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Suddenly, A New Celtic Music Lens

I was poking around in Squidaholic checking out some stuff on one of my Celtic music lenses. While looking at links to Celtic music sites in general, I saw one from Portland's newspaper The Oregonian that mentioned a Celtic duo would be playing at a library. At first I thought maybe it was an old article, but I clicked on the link anyway and found out The Muses are playing Saturday afternoon. I hadn't heard of them before, but I figured since it's at a library, it's free, and close enough for me to go.

Then I had the idea to check out CD Baby and see if they had any CDs listed there. They did, so I pulled up their website to see how many CDs were listed both there and on CD Baby. It turns out all of them are in both places, so that meant I should make a lens. I put together a new template for lenses with CDs that are only on CD Baby after checking Amazon and seeing none of their CDs there. With that done, putting together a lens only took a couple of hours. Templates really save time!

I've published the lens, and I think it looks good enough, but I intend to add more to it after I get back from their show tomorrow. I'll take my camera along and get some pictures to add along with some additional text.

I checked out the latest online copy of their newsletter and learned they're on Twitter, so I added them to the people I'm following, and re-tweeted my message about the new lens to them. I'm hoping they'll see it before the show.

Update: Tanya got my tweet and replied. She checked out my Spoonerisms lens. Turns out she and Matthew are friends of Terry Foy, aka Zilch the Torysteller, who I featured in that lens.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

That's the Signpost Up Ahead...

A few days ago I happened to notice that Squidoo lenses about the Twilight movie, based on books by Stephenie Meyer, tend to rank pretty high. Seeing the word "Twilight" reminded me of Rod Serling's great TV series The Twilight Zone. It occurred to me to do a search of Squidoo to see if anyone had done a lens about it yet.

I was a bit surprised when all I found was a video showcase lens that uses the YouTube module in thumbnail mode to present videos for a few episodes. The thumbnail mode means people are drawn away from the lens to view the vids. Like most video showcases (even mine, but I often have other lenses related to the showcases with more info) there wasn't a whole lot of content about the TV show itself. So I decided to do a lens.

I was pleased to find out "the-twilight-zone" ending for the lens URL was available, so I was off to a good start. This time I didn't start out adding DVDs and books. I left that to near the end. First I wrote the content. Wikipedia had several pages about the show and Serling. There were other sites as well, and I have an aging copy of The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows.

There wasn't much available in the way of copyright-free images, but I did find one of Serling that at least claimed to be public domain. I needed more, so I found one of an artist's mannequin, gave it a black background and put little white dots in the background to simulate stars, then rotated the image to about the angle the mannequin in the opening sequence of the show appears in. I also found an eyeball image to modify.

The show was in black and white, so I used grey/silver backgrounds. Where I used borders, I made them black. Normally I wouldn't do that, but considering the show wasn't in color, it works.

The lens also covers the movie and the other two series, one from the 1980s and the other that ran only one season on UPN in 2003-2004. For Amazon stuff, I've got the "definitive" boxed set of 156 remastered episodes, the movie, and four books about the show.

I'm wondering if anyone will stumble into the lens while looking for stuff about the Twilight movie.