Having nothing to do tonight after a drinking party for work, I was inspired by a post on MyMicroISV about Squidoo. I have recently been trying to accomplish some light organic linkbuilding for SEO purposes. That reminds me: a big, somewhat belated thank you to those in the uISV community who tossed me links to my post on St. Patrick’s Day — St. Google is already smiling on me for some keywords. Squidoo might prove useful in that regard, and was as good a way to spend 2 hours as anything.
In a nutshell, Squidoo is a content engine which is similar to Wikis and blogs. Anyone can contribute their knowledge on any topic, like a wiki. Knowledge is organized about discrete topics, like a wiki. However, like a blog, Squidoo lenses have authors, and the lenses are not by default writeable by the entire world. They do allow for some forms of audience participation, through some interesting widgets which you can include to make your lens something other than flat unformatted text.
Anyhow, given that Squidoo lenses seem to percolate to the first page of the Google SERP for less competitive keywords and that its quickly becoming an authority site, I thought I might as well take it for a spin. Plus, whats the worst that could happen? I spend an hour producing materials that help teachers and don’t get paid for it. That strikes me as an hour well-spent.
Squidoo is a wonderful technology for Seth Godin and, well, somewhat less wonderful for its users. In many ways, its a technical marvel — allowing users pre-constructed, logic-intensive building blocks like lists of links which are votable up and down lets them create valuable content which is richer than your typical blog post or Wiki article. However, its also a poster-child for Why AJAX Will Not Replace Your Desktop In 2007. Tasks which are simple and which should be on the critical path for this tool, like writing text in paragraphs and then editing the text, are full of frustration. The responsiveness is sluggish compared to any halfway decent blog software and far outclassed by Notepad, to say nothing of useful text editors. I felt like I was spending as much time struggling against the platform (2500 character limit for paragraphs? Bad programmer, no twinkie! No, it is not an acceptable workaround to tell me how many characters I have left!) as I was creating content. That perception was probably inaccurate but it doesn’t bode well for the tools’ adoption with less motivated users.
Anyhow, rather than bury you in a description of what widgets are available, I’ll link you to a lens or two. My lens on teaching dolch sight words is fairly basic: text, lists, and a widget which lets you vote on links related to the topic. I have handily preseeded it with two links controlled by myself, which is the payload of the entire lens for me. (I suppose if my lens gets very popular theoretically I could make about a dollar or so in Squidoo’s quirky revenue sharing arrangement. Yay.) The lens is not quite complete yet, and its very text heavy and content focused.
On the other hand, Gavin’s lens on tools for your microISV is basically just a collection of links. Some of the more popular lenses mix links, text, and whatnot in a pretty multimedia fashion. Unfortunately, and I really hope Seth Godin is not suprised by this although something inside said he might be, most of the lenses on top of the popularity metrics are Repair Your Credit And Make Lots of $$$ Online With No Money Down with a very high shady factor. I’ll spare you the links, but feel free to take a gander at them: many of them are fairly effective marketing and I’d be decently happy if they weren’t in the service of separating poorly informed people from their money.