There are two different Web 2.0 approaches.
One is to provide tools, widgets and open-ended features that let users share their content. This is an “opt in” model, in which you provide really useful tools, and users find powerful ways to use those tools which you didn’t even dream about. That creates goodwill and draws more traffic to your site.
The other is to repurpose users’ existing content, mining and exploiting it and redistributing it in new ways that users may not have imagined. Following Facebook’s lead, this approach is usually presented as a fait accompli. If there’s enough user pushback, the company may add an “opt out” option.
Squidoo has provided us with many handy tools and new modules — building blocks — and let users find great ways to use those blocks. It’s also taken some building blocks away, including powerful ones we still miss. (Squidcasts and favorites.)
Other building blocks have broken, or never worked properly. I keep hoping Squidoo will shift from the attitude of, “If you can’t put up with a site that’s got frequent glitches, bugs, and nonfunctional tools, then Squidoo’s not the site for you” to “Our site has fabulous tools, more than any other publishing site, and we’re going to nurture and cultivate that edge. Tell us what’s broken so we can fix it and maintain Squidoo’s superiority over other user-generated content sites.”
Instead, in the past year, Squidoo has been moving in the Facebook direction.
- Our lenses get featured in Squidoo magazines — except, in practice, our lenses don’t actually appear in these magazines. Our lenses simply get links across the top promoting the magazine, boosting its search engine rankings, and diverting traffic away from our lenses. Lenses hijacked by Squidoo magazines also get yanked from the SEO-friendly Squidoo category tree. For example, Google search results will display a lens under the breadcrumb trail “Happy Snowman” instead of “Holidays > Christmas > Christmas Tree Decorations.” “Happy Snowman” is less informative, so less likely to get clicked on, and it undercuts search relevance for “Christmas Tree Decorations.” After a user pushback, Squidoo gave us the ability to “opt out,” but refused to change it to “opt in.” That means that every month, more of our lenses are hijacked by Squidoo magazines, so we have to keep “opting out” if we care about SEO.
- The Facebook Gift Guides mined our Facebook friends’ personal information to create for-profit pages which implied our friends had endorsed them. Member pushback, pointing out the illegality of this, convinced Squidoo to make Gift Guides “opt in” rather than “opt out.”
- Now Squidoo’s added a “pin it” button to the top of each Squidoo lens, granting members of a third party website, Pinterest, permission to copy, share, repost, redistribute, and embed full-sized images from our Squidoo lenses not just on Pinterest, but on any blog or third party website. I’m not sure that the temporary traffic spike of a social media share will compensate for having my best photos posted who-knows-where on the web, forcing me to compete with myself for image search traffic (which is responsible for most of my lenses with 500+ visitors a week). Pinterest’s TOS also claims the right to redistribute, manipulate, or sell images posted on its site. That’s against the TOS for Zazzle images, affiliate images such as Allposters and Amazon, or images that we have paid license fees to use on our own articles.
What other ways will Squidoo repurpose our content?
I’m concerned that Squidoo’s focus is shifting from creating and maintaining tools for us to publish content to finding new ways to use and exploit our content.
That approach may well work for lensmasters who aren’t getting much return out of their content. However, for me, it’s a reason to reconsider which kinds of content to post on Squidoo, which elsewhere.