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Dealing With the Changing Web

Changes! Yep, that’s the name of the game on the web. GeoCities, MySpace, Lycos: the web is littered with the carcasses of sites that didn’t evolve as the web did. So we have to be braced for it.

The sites where I publish have had several widely-discussed changes of late: Squidoo closed SquidU and opened new forums, while Hubpages implemented Idle Status to Hubs. Both changes caused upheaval and member consternation, and, hopefully, opportunities.

The changes will keep coming. Seth Godin’s recent post on SquidHQ’s blog elicited some positive responses as well as trepidation from the following announcement:

…if you haven’t been hearing a lot from Corey and Gil, that’s because they’ve been hunkering down with the rest of our tech team working on a new project that we ought to be able to share with you in a few weeks. It’s designed to make Squidoo an even better platform, with more options for different sorts of users.

My first reaction is hope. Squidoo desperately needs to adapt to the mobile web. I’ve also felt like Squidoo focuses on some niche audiences to the detriment of others, so I like the sound of “more options for different sorts of users.”

On the other hand, I can’t help but brace for impact. Veteran Squids have faced many “Squidoo Surprises” in the past which forced us to update all our lenses on short or zero notice, due to problems introduced by past changes. We’ve had top-paying lenses thrown into WIP by new filters before those filters were even announced, resulting in lost earnings. We’ve had top lenses lose traffic and rank for good due to other changes.

Hence my cartoon posted in Squid∩‘s discussion of Seth’s post:

Squidoo policy changes: a cartoon

I originally had written “Oh noooo!” as the members’ response, but that’s not right, of course: many surprises turn out for the best. After all, HQ (whether Squidoo, Hubpages, or elsewhere) is trying to improve things, not give members headaches.

I’ve been pondering Bev’s excellent post on Accepting Change. Some change-wary Squids objected to the title, but Bev wasn’t so much talking about accepting every change meekly as saying we can’t escape change, only survive it.

I sketched out this doodle in response to Bev’s post:

adapting to a changing web

In my less-than-humble opinion:

  • Well-implemented changes are not simply well-researched, solid ideas, designed to adapt the site to the changing web. They’re changes that are communicated to the members clearly. Communication enlists members’ support during the transition, even if that transition is a disappointment like, “We’re shutting down your state’s Amazon Associates program because new laws make it impossible to do business there… please write your legislator!”
  • Poorly-implemented changes are flails (OMG, Panda tanked our traffic, so lets try this and this and this!) or disruptive surprises that someone didn’t think through. Poorly-executed changes may even be great ideas inadequately communicated to members, who scramble to do damage control or are left feeling bewildered and anxious. Too much chain-yankage can strip away inspiration and make one want to move, even if the fallout from changes hasn’t been all that bad.

I have also been forcibly reminded that while each website depends on its members collectively, individually, we’re expendable. If we can’t adjust, well, there’s always new members arriving to replace us.

The dinosaurs (mentioned in Bev’s post) couldn’t get out of the way of the asteroid; there wasn’t enough time. But mammals, which were small and mousy back then, survived by being in the right place at the right time: in burrows, not on the surface. They were perfectly positioned to replace those old, outmoded dinosaurs.

Or, to look at it differently, one needs to dig burrows so as to have a refuge to escape incoming fireballs. Often, the best way to accept change is to rise to the challenge. But sometimes, I think the best way to accept change may be to realize that one’s goals or working style and the host site’s are no longer in alignment, so that one can seek a different venue (or even build your own).


  1. Sheri says:

    This is a marvelous post.

    I’m not veteran enough to be upset by some of the changes that have happened during my time at squidoo, but I am familiar enough with it as it is now (and hate change enough) to be worried about the announced surprise. I hope it will be a really good surprise that will help deal with some of the issues that are discussed on the forum that are upsetting to many lensmasters.

  2. AJ says:

    Yes, I really liked Bev’s post too and felt that those who were critical, or possibly less than accepting of what Bev was saying, actually missed the point of some of what she was saying.

    I love this post too Ellen, because it reinforces what Bev was saying and shows how we need to have a mindset that can adapt in order to move with the changes that keep coming our way.

    And as you are implying with your post, it is not necessarily the changes that we find disconcerting but more how the necessity for those changes is communicated (or not) that can make the difference between being able to view the changes positively or negatively.

  3. Genesis says:

    I somehow missed that announcement. But this morning, my lenses were topsy turvy and almost all in red. :P It was fixed a couple of hours later, but yeah, that would be one of the mixups you’re talking about! I see a lot of people complain about changes, but like you say, we just have to survive, fussing about it rarely does anything!

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