Greekgeek's Online Odyssey - Hubpages and Online Article Writing Tips


Coloring Pages, Copyright, Transformative and Derivative Works

We’re having a thoughtful discussion of coloring pageson the Squid∩ Community  message board.

A common question has come up: is it legal to trace or create your own art using someone else’s photo or art?

I want to copy my response here discussing transformative vs derivative work,  partly so I can find it again, since it’s one of my more coherent (and brief) write-ups (with apologies to Susan for my coming-down-like-a-load-of-bricks AGAIN, gack.)


Squidoo’s Flickr Module Is Retiring: How to Recover

Many of us have used the Flickr module to add thumbnail galleries pointing to Creative Commons images on Flickr. Unfortunately, as you’ve probably noticed, some of these images have been disappearing. Squidoo HQ has been trying to work with Flickr for a couple weeks to track down why Flickr is serving up some images and not others, but Flickr hasn’t responded, and Flickr images continue to vanish from Squidoo at random.

The upshot?

Squidoo HQ Announces that the Flickr Photo Module Is Being Retired.

It’s just going to disappear from our lenses. Poof! No timetable yet on when this is going to happen… but it will probably happen very soon (although I doubt over the weekend).

How to Recover from Lost Flickr Photo Modules

This weekend, the important thing is to grab ALL the data from your Flickr modules before they vanish. This means any text you wrote in the description field, plus the URLs of the Flickr pages your gallery links to. 

First, how do you FIND all your lenses that have Flickr Modules? Go to Google and search for the following, replacing my lensmaster name with yours: “by Greekgeek” “curated content from Flickr”

Once you’ve landed on a lens that has a Flickr module, find that module quickly by hitting command-F and searching for the word curated. This will turn up all the Flickr modules, which have the caption “content curated from flickr”.

Now you need to grab the contents of the Flickr module. The quickest way I’ve found to do this is the Copy HTML add-on for Firefox. This lets you select ANY part of a webpage, right-click, and choose “Copy HTML” to get not only the text you selected, but any invisible HTML codes, including the links in the Flickr module that point to Flickr pages. I’ve created an “Emergency Flickr Module Bailout” text document that looks like this:

name of lens

<all the code I copied from the flickr modules for that lens>

next lens

<copied flickr module code>

etc, etc. At the end, that’ll be my To Do list of modules I need to replace.

Once you’ve saved all the contents of your Flickr modules, then you can replace them at your leisure, even after the modules have gone bye-bye. How? Well, the simple way would be to use a Link List module, filling it with the links to the Flickr photos you were showcasing before, but that’s boring because it loses the thumbnail images. There is a way to hand-code a thumbnail image gallery, but it’ll take more work. Here’s how.

Prep: Make a list of URLs

Pick a lens to work on, and then pick ONE Flickr gallery on the lens that you want to replace. Open a spare text document and make a list of the URLs of each Flickr page that Flickr module USED to link to. If you used my “copy HTML” trick above, these URLs will be hidden in the part I’ve bolded here:

<a target=”_blank” title=”Tetrahedron by Peter Rosbjerg” href=””>

This list will be your “link list”: it’s where the clickable thumbnail graphics are going to point to. Next, we need to create those thumbnails.

Create Small Images for Your Clickable Thumbnail Gallery

Now we need a thumbnail-sized graphic of each photo. To get a small graphic, go to each original photo’s page on Flickr. Double-check that it’s Creative Commons – Commercial Use Permitted (here’s how). Once you’re sure you’re allowed to use it, pick “View All Sizes” under the “Actions” menu. The 75×75 option will give you a square, small thumbnail, an excellent size for tiling.

Or use this free online image editor or other online image resizers to resize a larger-version of the photo to exactly the dimensions and crop that you desire.

Save all your image thumbnails in a folder on your computer. In the “prep file” you started above, make a note of the name of each thumbnail graphic you saved next to the URL of the Flickr page it’s going to point to.  (The URL list you created earlier.)

Upload the Thumbnail Images Off-Site

Now we have to upload the thumbnail graphics to an image host somewhere on the web. Image hosts include,, or Photobucket. None of these options are ideal, since free image hosting services usually have a bandwidth limit and will temporarily hide the image if too many people view graphics in your account within the same month. (I bet Picasa is the best option, as it’s Google’s baby). Another option is to host images on your own website. I use ICDSoft to host this blog and a few other blogs and websites, PLUS all my Squidoo graphics.

See my How to Upload Images tutorial for how to upload images and find their URLs on Picasa and Photobucket.

After you upload each image, open the text document where you saved the list of Flickr photo URLs,  and copy the URL of the thumbnail image  next to its corresponding Flickr page. (Remember, each thumbnail graphic is going to link to the full-sized photo on Flickr.)

Hand Code a Clickable Thumbnail Gallery in a Squidoo Text Module

So now you’ve got:

  • A list of Flickr pages you’re going to link to
  • A collection of small thumbnail graphics of those photos hosted somewhere else
  • A list of the URLs of the thumbnail graphics
The next step is to hand-code a gallery of clickable thumbnails linked to their corresponding Flickr photo pages. For this, we’ll use HTML in a Squidoo Text Module.

I’ve written two tutorials which can easily be adapted to do this. The easiest way is to Make a Side-by-Side Image Gallery (that includes a template you can copy), changing the “width” attribute to whatever width you chose for your thumbnails. The imageLocation will be the URL of the thumbnail graphic, and the Link will point to the Flickr page with the full-sized photo.

The other possibility is to make a 100×100 Thumbnail Photo Gallery, borrowing fancy rollover codes I hacked from the Monster Spirit Boards. I was using this to make fake “Featured Lenses Modules” that include links to some of my related hubs as well as my lenses, but it will work with any thumbnail images you’ve resized to exactly 100×100. Take a look.


Note that if you embedded Flickr photos on your lenses using the “Share” HTML codes that Flickr provides, some of those photos may also be disappearing intermittently, so you’ll want to upload them offsite on Picasa, Tinypic, Photobucket, or your own webhost as I described above.

Fair Use and My Web Copyright Philosophy

Once again a SquidU forum post spun off a riff for me, this time on Copyright and fair use.

I am chaotic good, to borrow the old term from D&D: I don’t obey the rules precisely so much as try to understand why the rules are there and then do what’s best for the people impacted by them.

I am much less rigid about copyright when it comes to stills and screencaps and even fanvids of well-known movies and video games. If someone’s got a Yoda icon or a fanpage on a favorite video game, I absolutely do not get my knickers in a bunch. Everybody knows who Yoda is, and that Yoda icon is going to remind you of Star Wars and maybe even go look up the Yoda lightsabre duel video clip and maybe from there think about buying a Yoda doll or a Blu-Ray Star Wars disc (if you can stomach Lucas’ latest fiddling).

Whereas when it comes to copying a photo or piece of art from someone’s Flickr stream or DeviantArt or the like, I’m much more strict. I’ll only use Creative Commons images. If it’s reproduced somewhere else, such as on Wikipedia, I follow the CC link back to its source  to double-check the terms of use and make sure the owner really did give permission for reuse. I am also much more careful about credit when it comes to art and photos from individuals. DeviantArt’s embed codes include a small thumbnail plus the artist’s name and a link to his/her profile, so I use those as is, but Wikimedia Commons and Flickr do not include the photographer/artist’s name in their embed codes, just an image linked back to the source. That’s not good enough for me. I always add an image caption to those, including the photographer or artist’s name, with a visible, clickable link back to the source (not just a hidden clickable link attached to the image).

Am I being hypocritical? Why am I so picky about copyright for stock photographers, Zazzle artists, and their ilk when I will use stills to illustrate an article on the Lord of the Rings films without batting an eyelash?

Well, one can argue that stills from films fall under the “amount and substantiality” factor of fair use, the aspect of copyright law that lets you use a quote or short excerpt. Whereas a copy of a photo is not an excerpt; it IS the photo and competes with it in search results, commercially, and functionally. (Also, there’s the whole “permitted for critique/commentary” aspect of fair use: if you’re writing a fan page about a movie, then it’s commentary; if you’re using someone’s photo as a free illustration for a blog post that has nothing to do with that artist’s work, then it’s exploitation).

But that’s not really why I make the distinction between the two kinds of sources.

The Lord of the Rings films are famous and successful, instantly recognizable. Any publicity they get reminds people of the films which they already know.

Not so with a photo or piece of artwork from somebody unknown. In that case, the image is a signpost to the person’s work, their calling card and their chief asset.  Jane Q. Photographer might have shared some photos on Stock Xchng or Flickr with a Creative Commons license, hoping to get recognition and drum up publicity for her blog or photography site. I want to help Jane by giving her a visible credit and a backlink and observing her terms of use carefully, since even one backlink spotted by the right person might land her a job, an offer to license the photo, or lots of traffic from a big website that also likes and uses the photo with the CC credit and backlink.

As a matter of fact, this odd distinction I make is another of the Four Factors of Fair Use, one that’s not well-understood: “The Nature of the Copyrighted Work.” Fair use grants more leeway in using a published than unpublished work. I used to find this aspect of Fair Use baffling. Now my understanding is that if a work is already published, out there, successful, widely known, and making money, then your use of an excerpt is less likely to compete with it than if the artist is still trying to become known and hasn’t quite figured out how to make money from that image or creation. (Which is not to say one gets carte blanche to print up and sell T-shirts with your fanart of Sean Bean as Boromir in The Lord of the Rings. It’s just that one has slightly more leeway).

How much is too much? There’s no hard and fast rules. In a copyright lawsuit, the judge has to make a ruling based on his interpretation of the four factors of Fair Use and how they seem to apply to that particular case.

As always with fair use, the hardest part about it is that it depends on human judgment of individual circumstances  rather than a fixed, rigid set of rules. The four factors are guidelines that can help us feel our way.


Update: SPEAKING OF FAIR USE, check out these utterly adorable and highly creative parodies of Star Wars crossed with Winnie the Pooh: Wookie the Chew.” Yep, that there would fall under the “Transformative” factor of Fair Use (and parody, which is almost always Fair Use).

Squidoo Image Sizes, Format and URLs: Under the Hood

Ever wondered what image sizes work best on Squidoo?

In the following cases, there’s a maximum width (but not height); Squidoo shrinks the graphic to fit but keeps the height proportional if you give it something larger. Best to let Photoshop or an image resizer to do it; Squidoo’s built in shrinker isn’t as smart.

  • The width of the Squidoo column (e.g. Text with BIG Picture module) is 590 pixels wide.
  • The lens logo graphic and the graphics that can be uploaded to the Text module are a maximum of 250 pixels wide; Squidoo shrinks them to fit.
  • Lensmaster photo on your profile page: 120 pixels wide.
  • The Polaroid Module is 400 pixels wide.
In the following cases, Squidoo needs the graphic to be absolutely square. It does this by scaling the graphic to the specified width, then cropping or adding whitespace to the top and bottom to make a perfect square.
  • Lensmaster photo in bio box on lens: 70×70 square
  • “Related Lenses” in the sidebar (Discovery Tool): 70×70 square
  • Featured Lenses module: 60×60 square
  • Front page of Squidoo: 200×200 square

Instead of using keywords for the lens logo graphic, Squidoo replaces the filename with a long string of numbers. If you replace the graphic, it keeps the same string of numbers, so external tools like SquidTool’s Featured Lenses tool will still work.

Want to see how your lens graphic looks at different sizes (e.g. the featured lenses module, related lens sidebar, etc)?

1. Go to your lens and right-click the lens graphic to get its url.

Example (this is a lens logo, so it’s 250 pixels wide):

Greekgeek's 3D Computer Art

In the published version, it’s something like:

In the Lens workshop, it’s different (so that you don’t replace the published version by accident before you’re ready):

Want to see how it looks at different sizes? Then change the -1 (in the URL of the published version) or the 250 (in the URL from the workshop) to the desired width.

For example:




That shows you the graphic scaled to different sizes. But remember, for the Squidoo front page, the “Related lenses” sidebar graphic, and the Featured Lenses module, the graphic will be cropped square.

Squidoo has done something with CSS classes to make it crop exactly in the middle, and you know what? I still can’t replicate what they’re doing to make the square crop. So just know that it’s the exact middle of the graphic.

Need to figure out the image size of a graphic you’ve found somewhere else? See How to Tell an Image’s Size, both pixel dimensions and file size/memory.

As for formats, Squidoo allows the following:

  • gif: no animation allowed, and no transparency (it makes a black background). gifs have a maximum of 256 colors; if you save a photo as a gif it gets a bit posterized. gifs use very little memory and are fast-loading.
  • jpg: this is usually the best format for Squidoo. It uses less memory by compressing the photo somewhat (cheating to save space). If you look closely, you may find jpgs have lost some detail, like YouTube videos but not quite as bad because the data isn’t compressed (simplified to save memory) quite as much.
  • png: this format is a memory hog, but preserves the colors and pixels accurately. Larger-sized pngs may not upload on Squidoo (I think the max may be 1MB, not sure). The only problem is that, as with transparent gifs, where one color is designated to be transparent and let the background page color show through, Squidoo fills in the “transparent color” with black. The way to avoid this is to uncheck transparency when saving a png, or save it as a jpg and put up with the slight loss of resolution.

You should know that picture quality always degrades slightly if you upload an image into Squidoo’s text or introduction module. Photo quality is better if you save a high-quality jpg or png and upload it to your own website or a service like Flickr. (I love being able to upload images to my own site; I can give each photo its own filename AND folder name, which means a lot of keywords I can use to optimize the lens where those images are displayed.)

Maximize Traffic from the Front Page of Squidoo

We’ve had a SquidU discussion about the recent SquidCademy quest, whose prize was getting your lens featured as one of the rotating selections on the front page of Squidoo.

I’ve been pondering how to squeeze the most traffic out of the two to four week window when your lens is part of the rotation.

Here’s some things to remember.

  • If Squidoo HQ issues a challenge or quest with a Squidoo front page feature, go for it. It’ll mean extra traffic for two to four weeks if you get accepted.
  • They favor lenses with strong, visually appealing graphics. Once I entered one of these challenges and got the points and purple star, but did not get a front-page feature, probably because the graphic wasn’t as good.
  • The number one way to maximize traffic from the front page of Squidoo is through the lens graphic. People arriving on the front page of Squidoo didn’t arrive via a search of a topic, so they’re not targeted traffic. Instead, they’re liable to click the picture that stands out from the rest with its visual appear.
  •  So use a crisp, clear, compelling graphic with a strong silhouette, possibly a white background (See my “Hook Visitors with Key Art Designs” tutorial for tips).
  • Check to see how it looks on Squidoo’s front page (especially if your graphic’s not square; Squidoo will crop it to a square). You can safely tweak, adjust, upload the graphic, and republish until it looks good (thanks to KathyMcGraw for asking if changing the graphic would cause any problems — it doesn’t. The graphic changed on the front page immediately after republishing).
  • While a front page feature will bring visitors because of all the people landing on the gateway, it’s useless for SEO purposes. I Googled cache: and double-checked with Webconf’s Search Engine Spider Simulator, and both of them show that the current featured lenses are not crawled or indexed. The lens gallery is generated only when you’re viewing live, so Google doesn’t see those links.
  •  Oddly, the testimonials are stored, so a random few lucky lensmasters get extra backlink juice if their testamonial is showing when Google’s spider comes by (which happens often). If Squidoo ever solicits us to write more blurbs, do it.
  • Also, of course, Squidoo Categories are featured in the sidebar, and those links are hard-coded, so getting your lens on any of the category or subcategory pages will get some trickle-down pagerank from the top level of

On Pinterest and Copyright Concerns (Yes, That Again)

I wrote an article called “Is Pinterest a Haven for Copyright Violations?”  that covered the hidden catches buried in Pinterest’s Terms of Use. The article went viral, and a firestorm ignited on Twitter when my article and two others on Pinterest and copyright came out at about the same time (search “Pinterest copyright” on Twitter).

Apparently what I said resonated with many. The comments I received on both sides of the argument are worth reading. That was actually my intention in writing it:  I wanted to present one side of the story as clearly as possible, and was hoping for the debate that followed.

On a tangent, the “how to” side of things:  this is only the second time I’ve had an article go viral. In both cases, I tapped into an issue that a lot of people cared passionately about, and which was rising in popularity.  In both cases I used a Magnetic Headline posing the topic as a question designed to provoke an emotional response. I didn’t know it would go viral, but just in case it did draw traffic, I posted it on Hubpages which pays better for individual impressions than Squidoo does. (I think Squidoo is better for pages that people click links on and/or buy things from.) Hubpages also has a cleaner, more professional-looking skin for a reader unfamiliar with the site, which I find makes a difference in op-ed and informational articles.

However, I didn’t post the article just to get traffic. I posted it to deliver important information on an issue I care about. I was terrified that I’d be virtually tarred and feathered, but I was gratified to find some people in the comments making my points better than I could make them myself. Of course, many commenters argued the other side of the debate, and some of them had important things to say, too. I urge you to read it, and them.

Handy Squidoo Tip: Caption a Lens Logo or Text Module Graphic!

Screencap from my lens

Eureka! Why didn’t I figure this out sooner? There is a fairly simple CSS way to force a caption (including an image caption with clickable link) to hang out directly under a Squidoo lens logo or an image uploaded into the text module!

Ta-da! Actual screencap of a lens!

Here. I have, of course, created a new Squidoo tutorial:

Squidoo Image Captions: Handy Tip

Of course, the easiest thing would be if Squidoo would add an optional caption slot for images.

But then, I suppose there’s no way to guess what height / style the caption slot ought to be. It depends whether you’re trying to make a photo credit or some kind of comment/description.

Resizing Images for Amazon Associates, Squidoo, Zazzle

I experiment with different ways of using images, because they get clicked even when they’re decorative. (And there’s nothing like a visually intriguing thumbnail to get people clicking — they want to see it full-sized).

When you grab a basic Amazon Associates “image” code, you get something like:

There’s an easy — well, fairly easy — way to resize Amazon graphics, up to whatever size the original product image is that’s stored on Amazon. (Any larger than the original, and it gets fuzzy.)


Multiple Backlinks from One Zazzle Store

NoFollow backlinks aren’t that useful, but people and Google do follow them. (Yes, Google does follow NoFollow Links, and in fact counts them a tiny bit for Pagerank.)

Also, it’s possible that search engines may take notice of how many different domains link to a page. We don’t know, but it’s no more foolish counting backlink diversity than counting backlinks with no idea which of those backlinks are actually weighted as relevant to a particular search.

In that context, I was intrigued to discover through SquidUtils’ Backlink Checker that when you build a shop on, it propagates on,, and (Where’s that?) Now, links in Zazzle descriptions are nofollow, so the backlink on my Mythphile Shop is not passing much pagerank.

Google is probably sophisticated enough to realize those multiple domains are not totally independent: they’re obviously part of an international network of sites. Also, it sees the duplicate content. (I think the duplicate content scare triggered by Panda has set off a bit of hysteria… a few mirror sites won’t send your content off the Google SERPs, it’s just they may not rank quite as well, or maybe only one will rank well in each country. Oops, tangent.) Nevertheless, those links have to count as least as much as forum signature links, which Google is also sophisticated enough to recognize as (a) self-promotion, not an unbiased recommendation and (b) a forum signature — multiple posts with it shouldn’t be weighted any more, or much more, than a single post.

All of this means that you might as well open a Zazzle shop, if you’ve got some visual assets related to your niche.

What kind of assets?

Have you taken your own digital photos related to your topic? Are they photographs of public landmarks, nature, or out-of-copyright (pre-1920 should be safe) products or images? (See this “Legal Pitfalls of Using Photographs” copyright FAQ for more info on what’s allowed.) Commercially-licensed Creative Commons images are also permissible, with credit and a backlink.

Consider making postcards or small prints with them. (Don’t be misleading and print ordinary-sized images on a poster when the original picture is 600×800 pixels; it’ll look awful blown up to poster-size.) Write keyword-rich descriptions. And tie it in somehow to your topic, as I did with my Mythphile Shop. Plant the backlink. It’s not much link juice, but it’s a little. It’s worth expanding your online assets and footprint while creating a possible venue for money-earning.

(This is where I plug my Zazzle tutorial.) Anyway, it’s a thought.


Image Hosting on Your Own Domain

I’ve used ICDSoft as my web host for 8 years now, long before Web 2.0 burst onto the scene. I’ve hosted various personal websites on it and used it as file storage space for online communities where I was an admin or member.

On Squidoo, I continue to find it extremely useful for image hosting. First, it’s fast, and I’m not dependent on Squidoo’s servers. Second, I have ICDsoft’s own traffic stats data, which records longterm trends like keyword searches that brought people to those images. I’ve got eight years of keyword data to mull through when pondering what people search for — I really need to spend more time digging through the records to help me brainstorm for lens topic ideas! Third, ICDSoft lets me block hotlinking.

Most importantly, having images hosted off-Squidoo lets me store the images for each lens in folders whose names reinforce SEO. For example, all my images for my volcano lens are stored in a folder named [blah blah]/volcanoes/[filename].jpg.  This means every single image reinforces the relevance of that lens for the keyword “volcanoes.” You could use this technique on image hosting sites like Picasa and Photobucket as well, provided they let you name image folders, and those names are incorporated into the image URL.

On a side note… Where can you find information on which of your lens graphics is generating search traffic?

  1. Check Stats for that lens.
  2. Click the traffic tab.
  3. Scroll down to “Referrers” below the pie chart.
  4. Under “Referrers,” click Google. For some reason Squidoo treats Google image search as a referrer, not a search engine.
  5. Look for referrals beginning with these words: /imgresimgurl. Shortly after that will be the URL of the image. That means someone did a Google Image search, saw your graphic in the results of the image search, clicked on that graphic and came to your lens.
  6. It’s a little hard to decipher, but if you right click and copy that “referrer” URL into a spare document, then search for %3Fq%3D (which is a weird way of saying &q=, computerese for “query equals…”), everything after that is the actual search term someone typed in to find the graphic. %2B is computerese for a blank space. So for example, I see a referral with this gobbledygook:,r:8,s:18&biw=1259&bih=599

That means that someone found my lens by doing an image search for mount pinatubo. I’m really not sure how, since other images turn up ahead of mine in Google image search, but they did, so there you are. :)

Normally you’ll never need to dig that deeply into your stats, but just in case, that’s how. Don’t ask me what all that other gobbledygook is, though.