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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.

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

Thoughts on Squidoo’s Revised Activity Stream

UPDATE: This post is now obsolete, as Gil has continued tweaking the new activity stream and has taken our suggestions onboard. There are now TABS that let us filter our Squidoo activity stream according to sales or other specific info we might want to see, and the data goes back more than 200 entries. YES! THANK YOU, GIL!



Squidoo is testing an update to our Dashboard. Squidoo quests, LOTD, and HQ announcements appear in the Activity Stream. Participation in polls has been removed. Participation in quizzes is still there, for the moment. The stream gets truncated after listing 200 items from our own lens activity, but will show HQ blog posts, LOTD notifications, and other HQ announcements going back a month (I think).

Here’s HQ announcement about the New Squidoo Activity Stream A/B Testing.  Obviously, it’s not finalized.

The revised version has been unrolled for many Giant Squids, so it’s gotten my two big Giant accounts. The sales data that I rely on has now been lost, and cluttered up with a bunch of things I used to filter out using Fluffanutta’s Workshop Add-on from SquidUtils. I wanted to share this comment I made in SquidU’s discussion of these changes, because I think it’s an idea that has broader applications:

I would’ve loved if they’d just made Fluff’s tool canon and then added a set of checkboxes that stuck, so we could set our dashboard up once and for all to show the stuff we care about.

I’m a victim of the A/B testing. It only shows the 200 most recent items from lens activity. For me, that’s 100+ people taking my quizzes, and there’s not even a day’s worth of sales records. Every Sunday, I sit down and review my sales for the week. I’d grab the info right out of the activity stream and GREP it into a tab-delimited chart that I could plunk into Excel. Now there is no easy way to do that.

Every one of us has a different lens profile and different goals. Some people may WANT to track how many quizztakers and polltakers they’ve got. Maybe someone’s built some polls for research purposes and honestly wants to see that. Whereas others of us are here to earn a living and don’t want the quests, monsters, and points cluttering up our dashboard — we’re only interested in real-world results. If we could customize it to fit our needs, instead of being mashed into what Squidoo thinks we should use Squidoo for, that would be really great!

I loved Fluff’s tool because it did exactly that: let us focus on whatever we think is important.

It’s hard to make custom tools that show different information to different users. It’s much easier to extrapolate what most people use a site for, and create an interface tailored to that particular kind of user, figuring that everyone else will manage anyway. Big sites like Squidoo have so many features and stats (yay!) that it’s hit the point where they can’t show everything. That’s a given. But what we’d love is to be able to tailor those features and stats to suit our own needs, instead of being given the options package the car dealership thinks we want.

Partial Recovery of Lost Squidoo Fans List

I don’t like losing useful information (see Spirituality’s blog post on why the Squidoo fans list was useful). I had meant to go on a tour of ALL my Squidoo fans after I hit 1000 fans last month, but hadn’t gotten around to it. I’m not sure when I’ll have time for that, but I can at least provide a backlink at the end of this post to some of you — THANK YOU!

Grab Search Engine Caches of Your Fans List

Many search engines let you view cached copies of their last crawl of each webpage. If they’re not too efficient, their cached copy may be from just before fans disappeared from our lensmaster profiles. Unfortunately, in 2010, Squidoo started displaying only a selection of your fans and hid the rest behind a “more” link which search engines can’t see. So many fans are gone for good. But this will recover at least some.

You’re probably thinking, “What about the Wayback machine?” and rightly so. However, its archives will still be around next week. Whereas search engines’ caches only exist UNTIL the search engine crawls the webpage again. Here’s the ones I found whose cached copies — as of June 2nd — predate Squidoo’s removal of fans. I used a few international search engines since they tend to crawl English sites less frequently:

  1. GOOGLE. Search Google for: cache:
  2.  search for: lensmaster page yourname
    then mouseover to the right hand side of the listing, click the right-arrow that pops up, and scroll down to the bottom to find the cached link. I couldn’t get this to work on Chrome, only Firefox.
  3. Yandex, the main Russian search engine:  search for lensmaster page yourname
    then click the копия link (if you’ve got Google translate turned on, it says “copy”).  This was the most up-to-date one just prior to Squidoo removing fan clubs.
  4. Baidu, the main Chinese search engine. Search as usual, then click the only link right under each search result. It only has some lensmaster pages. (While you’re at it — I don’t normally recommend wasting time submitting your pages to search engines, since most crawl Squidoo very often anyway, but with international SEs it may be worth it. Here’s the submit URL link for Baidu. Keep in mind Baidu will tend to favor content in Chinese and/or content of interest to people in China, plus your content has to pass web censorship, but at least some Squidoo pages are getting through the Great Firewall of China. But do that later. Let’s grab your fans first).
  5. search for lensmaster page yourname as usual and click “cached”. This was a fairly recent cached copy as well.
  6. Exalead:  Who are these people? Donno, but they’re saving caches of the web. Search as usual and hit the “cached” button.

You will note that most search engines give you a date for when their crawled copy of your page was cached.  Make a note of the most recent one to get a fairly accurate estimate of your fans just before they vanished. Ah, vanity.

Find More Fans From the WayBack Machine

Once you’ve gotten all the fans you can find through search engine caches, THEN go to the Wayback Machine aka Internet Archive and punch in into the “Take me back” search box. This will pull up a calendar. Dates with highlights represent cached copies of the page; click on one of them to go to that date. Then you’ll have a menu at the top of the screen that lets you skip forward and back through cached copies. The layout for Squidoo pages from 2010 onwards is too complicated for the Wayback Machine to reproduce correctly, but the fans list is there: scroll down to find it. Note that pre-2010 Wayback Machine caches of your lensmaster page include ALL fans from that time, since Squidoo displayed the whole list until 2010.

Copy that data into your document too. Save it.

Dump your list into Microsoft Excel. Add a row at the very top (row one) and label it “Names.” Then, to hide duplicates:

  1. Select the column of names.
  2. choose “Filter > Advanced Filter…” under the Data menu
  3. Say “OK” if you get a nag popup.
  4. Click the “Unique Records only” box and click okay.

And you can sort the column alphabetically. Alas, the result will be all your pre-2010 fans, but coverage of recent fans will be spotty.

A note on lensrank:

The Squidoo FAQ has long mentioned “lensmaster reputation” as one of the factors in lensrank. In 2009, as part of my comprehensive lensrank study, I guessed — although I can’t be sure — that this included fans as a lensrank factor (probably only a minor one). Right after Squidoo dropped the fans list, I dropped to 5-6 tier one lenses. That represents about a $150 drop in income. Ouch. I’m hoping that drop is due to the fact that everyone is scrambling to update their lenses to cope with all Squidoo’s changes, but maybe it means a more level playing field for newbies.

Backlinks for MY Fans: A Small Thank You

I only recovered half of my 1045-ish fans (wah!) but as a small thank you, here’s all the ones I’ve managed to save. The links will be very minor backlinks. (I’ve added a few more that I know were on there.) Feel free to add yours in comments if you like, and thanks again. :)


Squidoo’s Beginnings: How It Started

On my sticky notes of Squidoo lens ideas, I’ve had one grandiose note sitting in the idea box forever: “Squidoo then and now  — how to realize Seth’s vision.” This week, I finally got around to tackling it.

I found more questions than answers. And then I realized that of course, we all have different ways to realize Seth’s vision, because if we all did the same thing, it wouldn’t match his vision.

Therefore, I made THIS lens:

Squidoo’s Beginnings: A Look Back

And what we can learn from them.


My goal with this lens is to look back at how Squidoo started, and learn what it was like then, what it was for, and what Seth Godin’s original vision for a lens actually was.

Then I trace some… just SOME! … of the way the site, the community, and our concept of a lens developed.

It’s shaped by my own experience of Squidoo’s growth and changes. Your experience will be different, and that’s good. Examine your own memories of how Squidoo’s changed and think about them. Consider the threads I’ve picked out. Especially, consider the questions: what is a lens? What is it for? What is Squidoo all about?

Over time, the answers to those questions have changed… but not entirely. Some things have remained constant. What are they?

Those answers may help guide you in finding your very own way to Squidoo.

The Latest Google Update and Squidoo

A Squidoo Parable:

When I moved to a little condo by a lovely small park of grass and trees, I met my aged hippie neighbor taking a walk with weeds in his hand. He explained he weeded the park each day so that our homeowners’ association would not spray chemical herbicides. We all benefitted from his effort, because we never had to inhale or walk on poison. Institutional solutions tend to be overkill.

I have always considered the “Report Abuse” button at the bottom of every Squidoo page to be our version of volunteer weeding, with one crucial difference: Squidoo HQ double-checks to confirm it’s a weed before yanking it.

Since January, I have been concerned about Google’s widely-discussed updates to weed out low-quality and scraped content. I’m glad Google is doing it: search results were getting junked up by content from the “build crap and slap ads on it to make money” brigade. At the same time, I’m worried my baby may be tossed out with Google’s bathwater.

Obviously, I don’t consider Squidoo a content farm, or I would not be turning my old academic papers into Squidoo lenses (revised for the general public), receiving random plugs from Washington Post columnists needing a source for ancient Greek military history, or making Squidoo into my main platform for publishing articles on everything from volcanology to CSS help to personal product reviews. I have been publishing articles on the web since 1993, because I’m committed to the web being a place where you can find out and share what you know on anything. But the reality is, I need to earn money on my content, so I began posting it on Squidoo where I would earn a passive income for my work.

There are thousands of others like me who put a lot of pride, research, and work into our Squidoo articles. After all, we don’t earn a cent unless our pages actually perform with traffic, clicks, ratings and/or sales!

Yet on any open publishing site, there are always some who take short cuts. They’re the ones that worry me. We don’t want shoddy, low-quality pages eclipsing all our hard work. Thankfully, Squidoo has had mechanisms for years from spam filters to the Squid Angel volunteer program to ordinary members who report copied and spammy content so it can be weeded out. So hopefully Google has noticed our efforts, and will continue to rank good-quality Squidoo articles well. But we cannot be sure.

The good news is that (unsurprisingly), Squidoo HQ has also been watching developments at Google Webmaster Central. Read Megan’s post in the official Squidoo announcements forum on additional steps Squidoo is taking to help detect and remove bad apples quickly and proactively.

We can all help, too, by continuing to tweak and improve our own lenses. Make sure you do not have content plucked from elsewhere (we don’t know which copied content Google penalizes, and anyway it’s against Squidoo’s TOS). Look at the search queries on your traffic stats and ask, “Did my page answer what that person was searching for? Really?” Read your lens and ask, “If I found this as a random page on the web, would I read it? Would I click on some of these links? Really?”

Watch out for and report any copied content or spam you find. The “report abuse” button is at the bottom of every Squidoo page. Use it. I’m sure, in light of these developments, SquidHQ will be looking at those reports even more closely.

Google understands there are sites like Blogger (which it owns) where some people produce better quality than others, but the best content is unique and outstanding. Let’s keep proving that Squidoo is a similar site.