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


What Happened to SquidU? And a NEW, unofficial forum by and for members!

As most of you know by now, the Squidoo community woke up to find that the SquidU forums, aka the Lensmaster Lounge, were shut down by HQ. To replace them, HQ has set up a new forum on the HQ Blog site. Read their announcement here explaining why.

For various reasons, this change didn’t work for all of us. (Square pegs, meet round holes.) So Christene set up a totally-unofficial by-and-for-members community here:

Squid∩ Community

There’s a lot of familiar faces. Some folks are also on the new, official HQ forum, while others are sticking mostly to Squid∩. (Either is fine. We’re real big on “different things work for different people.” )

It’s also got subforums for people to discuss Wizzley, Zujava, or wherever else you’re active.

There’s a help forum where people can ask other members for tips/advice, plus an FAQ section where we’ve rescued a few of the most in-demand tips and Tricks of the Trade posts written by members who have migrated to Squid∩. Hopefully these forums will continue to serve as a place to get support and tips, as well as camaraderie.

(The upside-down U symbol is the mathematical sign for “union,” but really, we just like being upside-down.)

Squidoo for Backlinks vs. Squidoo for Content, and Why Squidoo Is Like Erotica, Fanfiction and Folk Art

This should have been a blog post and not a forum post, but I was replying to an excellent post by Spirituality that set me off.

In a stupid reversal of what makes sense for a blog vs. a forum post, I will excerpt possibly the most useful part of my TL;DR post and quote it here:

Google’s end goal is to serve up the most relevant content; it’s treating “quality” not as an intrinsic value but as a component of relevance.

Start with Spirituality’s comment above, then grab a cup of coffee and read my natterings that followed. (or not.)

Keywords Mean Speaking Your Readers’ Language

A post in SquidU dismissed keyword research in this way:

Keyword research is for writers who are not interested in what they write, they are interested to collect traffic and then the money by selling things. So they skim the net for keywords and if they think the keywords can bring profit they use them and start to write about the topic.

Unsurprisingly, this elicited some strong responses. I understand the point the author was trying to make — content farms have shown the worst of keyword research, and really DO follow the approach described above — but that’s not how keyword research should work, nor does it have to.

As a poet, writer, and sometime student of languages (BA and MA in classics), I have been fascinated by the concept of keywords, the use of words as signposts to to help people find what they’re looking for in a nearly infinite sea of words, the web. It’s a powerful new use of words whose potential we’re still figuring out. In some ways it reminds me of the moment in cultural evolution when writing itself began to play a major role, when knowledge was no longer limited to what you could memorize and repeat in rhyme. The storytellers were appalled that oral traditions were dying, but writing unlocked a new potential of language which was not possible before.

The thing that fascinates me about keywords is that they are at the same time distilling a whole page down to a phrase which like a yantra, and on the other hand, they are words which function not simply as units of meaning, but as functional links, like the parts of a chromosome which are not there simply to contain genetic information but which serve to buffer the chromosome from damage or otherwise serve in a functional, utilitarian way. Keywords are like the labels on file folders. You reach for them to find what’s contained inside.

Keywords have been much on my mind these last few years. The final chapter of my abandoned dissertation was going to discuss keywords. Therefore, I wrote an impassioned rebuttal to the claim that writers who use keywords don’t care about their writing:

Keyword research is understanding what language people use to talk about the topic you are interested in, and speaking their language.


Online Forums: No, I Do NOT Want an Argument

I’ve been watching online communities go through their biorhythms for 22 years now, and the same patterns happen again and again. I still screw up now and again, but at least I’ve learned to recognize the steps of the dance.

This is what I’ve learned.

Text-Based Communication Isn’t

Everybody knows that text-based communication strips out tone. Somehow, posts tend to sound sharper, blunter, more snide or sarcastic or unpleasant than when you can see soft eyes or a smile to add a little warmth to people’s statements.

Crowdsourcing Outrage

Another problem is the speed of communication. Somebody posts a complaint, and it’s like a spark in dry tinder: it sets off everybody, and everybody has an opinion, and an admin can stop by after 5 hours and find a wildfire raging. It is so dangerously easy to crowdsource outrage.

Posting Online Is Like Posting Drunk

As a species, we have learned how to interact in social groups to survive. Unconsciously, we monitor those around us for clues showing how our words are striking people. Over the millennia, those who weren’t adept at reading conversations and adapting to public opinion got hit with a rock, stabbed, shot, or otherwise removed from the population. Therefore, learning to communicate our views without pissing people off is a deep-seated survival mechanism.

Online, we lose 99% of the cues and signals from face-to-face and group interaction. It’s like trying to do archery wearing four pairs of dark sunglasses. Suddenly, we’re all like my friend Cal who puts his foot in his mouth up to the kneecap and never notices he’s shocked half the room and offended the other half. We’re asserting ourselves without the benefit of our built-in inhibitions and self-filters that help us function smoothly in social settings. Thanks to that lack of inhibitions, it’s like being drunk.

This can sometimes be a positive, because people share things with great frankness. The flip side, however, is obvious.

Counteracting the Problem

As I’ve stated on more than one occasion, the reason why I have a harpy avatar (actually a siren) is to remind myself with every post to watch my claws. That’s precisely because I’ve thrown a lot of rocks, and bear the scars of others. I’ve got a stubborn streak a mile wide, dig my heels in, and try to convince, persuade and prove with research and lengthy argument. I get very worked up about some topics, just like everyone else.

Yet how often does an online argument really matter?  Sometimes, when money or fairness to others is involved, one has to speak up. Even then, if it’s not going to matter or be remembered six months from now, it probably doesn’t matter now. We use online forums to post our content, do business and exchange ideas, share comments and support one another. When it stops being about any of those things, personally, I walk away.

Which brings me to the trigger for this post.

Defending Ourselves…Does It Help?

Do as I say, not as I do.

Recently, in response to a critical post that I felt was aimed at me, I responded defensively. Two days later I came back from a RL fender bender, shaken up and  seeking some support on Squidoo, only to find a furious debate raging after the original poster called me “abusive.” Gack.

I’m not here to rehash that conversation, although that is why I’ve been avoiding SquidU lately. It upset me more than I let on. Which is silly of me, in light of many other incredibly generous and kind comments directed my way.

At any rate, my point is this. When each person feels like she’s been attacked by the other, unless you can kiss and make up, continuing to debate will only exacerbate the situation. It doesn’t matter who’s right. It doesn’t matter who started it. It’s become a barfight, and there are bystanders trying to drink their beer.

Name-calling or fingerpointing is against SquidU’s rules and won’t help. But surely, we should be able to defend ourselves? You’d think so. Unfortunately, due to the problems with the text-based medium I mentioned above, it’s nearly impossible to defend yourself without escalating tensions.

When you’re frustrated and upset, that is precisely when the “posting while drunk” effect is at its worst.

Some Other Approaches to Try

If the person who’s attacked you really is being unfair, abusive, and failing to respect community rules of conduct, three things can happen.

  • If you’ve conducted yourself fairly and generously, other members will speak up for you. Or, at the least, your actions will speak for themselves.
  • You report the comment privately to the moderators. The moderator locks the thread and/or takes action against your attacker.
  • You report an attack to the moderator, and the moderator fails to intervene. Golly, that sucks, doesn’t it? But maybe it’s not worth pursuing. Go do something productive and see if that helps you feel better.

Occasionally, when I am extremely upset, I vent my frustrations privately in the report box to the moderator, as if I were using it as a confession box, so that I don’t let my anger leak out in public. Oddly, I received my last moderator job from an admin who appreciated my discretion…even though he was sometimes the target of my private verbal diatribes.

I digress. The bottom line is this.

When we get into a forum debate that’s stupid and petty and annoying and frustrating, chances are, a year from now, it really won’t matter. Is it really worth continuing the conversation? Isn’t it more likely that the fight will just drag on, and people will keep sniping, squabbling, and refusing to listen to each other? Is the person you’re arguing with really going to listen to you?

When that seems to be the way the wind is blowing, I try to make myself step out and get back to work.

Of course, it’s hard to step away without responding when someone accuses you of something that you did not do. You may feel you need to say, “I did not do that.” But if that’s all you say, and then you leave (and contact the moderator), then the truth is where it needs to be. If you conduct yourself with honor, generosity, and responsibility, the accusation will most likely redound on the accuser, because the community knows better.

Act Now, or We May Lose Our Affiliate Income

ALERT! Will we lose our Amazon and other affiliate income? We might. Many already have.

[Originally posted in SquidU]

In several U.S. states, Amazon has shut down its associates program, in response to new laws passed attempting to collect sales tax from affiliate marketers or internet commerce. I’m guessing that the cost of recordkeeping for so many individual accounts and/or paying sales tax on such minute amounts eats too much of the profits to be worth the trouble.

Most recently, Colorado associates got shut down, following Hawaii, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. Read that link for more info.

Alarmingly, I’m reading old — or new? — news that New York State has instituted such a law, and the only thing holding it back is an appeal filed by Amazon. Here’s a New York Times editorial about it, expressing the opinion that Amazon should lose.

On the one hand, states have the right to tax sales that go on in their states.

On the other hand, every time Amazon shuts down an affiliate program, it’s not Amazon who gets shafted. it’s us. The affiliate marketers. The folks trying to pay bills. The folks trying to make ends meet.

Any of us could be victims of these new state laws, which could take away our Amazon or other affiliate earnings.

Some of our friends and Squidoo members have already gotten burned by this: they’ve lost their associate accounts because Amazon’s pulled the plug in their states.

And it could happen in New York, where Squidoo is based.

I don’t know what would happen then, but I don’t like the prospect.

That New York Times editorial shows that most people think this is just going to impact Amazon’s bottom line. All they see is big bad Amazon getting a tax break while competing with small businesses. They don’t realize that millions of families and small businesses make money on Amazon through affiliate commissions. I’m sure legislators don’t have a clue.

So I think that we should use some of our marketing and writing skills to write EVERY SINGLE state legislator and congressperson, and tell them the other side of the story, which they’re probably not hearing: yours and mine.

Write your state representative. Write your congressperson. Today.

This is more important for your online livelihood than any Tweet, Facebook status update, blog post or other page you do all this month… maybe all year.

I’m not sure what arguments one can use to counterbalance, “we need the sales tax to pay off our looming debts.” But how about, “Amazon will just shut down their associates program in states where the cost of running it is too costly — they already have in HI, RI and CO — so you’re not going to get that money anyway. But Amazon Associates pay income taxes, so if they get shut down, you LOSE revenue, not to mention killing people’s jobs, income, and buying power.”

Share this post. Spread the word.

On Moneyearning with Squidoo: NotPop’s Right!

Most of us know this, but it’s such a succinct answer to such a common question (“why isn’t my page getting traffic/ratings/sales?”) that I want to preserve it here so I can remember it later.

Quoth Notpop in SquidU:

If your lens doesn’t do anything they couldn’t have accomplished themselves with the same number of clicks then why would they “pay” you for the help?  Find them something worth bidding for and they’ll click through.  But if you’re not earning the commission then don’t be surprised when you don’t get it.

Or, as I think Seth Godin put it (not on sales, but on visitors):  “You don’t deserve traffic.” He wasn’t trying to be mean; he was just pointing out that our webpages aren’t entitled to a single visit: the web is infinite, and we need to give people a reason to spend time on our piece of it.

Here’s an interview where he talks about “deserving traffic.

Earning money with Squidoo lenses follows the same wisdom: you have to earn those sales.

Of course, the people who don’t understand this are probably not the people reading this blog post.

On Squidoo Success Stories

With the biggest payout yet for many people — including me! — and the end of the year, Squidoo members are pondering Squidoo success stories…and failures.

MikeEssex created a Squidoo Success Stories lens reporting on the real-life successes of several members, plus links to stats and earnings lenses by many members who maintain lenses or blogs to track their Squidoo progress. (Here’s mine.)

In response, three-year Squidoo member SisterCaren wrote a tongue-in-cheek lens which I think is just as important: her Squidoo Failure Story. She shares tips and insights on what doesn’t work.

We need to know about both Squidoo successes and Squidoo failures. I included both when I created my “Is Squidoo a Scam?” lens several years ago. I also demonstrated (I hope) that success on Squidoo can be defined in many different ways: traffic, successful promotion of a blog, business, or cause, moneymaking, gaining an online following.

However, there is one way that most Squidoo members and the rest of the world define success: earnings.  And Kimberly’s announcement on 12/16 that ONE member earned $2000K for the month through Squidoo earnings alone is a story of  both success and failure at the same time.