Saturday, 15 June 2013

Squidoo Thoughts: Warning, Scary Criticism

I'm posting this as a response to this post on Squidoo, as my comment was deleted and I was banned* for it. As people wanted to read it, I am reposting (and thank you to all the comments and support, guys, it does mean a lot). I have not edited the following, not even for typos, though I would if it was "for" a blog post, rather than just as a record. 

Alright then. Let’s break this down. Because while this is acknowledgement, and that’s nice, there’s nothing here promising any kind of fix or solution. (Bonnie, we know you’re the spokesperson who gets all our flak, but I ultimately have no idea what decisions making power you have, and there’s nothing here that couldn’t have been written by someone with no power to change anything).

“Bugs happen. It’s the reality of working on a live site (we don’t have downtime) and even with testing (which we do) it’s not a perfect science. Our team does work very hard to communicate problems…”

Yes, bugs happen. We get that. But most of the problems aren’t bugs, they are major broken issues that simply don’t work on most lenses. That’s not a bug, that’s a *broken feature*. And considering the scale of the bugs that we have come to expect, that should probably indicate a serious deficiency when it comes to beta teasting.

And more practically, if it is known that new changes = vast numbers of bugs, it makes sense to communicate that there WILL BE problems (i.e. that there will be a change), not just that “we changed it already, and oops, there’s a problem”.

It doesn’t matter if you think you have the best developers in the world. The data on nearly every change ever indicates that they, or your testing process, are NOT the best they could be. So it makes sense to build a little room to move into the system.

“Q: I hate the new changes. Why don’t you listen to lensmsater suggestions about new features?
*lensmaster. ;P

“…we had a lot of requests for a Coffee theme which we implemented. We’re also reducing the size of the Amazon product when you have only one item in your Amazon Module based on your feedback. These changes should be live soon.”

*facepalm*
How on earth is a coffee theme on the same level as removing the ability to write content as before in certain parts of your lens and BREAKING CONTENT? A better analogy would be arbitrarily removing popular themes. Actually, no, it’s more like adding a bunch of flashing banners and a garish moving border on the DEFAULT theme.

The suggestions that everyone is screaming about aren’t ‘make a few cosmetic changes to pretty the site up’ or ‘add a fun new thing’. They’re “why did you break this thing nobody anywhere ever who actually uses Squidoo wanted you to break?” They’re ANTI-suggestions. And “please stop breaking things and give us warning if you are going to remove a bunch of options and BREAK OUR CONTENT” is feedback that is only sporadically being acknowledged and is generally being poorly implemented if acted on.

“Q: Are you trying to push veterans off of Squidoo? I’ve had a lot of my old lenses locked.
A: Absolutely not. Squidoo is a big place and there’s room for everyone. We value veterans and newbies alike. ”

I doubt many people seriously think Squidoo wants to kick off people who’ve been on here a certain amount of time, so addressing it as if it’s a serious question is fallacious. The real question is “why is Squidoo acting like this? Does it not realise it is completely alienating everyone? I know it can’t be doing this on purpose, but how can it not realise?”

“Q: Why should I make new lenses?
This is an easy question. Because new fresh content matters.”

Let’s rephrase that: Q: Why should I keep making new *articles on Squidoo* as opposed to elsewhere?
A: Because fresh content is good for Squidoo. That was a complete non-answer.

—-

Essentially, it’s not the ‘write better quality’ that most people are upset about. They’re upset about the functional stuff; the fact that the filters aren’t a good guide or easily fixed, the locks without warning, the content getting broken outright, the loss of perfectly handy options and arbitrary changes to lens structures and appearances at a time when they are already dealing with a bunch of other issues.

If Squidoo can’t cope with changing stuff, it shouldn’t be changing this much stuff. And who cares if larger spotlight images (which has been brought in and complained about ALREADY this year! Seriously, stop pushing the same thing and acting surprised at the getting the same reaction, and then ‘graciously’ undoing it again) bring 5% more clicks if it breaks 20% of lenses.

I have not had any locked lenses, and very few of my lenses have hit the filters. One was greenlighted instantly, as it clearly didn’t deserve it, I haven’t even bothered touching the others. I actually liked the black bar discovery bar (don’t like the floating one, though). I know the payout was scarily low (my worst in three years) but that we’re still riding out the massive changes from a couple of months ago.

I’ve come out of this stuff better than the vast majority of people – and I’m STILL considering leaving Squidoo, moving out of my comfort zone, because Squidoo has stopped offering the things I came here for.

Because I can’t trust Squidoo not to stuff my content with ads if I forget to fill in the discovery module. Because I can’t trust my content not to get flagged, and for it to get fixed if I do (and I really, really, really hate using the “special email” options, because 1) I HATE EMAILING PEOPLE and 2) it’s hugely unfair on the many non-Giants and non-comfortable-with-harassing-staff people). Because I can no longer trust the Amazon modules not to get changed on me again. Because I can’t trust all my content not to get broken or hidden or deleted when a module is ‘improved’ by limiting its options (e.g. poll module, Amazon module, my lenses module, About Me module). Because I enjoy the flexibility I had here, and that is being curtailed at every turn. And because I don’t know when these changes will come out, or why.

Stuff that helps? Asking “is this changing actually necessary?” not “can we do this? yes? awesome!”
Asking the actual community about the minor stuff that isn’t about massive sitewide spam removal.
Acknowledging issues in advance; such as “there WILL be bugs” and “payout’s going to be painful, sorry, here’s what the data looks like for the following month” instead of pretending you don’t even pay us and letting all that discussion be unofficial. Making sure you aren’t BREAKING PEOPLE’S CONTENT. Not running all over the place panicking like hubpages did when they got slapped making random changes and nofollowing stuff and deleting and breaking things.

I really, REALLy hate being one of those people who piles onto announcements complaining. But if *I have had enough* (who has not lost any lenses, who is looking forward to better sales this month and next, who DOES NOT DEPEND on my online income but does it largely for fun, at least in comparison to many here, who have a lot of patience with changes, who has so many different kinds of lenses that most changes will hurt AND help me….); when I realised that my reaction to the removal of *existing formatting* was “hmm, okay, were can I move this article/put this other article…WAIT, Squidoo just stopped being my default?”. That’s a sign that I’ve been pushed too far, and I’m following a lot of other people who were affected far more than me and snapped far sooner.

*Initially banned from both the blog and the forums. I can now post comments on the blog, but am still banned from the forums. Don't ask me what's going on there! 

If you want to read everything, including other people's deleted replies, I reposted it all to the forum here. If you're looking for that time I was banned from the old forums, that would be here.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Critique Competition for Article Writers in the SquidU Forum

I am running a contest over in http://squidu.yuku.com/ for the most best and awesome critique-giving person.

I am bribing people with prizes.

Basically, I want you to go critique three or more articles/pages/lenses/leafs/hubs and/or post your own stuff up for other people to critique and/or nominate (via a private message on the forum to me) your top picks.

You can get an overview of the forum here on this lens I wrote about it, and you can follow the thread with the full rules and discussion here.

Whether or not you're interested in taking part, this is a great chance to get your stuff critiqued if you're looking for useful feedback. There are prizes for the top two critiquers, and a random draw prizes for somebody who sends in a nomination.

Prizes are funded entirely from my art commissions, so thank all those nice people that have commissioned me at some point.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

 A dark and historical dash through Victorian London

Dodger is an alternate historical story set in Victorian London. Written by the ever amazing Terry Pratchett, it features international plots, a dashing working class hero, strong minded women and many of the amazing people that inspired some of his most memorable Discworld characters.

You can buy Dodger here or read my full synopsis and learn about some of the real people that show up!

Buy Dodger from...
If you've never read anything by Terry Pratchett, then this is a good one to start with (if the genre is to your taste).

 Otherwise, check out:

Munchkin: The parody card game: Guides to the amazing silliness that is Munchkin

Munchkin is one of my favourite games - it's silly, full of backstabbing and co-operation and comes in a dozen different flavours! You can pick any of the variants to start playing and buy expansions for each - or mix them up! (If you've played Fluxx, it's like that... only more complicated and D'n'D flavoured).

Check out my shopping and playing guides to get started with an awesome game (or decide which version to pick up next).

There's the basic Munchkin Fantasy
Some guides by other people
Some extra stuff by me
And then there are all these awesome variant versions

Gerald Durrell, Writer and Animal Collector


The witty and wonderful Gerald Durrell dedicated his life to animal conservation
 
 
Gerald Durrell was an amazing conservationist who collected and studied animals from childhood, went on collecting expeditions for zoos all over the world and finally established his own zoo dedicated to conservation on Jersey.

He was a bestselling author, writing wry, enchanting tales of his animal adventures and is probably best known for the autobiography of his childhood, the Corfu Trilogy.

I grew up reading his books and they had a huge impact on me; not only did they introduce me to so many strange and wonderful creatures but they instilled basic principles of conservation and animal care.