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.”

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.


  1. An excellent well thought out response. Sorry you got banned from the forum. :-(

    1. Thank you. I'd probably rewrite it a bit if I could, but the points would all stay the same.

      I'm not very impressed with the banning though; I didn't post there much, but I was trying to drop in occasionally and be helpful. And I hadn't misbehaved on the forum *at all*.

  2. Really scares me that Squidoo HQ banned you for this. They are becoming more and more 'communist' in their approach every day. I think we are all getting a small taste of what it must be like to live in a place where you don't know what small thing you may do can get you thrown into jail. Obviously freedom of speech is no longer allowed in Squidooland. And the random locking of lenses (2 for me) is just scaring everyone.
    Whoever is running things at Squidoo at present is clearly incompetent. Unless a change is made fast ... I can't see how Squidoo will survive.

    1. Meh, communist schmonunist. Capitalism can be just as scary ("economic vandalism" is the latest catchphrase from big corporates about people daring to say mean things about them).

      Police state is probably a better phrase - it's the way it's run, not the ideas behind it (This is a nitpick of mine :D ).


      But yeah, it definitely had a chilling effect. I've never seen *confirmed* cases of actual accounts being penalised for this sort of thing, but kneejerk deletions have happened before. But always on the forums.

      It's certainly worrying though; I feel like I should be careful what I say in public now (and that if my lenses crash tomorrow, I will blame enemy action, which would also hurt me if there was another issue I was overlooking...)

    2. I am good with 'police state' - I just feel like I am in one of the dystopian novels that I write about on Squidoo. We have got to the point where we have either been affected ourselves or know someone who has been. And so many of you are long time Squids who are so well respected by most of us.

    3. Ha, yeah. The really annoying part is when it started, it was mostly "fair enough" or "understandable friendly fire that will get fixed". But it just seems to be getting worse.

  3. WOW! Well Flynn I'm so sorry that Squidoo had the nerve to BAN you over this, but THANK YOU for taking a stand.

    1. It would have been nice to know I was taking a stand beforehand, I will admit ^_^

      And thanks.

  4. Hi Flynn,
    When your post here came through on my RSS feed I hadn't read the HQ post so I did that first. By that point it was a couple of days old with many comments and the first thing I noticed was that some people were apologizing for what they were saying. That was at the top; further down were several deleted comments. One I think was yours because there was a reply that mentioned your name, but there were others, and that was a surprise to me because I don't think I've ever seen deletions there before. I don't know who deleted them, the commenters or HQ, but these three things - the apologies, all those deletions, and your banning, all have me wondering what's going on there and if it's worth posting comments at all (and actually, why they even have a comments section if they don't want discussion or people disagreeing with them).

    Of course it possible they've blocked me too because my own comment there was about the apologies and the deletions and how much they concerned me... I don't know, I haven't been back to check. It's not really a big deal, I don't have as much invested in Squidoo as many others (and am fully prepared to my move my content if I need to). But I feel really bad for those who do.

    You have always been so helpful to me and I've enjoyed reading your lenses, I really like the way you write and your sense of humor. You are so talented that I'm sure things will work out for you in the long run, but in the meantime I just wanted you to know that you are still appreciated by some of us - even if you can't speak up in some areas.

    1. Thank you! Yeah; it's a bit weird. It has certainly triggered a surge in actually looking to move off Squidoo.

      Everyone was a bit shocked (I know I was!) because I don't THINK they usually delete things. The deleted comment was mine (actually, ALL my comments on that thread were deleted) and the replies to me were all people going "the comment above is hidden but I agree with it" basically. And they were all deleted in turn. Those were clearly removed for supporting my post, as they were all pretty polite. My favourite part is apparently my post had about 34 upvotes and still shows as the top "best" comment.

      Two or three other people were deleted/banned as well, though their posts were a bit grumpier than mine :D

      I think they aren't moderating/replying after a couple of days; I've been back and commented and nothing's happened since.

      If you do want to read all the deleted comments, they're over here

      I'm finding the whole thing both entertaining and frustrating. I am just going to go with the personal headcanon that they're jealous of the awesome shiny new forum I get to moderate and don't want me showing it off in their forums XD

      Thank you for commenting, anyway - it's really nice to hear I've actually managed to help out. And that my sense of humour hasn't utterly traumatised *everyone* that comes into contact with me!

    2. *24 votes, not 34. Anecdotally.


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