Today, Godin is hopeful that Squidoo, the innovative technology he currently uses, will soon become ubiquitous.
Godin started Squidoo, which has the clean feel of Google and the personal touch of About.com, partly because “most people who search online don’t find what they’re looking for,” he says. “They do really bad searches. No one’s ever bought anything online with just one click. They research it. They get the lay of the land, and then they take action.” In an ordeal that inspired the e-book Everyone’s an Expert, Godin spent more than three hours shopping online for an espresso machine: clicking, reading, backtracking, clicking, reading — until he found helpful information.
The idea behind Squidoo, Godin says, is to reduce the amount of time people spend chasing down useful information: “Here it all is, in one place, from a real human being who has no hidden agenda. This is just the good stuff.” To explain, Godin tells me about aardvarks. “I could build a lens [on Squidoo] about aardvarks. Maybe I’m a professor of aardvark technology. I could have pictures about aardvarks, books about aardvarks, notes about upcoming aardvark conventions, all sorts of information that, at a glance, would give people what they need to know to get started.”
A lens is a one-webpage introduction to any given topic, built by an expert or enthusiast, filled with useful links, and hosted on Squidoo.com. For example, lensmaster Ray Daly constructed a basic intro to Sudoku, the hot game of the moment, with an explanation of Sudoku mathematics and links to puzzle-subscription services. One of Squidoo’s most famous lensmasters, Dr. Jane Goodall, created a page about her life philosophies in connection with her work with chimpanzees and charities.
“The aardvark example I gave you sounded ridiculous on purpose, but every single day, thousands of people type ‘aardvark’ into a search engine,” Godin says. “We don’t need just Britney Spears and Paris Hilton covered; we need to cover things like aardvarks and espresso machines.”
One of Godin’s favorite examples of interesting lenses is geared toward fondue; the other, New York delis. “When you see one of these lenses that works, it becomes really clear to you that that’s the place you want to start,” he says. “If I were from Wisconsin, before I went to a deli in New York, I’d want to read this lens and understand which one to go to and where it is.”