Sunday, January 8, 2006

Type in "best" and "espresso maker" into Google, and you'll have to sift through more than 200,000 results in your quest to score the perfect machine. Wouldn't it be great if there was a know-it-all you could turn to for a speedier answer? That's the idea behind Squidoo.com, where, as the slogan says, "everyone's an expert on something." The Web site's concept: Enthusiasts and aficionados create free single-page blogs called "lenses" dedicated to their favorite subjects, be they coffee makers, cars or calypso. "If there's a passionate person, they can have a lens," says Squidoo founder Seth Godin. Having launched to the public last month, the site already carries more than 10,000 such pages, devoted to subjects including microfinance, giraffes and the Dandy Warhols. Godin says that he hopes to see 100,000 by year's end.

But if anyone can be a self-appointed authority, how do you know that the information you're getting is good? The site doesn't offer any official evaluation of its lenses, but Godin is confident that the information economy will naturally sort the wheat from the chaff. "If we have a hundred lenses on a topic, the highest ranked will be the freshest, the most popular, the most useful," he says, "and the junk lenses will sink to the bottom."

Thanks to Squidoo's easy-to-implement template, creating a page of your own requires little effort -- and could offer a big payoff. Godin says that the company plans to start a profit-sharing system for participants based on ad sales and affiliate royalties from sites such as eBay and Amazon. If your lens includes links to buy stuff, you'll receive a commission. Greg Zinman

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