Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Post the best photos on blog or social media. For that, learn image concepts, use the top editing app.

Look at these facts:
  • It is extremely easy to put photographs on the blog and social media.
  • All bloggers and social media users have mobile phones with cameras - and most have a smartphone, i.e. mobile phone with internet connection.
  • Most users of mobile phone cameras do not take care to use camera features properly and therefore the photographs have many deficiencies of composition, color, lighting etc. 
  • All bloggers need to put photographs on their blog posts because that increases visitors' stay on the blog and their grasping the content better. Photographs also come up when the post is shared on social platforms such as Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter.
  • Many bloggers now blog on Instagram, where images and video do the most of talking. Some ppublish long posts on Facebook and LinkedIn, without having a standalone blog.
  • Different social media platforms have their own optimal shapes and sizes of photographs. On most platforms, use of text over photos makes them special. Sometimes, special effects lift the mood of the photo.
  • New mobile phones come with apps for editing images. In addition, smartphones can download editing apps - many of them are available free.
  • Proper use of camera (even on cheap phones) and editing can improve the quality of photographs. It is very important because once a poor-quality photograph is posted on the web, it gives poor impression about the one who has posted the photo. On the other hand, a good photograph can win appreciation. For bloggers, it adds value to the text content on the blog.

You can draw this conclusion from the above:
One must use camera on mobile by making the best available features on it and then edit the picture for removing blemishes before putting the photographs on blogs and social networking/ sharing accounts.


mkobile phone photography

Minor editing of photographs is very easy

It is very easy to 'touch up' photographs and you do not need special skills for that. Similarly, adding effects to photographs is usually a one-click action on most apps. There are many free tools available for computers and mobile phones that do the job easily. These  beauty is that if you do not like some change, you can go back to the original picture and start again.

Some quick and easy photo shooting and editing tips

In fact, the quality of photograph depends more on how and in what situations it was shot. If you have a good sense of composition (how different elements are arranged in the frame) and lighting, you can shoot very good pictures from an elementary camera. Now most mobile phone cameras come with good size (in megapixels) and a number of settings but most mobile users have never tried to learn how they operate. Believe me, these are very simple to learn.

Then comes editing. Most of the times we need to just re-size the picture or adjust its colors and lighting, and these are very easy to do. Effects are even easier to apply and the results are instant.

You should note one important thing here: if you do not know the basics of how a setting or tool in the camera or app makes changes to the quality of picture, you will not be confident of using that setting or tool. More than that, unless you have the basic knowledge of how the digital pictures are created, edited and stored, you will not be able to appreciate why and how much you should play with colors, lighting etc. It also helps to know some very important concepts that go with digital pictures (e.g. contrast, transparency, color intensity, blur, text overlay).

You can read these concepts on the web. If you want to learn them in a compact ebook, you can consider buying Better Digital Images from Amazon. It will take you through all the basic concepts of digital images and also give you numerous tips on photography.

Go for a mobile photo editing app if you do not want major image editing 

There are hundreds of apps on Google Play Store as welll as iPhone App Store that can carry out image editing. However, I find that Snapseed is the best app available at present.

Snapseed has a long list of editing features and can also apply numerous effects on photos. No learning is required; however, since there are so many options available, initially you might get confused on how much of an effect would be the best for a photograph. (If you know the basic concepts, it becomes very easy to choose the right tools and apply them to the right amount.)

mobile phone photo app

This app has long back received the recognition as the 'app of the year' on App Store. It is a Google product. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Live blogging: some organizations use it so brilliantly!

Live blogging (as defined in The Manual of Blogging) is when the blog runs updates on an event in a single post. The post is ‘live’ for a specified period (say, 24 hours) during which it carries updates on the event, the latest being on top. This can be called precursor of today's micro-blogging/ social networking (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) and chat (e.g. WhatsApp) timelines.

You might think that in this age of every event being relayed realtime on Twitter and chat apps, there is no place for more 'traditional looking' ways of sharing updates. Add to that the constant blaring of 'live reports' by television channels and thier apps, and live events on Facebook/ YouTube/ Twitter - and there seems no scope for a slower way of web-based reporting on events.

what is live blog?
Yet, live blogging is live and kicking! The use of live blogging by some organizations, including prominent news sites, shows that at times less visual and instant modes of communication are even more powerful than the happening media. Yes, when they are used for more grounded and serious updating of events. There is more scope for engagement and putting different points of views. Though Facebook/ Twitter/ YouTube live events or hangouts have a text comment stream running along side the video, that is too transitional for a more considered discussion/ arguments.

Let me give two recent examples of good live blogging: Take the case of Wired, the popular tech web-magazine. It ran a live blog to report Apple's launch of  new iPads and Macbooks.

Take another example. The Guardian, the highly reputed UK newspaper/ news website ran a live blog for giving updates on Hurricane Michael that devasted Florida and nearby areas in the US in October. During the peak, it had fresh news every 15 seconds or so. You can see the thread here (might go away after a while): Hurricane Michael updates on the Guardian.



The blog 'Blogging The Boys' must find an honrable mention whenever we talk of live blogging. This blog is devoted to the fan community of US football team Dallas Cowboys. The blog is always abuzz with activity, and its posts generate a lot of discussion around the topics that are carried on posts giving news on the team.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Travel bloggers fall to death while taking selfie

Two young Indian travel bloggers fell off a cliff at Yosemite National Park, California on Tuesday.

It is reported that the Indian travel blogging couple Vishnu Viswanath and Meenakshi Moorthy were taking selfie at Taft Point and a slip took them 800 feet down.

The Instagram blog of theirs shows how much they loved traveling and sharing their photographs on their blog. As in the case of most Instagrammers, they seem to be in a great hurry to turn top Instagram bloggers.

It so happened that Meenakshi, in hair dyed deep red, was captured just before their fall, on the selfie being taken by another Instagram blogger duo [dreaslaugh].

blogger-selfie
Meenakshi seen in the background, at Taft Point.

Ironical that on one of her Instagram post a few months back, Meenakshi had written this:
Sooo today on #socialmediabadasstribe we are talking about limits of #doitforthegram.😶Yeah sure it can be limitless but guys, we reaaaallly need to have boundaries(this is handy as life lessons too but we will revisit that later😉)
A lot of us including yours truly is a fan of daredevilry attempts of standing at the edge of cliffs ⛰and skyscrapers🌆, but did you know that wind gusts can be FATAL??? ☠️ Is our life just worth one photo?

Let the craft of writing not die... and how blogging can help

If I tell you that people are writing less than they used to write a generation back, you would perhaps not agree. You might say that even if writing on paper might have gone down, writing on the web and social media has more than compensated it.

The total weight of written words has definitely gone up due to rise in population, much higher level of economic activity and much much higher content generation on the social media. People are sharing content and commenting on social media all the time and generating billions of words a day, but if we exclude short and transitional content on social networks and chat apps, perhaps not much of substance is really being written.

Add to that the trend of sharing feelings and events through emojis, photos and videos. Use of photographs started with the advent of digital cameras, then cameras being available on mobile phones, then mobile cameras getting high-tech and enoght bandwidth being available to upload and download, and then social platforms making it easy to share videos. The trend towards videos is only rising and pundits predict that by 2020, 70 percent of web traffic will be in the form of videos. Add to that the coming of virtual assistants and improvements in speech recognition technology. These developments are making sure that talking to a machine would replace most of the writing that we do. That means, in a few years from now you will not need to write/ type out things unless you force yourself to do so.

blogging for writing

Having videos and photos to express yourself is fine, more so as it is less burdonsome and more effective than expressing in print. But there is a very dark side of the coin: people - especially the young ones - developing a dislike for writing. If you find the argument of no significance or too sweeping, I request you to read on for another one minute. (Again, you might not like to read further... because it also is in print and not as an image or a video!)

It is documented that children's capacity to write and do maths has been decreasing over the years, and the phenomenon is global. Many teachers have written on their blogs and have shared in other places that kids do not like to write essays or do creative writing. And since it does not pay in terms of better marks in higher classes or in employment, parents also do not see any value in teaching writing skills to their children.

Juxtapose that with how languages all over the world are growing: many non-English people have stopped communicating in their mother tongues and many languages that do not have value in finding employment or influencing marketing decisions are are being shunned by the new generation. So, the market is driving the adoption of English at the cost of native languages.

Come back to writing. Since the market and socio-technical forces are going against expressing oneself in written word, the will to write will diminish by the day and would find few takers like the native languages. There would be very little inducement to write, and only a bunch of people would continue to express themeselves in writing. If the trend continues, the toddler of today - when he becomes a teen and has all the gadgetry and virtual assistants in her command - would sure abhor the idea of writing or reading.

Blogging can promote good writing


Here comes the role of blogging. Blogging can be a very useful tool in the hands of young and old alike for expressing themselves in different ways including by writing down their feelings, their logic, their ideas.

Children, when induced to blogging at an early age, have been found to enjoy writing. Empirical studies have shown that students' ability to express themselves shows significant improvement - and that applies to small kids as well as university goers. Many examples of how children's focus, confidence, team-spirit and creativity have improved after they adopted blogging can be seen on educational blogs (edublogs).

Children who enjoy blogging are more likely to appreciate others' creativity and thus develop a natural appreciation of arts and literature, which lead to more humanized humans and more evolved civilizations.

Adults' writing abilities too can improve if they do blogging: not for money but for expressing themselves. Besides improving their writing skills, blogging can give them confidence as a writer. I have seen a number of bloggers who have published books after blogging on the subject for a while, many are able to write on the mainstream press based on their blogging experience. (Well, let me share that the two books that I have published recently are in a way an outcome of blogging.)  

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A mommy blogger's advice to other bloggers.

Mommy blogging is one of the most popular blogging niche among women bloggers. This becomes the best place to share their motherhood and tips they themselves have learnt during the motherhood journey.

But there is a dark side to it. Katie Paulson could not be wrong because she has learnt her lesson after suffering due to her indiscretions.
Before I share what Katie has shared in her blog recently about blogging by mothers, let me tell that she maintains a blog that is well-read and she is happy about blogging - after she changed course.

The mistakes this mommy blogger made


Katie shared too much about her son till he was six, so much that complete strangers meeting them in public places would know the child by his name! Only when he was six did she realized that she was depriving herself and her child of privacy that was very much essential.

The child had multiple ailments and she had all the problems that come with such a situation and she would compose her posts on each of them and got kick out of people's validation.

She very candidly shares that she become so much of herself - thinking that what she shared was worth getting approbation all the time - that it ruined her social life.

As happens with all bloggers who expose themselves on the social media, she would get all types of responses - many of nasty kind. That too was avoidable.

mom blogging

And this comment from Katie perhaps applies to many mom bloggers: they are not experts but after having become a mom, give all sorts of advice to curious would-be moms and new moms.
You can visit the post from Katie here: 4 WaysMommy Blogging Disrupted and Harmed My Life

It is a good reminder for mommy bloggers that while this blogging niche is quite rewarding in many ways, the blogger must be discreet in what and how much she shares.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A fashion blogger who now has a clothing line!

This is the story of a lady who nine years back was in college yet and studying psychology and had started blogging to impress her date. And today she is a formidable name in fashion blogging.

When instead of focusing on psychology, Arielle Charnas would spend time on blogging, her parents thought something had gone wrong with her. A network was building around her but brands did not take notice of her: that were her initial blogging years.

Well, blogging did not grow in a straight line. She was spotted by a clothing company that offered her a job of styling clothes and acting as their model too. Then she got a contract with TreSemme.

The blog's progress was good, she was getting more attention and more jobs, and fashion blogging had become her career. But it was plateauing... and then came Instagram. For the type of niche she is in (i.e. fashion), nothing could have been better. Arielle is a big Instagram influencer, with over 131 thousand followers.


marvelous fashion blog

Arielle's blog, Something Navy, is now the fulcrum of her blogging that has become multi-faceted.  She is a mother now, and has to apportion time to her home and office. But she is a businesswoman as much as a blogger. She has an office, half-a-dozen staff including those for social media and photography. She has recently started a clothing line with the same name: Something Navy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Bloggers as influencers: excerpts from 'The Manual of Blogging'

The following is an excerpt from the chapter, Blogs as Influencers' of 'The Manual of Blogging'. 

... the importance of blogs as the prime social media entities has gone down but they have become increasingly more mature in content and design. In addition, the advances in web technologies have made blogs functionally more advanced for the users. It is implied that these developments have made blogs more valuable in the eyes of marketers and common visitors.

On the other hand, there are skeptics who feel that individual blogs hardly have the power to influence people’s decisions...

On the web, especially social media, traffic is often taken as a measure of one’s influence, but visitors do not necessarily visit a website/ social networking platform/ blog because they are influenced, nor do all visitors take a decision under the influence of the site they visit. In fact, most of the time the visit is likely to be inconsequential as far as influence on the visitor is concerned. Blogs and other websites with erotic photographs and social accounts on adult jokes are quite popular. There is nothing fake or reciprocal about their following, but they would hardly be taken seriously when it comes to taking life decisions or decisions on financial matters. There would also not be a useful association between the advertisements served on such sites/ blogs and the buying needs of visitors. On the other hand, when the message is powerful and the blog/ blogger has the required credibility, they have the potential to convince and encourage people to think and act in a certain way.

Learners in various fields regularly visit established blogs in their niche. Experts’ blogs on technology, coding, investment and stock markets, recipes, motherhood, beauty, health and travel do receive quite a number of such visitors. Many savvy bloggers who are seen as an authority on their subject get many queries and take time to respond to them. Needless to say, a recommendation by such bloggers would be highly valued by their regular visitors.

 Blogs as Marketing Influencers 

There are thousands of blogs on which bloggers write about the quality of products and services. They come in various forms such as blogs that review specific books, movies, hotels, cafes, houses, software, gadgets, garments and so on; blogs that promote products and services of selected brands; and blogs that comment on the quality aspects of products and services in general. It has been found in some consumer surveys that blogs, as a group, influence purchase behavior of people more than social networking platforms and commercial review sites...

Some research is available in which blogs with good content in paying niches such as travel and fashion are found to have a definite influence on buying decisions of visitors and followers. There are a number of big affiliate networks globally and locally, which arrange advertisements on blogs/ websites on behalf of their corporate clients. It is well-known that a very large number of bloggers make regular income through these affiliate advertisements, showing that such blogs are able to influence buying decisions.

Being interactive and also with unlimited scope to explain things in detail, blogs score over print media, television channels and posters/ hoardings in influencing opinion...

Social Media Influencers 

... The word ‘social media influencer’ has gained popularity in recent years. This term is used for describing people with large following on social media. Their claim is that since they have a huge herd following them, their word matters a lot when it comes to people buying a product or service... Mere traffic (or follower count) is not a good measure of influence.

Bloggers as Influencers in Making Political Decisions

... The jury is out on whether messages on blogs and social networking and chat sites can influence people enough to change their political views and to vote for a particular party/ leader. In most cases, the noise on the social media seems to be based on people’s pre-conceived opinions.

Does Blogging Influence Employment Decisions? 

... Professional networking giant LinkedIn promotes blogging on its platform and many employers are known to look at these blogs in deciding a person’s suitability for a particular job/ assignment. A number of employing agencies have gone on record stating that they take inputs from the web entities of prospective employees, and blogs are an important input to assess a person’s personal traits and professional competence...

social media influencers
Can your blog be an influencer in times of social media overkill?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Governments on social media: as deficient as ever!

The latest report by Hootsuite on use of social media by governments gives me a feeling of déjà vu [=lived before]

Five years back I had published an article in the Indian Journal of Public Administration, titled 'Social Media: Are Governments Using Its Potential For Citizen Engagement And Socio-economic Development?'. Over years, I have been watching governments of different countries and at different levels, and have mostly been finding my initial observations getting validated again and again.

Many things have changed in the technological scene in the last five years, e.g. mobile phone has  become the preferred device to access the web, leave alone the social; video has become much more important; internet has penetrated the globe much more; social media is being used for spreading hatred and fake news and crimes, new social media platforms have arisen. Yet, most governments have changed little, and when some of them have changed, they rest on their laurels and convince themselves that it is the maximum one can achieve!


Governments, even of advanced countries, are slow to learn, innovate, adopt, adapt.


Hootsuite study on governments' use of social media in 2018 [link below] tells in detail about the failings of governments when it comes to engaging with citizens. I have summarized here the salient observations in the report. Forgive me some tinkering here and there.


  • Governments have failed to use social media for improving efficiencies and service delivery. The traditional call centers in the US, for example, cost the exchequer billions and yet government offices do not use social media effectively to redress grievances.
  • Much of public budget on outreach goes to traditional media. Traditional PR, issue of releases, press trips, traditional advertising. This happens in the US even when 42% Americans say that Facebook is their first source of news while just 20% depend on the traditional media for news.
  • Quantity is taken as the proof of social change. A million messages bombarded through SMSs and chat messages are taken as proof of reaching the masses and engaging with them. 
  • Governments do not care to leverage the demographic targeting that is possible through social media. If they do, that is for political reasons, not for reaching messages and help to citizens.
  • Not many governments are meaningfully engaging with citizens to understand their problems and seek suggestions. 85% of time, government agencies treat social media platforms as 'notice boards'. Governments and their agencies come at no. 3 from the bottom when it comes to social media engagement!
  • Most people are always connected and are getting used to getting useful messages and offers from savvy companies. Governments do not bother; at best, they make some announcements. Thus, they hardly come up to the expectations of citizens, who are used to better communication from companies, in delivery of services and useful information.
  • People's trust in governments has been declining; it is found that people trust peer much more than governments. The trust goes down further when government communication does not look authentic.
  • Governments lack transparency in their communication. That also leads to lack of trust.
  • Government media functionaries are unsure of their communication. Their response mostly is like recorded messages. Informal communication - which moves social media - is discouraged in governments. 
  • Government are not doing enough to adapt to the fast changes that technology brings. If a social media initiative is taken, that remains there even though the technology has changed by leaps and has become much more efficient.
  • Governments do not have the culture of promoting good Samaritans among the public and employees, and using social media to amplify the goodness.



A government cannot expect people to blindly trust it
and be swayed by its tunes on social media.


A low bottom throws possibility of a high jump 

We hear stories of effective use of social media by a city police office, a local government, a health or agriculture department, a social security office and so on. These are often due to the zeal of one or a few committed persons, and the zeal fizzles out after the initial high or when the leading person/ group takes some other assignment.

We also sometimes hear how social media saved many lives during a natural calamity. This usually happens spontaneously because citizens have the tools of mobile phone and social media. Governments chip in with some information, but not as the torch-bearers of a well thought-after and rehearsed social media strategy. The report gives an interesting comparison: The Federal Emergency Management Agency of the USA had, before hurricane season in 2017, just 634000 Twitter followers while Kim Kardashian had 54.8 million!

I had earlier argued why top brass of companies must blog. The report also underlines the importance of social engagement from the people who run a company. This applies to the government even more than a company for more reasons than one: some services are available only from government agencies, governments are elected entities, government agencies use public money and are accountable to the citizens, government actions have far-reaching consequences, many government actions have legal weight behind them. Yet, not many at the top of governments engage with citizens; most of those who are active on social media post their engagements, speeches etc - well, that is better than no communication, but is that the best use of social media for public good?

It is often said in defense of governments not being proactive on social media, that all governmental actions are open to public scrutiny, at least in functioning democracies, and this makes government functionaries prone to one-sided criticism, ridicule and legal complications even at the slightest mistake or even for taking a stand. A recent American judgement forcing a government official to unblock her Facebook page to critical visitors is a case in point. The information law (e.g. Freedom of Information Acts of Australia, UK and USA; Right to Information Act of India) can be used to ask uncomfortable questions to a public functionary who might be active on social media for public good. But are these not part of the game even in traditional media and other public discourse? These cannot be the excuse for not harnessing the full potential of social media for public good. A proactive government is expected to remove impediments in the way of better use of social media, for example by making its conversations transparent, training functionaries to respond correctly, and being large-hearted enough to respect genuine feedback.

The low quantity and - more important - quality of social media engagement by governments has its big plus point: there are many low-lying fruits. Governments and their agencies that have lagged behind in adopting social media can jump to a good level with very little effort. Those who have social media entities but have been using them for one-way communication and have been dealing with public criticism high-handedly have a chance to humanize their social media communication. Those with successes worth sharing need to keep innovating and making the engagement more effective and result-oriented. There are countless ways social media can be used for checking corruption, efficient service delivery, spreading social messages, cautioning citizens against social evils and fake news, giving information on welfare schemes, real-time communication during calamities, and so on.

That takes me to one of my earlier takes on the subject: the main reasons for poor social media effectiveness of government efforts is lack of intent rather than  lack of technical capabilities or imagination. The Hootsuite report is a testimony to that: governments remain what they are: not willing enough to change enough.

The Hootsuite report can be accessed at this link: The State of Social Media in Government in 2018If you are a civil servant dealing with social media for governments, do read the report in full as it contains many practical ideas.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Do you post pictures regularly on blog or social networks?

Disclosure: This is an advertorial. 😊

If you are one of the following, this post may be of great value to you:

1. If you regularly publish pictures on the web...
You might be sharing pictures regularly on your blog, Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram or other social sharing account or on WhatsApp. This, despite not having a fair understanding of how digital pictures work, how they can be improved upon, and what precautions you must take while posting pictures on the web or using a picture available on the web.

Don't you think you need to have a better understanding on the subject? Mr. Slater recently faced a crippling legal case after taking a money's selfie!

image-editing-digital-photography

2. If you don't know how to take care of thousands of valuable pictures on your phone/ laptop...
You keep on clicking, thanks to the ubiquitous mobile phone camera, so your phone, laptop and drives are full of pics you don't know what to do and how long they'd last.
In addition, you might have memories from he past - prints that are getting pale, pics from your digital camera, pics sent by friends and relatives.

Do you know how to take care of old pics, and how to name digital pictorial resources for efficient retrieval? What formats and media they must be stored in so that they do not get corrupted/ lost over time?

3. If you have small kids and want to streamline their energy creatively into digital sketching, painting or photography, but do not have the basics clear so as to guide them...
Responsible parents want to make their kids creative, and nothing beats arts and photography when it comes to creativity.

As a parent, do you know what all are the dimensions of pictures, now that everything is digital? Can you hand-hold your kid towards creativity that has no bounds?

4. If you are a photographer but do not have full understanding of digital pictures OR
if you are a digital picture editor without good understanding of digital photography.
Don't you think, you need to learn the other side so as to get the best out of your profession?

In all these situations - and many more - a small investment made in understanding digital images and learning the tricks of the trade will go a long way.

There is this ebook 'Better Digital Images', available at $3.75 at Amazon. It covers all the above and much more, in simple language and with illustrations. To read the ebook, you need not have a Kindle reader. You can read the book on your smartphone, tab or laptop.

Major Chapters:
Image concepts - image editing - digital cameras - digital photography - file conversion - digital art - caring for images - images on the web - special images (selfies, favicons, infographics, panoramas) - selling pictures - printing

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Social media: how it is destroying lives of young girls

Beware parents of young girls. You will be mortally shocked if you read the linked article. It is not a hearsay or an unfounded scary piece floating on WhatsApp. It is real, and you must read it. After you have had the shock, you must prepare how to deal with the stark reality of social media playing havoc with innocent girls.

A girl in herearly teens, when her body is showing signs of growing in a sexy way, when she is so innocent about how she could be getting exploited and compromised,  when she is highly influenced by peer pressure... she tend to do things that she should not have done. Not doing such things makes her unwanted in her social group and then one from the same group starts exploiting her.

Moreover, going a 'small' step into nudity, 'sexting' and being seen 'hotter' as compared to the one she is jealous of are considered 'cool', and thus she starts accepting these actions as normal. That is worse, because when that happens, she stops listening to any sane counsel from parents or her more sensible friends.


Parents need to be careful of such trends and take pre-emptive actions. Perhaps being caring and sharing from the very beginning is one of the best antidotes. Even when she has succumed to peer pressure and done something wrong, supporting her and always remaining communicative are very important. Taking psychiatric counseling, involving school, legal action... whatever action is required to bring the girl back to normal must be taken as early as possible.

You can read the article I mentione above, here. It is a slightly old post but as relevant today: New York Post article on how social media is destroying the lives of teen girls.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Blog Compass - Google announces a blogging app!

Google is promoting blogging in a new way: through mobile phone app. And it has aptly named the app Blog Compass.

The app is not only for Google's own blogging platform Blogger, but for rival Wordpress also (both the free platform and Wordpress software for self-hosted blogs).

Still in beta (final testing) stage, the app has the following main features:

  • One-stop blogging solution: track site views, moderate comments, see when a post is visible on Google search.
  • Sends Google trends for giving topic ideas. These are based on the blog's topic and blogger's preferences and blogging history.
  • Gives tips to make the blog successful.
  • In English and Hindi.

Blog Compass app is available in Google Play Store.

Google has currently released Blog Compass as an 'only in India' app.

Update: The app is working fine for Wordpress blogs but has issues in connecting Blogger blogs.

Monday, September 10, 2018

How is Gutenberg going to change blogging in Wordpress?

Wordpress has been working seriously on a development project called Gutenberg that will give new user experience to bloggers and website makers in

  • creating psots with rich content easily, and
  • making the design with 'blocks' that would make it easy to embed conent without having to use shortcodes or custom HTML.

It already has created some plugins to enable these features but Gutenberg would make it mainstream.

Blocks would make it easy and more customizable to put elements other than just text on pages and posts. Blocks based positioning of content is likely to give a new editing and publishing experience to bloggers who use Wordpress CMS.

Even paragraphs would be individual blocks and thus it would be easy to re-position them without messing up underlying code and formatting.

Working with blocks for text editing in Gutenberg:
taken from Wordpress website

Gutenberg is likely to be released in a few months from now, perhaps before December 2018, as part of Wordpress 5.0. Some Wordpress users in some countries have started getting an offer to try Gutenberg option in their blog dashboard.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Learning new things when it is not forced upon you is sheer joy!

Many of us have gone through an education system in which learning things was a burden, and we hated what the system thought was best for making us a learned person. Many of us have also undergone additional 'learning' for beating others in competitive examinations. Then, not all of us have got the job in the field of our passion, and the trainings that the employer thought were good for upgrading our skills were not always fulfilling.

Learning has seldom been a fun, leave aside joy. And one day when we are old, we think we are really too old for learning.

So, those of us whose college life is over, and those who do not need to learn new things beyond  tricks of  their profession or career, and those who are past their 40's, 50's, 60's or 70's - all have stopped learning unless we have kept our learning spirit alive.

Speaking on age, Osho has often said that you start aging when you stop learning, and you get stony when you stop to learn. A long but quotable quote from the great observer of human life and society:
And when I say be like a child I mean always remain learning, never become knowledgeable. Go on learning; learning is totally different. Knowledge is a dead phenomenon, learning is an alive process. And the learner has to remember this: he cannot function from the standpoint of knowledge.

Have you not watched and observed it? Little children learn so fast. If a child lives in a multi-lingual atmosphere he learns all the languages. He learns the language that the mother speaks, the father speaks, the neighbors speak - he may learn three, four, five languages very easily, with no problem. Once you have learned a language then it becomes very difficult to learn another language because now you start functioning from the standpoint of knowledge.

It is said, you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. It is true. But what makes a dog old?  Not physical age, because a Socrates goes on learning to the very end, even while he is dying. A Buddha goes on learning to the very end. What makes a dog old? Knowledge makes a dog old.

Buddha remains young, Krishna remains young. We have not a single statue of Buddha which depicts him as old, or of Krishna which depicts him as old. Not that they never became old: Krishna lived up to the age of eighty, became very old, but something in him remained always young, childlike. He continued to function from the state of not-knowing.

So first, when I say be like a child I mean be total. The second thing is remain a learner, function from the state of not-knowing.
Being a child - well, that is not easy to achieve and I am too small to dilate on that aspect. Learning: on this, I can try to suggest some resources. Again, whether we learn and enjoy this learning or acquire just the knowledge - that too is beyond me to advise about. I will talk about the mundane.


While earning our livelihood, we keep learning about our profession or business, and we can enriching our knowledge beyond what is required. And learning becomes deeply satisfying and fulfilling when we learn things beyond that.

Learning need not be measured, nor does it need to be certified, but it helps when someone else  tells you how much you have learned, isn't it? There are many free and paid resources that teach you and give you certificates too.

Here I list some online institutions that you can use for learning things that have not been part of your life so far.  Modules are available on all conceivable subjects and of all levels. Why not try one of them and learn in our free time, something related (if we love that) or not related with our bread and butter? Why not take a photography course? Or have the fun of learning simple HTML coding, which you dreaded so far? Or learn governance topics that always eluded you? Or learn tricks of investing? Or just learn how things around you work? Or just train your aging brain to work better? Why not try to fathom what eludes the mankind - things spiritual and things at the edge of science?

Project Guttenberg
For those interested in reading free and copyright-free ebooks - from classics to some new ones - this is the place to go. Boasts of over 57000 books, and the stock is likely to go up fast in 2019.

Lumosity
This website and its app have numerous brain training games to keep your brain active and healthy why you have fun!

HowStuffWorks
As the name indicates, this site has great resources on how things work. A minefield of information for a curious mind, including podcasts and videos.

Quora
The most popular question-answer website, with community participation that results in different shades of replies to each question.

Ted
Nothing beats ted when you want to learn from those who have succeeded in their field and people with great ideas. There are thousands of videos of people delivering lectures on different walks of life.

Instructables
If you are experimental and creative with crafts and DIY, this is a great place to share and learn. From building a jet to 3D printing to design and repairing stuff and learning how things work.

Though YouTube is full of how-to and tutorials, not all are of good quality, and many have been produced by non-professionals claiming to be experts. Be careful in selecting them.

There also are thousands of ebooks on all subjects, and the ones provided free (e.g. as a gift when you subscribe to their updates) by experts are often of high quality. Again, not all are good.

There are many other resources including some websites that offer online degrees and courses, and have a free section fro lower-end courses. For example, OpenLearn offers over nine hundred free courses on many subjects, and Code Academy has many free basic course on coding.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Offer of free blog review ends tomorrow!

Just to remind blogger friends that if you had been wanting a free blog review from me and have not yet applied for that, the review window is open for another 30 hours, i.e. till the end of 31st August.

You can visit this link for details: blog review offer

free blog review offer

Sunday, August 26, 2018

CEOs and top officers lose so much for NOT blogging!

Should senior officers spend time blogging?


Natural question.

Someone who has not applied his/ her mind to this question would perhaps give a straight answer, 'NO'. And there would be many reasons for that, e.g.
  • It is a sheer waste of time. The time you would spend on your blog can get you much better gains if you spend the same on your business/ career.
  • People in higher positions cannot afford to indulge in gossiping or writing a diary or a low-level hobby such as blogging.
  • It does not serve a business interest, not definitely in my area of work.
  • Blogging is for people who have too much time in hand and no productive work to do.
  • It is boring. You cannot sustain it.
  • My company advises not to be on the web except for promotion of the company and its products.
  • I have not seen many CEOs or Chairmen blogging. The few old guys who blog have lived their life and use the blog for sermonizing.
  • Blogging would hurt if you showcase your talent and ideas on the blog and the bosses don't like that. It has the potential to damage one's career and reputation if accidentally something unwanted gets posted.
So, why indulge in something that gives no earth-shaking dividends and is a recipe for accidental disaster?

Well, if you applied the same amount of skepticism to many other things you do, including networking, hunting for the next job, socializing in after-office hours, making presentations and speeches, etc, you'e find them even more risky. Since you are likely to get direct results due to such activities, the risks are worth taking, isn't it?

Let me show you that blogging is even more paying, some of it indirectly. Let me show how it acts as a multiplier of other actions that you take for career promotion, building a personal brand, creating a fan following, improving employee relationships and so on - what can be assets for senior managers, CEOs and thought leaders in general.

In the linked article, Peter Aceto, ex-CEO of Tangerine Bank, has made this beautiful observation about blogging by CEOs:
But perhaps we're asking the wrong thing—whether CEOs should "blog."
Instead, how about this question: As leaders, are we reluctant to see the value in transparency and embrace it?
If you're thinking this is about social media, you’re wrong: This is about finding a better way to lead, to govern, and to do business. It's about transparency.
I tossed this question around and got another remarkable argument about blogging by senior managers:
Blog if your competition is not blogging. That will keep you ahead as a leader with content. Blog if your competition is already blogging. And do that right now.
Bill Gates blog: global leadership, social good

As a senior functionary or thought leader who is not blogging yet, I would request you to please take a walk with me, slowly, step by step.

What type of a blog you are talking about?

I am talking about a professional blog, which can be part of the company portal or a stand-alone one (better). It can have a personal section or (if you already have a big following, e.g. you are Chairman/ CEO of Facebook, Apple, Infosys or L&T) you can sometimes share your personal experiences for others' benefit.

I am also talking about a personal blog not directly related to your company. It can be an extension of your thinking side, sharing side, human side.

How big should the blog be?

It can be a free blog on Blogger or Wordpress (Amitabh Bachan, 76, runs a blog on Tumblr, a platform reported to be more popular among juveniles, and posts daily). Better is to have a standalone blog. Maintaining a Blogger blog and mapping it to an independent URL costs just $10 a year; maintaining a Wordpress blog in the same way costs $25 a year or so. A self-hosted blog costs $30 a year onward. Active politicians who have a big blog (personal website) with many sections have to go for self-hosted option but others can manage with simple blogs.

The blog can indeed be very simple in structure and much of its secondary data can be automated, so that it does not need much maintenance.

Any type of blog can easily be integrated with social networking accounts such as Twitter.

How frequently should I write articles?

Not too frequently. Once in a week might be good enough. Even lesser.

What type of articles should I write on the blog?

If you are the top guy, you should write articles with meat, articles that people would refer, articles that give insight into the industry or a social/ socio-economic development; posts that give the direction to future.

Your articles (called 'posts' in blogging parlance) should usually be on professional matters. Once in a while you can think of sharing an experience.

You could sometimes be announcing some new thinking or development within your company.

Your association with company's social activities could also be shared once in six months or so.

If you are in the middle rung of the ladder, a personal blog would suit you quite well. Participate in the company's internal blogging if available. Write progressive articles and avoid sharing any information or thoughts that your bosses will not like.

If you already are a thought leader, sky is the limit for your blogging. But do not make the blog a loud-speaker or a place to sermonize. Rather, share ideas.

What about internal blogging?

That is an option, and is much better than the routine, customary messages from the top brass. You could be writing a blog on the company intranet and encourage other top officers also  to blog. That is a good way to communicate on managerial and professional matters and/ or connect with employees.

Effectively done, internal blogging can help develop a trustful and participative corporate culture. It can help reduce tensions, factionalism and mistrust if already there.

Well, you can have an internal blog for communication with employees in a more informal way, and another for yourself. Remember that internal blogs have limitation in terms of what you write and who all read it.

My company website does have a Chairman's section, and I have a social media team. I ask them to write in this and other social places on my behalf. They show the draft to me so it has my stamp. Is that not enough?

That depends. Most CEOs seem to be satisfied with it. If your online personality is to remain limited to that, at least be informal and write the stuff yourself (or re-write the draft submitted to you) so that it shows your own thoughts and perspective.

Is a LinkedIn account not good enough?

LinkedIn is supposed to be the social network of choice for professionals, and LinkedIn itself now allows you to post articles. However, since a stand-alone blog is a much more valuable property, I propose that you write posts on your blog and post their extract on LinkedIn, and then link the two.

Do CEOs really blog?


Most top executives have some sort of online presence including those of Fortune 500 companies. However, very few of them maintain a blog and their blogs tend to be uni-directional and dull. Uni-directional in that the guy talks so that others listen and follow, and there is no conversation. Dull in that the talks do not inspire, they do not come from a thought leader... in most cases the boss's talk is as if he/ she is reading the annual report or a press release.

Yet, a good number of senior functionaries blog, and their blogs inspire. Among those who regularly blog, I give here a small list of blogs of top company executives and sundry thought leaders:
  • Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, maintains a very resourceful blog, gatesnotes.
  • Matt Mullenweg, the founder and CEO of Automattic, the company that runs Wordpress, maintains a personal blog.
  • Kevin Roberts is the founder of Red Rose Consulting. His blog KR Connect is a free blog on Blogger!
  • Tom Glocer is ex-CEO, Thomson Reuters and started blogging when he still was CEO of the world's largest news agency. His blog: Tom Glocer's Blog
  • George Colony's blog: an example of a CEO writing regular posts on the blog section of his company Forrester's portal.
  • Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn and now a Partner in Greylock, maintains a blog.
  • Richard Branson, the head of Virgin group of companies, also writes a blog regularly on his company's portal.
  • Bill Mariott, Chairman of Mariott International, maintains a blog, Mariott on the Move.
  • Larry Gaynor is President and CEO of TNG Worldwide. His blog: The CEO's Blog
  • Matt Cutts, the head of Google's US Digital Service explains technical matters and developments relating to his company and else, in his blog, Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO. The entire SEO community looks forward to his next post.
  • Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, very regularly posts on her personal blog.
  • Amitabh Bachan - voted as the actor of the century, he finds time to publish a post every day on his blog, Bachan Bol.
  • Arun Jaitley, India's finance minister, writes regularly on financial and policy matters.
  • Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and CTO of HubSpot has a blog on startups and related matters, OnStartups.com.
Dharmesh Shah blog: serious industry talk

Can you tell me what advantages I will have and after how much blogging?

There can be different scenarios and one size does not fit all. The type of online presence you should have depends on your personal and company's goals from such a presence. As the list above shows, even very busy CEOs can blog if they decide to, and their blogs are indeed quite insightful.

Again, your goal would decide whether you should write about personal thoughts and experiences or on company and industry matters. You might have sensed that there are advantages of both, in different ways. So, it is your call to choose one of them, or - if you have so much to share and can get time to compose posts - you can choose both!

The above discussion would give you a fair idea that blogging is useful in more ways than one, for the officer/ manager/ CEO as well as the organization he/ she is a part of. Let me sum up the gains that the top brass and his/ her organisation makes by blogging:

  • If you are the top functionary, it gives your organization a face. You, the head, talking with the people your company wants to address makes a direct contact and high impact. Your explaining a difficult situation or preparing staff/ clients for a new development is much more genuine and carries much more weight than a press release, even a conference.
  • Your blog becomes a great communication channel for you and your organization. And for you, it can remain so beyond your narrow official position.
  • Blog, inherently being a refreshing web entity, gets good search engine optimization (SEO), thus helping in web-discovery of your company.
  • Nothing beats a blog - not a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter account, nor an occasional speech on the company website - in establishing you as a leader, an expert, a brand. Over a long period, the blog can multiply your potential as a thought leader in your field or in general. You can make your blog the fulcrum of your brand-building and integrate Twitter etc with it; that way, you leverage the best qualities of different media. 
  • The blog acts as a repository of wisdom, as against information. If you can think beyond the topline and bottomline in the balance sheet, you would know the importance of such an invaluable resource.
  • Contrary to the general impression among professionals and senior officers about blogging, it has been found empirically that blogging can boost one's business and career in many ways. The space here is not enough to show the surveys and studies, or go into the arguments. I have given a full chapter on business blogging in The Manual of Blogging (Forgive me if it looks like self-promotion, but the chapter is really relevant for those undecided about the importance of blogging for businesses.)
  • Blogging, let me repeat, need not be a burden on your time and energy. It should be a natural extension of yourself. You can blog once in a while or everyday depending upon your busyness and your creative urge. If it is part of the company's blog, be regular. Never forget to acknowledge good suggestions and feedback; never take offence to criticism; yet, never allow people to take you for granted.

When you - the CEO or a senior officer - should NOT blog


Blogging is likely to be counter-productive:

  • If you think of the blog merely/ primarily as an instrument for PR or career progression.
  • If you would use the blog for one-way communication, i.e. use it as an additional channel to make speeches or send routine messages to employees. 
  • If do not have a commitment towards your company; you are not prepared to be authentic.
  • If you would depend upon others to write posts on your behalf.

Blogging best practices


Blogging needs patience. It needs self-discipline. It also needs, especially when it is CEO's or an officer's blog, restraint in sharing information and making commitments. It also needs that you shed a bit of your ego and sometimes share your defeats, pains, achievements and special moments of happiness - especially on personal blog. Well, it also needs a bit of time and resources for sprucing it up. The last part is the least important. For the blog on company portal, your company can sure help you in that. For personal blog, you can invest a few dollars a year on it, can't you?

Richard Branson blog: as bubbly as it can get, yet thoughtful
This article on Forbes has some good ideas on how to make posts that make an impact, so instead of copy pasting them, let me give a link to the original article: The 17 Rules of CEO Blogging
This is another article, on OrbitMedia, telling how to blog as CEO.

Happy blogging!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

3 top male lifestyle bloggers from India

Lifestyle blogging is now one of the most visible niches in blogging. It is dominated by ladies, but there are some prominent male lifestyle bloggers too.

In India, the lifestyle blogging by/ for males came a bit late but has now caught up with the western world. I showcase here three top male lifestyle bloggers from India:

Purushu Arie

Purushu Arie is a fashion designer, illustrator, stylist and fashion blogger since 2009... and "founder of India's first gender-neutral label"... and a strong votary of neutrality of gender, age, race, appearance and other cultural difference.


bowties and bones

This lifestyle blog by Allen Claudius ("I am a socially awkward, bearded fashion blogger.") talks mainly on fashion and sometimes ventures into cultural life of Indian males - food, music and nightlife - too.


Urban Eye by Riaan George

By Riaan George, this "India's no. 1 luxury blog" talks about travel and aviation besides the core topics of luxury, fashion and grooming. He says, "Urban Eye by Riaan George is a veritable style guide featuring the coolest and trendiest updates on the web."


Thursday, August 16, 2018

After traveling miles since 1993, blogging is claiming all the social web!

Blogging started when the web was yet emerging and people in technology field found that simple HTML pages could be used to inform others about new developments in the tech community. The regularly updated HTML page also served as a virtual diary.

The first-ever blog
The June 1993 page of 'What’s New' website maintained by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (Illinois University) was a simple webpage tha listed what all was happening in the field of IT at that time, with hyperlinks to sources.

Swarthmore student Justin Hall’s Justin’s Links from the Underground, started in 1994, is regarded as the first personal blog.

Justine's personal blog

When the web diary became a blog


Individual efforts towards regularly updating information were found useful, but everybody could not adopt it: one needed technical knowledge and the wherewithal to make the HTML page available to others.

In December 1997, Jorn Barger, who had been writing his online diary 'Robot Wisdom' for years, coined ‘weblog’ for ‘logging the Web’. He described his diary as the ‘day-to-day log of his reading and intellectual pursuits’. The word ‘weblog’ was dissected into ‘we blog’ and shortened into ‘blog’ by Peter Merholz in his blog 'Peterme' in April 1999.

Advent of blogging platforms


Bruce and Susan Ableson started 'Open Diary' in 1997 as a blogging platform where one could open an online diary and interact with other community members. Brad Fitzpatrick started 'Live Journal' in April 1999, initially as a platform to update colleagues about his activities.

Pyra Lab created the legendary blogging platform, 'Blogger' in 1999, which was bought over by Google in 2003.

Blogging becomes all pervasive, all inclusive


Blogging gained the critical mass to become a force to reckon with when people adopted Live Journal and Blogger in a big way, around 2000, and many new platforms took birth.

Blogs started being taken note of by the marketing world and the mainstream media. In the US, this started early but spread worldwide after BlogAds and AdSense started in 2002 as agencies serving advertisements to publishers on the web. Personal blogs, being low-cost properties, also started attracting attention of affiliate marketers. In 2006, Squidoo came up as a platform for content creation that shared affiliate commission with bloggers.

Blogging in languages other than English took time to establish, especially those written in non-Roman scripts.

Blogging in its traditional sense seems to have peaked around 2010-15, depending upon which region one is looking at. It is still growing fast in some languages and regions where it picked up late or could not grow earlier because of strife.

But then came social networking, and it became a much bigger online activity than just blogging. However, when all forms of hybrid platforms arose, the line dividing traditional blogging and other forms of social interaction became hazy and has now almost disappeared.

Some of today's biggest websites arose from small blogs and they even now maintain the feel of blog. We have some blogs with big editorial teams while most blogs remain to be personal hobby blogs. The mixing of platforms has expanded the scope of blogging to social sharing and networking, and the regular YouTube contributor and one on Instagram also identify themselves as bloggers.

The Dark Side of Blogging History


If the history of blogging has been so amazing in giving individuals a voice, democratizing the web and becoming an earning stream, it has not been without bad patches. There is a long history of bloggers being persecuted and prosecuted because of their critical articles about religious dogma and governments, libelous content, etc. Employees have lost jobs, political leaders have lost their exalted positions, and journalists have lost lives. Criminals have used social media, including blogging, for nefarious purposes.

A good number of bloggers have invited wrath of others (usually because of ignorance or indiscretion) for stealing others’ content.

The future of blogging


The future of blogging is as promising as it was during the peak days of traditional blogging. It is being taken seriously as a new form of mass media. Mainstream blogs now are richer, more professionally managed. People who do not maintain regular blogs do 'blogging' in myriad forms including podcasting, posting videos, sharing pics and so on. Blogging is sure to keep growing in the years to come; however, what shape it would take is anybody's guess.

The history and other aspects of blogging are discussed in much more details in 'The Manual of Blogging'. The above is just a short excerpt from The Manual's chapter on blogging history.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Criminal turned crime-blogger, Kok

This is an interesting story of a murderer who turned into a crime blogger and challenged criminals while writing about them and living a life full of adventure, threats, pleasure, controversies, notoriety  and fame.

The story of Martin Kok's life, as it has appeared on Wired, lucidly shows how crime and crime blogging are going hand in hand in Holland. Kok's blog Vlinderscrime (=butterflies) became highly popular (a million visitors a month to his blog,   according to a separate report), received advertisements and was quoted in the mainstream media. 

As a blogger, Kok's didn't care for fact-checking, disclosed people's identities and wrote about them indiscreetly, challenged those he wrote about, but his links in the underworld made him a highly resourceful crime blogger.

A number of attempts were made on Kok's life, and he succumbed to an ambush outside a brothel near Amsterdam, on 8th December 2016. 

His blog is, as expected, dead. His Twitter account is still alive and shows 17.8 thousand followers!

screen shot of Kok's Twitter account

This post is based primarily on the article 'The Strange Life of a Murder Turned Crime Blogger' in Wired with inputs from other sources.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Blogging just for your satisfaction?

This one is in response to a recent post I saw on a Hindi blog in which the blogger says that the blog contains whatever he feels like, and no offence may be taken if the writing hurts anybody's feelings. He goes on to advocate that one's own satisfaction should be the best measure of what should be written on personal blogs.

If you are a journalist or an author, have attended any writing class or seen advice from top authors, you must have heard these two pieces of advice:

1. Write in a way that satisfies your own self. Only then can you put your best into it.
2. Write with the reader in mind. Put yourself in the reader's shoes. What does he want to read? How does he think? How will he accept your writing or respond to it? Only then can your copy be effective.

There is no marked difference in both these sets of propositions. I feel that the first one should not be interpreted as ignoring the reader or caring a hoot for others' feelings. The first one wants you to be a perfectionist while the second wants your writing to be effective. When read together, they produce perhaps the best writing advice: Put both your heart and mind to your writing; give it all the  force that comes from the best expressions and that comes from shaping it with the tools of the writing craft.

The first point perhaps talks about the emotional and talent part of writing. I have no authority on the ingredients that lead to writing that shakes people's minds: the knack of writing good prose, using apt and forceful expressions, ability to imagine and dream plots, putting the imagination on paper, and so on. Not many are borne with it and not many can inculcate it in themselves through training. I am one of those who cannot write too well and so must close this here.

However, what we all can do is to use the craft well. We can ensure that we write standard language. We can ensure to make the prose free from grammatical and proof errors. We can avoid inappropriate language. We can commit not to copy-paste others' prose. If we are not proficient in English, we can decide to revert to our mother tongue, or get the final prose edited by someone else if English is so important.


Coming to the original question: should we write for ourselves and forget the reader? That would be like filling a diary with whatever one feels like, and wishing that someone would discover it one day and then everybody would marvel at our talent. We all are free to do that, but not on blogs. A blogs is a public space on the web [unless we have restricted its viewership] and whatever we write there is for public consumption. We must not write what could hurt others's sentiments or provoke them to take an unacceptable action; and we should write what appeals others, thus contributing our bit towards enriching the blogosphere.

No?


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Social media safety tips recommended by Facebook itself

Facebook has a small PDF file (8 pages) posted on its blog, which gives very useful tips on how to use Facebook (for that matter, any place on the net) safely.


Most of us would be knowing these safety measures but might be ignoring them, and these include some common ones, like two-factor authentication and getting alerts. I would highlight a very simple one, especially for those posting their family pictures on Facebook, that they should uncheck 'public' and check 'friends' at least for such posts.

Though the little PDF file is addressed to journalists, it is an authentic guidebook for all social media users.

PDFs on the web are notorious for getting evaporated, so I would advise you to download it on your computer.
Here is the link: Safety Tips for Journalists

Monday, August 6, 2018

How to keep blog safe from comment spam

Spam is so much prevalent on social media and apps that the comment boxes of our blogs and websites, social accounts and even SMS inbox often receive more of it than genuine messages.

I give below the snap of spammy comments that I have received recently on my post on SEO. I have not included many that were exact repeats. So, it clearly is a case where someone might have found some merit in commenting on my blog (e.g. a backlink from a genuine website) and he/ she has automated the commenting process so that my blog gets repeated comments. None of the links look genuine as none is related to the topic or the blog, and none has the URL of the sender or a URL embedded in the comment. That shows, the commenter is either testing the ground or is not a professional spammer yet.

What would happen if I allowed all these comments on my blog is that search engines as well as visitors would consider my blog of low value, and the spammer would later start putting URLs of spurious websites in the comments. None of these comments has appeared on the blog is the testimony that I have stopped them before they could harm the blog. How?

How to avoid comment spam?


Experts suggest many ways to avoid spam in comments. The main ones include:

1. Putting a captcha.

A captcha is the mechanism through which commenters are asked to prove that they are human beings and not a machine. There are different types of capthas: asking you to write the given numbers and digits shown against a meshy background, asking you to
do a mathematical calculation, making you find a particular type of pictures (e.g. a road sign or a flower) out of many given, and so on.

Captchas definitely make automatic spamming difficult. They are defenceless against spammers posting comments manually - but such spammers are also much less in number and they have physical limitations.

Captchas, especially if difficult or confusing,  end up annoying genuine commenters.

2. Deleting spammy comments manually.

Since getting comments on blogs is difficult these days, some bloggers do not want genuine commenters to be put off by a captcha. They would rather allow everybody to comment and then manually remove the unwanted comments at the end of the day.

This is a less efficient way of dealing with comment spam, but is OK with blogs that receive a mix of comments and not too much spam.

3. Comment moderation.

The most effective way to stop spam from appearing on your blog is to not allow its entry into the blog. For this, you have to check each comment and then allow whichever you want to be published on the blog. Blogger and Wordpress have inbuilt options for such comment moderation. Most website builders and content management systems (CMSs) have this provision.

4. Accepting comments only from an approved ID.

Some bloggers allow comments only from those with approved IDs. For example,
Some blogs do not allow anonymous blogging at all.
Wordpress has a provision to allow comments only from Wordpress account holders.
Blogs on Blogger platform can limit commenting to those with Google Plus account.
One can install third-party commenting apps such as Disqus.
Many websites (e.g. news portals) allow commenting only from registered users.

This method is automated and so the blogger or website owner need not bother about the genuineness of commenters. However, it restricts comments from those not registered in a particular way. It also does not stop manual spamming by registered/ identified people.

5. Not accepting comments.

Ah! This is like keeping your house's door shut even for your friends.  Many news websites and government websites and blogs allow you to share their comment on social media but would not allow you to react to them. I do not advocate this approach.

Comment spam on a recent post.

What type of comment check you'd apply on your blog?


I prefer comment moderation. I have no worry about an unwanted comment appearing on my blog even if I do not get time to look at the comments for many days.

When I discussed the matter recentlhy with some social media friends, I found mixed responses. Patrick (@patricksplace) argued strongly that he would not go for comment moderation because his commenters are likely to be put off when the comment does not appear on the blog right then and there. He would rather delete spammy commets after they have appeared on the blog.

What is your take? You can comment here or respond through email/ tweet.