An established blogger's practical advice to fellow bloggers

Saru Singhal is a known name in Indian blogging circles. She has been active for seven years now and her blog, Words, can be seen on top Indian blogs' lists.

Her blog shows her love for blogging. She does all that a normal blogger does: she posts her musings on all types of subjects, shares her literary creations, participates in challenges and competitions, puts badges given by other bloggers on her blog, engages through commenting. 

Saru is not a blogger who runs her blog for making money. So, she does not seem to earn much directly from the blog but she has won many accolades and awards, assignments and offers thanks to sticking to writing good posts without a pause. 

She has recently come out with a post sharing her blogging journey and - the reason why she finds a mention here - she has given some very practical and simple tips on blogging. 

Her tips in brief are given below, but to get the essense of these, you should go to that post linked here:

  • Read good blogs or follow good artists.
  • Interact with your audience. 
  • It's great to have a niche but expand it over time. 
  • Be a part of groups, communities, and organizations.
  • The most important lesson moneywise is to always ask for your worth. 
  • Lastly, be honest.

Mauritanian blogger in prison for blasphemy; authorites do not release him even after jail term

There are numerous stories of bloggers facing the wrath of religious ultras and intolerant administrative/ social/ legal systems. The hacking of a number of liberal bloggers in Bangladesh in the last few years and reports now and then appearing about illegal detention of many bloggers in African countries - do they sound familiar?  

This is a report on a blogger who spoke against social evils in Mauritania four years back and is still paying the price for that. Cheikh Ould Mohamed Ould Mkheitir, a Mauritanian blogger imprisoned since 2014 on blasphemy charges is not yet being released by authorities. 32 NGOs have petitioned the Mauritanian President for release of the illegally detained blogger.

Mauritanian blogger jailed
In 2014, the blogger wrote an article, 'Religion, Religiosity and Craftsman', in which he criticized the country’s caste system. He had condemned the discrimination being faced by black Mauritanians in the name of religion and had spoken about certain choices made by Prophet Mohamed. 

The conservative segments of the society wanted his execution, he was tried and was sentenced to death in 2014 for apostasy. The blogger is reported to have first argued that he did not intend to insult the Prophet and then repented before an appellate court. The court, in 2017, commuted the death sentence to two year’s imprisonment that ended on 9th November 2019. 

Cheikh is held in an undisclosed location and his family has limited access to him. He is not allowed to meet his lawyers and his health is said to be in bad shape. Yet the authorities have not released him.  

If you are keen to know how bloggers have been suffering over the year in the hands of authorities, courts and goons, you can visit chapters on bloggers' safety and blogs as mass media chapters  in The Manual of Blogging.

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. 

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.