How influential are social media influencers and bloggers?

One of the chapters on The Manual of Blogging is on how blogs influence readers at large and how they particularly influence buyers, voters, employees and employers.

Excerpts:

Influence of blogs and social media


Blogs have been exerting influence over individuals, society and organizations in different ways since their early days. In the last few years, the importance of blogs as the prime social media entities has gone down but they have become increasingly more mature in content and design. 

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. 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. 

As a web format, blogs are likely to be more effective than the traditional websites because of their updating and interactive character. Blogs are also likely to be more effective than social networking sites because blogs give the opportunity to bloggers to expand the topic well. 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 of readers. 

There are thousands of review blogs on which bloggers write about the quality of products and services. Though enormous amount of information on products is available on the web and it is available instantly through apps and search, 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. 

On the web, 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. 

Numbers do count when they are genuine. Advertisers place their advertisements on social media influencers' blogs and other social accounts and pay them well for endorsing a brand. 

influence of blogs and social media

Influence of blogs on politics, voting


In the peak days of blogging, a number of researches showed that blogs did influence political decisions of the public. After the new-age social media became popular, it – rather than the blogosphere – has become the fighting ground between supporters of different political opinions. 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. However, it can be safely deduced that well-written blogs would influence political thought at least to the extent newspaper articles, editorials and political advertisements do. 

Blogs help in employment, career progression


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. Many professionally qualified people maintain blogs where they showcase their skills and achievements. 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. Thus, blogs do influence career related decisions of both the employers and potential/ existing employees.

The secret of Lauren getting 8.8 million subscribers and many million views on YouTube

Lauren Riihimaki is a sort of legend on YouTube, with her channel clocking 8.8 million subscribers. Many of her videos have been viewed more than a million times, and the total viewership of her videos runs into nearly a hundred million!
Lauren had not been into YouTube; in fact she didn't know much about the medium and had not even watching videos that were shared on YouTube. She was happy with her Do It Yourself (DIY) blog on which she posted tutorials based on her experiments in her dorm. Creating stuff out of household items had been her craze. But then things changed when she felt that she needed to put video tutorials on the blog. And then she realized that nothing could be better than YouTube for vlogging, and she shifted to it.
Initially it was hard for her, but she acted according to a well-conceived strategy: she weaved entertainment with DIY and persevered with her work. She went on to start videos in series, which became popular. She then started investing into the craft. Now she has a team to support her, including camera professionals and video editors. She has her studio. She and her team spend many hours even for a small video. A small video of a chat with a personality, she is reported to have said, takes no less than four hours and a normal video more than ten hours! 
Being consistent has earned Lauren loyalty from viewers. She does not forget to post a new DIY video every Sunday at 9AM, and her fans wait for her new videos. After sticking with Sundays all through, she has added an entertainment-based video on Wednesdays. 
earning from blog
Lauren now also has a buzzing Instagram account. She has said in her interviews that she has always believed in making a brand rather than just getting popular and making money - the philosophy most YouTube video creators follow. 

Blogger or Wordpress?

WORDPRESS VS BLOGGER: THE ETERNAL QUESTION - WHICH ONE IS BETTER?

Wordpress is the daddy of website/ blog creation: more than 30 percent of the world wide web is supposed to consist of websites and blogs created using this great software, and it is totally free.

But if you are new to blogging, wait. This is NOT the Wordpress free blogging platform but the Wordpress CMS (=content management system) that is so much prevalent on the web. You can create beautiful blogs or websites with this software but you have to separately buy domain name for the website/ blog and host it on the web. This is available at Wordpress.org. The free blogging platform from the same organization is Wordpress.com, which is in competition with Blogger (=blogspot) platform. Wordpress.com is similar to Wordpress.org CMS in feel and is simpler to operate.

Let's compare similar products: Wordpress and Blogger FREE BLOGGING PLATFORMS. They are the biggest such platforms and there are other smaller ones such as Tumblr, LiveJournal and Medium. In addition, there are many blogging platforms and website platforms that are not free.

If you want to have a modern blog or website with many functionalities and earning streams, I will recommend Wordpress CMS. Before deciding on that you may like to compare it with alternatives like Joomla, Wix and Google Sites. Once you have created the blog/ website through any of these CMSs, you will need to buy a domain name and host the website/ blog on a web host. Both will need to be renewed year after year on payment of domain/ hosting charges.

Let's come back to the two top free blogging platforms. Both these blogging platforms suit personal or hobby blogging well. On both, you can create a blog with a few clicks. You can give your blog a name that you like and post as per your will (with some limitations, of course). You don't have to pay a penny to create and run the blog. As you will see below, Blogger allows you to customize the blog's looks and make money from the blog, free of cost - which Wordpress does not.

Let us see how they compare and which one you should go for:

WORDPRESS VS BLOGGER BLOGGING PLATFORMS COMPARED


     

Advantages of Wordpress (free blogging platform)


  • Is simple to learn. Needs no technical knowledge.
  • A user can open many free blogs.
  • Gives clean and modern looks to the blog.
  • Is highly secure.
  • Has enough space for normal blogging.
  • Allows HTML tags in posts.
  • You can upgrade free plan to have more features.
  • Migration to Wordpress CMS is easy and smooth.
  • Since free Wordpress platform does not allow advertising, blogs are clean and more content-oriented.
  • Wordpress has introduced block-based editing (called Gutenberg editor), which makes it easy to format a part of post/ page.

Advantages of Blogger


  • The Blogger platform is very simple to learn and needs no technical knowledge at all.
  • A user can open many free blogs.
  • Has many free themes - some new ones are comparable to Wordpress, while some old ones are very simple.
  • Is highly secure.
  • Has enormous space available.
  • Mapping to independent domain is free.
  • Allows the blogger to tweak with the help of HTML/ CSS coding of posts as well as the core of the blog.
  • Integrates well with other Google utilities.

Limitations of Wordpress free blogging platform


  • You cannot play with the code of the blog except some HTML in posts.
  • Space in the free plan is limited.
  • Free plan does not allow posting of videos.
  • Free or lower-end plans cannot have advertisements.
  • Though there are many plugins available (some are free) for additional functions and there are many more themes available on the web (many are free), these cannot be applied in the free or low-end plans.
  • Mapping to independent domain is not free and one has to pay fee annually to keep the mapping going.
  • It is not possible to create very high-end blog even with premium plans.
  • The free blog has a subordinate identity because its URL comes with .wordpress.com suffix. (However, you can go for an independent name, with paid plan/ paid mapping.)
  • Blog needs to follow the content, privacy and other policies of the platform.

Limitations of Blogger platform


  • Old themes look plain vanilla, which are not liked by many bloggers.
  • It is not possible to create very high-end blog (e.g. with ecommerce facilities).
  • The free blog has a subordinate identity because its URL comes with .blogspot.com suffix. (However, you can map it to an independent name, for free.)
  • Blog needs to follow the content, privacy and other policies of the platform.

WHICH BLOGGING PLATFORM SHOULD I CHOOSE FOR MY PERSONAL BLOG?


Both the platforms are equally good if you are OK with posting content, and don't bother about other frills. Both have a number of free widgets through which you can display many items such as popular posts, contact form, social buttons, categories of posts, feed, etc.

Blogger allows more flexibility than Wordpress, and you can customize the blog to a great extent if you know a bit of HTML and CSS - very simple web languages. You can post videos and even give your blog an independent domain name at no cost! There is another great advantage of Blogger over Wordpress is that you can put ads on the blog and make money through them. Personally I like blogger over Wordpress.

wordpress vs blogger blogging platforms

However, many bloggers go for Wordpress as they fall in love with its subdued but pleasing basic themes. There is not much on offer in the free plan, but once a blogger is at ease with the free blog and later wants to go for an independent blog built on Wordpress CMS, he finds it easy to migrate. That is one big reason why people using Wordpress CMS recommend Wordpress as a blogging platform.

To be fair to Wordpress.com, it gives you a lot more features if you are prepared to shell out some money, because then you are allowed to use third-party themes and plugins. Plugins are bits of additional code and can bring in a range of functionalities to the blog.

Which blogging platform should I choose, out of Wordpress and Blogger?


- For personal blogging, go for either. Open blogs on both, test them and stick with the one that you like. Remember that you will not be able to post videos (as of now) and advertisements on free Wordpress blog.

- For low level professional blogging (e.g. opening a blog on which you would write only about photography, accounts, legal aspects, etc), and if you think it may become a big blog over time, you can think of both. Test them and stick to the one that you like. Forget free Wordpress blogging if you want to make money by advertising on the blog or posting videos.

- For high end professional blogging or business blogging, don't go for a free platform. Create a blog/ website using Wordpress.org CMS (or choose any other CMS or website builder if you want the website to look like standard websites and not like a blog).

Is Tumblr dead? Is its traffic going down by the day since 2018?

Tumblr is one of the biggest free blogging platforms, only after Blogger and Wordpress. Over years, it has been  especially popular among the teens, who could share and re-post content at will. It was full of sensitive visual content and also gave a layer of anonymity to avoid parental supervision.

Tumbler is also known for its 'culture'. It has been very supportive of LGBT and allowed users to be creative and communicative - the essential requirements for a buzzing community. There are thousands of very committed bloggers in the field of art and culture who have made Tumblr their home.

Tumblr also works well because it encourages short-form postings as in social networking and chat sites: you post a meme, a quick comment, a funny picture, an interesting news item, a quote... Blogs on it do not have a formal format as of Wordpress and Blogger blogs. So, it is a social network, micro-blogging website and blogging platform woven into one. 

Tumblr decision not to show sensitive content


One big reason for Tumblr's popularity - especially among young bloggers and followers - was its liberal attitude towards pornography. But in 2018, in one stroke, Tumblr decided to NOT host explicit content, to make use of artificial intelligence to scan accounts for such content, to remove all of it in one go, and not allow such content to be generated in future.

In its announcement in December 2018, Tumblr said: 

Starting Dec 17, adult content will not be allowed on Tumblr, regardless of how old you are...Adult content primarily includes photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content—including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations—that depicts sex acts...Examples of exceptions that are still permitted are exposed female-presenting nipples in connection with breastfeeding, birth or after-birth moments, and health-related situations, such as post-mastectomy or gender confirmation surgery. Written content such as erotica, nudity related to political or newsworthy speech, and nudity found in art, such as sculptures and illustrations, are also stuff that can be freely posted on Tumblr.

There were strong triggers like the two given below why Tumblr woke up to the harm it had been doing to the society and the backlash that its too liberal attitude could bring:

  • In November '18, Apple removed Tumblr's app from its App Store when it observed child abuse images on the app.
  •  Earlier, in March '18, Indonesian government banned Tumblr in the country after Verizon, Tumblr's parent company, refused to remove pornographic content.
While implementing the cleanup, Tumblr has clarified that content that is meant for health and such other purposes would not be taken as 'adult' content. However, its reliance on artificial intelligence creates doubts whether it would be able to distinguish between educational/ informational content and pornography.

Tumblr says, it would filter out all adult content but allow present account holders to either take down the content or make the blog/ posts private. With exceptions for genuine use of visuals of human body in non-pornographic ways, the platform seems to feel that it would not lose much of its clientele.

It is reported that the ban leaves much to be desired. Web monitoring websites have found that Tumblr has failed to remove child pornography but has been harsh on blogs that were marked NSFW (not safe for work) for artistic nudity. The ban has, as its creators say, deprived them of showing their 'art' to the people and make money out of their creations.

Is Tumblr going down due to porn ban?


This ban on sensitive content leads to interesting possibilities, and they have been unfolding since 2018:
  • Tumblr is now a more acceptable platform. Though I have not seen public reports to suggest that, yet it can be assumed that it might become popular among bloggers of all ages. After Automattic (the company that owns the Wordpress CMS and blogging platform) purchased Tumblr in 2019, there is more chance of it getting strength as a popular and robust blogging platform. Automattic CEO has talked of integrating some of its technology with Wordpress while retaining its strong points and letting it remain as an independent blogging platform. 
  • There is a huge number of fan-followers of Tumblr who swear by it. The commitment of users of Tumblr community can be seen from the fact that nearly 700 thousand have signed a petition on Cange.org asking Tumblr to reverse the ban. For some, Tumblr is a way of life. Though the explicit content is less (leave aside some nudity in the name of art, health etc), its popular topics (movies and actors, tv shows, reality tv, music, photography, art, culture, games) still are abuzz with content sharing and socialization. This community will keep growing though initially the ones who visited the platform just for raw adult material might leave it. This and the social-cum-blogging nature of platform may eventually lead to growth in traffic.
  • There is an equally big possibility of the platform going down because of the porn ban. Its referral traffic from explicit-content websites has disappeared after the ban. Its regular users (bloggers and visitors) who were hooked to explicit content have been leaving the platform. There also are many users who are on Tumblr because its liberal approach towards sex and nudity allowed free adult socialization and expression of some art forms that were not allowed on other platforms. The constant fall in traffic is visible on traffic measuring websites Alexa and SimilarWeb. The traffic loss is not superficial; it is all there in the falling number of unique visits, number of blogs visited in a session, time spent on the site, and other factors that work together to give traffic to websites and web pages.

blogging platform Tumblr


Let us see how the Tumblr story unfolds: whether Automattic acquisition strengthens it and it starts challenging Blogger OR it goes down due to the weight of moral purging it performed.

Image cropping: the easiest picture editing action that you might be doing wrongly!

Cropping= cutting a picture from sides. It is like using a scissors to cut a photo print from one or more sides.

Crop
tool is available on all image/ photo editors and mobile image apps. It is there even in the basic 'gallery' or 'photo' apps on mobile phones and in the camera app. 


Most users of digital images use this tool, but the irony is that not many understand how this tool impacts the image, and the best way to crop images.

If you are interested in going into the details of how different image editing tools work, I would refer you to Better Digital Images, my ebook on digital image editing and digital photography. I give here some basics of cropping:

Cropping of pictures leads to change in their properties


Cropping is done basically to remove objects from the sides, thus also reducing the size of an image. But remember that cropping affects the image in many more ways than cutting the sides of a photo print. Look at these concepts:
  • Cropping removes some objects from the image. Because of this, cropping is usually carried out to frame the pictures better. 
  • Cropping reduces the size of the image in terms of pixels. So, if an image is of 5  MP (megapixel) size and you cut it from the middle, the resultant pics would be 2.5 MP each. 
  • It can change the aspect ratio of the picture. Aspect ratio is the ratio between the width and height of the picture. If you have a wide image of 5 inch x 3 inch size and remove 2 inch from one side, the resultant image would now by a square image of 3 inch on each side. 
  • Cropping can reduce the quality of picture if you crop the picture and then pull it to the original size. Suppose you have a picture of 10 inch x 6 inch size and you cropped it into 5 inch x 3 inch to remove some peripheral objects. Now if you want to make this picture again of 10 inch x 6 inch, it will pull the pixels and add new pixels into the image; thus, the resultant picture would suffer a quality loss. 
  • It can distort the picture if you crop the image not in the original aspect ratio and then try to fit it into the original aspect ratio or an altogether different size. For example, you cropped a 6 inch x 6 inch image by removing different sized areas from height and width, the resultant pic will no longer be a square image. If you try to fit it into any shape other than a sqaure, it will get distorted. 
 

How to use cropping tool the best way in a photo editor


With the above understanding let us use cropping wisely, as follows:

Crop images for better framing and removing unwanted objects. 

When you shoot a photograph, you sometimes do not see a disturbing object till it shows up in the photograph. You would definitely like to remove it from the photograph without artificially manipulating it. Or you have a group photograph out of which you want to frame a part in which only you and your best friend standing next to you are seen. Or you took a photograph of your child in which the background is too overbearing and the child's pic is lost in it - you would like to remove most of the background so that the child comes out prominent. 

Think of the final size of picture before you begin cropping it. 

If by cropping the photo too much, the remaining part would remain like a small stamp, it would not look clear. On mobiles and computers/ laptops, the image viewers often expand small pics to the size of the app/ device: if so, the small picture would look too bad in clarity and contrast. So, crop a picture only as much is required.
 

Think of the final aspect ratio of picture beforehand. 

If you cut out one side of the photo or other image, the original aspect ratio would change. Therefore, if you need to cut from width, cut from the height also in the original ratio. Most apps show the crop tool with brackets in the corners of the picture (please see the C image below). If you slide these corner brackets, the cropping will preserve aspect ratio. 
 

Use the crop tool before resizing the picture. 

If you have to reduce the size of the picture, one way is to squeeze it to the new size. But any reduction (or enlargement) of picture leads to decline in quality. So, when you need to reduce the size of the picture, think of cropping it first, before resizing so that you will need less squeezing of the picture. However, you should do this only if removing object from the original picture will not harm the picture.

How does cropping actually affect a picture?


For more clarity, I will illustrate the concept of cropping with the help of a picture: 

Look at the collage of 4 images given here.  Let's see the first one on the left: it is the original one. It has two hills, a tree and something at the right bottom, which is spoiling the image. 

image cropping and resizing

Now look at A. We wanted to remove the disturbing object and cropped the right portion of the image. Now the earlier wide image has become less wide. We must crop some height too so if we want to retain the original aspect ratio, as shown in C.


But we may want to create an image out of the original, which has aspect ratio like A (=less wide) but we would like to retain the object. One way is to resize the image with the new width. When we do that, the shapes of trees and hills get distorted like B. This is not desirable.

In C, we see the corner brackets that can be pulled to crop the image in the original proportion. If we click on the corner where C is written and pull the cursor inward, a new area can be seen that has less height and width in the same aspect ratio as the original image.

An established blogger gives practical tips for success in blogging

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

Saru has, in a 2018 post, shared her blogging journey and - the reason why she finds a mention here - she has given some very practical and simple tips on blogging. 

Her blog shows her love for blogging. She does all that a normal blogger does: 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. She feels, she does not do enough for blogging success, but enjoys blogging:

Before you think, it's all very impressive, let me tell you - this is just 1/10th of what anyone of you can achieve. I've many flaws - I don't network, I haven't read any blog in the last 2 years, I'm not a part of any writing/blogging community, I don't add or follow people just to market my work. Heck, I don't even reciprocate the affection I get on the social media. I wish, I become a little better with time...
But let me also tell you - because I don't concentrate on numbers, followers, money - I enjoy my writing journey so much that I can't explain it in words. I don't worry about the number of likes on my social media posts.

Saru is not a blogger who runs her blog primarily for making money. 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 high quality blog posts without a pause. In her words:
I started by writing poetry, then I started writing articles and now I can write anything. Professionally, I am a content writer for a couple of websites. I ghostwrite for two more agencies based out of North America. I write sponsored articles on my blog. I tweet, post Facebook statutes, answer Quora questions, and mention brands on Instagram for money. Brands even consult me for social media strategies. One opportunity has even led to full-time employment.

a successful blogger Saru Singhal

Her tips in brief are given below, but to get the essence 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 [narrow] niche but expand it over time. 
  • Be a part of groups, communities, and organizations.
  • The most important lesson money-wise is to always ask for your worth. 
  • Lastly, be honest.

Blogging in Mauritanian: reports of bloggers having a tough time

The post has been updated in 2020.

There are numerous stories of bloggers facing the wrath of religious ultras and intolerant administrative/ social/ legal systems. A number of liberal bloggers were hacked to death in Bangladesh in the last few years. We also see press reports now and then about illegal detention of many bloggers in African countries.  

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 was not released by authorities for five years. 

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

The conservative segments of the society wanted execution of the blogger. 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 would end immediately as he had already spent more than that time in prison. 

But Cheikh was not released on the pretext that due to his act, a majority of countrymen do not want him out and his release would create disturbance in the country. International and national NGOs have been petitioning the Mauritanian President for release of the blogger. Finally, Cheikh has been released in 2019. It is reported that he has sought asylum in France.

In 2018, Mauritania adopted an even harsher blasphemy law  that invites death on such a crime. That makes liberal blogging even more vulnerable in Mauritania.

There are other bloggers who have faced interrogation, detention and trials for raising their voice against the establishment.

Political opponents of the ruling formation charge that ultras and fraudsters are being protected while dissenting voices are being silenced through legal means. International watchdog agencies have also raised red flag many times against detention of bloggers.

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

Simple tips for putting the best pictures on social media or blog

I assume that all social media users know the importance of images for social media and the reason why you should put the best possible picture on your social accounts or blog. Yet, the social media (including blogs) is full of pictures of very low quality.

Let's start with some facts relating to use of pictures on the web and then see what you should do to achieve great results as far as pictures are concerned:
  • It is extremely easy to put photographs on the blog and social media.
  • All bloggers and social media users have a mobile phone with camera - 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. 
  • It has been found by studies that putting an image increases visitors' stay on the blog/ website and images also help the visitor in grasping the written content better. 
  • Photographs increase sharing and likes on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • Many bloggers now blog on Instagram where images and video do most of talking. Many bloggers post on YouTube or other video sharing apps and earn money out of them.
  • Some people publish long posts on Facebook and LinkedIn, without having a standalone blog. Posting images in such places have also been found effective.
  • 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.
  • A large number of photo and video sharing apps have become popular with the younger generation. Besides the established ones (Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat), there are many new apps (e.g. TikTok, Hello, Vmate). Users mostly put very badly taken photos and videos on these platforms. The appearance and effect can increase by a big margin with just a bit of consideration while shooting.
  • Editing, even on smart phones, can improve the quality of photographs. 
You can draw this conclusion from the above facts:

You must use images with written text, to the extent possible. Make use of the features available on our mobile phone's camera. Then, check the photo from different angles and improve it before putting on the blog or social networking/ sharing accounts. Same goes for videos.


importance of images for social media

Minor editing of digital images/ 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 desktops and mobile phones that do the job easily. 

An additional notable feature of these apps is that if you do not like some change, you can go back to the original picture and start again.

Photo shooting and editing tips for newbies


The quality of photograph depends more on how and in what situations it was taken. 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 ordinary digital camera or phone 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.

Open the camera on your smart phone. On the viewfinder, you will see many icons for different adjustments: change between camera, change between video and image, flash, lighting, HDR settings, ISO settings, panorama settings, low light/ night settings, white balance and so on. You can experiment with them to know what change they make. 

If you get confused with all these settings, let the camera remain in AUTO or normal mode, but at least take care of these:
  • proper lighting
  • distance from the main object
  • avoiding hand shake

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. You can check this post on cropping images for one such simple action. 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. If you are thinking of using your smartphone camera for taking photographs, you should learn the concepts behind how the digital pictures are created, edited and stored. That will help you in using various settings on the camera and editing software. 

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 well as iPhone App Store that can carry out image editing. However, I find that Snapseed is one of the best apps available.

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


snapseed is a good app for image editing

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

Disclosure: I have no commercial dealing with Snapseed.

Live blogging: some organizations use it so brilliantly!

What is a live blog or liveblog?


'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. Live blogging was precursor of today's micro-blogging/ social networking (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) and chat (e.g. WhatsApp) timelines.

If you have not followed a live blog (=liveblog), you might think that in this age of every event being relayed real-time 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 their apps, and live-streaming on Facebook/ YouTube/ Twitter - and there seems no scope for a slower way of web-based reporting on events.

Yet live blogging is live and kicking, as you can see from the examples given here.

Live blogging is very useful for updating significant events


what is live blog?The use of live blogging by some organizations, including prominent news sites, shows that at times instant modes of communication that are focused on a single event/ theme are even more powerful than the happening media. Yes, live blogging is very effective for more grounded and serious updating of events. There is more scope for engagement and putting different points of views. In many cases, the liveblogger runs an interesting and/ or useful commentary alongside updated information - and the liveblog's followers love that.

Though Facebook/ Twitter/ YouTube live events or hangouts have a text comment stream running along side the video, that is too transitional for more considered discussions/ arguments. Morevoer, the updates on social networks are crowded with numerous comments (some of which are of low value), as in the case of Twitter hashtags.

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

Take another example. The Guardian, the reputed UK newspaper/ news website ran a live blog for giving updates on Hurricane Michael that devastated Florida and nearby areas in the US in October 2018. 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 liveblog.

The blog 'Blogging The Boys' must find an honorable 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 performance of the team.
live blog example
The Guardian live blog on Florida cyclone

Travel bloggers fall to death while taking selfie

Two young Indian travel bloggers fell off a cliff at Yosemite National Park, California earlier this week.

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 seemed 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].


selfie by bloggers
Meenakshi seen in the background, at Taft Point.

Ironical that on one of her Instagram posts 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 seems to 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 on the web picked up with the advent of digital cameras, then cameras being available on mobile phones, then mobile cameras became high-tech. After 3G came on smart phones, enough bandwidth became available for uploading and downloading images and videos. Simultaneously, social platforms made it easy to share videos. 

The trend towards videos is only rising and pundits predict that by 2022, overe 80 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 aids learning and writing

Having videos and photos to express yourself is fine, more so as it is less burdensome and more efficient than expressing in written words. But there is this very dark side of the coin: people - especially the young ones - are seen developing a dislike for writing. If you find this statement 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 text and not as an image or a video!)

It is documented after studies 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. Since writing skills beyond those needed for the subjects of the curriculum do 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 children when they are in lower classes.

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 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 the written word, the will to write will diminish by the day and would find few takers for native languages. There would be very little inducement to write, and only a bunch of people would continue to express themselves in writing. If the trend continues, the toddler of today - when she becomes a teen and has all the gadgetry and virtual assistants in her command - would sure abhor the idea of writing or even  reading.

Does blogging improve writing skills and overall learning?


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, logic, 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 improves significantly - and that applies to small kids as well as university goers - when they start blogging. 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) and academic discussions on the web on blogging and education.

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

Adults' writing abilities see improvement when they start blogging: not for money but for expressing themselves. Besides improving their writing skills, blogging gives 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 three books that I have published recently are in a way the outcome of my experience as a blogger.)  

I have shared a number of articles in this blog on how children benefit from blogging, how a grandpa or grandma found purpose in life after they started a blog, how blogging have given a new life to people diagnosed with serious ailments and so on.

A successful mom blogger's practical advice to others

Mom blogging is one of the most popular blogging niches among women bloggers. This becomes the best place to share their motherly experiences 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. She is a truly successful blogger without worries about web safety of her blog, herself and her son.


2 blogging mistakes a mom blogger usually makes


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

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 became 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.  Being woman attracted even nasty comments. 


blog and blogger safety


Another problem with mom blogs is false expertise. This insight from Katie applies to many mom bloggers: they are not experts but after having become a mom, give all sorts of advise to curious would-be moms and new moms. I reckon that the visitors on such blogs do not stay with it when they themselves have experience of rearing a child. 

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 (sharing experiences and helping others; mutually benefiting; making money), the blogger must be discreet in what and how much she shares. In addition, she must become an expert in at least a small area of child bearing and rearing before giving advise.

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. She is a formidable name in fashion blogging today.

Instead of focusing on psychology, Arielle Charnas would spend time on blogging. Her parents thought something had gone wrong with her, but she seemed to have found her muse. 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's earning from blogging is now steady. She is a big Instagram influencer, with over 131 thousand followers.


fashion blogging
Arielle's blog, Something Navy, is now the fulcrum of her online business 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.

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 for explaining  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 instant messaging 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 carefully scan the web entities of prospective employees, and blogs are an important input to assess a person’s personal traits and professional competence...


blogging as influencer- Branson blog