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