February 28, 2015

Blogger killed for progressive writings

It was the turn of US blogger of Bangla origin, Avijit Roy, this time to be killed by religious fundamentalists against his writings, including those on his blog, Mukto-Mona. Avijit had been to Bangladesh for release of his two books.

Mukto-mona, meaning ‘free spirit’, is alive but its homepage aptly says, “We mourn. But we are not out.”

A US NGO, the Center for Inquiry, said, "Roy was a courageous and eloquent defender of reason, science, and free expression, in a country where those values have been under heavy attack.”

His writings came into direct conflict with Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami a few years back when this extremist group felt Avijit defamed Islam. Since then, he had been receiving death threats and warnings not to write against extremist thought.
Mukto Mona: "We are not out"

Almost exactly years back, in February 2013, Rajib Haider, an anti-Islamist activist of Bangladesh who also used blogging to spread his cause, had to pay with his life for opposing religious extremism in that country.

Indian Top Blogs hopes, the blog revives soon, with help from Avijit's well-wishers, and serves the cause of spreading liberal thought in the society.

February 25, 2015

Indian Best Blog Directory 2014-15: Do you have a great blog to suggest?

Over the last 4 years, the Directory of Best Indian Blogs has become something like an industry standard for Indian English blogs. The next (that is 5th) edition of the Directory will come out by 30th May, and we already are feverishly surveying the Indian blogosphere for quality blogs. 

If you have a great blog in mind that is by an Indian or on India, do tell us. We will accept suggestions till 30th April. But why wait till then? You can tell us about the blog as comment to this very post OR tell it on mail at kp.nd.2008@gmail.com

There is no fee for inclusion in the Directory. The only thing(s) we demand is high quality, regularity, and proper design. We renew our pledge that we shall maintain the highest ethical standards in compilation of the Directory. 

The following types of content / blogs will not be included in the Directory:

No non-English blogs. Bilingual blogs: yes, if English is the dominant language.
No inappropriate content: pornography; nudity and violence; vulgarity; abusive expressions; racial, casteist or communal hatred; rumour-mongering; slander; criminality; and other content that is not considered acceptable in civilised societies.
No propaganda. Exception: promotion of social and moral values or a just cause with wide appeal.
No plagiarism or copyright infringement.
No commercial blogs and blogs on which advertisements make more than 25% of homepage content.
• No blogs with more than 25% of content automatically generated. Exception: Content in widgets such as recent comments, archives, followers and advertisements.
No blogs that have not been regularly updated [by way of new posts]. There must not be more than three months between May 2014 and April 2015 in which the blog did not have a new post.

Want to know what, in our opinion, constitutes a great blog? Please visit these posts: a 2011 post on ITB criteria, a post on what qualified for 2013 directory and FAQs on directory compilation. Content in some of these posts is cross-linked and re-used; sorry for being repetitive.

February 22, 2015

Canva: an amazing software for designing posters, blog banners, FB cover...

This time, we introduce an excellent online designing software, Canva. In no time you can start designing a great many things without knowing the ABC of designing! 

You can make a presentation, cover for the Facebook page, a poster, an Instagram image, a collage, an infographic or myriad graphics for your social media accounts. Bloggers can use it to create top banner, infographics, collages of multiple photos, e-posters, e-cards, emotion-graphics...
designing-software-website-blog-poster
Well, If you are not sure, there are many tutorials to suit different levels of designing. In fact, you need to just spend a few seconds on the one that instantly opens once you have logged into the website. After that, it is a matter of choosing from preset layouts or creating your own, dragging-and-dropping photos, resizing, colouing, putting a background, adding quirky text, etc etc and your final product is ready!   

Canva is free if you use free designing presets, but you have to pay for images and premium layouts available on the website if you use them, At present, an image costs just a dollar and there are a variety of them available in different categories. You can upload your own photos or drawings.

Like some other freeware, if you use a premium background or image without buying it, the design will show a watermark. 

We have earlier brought to you outstanding free software that help you in blogging and also other other works. Hope this excellent designing software fits the bill.

We do not have any commercial or other arrangement with the online software Canva, and our critique of Canva or recommendations about it are solely for the benefit of viewers of IndianTopBlogs.

February 19, 2015

Why Indian government’s social media actions are bound to fail

Indian government, headed by Narendra Modi who is one of the most tech-savvy heads of government in the world and who is supposed to have won the last elections supported ably by his social media campaigns, seems to have lost the social media plot after becoming the PM, partly thanks to over-active but insensitive digital media managers in the government.

Most ministries and other governmental organisations are eternally confused about how and how much to engage in social media interactions with the public. Interestingly, the Information & Broadcasting (read propaganda) Ministry, which has the role to remove the confusion, is itself no less confused.

This Ministry set up a new unit called New Media Wing two years back, when the UPA government was in power, and started a few initiatives to find a place in the social networking sphere. Using public money and all muscle at its command, the ministry set up a big unit directly under its mandarins, unlike other units such as Doordarshan that are run by people experienced in media affairs. Over the last two years, they have held numerous meetings, workshops, seminars, presentations and what not (a workshop recently held for senior bureaucrats from other ministries was hugely publicized) to discuss social media matters. Ironically, such meetings end up with a smug sense of having discovered something new, while these have already been practiced and sometimes discarded by progressive governments and organisations. For this ministry, this becomes a showcase for its ministers and senior bureaucrats to flaunt before Modi and his trusted lieutenants. In other ministries, social media work is taken as a nuisance and a burden.

Yet, because Modi sahab will be dissatisfied otherwise, ministries are busy taking power-point presentations from private entities how they can capture the social media (whatever that means!), and many companies are making easy money out of ministries' urgency and lack of knowledge. If we believe some of our colleagues in such companies, some officials are also having a good time. (There are some rather good examples, even among ministries, such as the public diplomacy social initiative of the Ministry of External Affairs.)

Modi's web presence: are his social managers smart by half?

We looked at some of the web entities of this ministry. Its page on ‘New Media Wing’ was blank (please see the screen shot here) for quite many days when we visited its website. Many of its sections are written in such English that you would yawn after the first sentence. (Hindi is just atrocious in some sections!)


Modi all over
Look at social media accounts of different ministries, especially those of I&B Ministry. In other ministries’ webspaces, there is at least some action but I&B ministry’s webspaces are filled with #Modi's avatars  in numerous moods and postures. How much Modi can people take? 

We have gathered that I&B ministry has enrolled a large number of ‘volunteers’ to retweet, like Facebook posts, re-post content on different social networking platforms / accounts, and has been engaged in activities that cannot be called exactly ethical. Its big army of staffers analyzes social trends (perhaps using sophisticated software) and take covert action to ‘neutralise’ negative sentiment (we do not mean third-degree methods, only digital counter-action and asking Google etc to remove matter that it finds objectionable).

It is all automation and backend. Where is the man with a throbbing heart? 

Can someone make #Modi see that by this act, his official social media managers are doing him more harm than good? Can somebody let Modi realise that all his personal social media management too is giving him diminishing returns, and might be getting him more ‘dislikes’ than likes? Can somebody tell him that pervasive publicity – more so, on social media - is no substitute for action on the ground?

Modi's official social media teams seem to be doing what should not be done in social media domain: to bombard information, to push it in an unintelligible language, and to interact at one’s own will. We won't blame the techies but the ministry bureaucrats for this. Modi's over-activity on social media during elections was taken positively by a large number of people, as it went well with his aspirational speeches and slogans and also his persona that looked to be modern and forward-looking. Not any more. Can somebody tell Modi?

February 18, 2015

Notable blog: Crane Bedi

Kiran Bedi has been known in India for her fiery persona, first as a no-nonsense police officer (her traffic management style got her the name Crane Bedi), then a social activist and now a short-lived (so far) politician. She entered the poll fray a month back, contesting as the Chief Ministerial face of BJP in Delhi assembly elections, only to bite the dust. 


In her latest blog post (of 16 February), she has come out with 'an open letter to fellow Indians', she carries the usual Kiran Bedi air, which many people find arrogant and which her opponents exploited to the hilt.

February 16, 2015

Your accounts after death: What Facebook, Google and Yahoo have for you?

Facebook has come out with a new feature that allows you to decide what happens to your account, alongwith timeline, posts, etc, after you are no more (God bless you a long life!). Now, if you choose so, your timeline will not die with you, and one of your friends or your daughter may be able to keep your memories alive. The feature is optional.

This feature is being made available first in the US and will later be rolled out globally.

'Legacy contact', as Facebook likes to call the nominated person, will have some restrictions. For example, he will not have rights when the original account holder is alive / active. In addition, the 'legacy contact' will not be able to log in as the deceased or see his private messages.

Facebook already has a feature to 'memorialize' an account; it means people can see the timeline etc as if the deceases were still alive. With the new addition, Facebook will memorialize the account once someone informs about the death and the 'legacy contact' will be able to write a post to announce a memorial service or share a special message, respond to new friend requests from family members and friends who were not yet connected on Facebook, and update the profile picture and cover photo.

Further, if you choose, you may let the 'legacy contact' download photos, posts and profile information from your Facebook account. In any case, you retain the option to tell Facebook to purge your profile and delete your account on your passing away.


To set up 'legacy contact', go to Settings, then Security and then Legacy Contact [Right now in the US only.]

Google after death


It was around two years ago when Google made this option available to all account holders. As a Google account holder, you can opt to give permission to an 'inactive account manager' to take charge of your account and data. You can give this permission to somebody who would access your account if for any reason you are unable to access it yourself and also to access it after you. 

Once you set up the 'inactive account manager, Google will alert you if your account remains inactive for a period that you choose (it has to be beyond 3 months) and notify that person (or a number of persons) about it. That person(s) then takes charge of your data. You also have the option to let Google delete your data once and for all.

As you would know, Google treats all entitities associated with one account together: Picasa photos, Blogger blogs, Gmail mail, Google Plus posts and YouTube videos included.

For accessing this feature on Google, go to Account and then Account Settings.

Yahoo Ending


As far as we know, Yahoo's terms of service (TOS) do not allow transfer of any web property and only allow closing of an account on receipt of a request along with proof of being the heir or legal executor. However, Yahoo Japan also notifies upto 200 accounts in the event of an account holder's death, on a fee, it is reported.

February 12, 2015

5 essential blogging reminders

You have been maintaining your blog for years and so you don't need to learn how to 'manage' your blog. Read on if you thought so.

We are not talking here about just maintaining the blog, we're talking about managing it. Managing it like you'd manage your finances, your business, your career...


When you look at the blog as a long term asset of yours that you need to nurture for your growth in one chosen area, or overall growth, you need to invest your time and energy in managing it. We are serious. 



Blog management reminders


1. Have a target, a goal, an objective. It is better if you write it down. Make it slightly difficult but achievable.


2. Keep time for blogging. The time that you apportion to blogging depends on the target you want to achieve. If you want to develop it as a full time profession, you'd need much more time than the time needed for hobby blogging. If it is for business purposes, time required will depend further on whether you use blog as the main channel for business or you use it to supplement the main channel.


3. Care for content, but also other aspects. Spend time and energy on composing posts and giving more information. However, don't disregard SEO and social interactions - online as well as offline. 


4. The blog must evolve. Change the blog's look and feel, add new features, take down some, offer something new to viewers... Let the blog keep evolving. 

Don't make changes for change sake; introduce them after due consideration.

5. Back up, hazard-proof the blog. Do not leave the blog without firewall protection. Have a plan for regular back up. 


Review the blog every six months. Have a regular check-up of the blog, perhaps on six-monthly basis. Review your performance on each of the points given above. Is the blog performing as planned and as per targets? If you have not been getting time for blogging, is there something that must be sacrificed for blogging? If the content is not top-notch, do you need to take some action - taking editing advice, improving photos, pre-testing content through friendship circle... Does some compartment need special attention? Have you backed up the blog at least once in the last six-months? If you are not getting popular - and not getting enough backlinks and relevant visitors - is there something you need to do?

February 10, 2015

bkpk

Backpack ME

A&Z are a couple from India and Portugal. Back in 2011 they quit their jobs in Dubai to travel around the world. Now they want to inspire everyone to travel, no matter where they come from. Backpack ME is all about a multicultural perspective on travel!

- Ashray & Zara


February 7, 2015

PNG vs JPG for blogs and websites

There are some questions that come up again and again, however much you answer them. One such question, relating to use of graphic file-format on websites, is whether to use .png or .jpg images. As technology evolves, the answers are also likely to change as has happened in the case of .gif format. Nobody now asks whether to use.gif in place of other formats, unless it is a simple animation.

We’ll try to give all that a lay blogger needs to know, in simple terms.

PNG and JPG are both widely used graphic formats and both compress images to make them small, without perceptible quality loss for the purpose of websites. So which of the two to use on your blog or website?

Use PNG when the picture has objects with sharp edges and there are not too many colour gradients. That includes computer graphics and drawings. Use this format also if you want transparency; that means, the transparent parts of the graphic will show up the background under it, as shown below.

We placed a PNG file of eyes (with
transparent background) over
a London scene.
Here, we placed a JPG file of eyes
(with white background) over
the same London scene.
Use JPG in all other cases, and that includes all types of photographs.

Also remember that PNG is a lossless format while JPG is lossy. That means, if you keep editing the image and store it in PNG format, the quality of image will remain as it was (unless you have done something during editing that mars the quality); on the other hand, if you edit the file again and again and save it in JPG format each time, the quality will keep going worse.

February 3, 2015

Blogging on LinkedIn !!

LinkedIn now allows you to post on it like you post on your blog. A slight correction: LinkedIn did it last year for members in the US and has opened the posting ‘long form posts’ to everybody now. It boasts that in this one year, over one million posts have been written.

This biggest professional networking site in the world says, long form posts let members underscore their professional expertise. We believe that to be true. 

Writing original posts on LinkedIn is like blogging on one’s own blog. And, like blogging, a well-written post presents the author’s character, strengths and weaknesses, talent and skills as much as his expertise.

LinkedIn membership is now over 330 million strong, most of it free. LinkedIn allows its ‘premium’ features only to paying members. The ability to write long form posts gives especially the non-paying members an opportunity to showcase themselves better. 

People have used this opportunity to write on myriad topics: sharpening resume, power dressing, skills for meaningful discussion, succeeding in interviews, sales fundas, spotting the qualities in a boss, controlling emotions in workplace and what not!

To create a new post, look for pencil icon in the ‘Share an update’ box at the top of the updates listing. You can do limited formatting, and add photos and links in the post much like in the post-editor in Wordpress and Blogger. You can search long form posts in the search tool, with drop-down menu ‘Posts’.