May 30, 2015

Announcing the 2014-15 edition of the Directory of Best Indian Blogs

The 2014-15 edition of the Directory of Best Indian Blogs is out. 

This is the fifth edition. It has 342 307 blogs, arranged according to the operative part of the blog's URL. (The number has gone down as a number of blogs have been removed and a lesser number of new ones have joined in mid-year updation in December 2015.)

We'll arrange these blogs into various categories. The category-wise blog list will come out later. 

You can visit the Directory at the following link:



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For the bloggers whose blogs are listed in the blog directory:

You may consider putting the badge as seen above on their blog. This is purely voluntary. For putting the badge on your blog, copy the html code given in blue text below and paste it somewhere in a post (to be opened for editing in html view) or in an html gadget/ widget. 
<a href="http://www.indiantopblogs.com/p/the-directory-of-best-indian-blogs.html"><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-AvfiiwSQu_4/VWl5ZeL_NKI/AAAAAAAAClk/NKE6yBifQds/w140-h38-p/indian-top-blogs.jpg" style="border: 0;" /></a> 

disclaimer 
Inclusion of a blog in this Directory is no certificate from ITB. We cannot be held responsible for any harm due to a blog’s inclusion in this Directory. We also do not take responsibility for any inappropriate content of any type including defamation, plagiarism, use of inappropriate text and audio-visual material, etc carried by any blog listed in the Directory, though at the time of Directory compilation, we took due care not to include blogs with inappropriate content in the Directory.
If your blog is in the Directory and you don’t want it here for any reason, do tell us and we will immediately unburden you of the listing.

May 29, 2015

Analysing @NarendraModi’s Twitter habits and results

@NarendraModi has completed one year in office. During this period he taken big-ticket initiatives, visited many countries, made many memorable speeches and his statements have also created controversies.


@NarendraModi
Twitter is one important window for leaders: window through which you can peep inside them and window through which they can wave at their followers. So, we were curious about Modi’s (beg your pardon, Modi’s team’s) tweeting habits and so snooped into his account. Here are some interesting statistics. Maybe, others (especially political leaders) can learn from these.

  • In the last about six years (since January 10, 2009), he has tweeted over 8,000 times.
  • He tweets on all days; in the last one year, Thursdays have been the most crowded tweet days. He tweeted the least on Sundays and Wednesdays.
  • Tweets are posted all times of the day except between 5am and 6am. Most preferred hours are 9 am to 11am and 7pm to 11pm.
  • In the last one year, he tweeted about 8 tweets a day; on 17th September, he sent as many as 61 tweets! Over the years, he has been tweeting over 14 tweets a day.
  • The most used hashtag on Modi’s tweets has been #mycleanIndia. Shows, how much importance he gives to cleaning India.
  • He is following over 1,200 persons or organisations; these include world leaders, Bollywood stars, social activists, his party colleagues, ministers, key opponents, Hindu ideologues, government accounts and the media.
  • With nearly 12.6 million followers already, Modi's twitter followership goes up by about 24,000 followers a day. On 7th April, 2015, he added about 2,80,000 new followers but that was perhaps a statistical correction by Twitter.
  • Modi’s most favorited and re-tweeted tweet is: India has won! भारत की विजय। अच्छे दिन आने वाले हैं। This he tweeted on 16th May 2014, soon after his victory in parliamentary elections.
  • Modi returns favour and interacts too. Though he replies rarely, he does reply at times. He re-tweets others' tweets too; mostly such tweets are from his sister accounts: @PMOIndia, @PIBIndia. But he has re-tweeted many tweets of @AbeShinzon and @Rashtrapatibhvn.
  • He doesn't forget to congratulate prominent individuals or his countrymen on their birthdays, important anniversaries, festivals or victories. He also announces his government's new initiatives on Twitter. He often uses Twitter for explaining his government's position on tricky issues.
  • Modi's tweets are not just plain 140 characters. About a fourth of his tweets have a hyperlink or a photo or both.
This is a quick second post on Modi as it looked topical to analyse his Twitter account on his completing one eventful year in office. Here, you can visit our earlier posts on politicians as well as on other social media topics.

May 27, 2015

Preview of 'the Directory of Best Indian Blogs' 2014-2015

The Directory of Best Indian Blogs is almost ready and will be out on 30th May. This will be the fifth edition of the Directory.

As always, do expect the best Indian English blogs in the Directory (We have a directory for best Hindi blogs; directories for blogs in other languages will follow in the coming years). We do not select ‘best’ blogs through an algorithm or by giving weightage to Alexa rank etc; each blog in the Directory has been visited by four of us at least ten times during the shortlisting process. We still might have left out many great such blogs but that likelihood is reducing year after year.

Visitors who know ITB need no introduction to the Directory, but new visitors may like to visit this link (the 'about us' page of ITB) to have a feel of our ethical commitment that includes utmost sense of fairness, and no extraneous considerations for blogs’ inclusion in the Directory.

Based on your feedback, we keep making a few progressive changes in the Directory every year. From the main list we have segregated blogs on blogging platforms (e.g. newspapers) by their own columnists and blogs maintained by blogging communities. We agree with visitors’ comments that individual bloggers cannot compete with such blogs in terms of resources. In the case of bloggers on platforms maintained by media houses, NGOs etc, they do not have any control over design and other aspects and so their blogs need to be judged only on the strength of content, engagement and regularity.

We have been more strict with blogs that have resorted to commercialization / monetization at the cost of quality of content and/or display of main content. However, we appreciate use of blogging for making money while retaining the quality of the blog.

The Directory will have a few hundred blogs. While we include only such blogs as meet our selection criteria, we do include blogs that may have ignored one or two aspects of blogging but are overall very good (e.g a blog with great content but not much engagement with visitors; a blog with posts solely on her growing child but these are written in an exceptionally beautiful language). As you would know as our esteemed visitor, in about a month’s time, we’d bring out another listing of Indian English blogs. This listing would be much shorter and would have the best-est-est blogs out of the blogs already judged as the best – we call them Platinum Blogs. (You can see the 2013-14 listing of platinum blogs here.)

Hey, won’t you like to thank us for bringing to you the cream of Indian blogosphere? Oh no, that’s not required. We thank you for visiting us. It is our (we are a team of four friends) pleasure to keep promoting good blogs, especially Indian, and sharing good points of blogging. Thanks indeed. Do visit the Directory when it comes out on 30th May.

May 22, 2015

@Modi, #Modi and #纳伦德拉莫迪#

Narendra Modi is one of the most social media savvy political leaders in the world, no doubt. And if we thought he would continue with that, we were proved wrong; he is doing it better and in more innovative ways!

Before his China visit, Modi opened an account with the Chinese microblogging site Weibo and the account now has got over 31 million hits.

Fond of taking selfies in iconic places and with people as well as world leaders, Modi took a selfie with Chinese premier Li. Western media is hailing it as one of the most power-packed selfie.
The power-packed selfie

But Modi and controversies go together. A great orator in Hindi, he addresses Indian diaspora whenever he goes abroad. He is able to immediately create an emotional bond with them, with his anecdotes and all. When talking of his achievements, he does not spare his opponents home. This time, when he addressed Indian-origin people in Seoul, he said, there was a time when Indians felt they’d committed a sin in their past life and so they had to take birth in India… and left it to settle abroad… now intelligent people from all walks of life are eager to come back and settle there for even lesser incomes.

This remark of Modi has rattled opposition parties in India, especially the Congress. On Twitter, a hashtag #ModiInsultsIndia is making rounds, blaming Modi for talking domestic politics abroad, insulting Indians and demeaning the position of Prime Minister.

@Modi is discreet too

Despite what his opponents say, Modi’s reach and influence keep growing on social media. We saw this observation on a paper and checked for ourselves: It is true that during his China, Mongolia and South Korea visit, Modi’s Twitter and Weibo accounts did not have the same tweets. On Weibo, the intention seems to be to connect with Chinese people and Indians knowing Chinese on an emotional platform; on Twitter, everything (social, political, financial-economic, diplomatic and emotional-personal) goes as the audience is global.


Extracts of Pal's study on Modi's tweets
Then, there is this study made by a Michigan University teacher, Joyojeet Pal, on tweeting by Modi. Pal analyses how Modi has managed to make his banal political tweets viral. He concludes that the strategies adopted by him for social media have helped him reach his audience directly and align with the modern Indian youth.

We keep discussing politicians' use of social media; you can visit our last take, which was on Modi and Shibu Soren.

May 17, 2015

Put infographics easily on your blog

What is an infograhpic?

In simple terms, an infographic is presentation of information in image form.


Making infographics is as easy as drag and drop,
on Canva, etc
Infographics are seen on blogs, social networks, product sites, presentations, research journals, almost everywhere. 

Infographics come handy in presenting data in visual form. They can visualize data in many forms, the common ones being: graphs / time series / data on maps / tree-maps / networks / flowcharts / simple graphic-text visualisations.

But, if not created intelligently, they can look childish and will not serve the purpose of making the information easily understood.

In this post, we’d briefly talk about the importance of infographics in blogs, and then how to make professional-looking infographics.


Why infographics on blogs?


  • Infographics break monotony of text content. As with other visual elements, infographics give relief to eyes.
  • They draw instant attention to facts. Without an accompanying infographic, the viewer might miss the data you want him to look at.
  • They visualize facts for the viewer. Remember how sketches helped you visualize the adventures of Alice in the wonderland.
  • They serve to highlight important aspects of information. Whether standalone or supplementing text, infographics help the reader focus on the most important aspects of the subject. Within data, visual presentation makes the reader make immediate comparisons, e.g. a small circle representing your startup’s revenue next to a huge circle representing General Electric’s income would instantly show how small you are, financially speaking.
  • Infographics make it easy to understand trends and comparisons. The infographic will tend to be complex if the data is complex, but beauty lies in making infographics easy to understand.
  • Infographics help in understanding information sequentially from general to specific or simple to complex. You can make different modules within a big infographic, first showing the broad picture and then going to details, helping the viewer grasp the data more easily.

When to put infographics on the blog?

If your blog discusses financial, demographic or such other topics that can be explained better with the help of a visual, think of infographics. Some examples could be – travel across countries (Show and briefly describe locations on a map.), evolution of something (Evolution of a car: show different versions with timelines.), progression over time (A graph of population / national incomes / cholesterol levels over a lifetime / reduction in crimes), distribution across geographies (Alcoholism across Europe: colour different nations according to the prevalence of alcoholism.), and so on.

You can think of infographics also to explain things visually with the help of an image and explanatory text. (Puritans would not like to call such simple presentations as infographics, but we would.) For example, you can take a series of shots of how a sweater is knit and then make one image out of it, with small text to explain the steps. Similarly, you could explain the parts of a machine using a photo of that machine and explain it with lines, circles and labels.

You can use infographics to supplement the main content of the post or can even have a post with just a long infographic.

Take care that the infographic is not too wordy / too cluttered, and is not confusing. Colours in the infographic should be chosen with care so that the final product does not look childish. Text should generally not be too colourful. The text must be in a clear font and of right size so that it is highly readable. The final product must look professional. The file size should ideally not be too big.


How to make infographics easily?

You can make infographics using any image editor (Photoshop, Gimp) or presentation tools (MS Powerpoint), but the easiest way would be to use tools specifically designed for making infographics. 

We introduce you to three websites that offer such tools online and free. There are many more, some only for making charts out of data and some embed their name when you create a free infographic, and so we have excluded them.

Canva. We introduced this fine graphic maker earlier. It can be used for making high-quality infographics, and with ease. You can choose from a number of free templates and either use their free images or upload your own images, drop and drag the elements, colour them, rotate them, write whatever you want, and the infographic is ready! 

Easel.ly. This is another site that offers online infographic creation. It has, like Canva, free templates (called vhemes) to choose from. 

Piktochart. This too has themes like the other two. The standard (free) account has enough resources for bloggers and other users.

These online tools are free and naturally have some limitations, but their paid versions have many more  resources and freedom to customize (Easel.ly is totally free).

May 13, 2015

Bangladesh: Is it becoming a graveyard of liberal bloggers?

At this rate, it will become routine to pay obituaries to Bangladeshi bloggers who are killed in broad daylight by Islamic fundamentalists.
ananta-bijoy-bangladesh
Ananta Bijoy, from Facebook 

It was 
Rajib Haider first, then Avijit Roy and then Washiqur Rahman. Now comes Ananta Bijoy Das. He was hacked to death by Islamists when he was on his way to office in Sylhet yesterday. Police say, an unknown group 'Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent' (AQIS) has claimed the responsibility for the attack. Only some days back, this very group claimed that it had killed Avijit. 

Ananta used to write articles on rational thoughts and sometimes his posts criticised religions, including Islam and Hinduism. Like others, he had also been receiving death threats for his writings. This week itself, 
Ananta wrote a piece on his Facebook timeline, on police inaction in the previous two cases and also an article about rising funtamentalism in Sylhet.

There is a lot of anger and anguish on social media. #Bangladesh right now is dominated by sentiments against the killing. But who cares?

May 11, 2015

Social Media: engaging in Mother's Day, Rahul and UK voting

Mother's day is a special day for all because mothers are so special a creature, and nobody is borne without a mother - at least till now. So, social media was abuzz with Mother's Day messages, nostalgic black and white photos and selfies with mothers.

Be it Hollywood, India's Bollywood, leading sports stars, political leaders... most of them had something to say on this day. Many websites also announced competitions. So, these days, real mothers / fathers / sisters get an annual day to cheer through virtual compliments; happy days! ♫ ♫


A screen grab from @officeofrg

Rahul Gandhi, who?


In India, Twitter finally discovered Rahul, the crown prince of Congress - still a formidable political voice even after drubbing at last May's general elections. Grudgingly came Rahul on social media - with a Twitter account that too is not his 'personal' account; it is @OfficeOfRG. What a way to engage on social media!

Now and then, we have been tracking Indian politicians' web / social media activities. In this detailed post on Indian politicians' web presence, we have shown how mechanically the social media is being managed by a back-up team of these politicians, without even an occasional personal touch. @ShashiTharoor, of course, and @Modi are prominent exceptions. Among Bollywood celebrities, Amitabh Bachan gets our salute for writing posts on his blog with untiring regularity. Most others are like Rahul Gandhi only.


UK elections and the social media


In the UK elections just held, social media was extremely active, as was expected. Many articles have been written on blogs and in print about how much the social media influenced the elections. However, its role as serious informer and voting influencer is not fully clear. It seems logical that when it comes to keeping the buzz going and encouraging people to vote, social media plays a salutary role. 

Remember, in 2010 UK elections, social media was given credit for being a major influencer, and in 2008 itself, the US elections were called 'social media elections'. In India, a lot of swing of youth voter was credited to social media during the 2014 elections despite poor internet penetration in most parts of the country.

Coming back to the UK, it has been reported that on Facebook, right wing party supporters dominated and on Twitter, the left wing. Predictions made based on social media engagement failed, as also the opinion polls and surveys. Some things are clear: Going by just number of followers, likes, tweets, buzz etc to guess who wins is plain stupid. It is also stupid to be swayed by the smart mood / trend / sentiment analysis given by tech firms - until the technology is able to replace human mind to a good extent. Influencing social media users by advertising etc may help but only to a limited extent; and what portion of that results in votes is not clear.

Let us link here two brilliantly written articles on social media role in elections: the first one was written just before the results (discusses history of social media use in elections and how social media was behaving in the UK at that time) and the second one after that.

May 8, 2015

7 reasons AdSense doesn't pay you enough, and what you can do about that

AdSense is one of the easiest web advertisement systems available to all website owners including bloggers, and it pays handsomely if all things go well. However, in a majority of cases, the payment is not enough and we end up blaming AdSense for that while the reason could be the way the blog is presented and maintained.

If you created a blog with passion and now maintain it with zeal, it is over a year old and receives a few thousand visits and half a dozen comments a month, there is no reason you should not be getting paid for AdSense ads. Before we go to the reasons you are not earning dollars, we suppose that your blog is in a paying niche and posts have proper number of relevant keywords; if not, look first at this post on keywords. (We keep adding more tips on blogging, so do look at SEO tag on ITB for latest posts.)

The good part of the story is that you can make necessary changes for 7 out of the 8 reasons listed here very easily and enjoy dollars flowing out of your blog. 

1. Wrong placement of advertisements.

If ad units are hidden amidst many widgets or images, these won’t be noticed by visitors. On the other hand, placing ads in areas on the blog that draw more attention is likely to get more clicks.


2. Wrong display of ads.

Not opting for right types of ad units hurts. For example, banner ads and ads with images get more attention. Visitors also don’t like to be fooled with ads that look too much similar to the content of the blog.


3. Too many ads, too soon.

Have you placed too many ads together? If there are many AdSense (and other) advertisements one after the other, it hurts in many ways including visitor’s overall feeling towards the blog.


4. Advertisements versus content.

Related to the frequency of ads is the space they occupy on the blog. The more space you give to ads as compared to the main content, the more you look like a blogger who blogs primarily for making money and is not serious about the subject. The safe limit could be 20 percent of space for advertisements including promotion of the blog itself.


5. Content not relevant to the search terms.

If your blog gets a large number of visitors because your SEO tricks have made it popular for a search term (but the blog does not have good information on that subject), people will leave it as soon as they land on the blog.


6. Design flaws and poor display.

Website design can play a big role in whether visitors remain on the blog or leave it too soon. These can also irritate prospective buyers. Intrusive popups and animations are common examples of such irritants.


7. Poor overall credibility of the blog.

People are likely to be influenced by your credibility before clicking at an ad. If they feel satisfied after viewing / reading a part of your blog, they are likely to explore further and that would include clicking on relevant ads.

Though this would apply more to affiliate ads and ads that you put directly, the viewers are likely to behave in a similar way regarding AdSense ads if these are relevant to the subject.


8. Google penalizing you, rightly or wrongly.

If Google finds that you ask visitors to click on AdSense ads or you click on ads on your own blog, it might penalise you. In addition, if you post ads from other agencies beyond what is permitted by it, you may get no money out of AdSense ads.

It might also happen that Google penalizes you for no fault of yours, or some mischief by your competitors; that is unfortunate but that does happens. If you find everything else fine and yet you earning no AdSense payments, wait till Google again looks at you benignly.

May 5, 2015

Social Media roasts Indian media in Nepal: for good reason

It is not that common that social media takes on the mainline media. But when it does so with the media of another country, it gets complicated. 

The Indian media is facing the wrath of the Nepalese social media right now. The hashtag #GoHomeIndianMedia is trending on Twitter in Nepal for many days, with disdain against Indian electronic media. There are reports that Indian media teams have been attacked in many places in Kathmandu.

There are people in kathmandu who say, some groups inimical to India are targeting Indian media and branding it Indian government's mouthpiece. Boys in motorcycles are said to be hired by a particular agency to throw stones at Indian media teams and shout slogans against them so as to discredit the marvelous work Indian relief and rescue workers have done in its neighbouring nation. It is also reported that the social media trend against Indian media is also a guided affair by a foreign agency.

Part of the anger is spontaneous, we reckon. India is taken as 'the big brother' in the neighbourhood and its support to the Nepalese people will always be seen with that prism: Is India using this opportunity to dominate us? Is it playing with our agony? Is it trying to put us under undue obligation? Is this tragedy being used for spying and other such activities? Etc etc. 

China and Pakistan do not definitely like India to be seen as a hero and her influence growing among South Asian nations. In fact, the way Indian army is being picturised in Nepalese social media during this time, one can sense a sinister handiwork because there is palpable level of goodwill among the Nepalese about Indian army (Indian army even has a Gurkha Regiment, with majority of its soldiers from Nepal). If this hypothesis is true, Indian media is naturally a soft target that can be shown to be doing the bidding of a hegemonic neighbour.

In fact, part of Indian channels' showing of Indian help (both, the genuine help and genuine reporting) might be boomeranging because of easy availability of these channels in Nepal. On top of that, Indian channels have been catering to Indian viewers by trying to boast of their own feats in reaching remote areas and bringing exclusive footage as compared to rival channels. A bit of self-patting might be OK, but when such boasts become patronising or condescending, these are not likely to be taken kindly by Nepalese as they are distinctly a proud, sovereign country. 

That was for professional reporting of calamities, But we Indians know how brazen Indian electronic media can be when reporting on even the most heart-rending event. The uncouth reporters can damage anybody's reputation, transgress any person's privacy, ask questions that sworn enemies would not ask from grieving family members, make a show of a kid in pain. For the sake of Television Rating Points (TRP), they are known even to create scenes when there is nothing on the ground, and put others' lives in danger. Some more sober channels and print media have put the entire blame of social media anger against Indian media on 'tabloidisation' of news' by the aggressive ones. A great number of people feel in India, such channel deserve to be castigated in the strongest manner.

Shows how social media does not spare even the traditional media for its follies; also shows how social media can be manipulated by those who have an axe to grind.

To refresh your memory on how social media can be used for wrong purposes, you might like to read this ITB take on recent use of social media by terror outfit ISIS. All articles on social media can be accessed here.

May 2, 2015

Is your little email ID on the blog?

email-on-blog

A blogger friend created a great blog template, added great content, made links to and fro, put AdSense advertisements in the sidebar, linked the blog to her Facebook account and waited for people to flock her blog and businesses to flood her with offers. 

One year past, she had about a hundred posts, a hundred comments, a few thousand visitors but no business proposal. As it was a beauty blog, she'd expected at least a few inquiries from beauty product sellers.

After about a year, she asked ITB for a quick review and also asked this straight question: 'Why am I not getting business inquiries'. 

After about three weeks of our review came her reply. She is blessed with good writing skills and her reply says it all; so, instead of explaining why you must have your email ID on the blog, we reproduce her reply:

My God! I did not realise so long that there was no way visitors could share something privately with me. They could not ask for an advice or my personal take on a product. And yes, there was no way businesses could talk to me! 

The comment box was there and it was for everyone to see, I had thought. If visitors wanted to contact me, they could have made a comment asking how to contact me. On my Facebook account, anybody could chat or send a message and these won't be public. That's what I had thought. I was also influenced by a friend's sincere but unhelpful advice that ladies should not disclose their personal details on blogs - and that included giving email ID.

For some time, I indeed had my email account written in this form (which I had adopted from a friend's blog): abc [at] gmail [dot] com. Later I removed even that when I started getting spam mails. I was sure, I received these mails because I had made my mail public on the blog. I still receive such mails, and in my stupid analysis, I was till now attributing them to the earlier email details on my blog. 

Now that I have made my email public on the blog and in fact displayed it prominently in two places, I have received two business ideas and two requests for promoting mutual blogs - just in 15 days. I am grateful to you that you drew my attention to a very small but important thing I was ignoring. 

ITB keeps posting tips for improving blogs. Even insignificant-looking tips can help bloggers in big way as these serve to 'draw their attention to a very small but important thing they might be ignoring'.