November 30, 2015

Social media: its connection with education, donations and well-being

HIGHER EDUCATION AND SOCIAL MEDIA USAGE


A study by OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) says, highly educated Germans are less likely to use social media. On the other hand, in many OECD countries including the UK, Portugal, Greece and Turkey, the use of social media rises with higher education. You can see details of the study in this DW article.

STUDY SAYS FACEBOOK REDUCES WELL BEING


A study by Sauder School of Business finds envy to be a key motivator behind Facebook posts.

And when envy is the motivating force, you can well understand that engaging on Facebook does contribute to a decrease in mental well-being. It is not us, but the study itself infers.

Researchers say, Facebook leads its users to feel that their lives are less fulfilled in comparison to others and that leads to the cycle of envy and self-importance, and then its impact on their happiness. This seems to happen mostly as people try to show-off their bigger than life images on the social media (e.g. photos of a perfect vacation in an exotic location). 

The study was conducted on about 1200 Facebook users in a German university.

DOES SOCIAL MEDIA REDUCE DONATIONS TO CHARITY?

Another rather uncharitable comment on Facebook comes from the same institution. A study shows that when people show public support for charities on social media, they are less likely to donate for the cause later on. 

The social media support seems to work against charities though they might feel that going social in a big way attracts donors to them and prompts them to donate.

However, it is not only related to social media. Whenever people were given an option to show token support (e.g. by pinning a flag on shirt), they were found less likely participants to provide meaningful support later. However, when they had to show the token support confidentially, their urge to contribute didn't lessen. Both these suggest that people's urge to be seen doing good is satisfied when they publicly support the cause by way of tokens including Facebook 'like'. 

One of the researcher says, If charities run public token campaigns under the belief that they lead to meaningful support, they may be sacrificing their precious resources in vain...If the goal is to generate real support, public facing social media campaigns may be a mistake.

November 26, 2015

A wonderful image tool for all webworks and more: Fotojet

We bring you another great image tool for your website, blog and social media accounts.

Let's introduce Fotojet


free-image-tool-blogging-website

In this little and lightweight tool, you start creating the image or card or collage with the first click. No registration, no preconditions, no tech requirements. You don't even need ideas or photos for starting your creation. Look at over a hundred samples and dozens of free photos on your platter and decide. And then let your creativity flow. You will see many frills and effects for customizing fonts, images, layouts and backgrounds.  

Unlike many other websites, Fotojet gives you the option to save the final image in big sizes and high quality - all without a watermark or proprietary limitations or a forced payment.

We find this web tool very easy and intuitive, yet full of options. The makers of the tool say it creates collage, and we feel that in saying so they are being unfair to their own creation. This tool is so versatile that you can create your blog's banner, an e-invitation, a Facebook cover... and of course a collage for any other purpose. From a blogger or website owner's perspective, we find that it can be used as an aid to creating stunning website designs.


DISCLOSURE

IndianTopBlogs does not have any commercial dealings with Fotojet. We are making these recommendations after thoroughly testing the tool ourselves and being satisfied that it is worth recommending to fellow web users. If ever in future we develop a commercial relationship with Fotojet, we'll immediately inform about it here.

November 22, 2015

How to make a blog free on Google?

Sometime back, we published a post on starting a free blog. In response, we got some queries that show that new bloggers often confuse between .blogger, .blogspot and Google blogs. So comes this post.

Google is not only the biggest search engine, its bouquet has a lot many products and services. Among them is Blogger, a bogging platform, on which you can open any number of blogs, all for free!

When you open a blog on Blogger, you get the blog's name with .blogspot at the end of it. For example, there is a blog with the name http://indiantopblogs.blogspot.com

When you make a blog on Blogger, it get .blogspot.com as the ending. Interestingly, when you open this very blog in a country where Google has installed a server, you often get the same blog with the country ending! So don't get confused if in India, you get the blog in the above example as http://indiantopblogs.blogspot.in.

In short, a 'Google blog' is the same as 'Blogger blog' or the one with .blogspot.com ending.

Things might look even more confusing if you checked the very first letters of a Google blog: it might have http:// or https:// . Both are the same in the case of Google blogs. The second one is a new and safer version recently started by Google. Instead of getting confused, you should generally avoid typing this part at all. The browser (Chrome / Mozilla / Explorer) will automatically take you to the right version. For example, for the blog in our example, just typing this in the address box will open the blog: indiantopblogs.blogspot.com (without http://)

HOW TO MAKE A BLOG ON GOOGLE?


Well, in giving you clarity about Google blogs, we forgot to tell you how to make a blog on Google. You just need to go to http://blogger.com and follow their instructions. We have already made a slide show and a post on this, which you can visit by clicking here: How to start a blog - a fantastic blog

Hope, you don't face any difficulty in creating a blog after you have gone through the slide show. We ran an 8-part series on special features of Blogger, starting with this one, which will guide you further about Google blogs: Blogger's great features: an introduction.

November 18, 2015

Bloggers beware! Broken and dead links hurt badly.

Broken links and dead links are hyperlinks on webpages, which do not link to the destination.
broken-links-on-websites

Broken links arise due to many reasons, the main ones being:
  • The linked content's URL has been changed.
  • The author of the website / blog typed the URL wrongly.
  • The URL has gone private.
  • The host server has gone bad temporarily (e.g. down for maintenance or attacked by a malware or overburdened due to sudden spike in traffic) or permanently.
  • The URL has been blocked or removed due to its controversial or harmful nature.
  • Links to user generated content, for example on putting a query, can generate temporary URLs that vanish immediately after use. Similarly when content that comes up only when the user logs in can not be see through the URL by non-logged in users.
  • Bad or broken or dead links get multiplied on blogs and many other CMSs by replicating the same URLs in many places. For example, a bad link might come up on the search pages and category pages in addition to the page where it lies.

WHY SHOULD I BOTHER FOR BROKEN LINKS ON MY WEBSITE OR BLOG?


There are three BIG reasons you must care that all the links on your website work:

  • Broken or dead links irritate visitors.Visitors might not return to a website that has many such links.
  • Broken / dead links also give the impression that you are not serious about the site. It hurts your online reputation as a brand and as a blogger.
  • Search engines are supposed to penalize sites for broken and dead links.

 

HOW MUCH IS THE BROKEN LINK PREVALENT?


The 404 error code and some hlml messages that announce 'The webage is not responding.' are quite prevalent on the web. We encounter these messages routinely when we visit a hyperlink whose destination is not available.

A source on the Wikipedia page on 'Link Rot' states (as in November 2015) that about 5% links are found to decay every year. Some web libraries and archives have reported over half of their links going bad over a long period, leading to references on research journals becoming untraceable.

We have seen during our blog directory compilations over the last about six years that many hobby bloggers keep a large blogrolls and after a time, many of these blogs either wither away, turn private or are taken off. Our blog directories too are susceptible to it. In our latest broken link check a month back, we had to remove 36 broken links from our directories as some blogs that once looked great had closed down while some had grown and migrated to new domains without redirecting their old blogging resources to new blogs.

WHAT ACTIONS DO I NEED TO TAKE TO AVOID BROKEN LINKS ON MY WEBSITE?


Checking websites and blogs for errors must be a regular maintenance activity and checking for broken links must be part of that. You need to take the following preventive and maintenance actions:

  • Check each hyperlink's working after publishing the page / blog post. If you have blogroll on your blog, be even more careful.
  • Do not, to the extent possible, link to a PDF document, or a standalone image.
  • If linking images or documents stored online, e.g. in dropbox, be sure that you are not going to password protect or remove such resources after some time.
  • Avoid linking URLs that are generated on your browser when you make a data query on a website. (For example, when you look for comparison between two gadgets with many filters on a gadget site.)
  • Check all your links every six months. If the website or blog has many links, use a link checker. (There are many available on the web, free.)
  • Have a custom '404' page. This is a botheration but is important especially for big websites that are frequently updated and get tons of traffic. In their case, even a single bad link can have a cascading effect. If your CMS / host provide that facility, direct any bad link page to a page that says sorry and takes you to a related page so that the visitor is not put off seeing a rude '404' error page.

BROKEN LINK CHECKERS ON THE WEB


There are many broken link checker tools (mostly free) available on the web and we are not in a position to recommend any particular one. After you have got the list, go to individual bad link and take corrective action.

Remember, you must fix broken and dead links as a regular SEO, site optimization activity.

November 15, 2015

When Twitter is used to roast even for a slight indiscretion!

PARIS TERROR ATTACK, WIKILEAKS TWEETS AND SHARP REACTIONS


WikiLeaks has been tweeting about Paris terror attacks, starting with the one below, following it with attacks on Hillary's stand, Hollande's statement and so on. 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's hate for US policy on terrorism is well known and the tweets would have resounded with people who feel that it is the west's interventionist policies in the Middle East that are primarily responsible for counter-attacks from ISIS. But many Twitterati have not liked the WikiLeaks tirade, calling it ill-timed.

Interestingly, within 36 hours after more than 127 people were massacred by terrorists in Paris, the news has almost ceased to globally trend on mainline social media.


HOW DARE BRITISH AIRWAYS ASK SACHIN TENDULKAR HIS FULL NAME?


This Friday, Sachin Tendulkaar, the cricketing legend, tweeted to show his anger at British Airways tagging his luggage to a wrong destination and not caring about his complaint. In return, the airline asked him to tell his full name and address - a routine. 

But that was a sacrilege for Sachin's fans, especially Indian ones, for whom the cricketer is no less than God. They started trolling the airline by way of angry tweets, replies and re-tweets. Even when Sachin posted that the airline had said sorry, the barrage of trolls continued.

Ever eager to make mountain out of a molehill, Indian television played the incident, angering the fans further. By Sunday evening, a sort of counter-offensive has taken place on social media, criticizing the fans and the media for going overboard over a non-issue. 

November 12, 2015

Social media darling quits it in favour of controlled blogging!

Essena-Oneill
Australian model quits Instagram, fed up with taking selfies and seeing likes she got. And getting depressed seeing how people's lives were better than hers. Realizing that it was leading to an unreal existence, she has quit Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr - the main social network accounts where she posted her photos and videos.

Fashion and beauty blogger Essena O'Neill had this realisation last week and has now opened a wonderful blog, http://www.letsbegamechangers.com where she talks about herself, her thoughts and caring for others. You can see more details in this report on Mashable.

The model with over half a million Instagram followers, also recounts how people fake their relationships to get more likes. She says, she got close to a supermodel online but at the end realized that he was proposing a business deal rather than love. 

Craving to ride social media can lead to depression


A study published in Computers in Human Behavior recently found that many social media users check how others were doing as compared to them, and this may result in envy and depression.

In chasing numbers of social acceptance such as likes and following, public figures put themselves under enormous emotional burden. When it is not possible to reduce the craving for such numbers, it is better to sign off, say some social media experts.

Essena's case is an example of a budding celebrity's disgust with social media in search of mental peace and balance in one's life. But this is an exception, more so since she has made such a decision early in life - she is just 18!

November 9, 2015

Want a website-like design for your blog? Think before you leap!

You have a Blogger (or Wordpress.com) free blog and now feel that you should rather have a traditional website, right? 

You have two options,
  • to convert the blog itself into a normal website 
  • to create a new website and take your blog’s resources there.
In the present post, we’d tell you how to convert the blog into a normal, simple, website that does not look like a blog. The procedure to redirect the blog to a new website is dealt with in this earlier post: Independent domain name, webhost and migration.

Before we tell you how to convert the blog into a website, let’s spend a few minutes on why (or why not) make a blog look like a normal website.


WHY SHOULD I CONVERT MY BLOG INTO A NORMAL WEBSITE?

This blog has a simple page as the standalone homepage. A custom redirect (Settings>Search Preferences...) makes it the homepage.

There are some real and some perceived advantages of having a normal website rather than a blog. The main ones are:
  • A website has URL that is different from stacked URLs given by Blogger and other free blog platforms. It looks independent and important.
  • Some visitors might find a website look more professional and feel that the owner of a website is more well-established than that of a free blog. 
  • Websites are generally taken as more reputed than blogs, especially as compared to free blogs which have domain names ending in .blogspot.com, .wordpress.com, .livejournal.com etc.
  • A static webpage gives the feel of being stable as compared to the blog look in which posts keep changing as these are updated.
  • You want some specific information to be seen by visitors first, and then they be taken to sections, not like blogs in which you have menus, widgets etc all on the home page.
  • Websites can be much more clutter-free, clean and bold than blogs (especially those on free platforms).

Having said that, let’s make it clear that all blogs are websites. (You may like to visit this post on blog vs website.) 

WHY SHOULD I KEEP  MY WEBSITE / BLOG IN BLOG FORMAT?


There are highly reputed website owners, including big organizations, who have full-fledged websites that look like blogs, with a purpose. The blog like look has its own advantages:
  • At least some visitors are equally, if not more, comfortable with blog-like arrangement.
  • Many websites update their stuff regularly. Blog like style suits them much better than a static page.
 
Add to these, the most important advantage of having a blog on a free platform: it does not demand anything from you (money, technical skill, botheration of maintaining it...) other than putting resources (articles, photos, videos, etc). It saves time, energy and money.

    HOW ABOUT A FREE BLOGGING PLATFORM BUT WEBSITE-LOOKS?


    A blogger need not go to one extreme. He has the choice to get the best of both the worlds, look how:

    • Many free Wordpress themes and Blogger templates give the blog the looks of a normal website, yet they retain the functionalities of the blog. 
    • Blogger's dynamic views feature can make the same blog have a number of looks, some very non-bloggy. 
    • In addition, if you like the blogger look but think (rightly) that you need to have an independent identity, keep the blog look but have an independent domain name.

    These two free platforms, especially Blogger, are so customizable that you can remove almost all bloggy elements from the blog to convert it into a proper website with or without domain name change. In the next section, we'll see how to hide or remove such elements from a Blogger blog.  

    HOW TO CONVERT BLOGGER BLOG TO A NORMAL WEBSITE IN LOOKS


    Go for as many of the following changes that you want to make on the blog:


    • Change template if you find one that suits your blog and is like a website.
    • If you don't find a fitting template, put a big photo which fills up the top and margins but is transparent or white in the text area of the screen. Similarly you can place a photo on top with title written on it on one side (to break the symmetry).
    • Turn off the NavBar (Blogger's inbuilt navigation bar at the top of the blog) and remove the space left by it.
    • Show only 1 post on the home page.
    • Hide bloggy attributes such as Date & time, Posted by, Comments, Links to this post, Labels, email ID, and Reactions from the post. For this, go to Layout>Posts>Edit.
    • Remove the Attribution gadget at the bottom of the Layout screen. (Don't bother too much if it does not allow deletion.)
    • Remove Subscribe to posts.
    • Do not keep gadgets that are bloggy in feel, such as Archive, Labels, Popular posts, Blogroll, unless you can make them look different.
    • Some gadgets such as Menu bar or Text/ HTML gadgets can still be placed on top or bottom of the blog (preferably not in the sidebar).
    • Customize gadgets wherever you need to keep them, with unusual fonts and colors, differently-sized text boxes etc.  
    • Have one page (not a post) as the homepage and give links to other posts / pages from that page.
    • Have only pages (not posts) on the blog. You can have upto 10 standalone pages on the blog whose URL also is not like 2015/03/bloggingfundas (blog-like).
    • Remove the Older posts / Home / Newer posts links from the bottom of the blog.
    • Remove sidebar(s) or keep them too narrow to be visible.

    For converting this blog to website design (which took about ten minutes), we chose the simple template from Blogger itself, removed bloggy widgets, kept some social buttons. We put a menu bar under the title.
    Finally, if you are not apologetic about being a blogger, you need not take the unnecessary botheration to even think of doing away with gadgets etc. However, having an independent domain name has its own advantages, even with full bloggy looks, as indiantopblogs.com shows. In fact, keeping a page as the homepage or removing sidebars and gadgets reduces the functionalities of the blog. Some other tweaks may even hurt the searchability (SEO) of the blog.

    So, think before you leap! 

    November 7, 2015

    5 things you must weigh before starting a blog

    We recently published a post on how to start a blog and how to maintain it. We also created a slideshow on how to create a great blog in just 30 minutes.

    Yet, certain things remained unsaid. For example, what should you consider even before you take a plunge to make a new blog (or website). These are very important because they map your mindset... they let you test whether you have the potential to become a 'successful' blogger in terms of money or storytelling or making an archive or furthering your professional interests or whatever else is your blogging goal. 

    We have divided this pre-blogging checklist into 5 segments as follows:

    1. Do you know well the rewards and the pitfalls? Knowing what you can get and at what cost is important before you start blogging.
    2. Do you understand your own strengths and  weaknesses? You must be conscious of your skills / knowledge / energy / time / experience / etc and also what all you lack. Can you overcome the shortcomings?
    3. What is your aim? It could be money or promoting a product or happiness or showing your creations to the world or just keeping a diary. Or many other things.
    4. Are you ready for the rigmarole? Blogging needs discipline and hardwork - are you prepared for that?
    5. Have you done the groundwork? Have you thought of the points given above and thought over your actions over short, medium and long terms?
    We have given a quick to-do checklist in this little slideshow: '5 points to weigh before you start a blog'. Do visit it before starting your next blog whether it is your first blog or tenth.

    November 4, 2015

    Blogging for publishing free thought is pardoned unless it criticizes Islamic icons

    Blogging is sinful to Islamists in Bangladesh, if it promotes secular thought


    A publisher has now paid with his life for keeping and propagating secular thoughts in this Muslim-majority nation. 

    Publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan was killed by Islamic extremists last week. Himself a secular blogger, his publishing house Jagriti Prokashoni has published books by Avijit Roy, a US citizen of Bangladeshi origin was killed earlier this year.

    There have been massive protests in Bangla Desh against this attack, but like earlier attacks on bloggers, we keep our fingers crossed whether there would be any check on the attackers. In fact, they have updated the hit list they issued earlier and have threatened to kill them all.

    A very popular blogger, with about a million following his social network pages, Imran Sarkar, has also received a death threat a few days back. 

    One more publisher, Farid Ahmed, of Somoy Prakashan publishing house, has also received a death threat this week for publishing secular works.

    American blogger promoting cartooning on Prophet gets another death notice


    American blogger, Pamela Geller, is under grave threat once again from Islamic militants. Her group, American Freedom Defense Initiative, is holding a contest that offers prize for the best cartoon depicting Prophet Muhammad.

    Their contest in Texas, held in May, saw a shooting in which a security officer was injured before the shooter was shot dead. Islamic organisation, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the shooting.

    It is reported that ISIS has now issued an online threat to eliminate Geller and her supporters. ISIS is especially incensed with Geller and her group as Islam does not allow physical depiction of the Prophet.


    Blogging gets lashes and an award too!


    Remember Raif Badawi? He is the blogger whom a Saudi court has sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He received 50 lashes in public in January this year after which the sentence is on hold (perhaps) primarily for health reasons. It is reported in American media, quoting his wife, that he might soon get the rest of his lashes, though not in public.

    Badawi's crime: insulting Islam. In practice what he did was criticizing Saudi Arabian clerics on his blog.

    A piece of good news about Badawi is that he has been awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament.