IndianTopBlogs: changes in blog review, advertisement policies

We are officially completing two years of blogging this week. What it means is that though we have been blogging for a longer period, we registered the present domain two years back, and web directories / search engines take age from the date of registration.

Thanks to our well-wishers, we have gone a long way in this short time. After writing detailed reviews of about a thousand blogs, we sat down to review our own blog. It started when we checked whether we would list ITB on the Platinum blog listing and got an unconvincing 'yes'. So, we have decided to change ourselves a bit. We'd share them with you too.

Does faking help a blog?

We have recently finished compilation of 2012-13 edition of the Directory of best Indian Blogs and Platinum Rankings. As we have shared before, we visit blogs again and again to ascertain their quality in all compartments: content, regularity and design. We also check bloggers' blogging behaviour and social engagement. 

We all know that on social media, including blogosphere, people fake their identities. Interestingly, we've found that bloggers often fake their stats of various kind, other than identity, perhaps to look more authoritative.

Fake stat counters. Many bloggers give inflated figures of visitors. In one case, the blog mentioned the total number of visitors in 5 years to be over 3,50,000. After checking the blog’s search engine popularity, Google PR and some other ranks, we knew that the number was wrong by a big margin. We put the blog through popularity check tools and found that it had only about a thousand visits a month now, and for three years, it didn’t clock even 200 visits a month.

Misleading figures. Either ignorantly or deliberately, some bloggers display ‘hits’ on the blog. ‘Hit’ is hardly a barometer of visits to a blog and this number will be many times that of visits.

Bloated social network presence. Bloggers do not do this too often, but companies, celebrities and political parties are known to indulge in it: using tools to artificially generate large number of followers / likes / friends on social network sites. [We intend to come out with a post on this sometime later.]

Blog archiving basics-II

by Indian Top Blogs

This is the second post in the archiving series. You can see here the first post on blog archiving. If you have landed here directly, we'd recommend that you read that post before reading the present one.

Displaying blog archives: keep it simple yet effective

You can display archives on the blog in many ways. Some bloggers choose to keep a separate page for archives and put individual posts manually on this page. But this is seldom the most efficient way of managing and displaying archives.  Archive display is better done using an automated system, i.e. by using a widget.

We list below the most common ways in which archives are displayed on blogs:
a. A box stating ‘archives’ or ‘select month’ or something like that. When you click on it, you get a drop-down list. This saves space and is very unobtrusive. However, the list collapses after you click on a link in the list, and you need to re-open the list. Many visitors find this need for repetitive actions to browse archives irritating.

Common patterns of archive display on blogs

b. A vertical list with only years visible. Click on a year and you see months under which the posts are listed. A variant of this style, with posts of the latest month visible by default, is used on IndianTopBlogs. We find this to be the best compromise between logical display and space taken. However, it can add to clutter on the blog if the archive widget is stuffed in a sidebar among many listing-widgets. 

c. All years and/or months are listed [e.g. HT blogs]. Over time, these lists tend to be very long and unmanageable. If not kept in a clean layout, the list might also lead to clutter.

d. Current month’s calendar is visible. Year and month boxes and/or ‘previous’ and ‘next’ navigation links make it possible to go to earlier or later months [e.g. Times of India blogs]. This needs visitors to go back month by month and it can be very frustrating. In some cases, there might be facility to jump straight to a particular year or month, making life a bit easier. 

e. Archives are displayed page-wise. Interestingly, many technology blogs keep their post archives in this fashion. This does not serve much purpose as it does not take you to a particular time in the past nor does it tell you something worthwhile about the blogger's posting behaviour or richness of the blog.

f. Listing of posts on a separate ‘archives’ page, often manually compiled. Listing on a separate page is OK, but manual compilation of lists might lead to serious omissions at times.

Before leaving the decision to you about the type of archiving system you should keep in your blog, let’s discuss an issue we’d left half-way in the previous post: why naming posts in Blogger style is the best way and how it suits archive display too. On many blogs, when we see posts numbered as 34/567 or we anticipate an archiving problem today or tomorrow. These faceless page numbers and post number do not contribute in any way towards identification of the post or its content. In some cases, bloggers think that putting / naming / displaying posts category-wise serves the purpose the best. No, it does not; in fact it makes things complicated when a post with diverse themes is to be placed. Categorisation is handled much better by putting a tag / label on the post. [We have had discussion on ITB on the subject of labeling and categorisation in blogs.]

A few other considerations while we are on the subject of archiving

You can also indicate the number of posts against a month and year. It helps to subtly show off your assets if you have been blogging regularly and have amassed a good resource base.

Some bloggers like the archive  to read from the oldest to the latest. 

If you don't mind the pain in manually managing archives, you get the option of customising the list. For example, you can word the entries the way you like [In the case of automated archive, the name of the post will automatically go into the listing]. You can also change the colour or text-size of posts that you think important.

In some Wordpress themes, we noticed two archiving widgets one after the other: the box with drop-down listing and the calendar ['a' and 'd' in the graphic above]. This gives the visitor the option to look at archives in one go or go back month-wise. [We still feel that 'b' style scores over 'a' and 'd' combined.]

The option of not displaying archives

Posts will be archived in the blog anyway, without your asking for it and unless you want to remove any trail of old posts. However, you can choose to NOT DISPLAY archives on the blog. In many blogs, we do not see archives and it does not seem to hurt the blog in any big way as the visitors' purpose is mostly served if the blog has well-kept label list and/or categories. The search box helps the visitor in finding all posts relating to the search keyword. But, as we discussed in the previous post, it helps the visitor in some ways that categorisation and labelling do not. Equally important, it showcases the blog's content and improves its authority / credibility.

A few bloggers have told us they do not keep archive on the blog as they fear that archive makes it easy to steal content. If that is your fear, please be sure that there are tools available free on the net that can extract all your content in one click. 

Websites that do not have content in blog style can think of NOT showing their archives since it does not make much sense to chronologically display content. Proper categorisation is often enough for websites to showcase their resources.  Moreover, while in blogs, posts are the prime content and these are updated regularly, websites often do not have a clear-cut 'main content' that updates regularly. For content that updates over time, they may like to display older content if it serves a purpose. For example, a company's website may have a list of balance sheets / P&L accounts of the past years. 

A last word about huge web-spaces that still like to call themselves as BLOGS [and rightly so, as - unlike other websites - they keep updating their prime content, blog-like]. Mashable, The Huffington Post and Gawker, for example. These are like massive portals and have enormous content. Though they are run by a big team which keeps working on the content all the time, these blogs seem to lose count of their resources. They come up with new ways to deal with displaying the huge and still growing resources: by categorising the content in different ways. When the categories too cannot hold the content, some of them display the content in 'infinite scrolling' pages [=pages that keep on scrolling as you move down]. The traditional archive display will only add to clutter in such blogs. 

You can see here all blogging tips on ITB, and they run into a few dozen by now!

Blog archiving basics - I

by Indian Top Blogs

What archive display should I use on my blog? I have put posts in all relevant categories, so why should I have a blog archive at all? I like to put posts in a manually run archives page; why should I go for an automated one?

We are posed many such questions by bloggers. We thought, instead of replying to these questions, we'd rather engage our visitors in a detailed discussion on blog archive display so that they consider all pros and cons and take the best decision for their blog. So comes this 2-part series on blog/ website archiving.

Importance of archiving for blogs and other websites

'Archiving' for this discussion would mean ‘compilation and storage of old records and their display on the website’.  The archive is the sum total of resources crated over time and arranged properly so that they can be retrieved without confusion. Blogs, more than other websites, MUST have a proper archiving system since the key content in blogs is regularly updated and is amenable to chronological stacking. Moreover, the time of publishing of a post is important in blogs more than other websites since old posts also remain in place and the information gets updated over and over.

Proper display of archives serves the blog in more ways than one. It gives the visitor a glimpse of how you have been building your resources.  It helps the visitor find an old item quickly. [You’ll say that categorisation / labelling of posts does that job better. Yes, archiving and categorisation overlap in some respects but they have their own value. Combining them in one widget does not produce any better results as it complicates the retrieval. Category-wise display has other limitations too: seeing a category, how do I quickly find what your views on a subject were five year back? Or how do I know how many posts you wrote year-wise and month-wise last year? This is not to undermine the importance of labeling but to stress that categorization does not replace archiving. [In fact ITB has a couple of posts on labeling and categorization.]

How 'Blogger' archives posts: clear, logical, expandable  

A good archiving system for blogs takes into consideration all these: proper naming of posts, their proper arrangement and their efficient retrieval.

Posts stacked on website archives.
Look at a blog that uses Blogger’s coding. Let's see an example from ITB itself. See the accompanying image.  Note that after the blog’s URL [i.e.], it gives the year and then the month of posting, and finally the name of the post. What it tells is that Blogger arranges posts in monthly archives which in turn have been stacked year-wise.  In most digital cameras and audio-visual recorders also, this is the default pattern for storing photos / audio / video clips.

Wordpress too does the archiving nearly the same way, but its default archive display is often different.

The Blogger archiving pattern is a very clean and logical way of keeping posts. This system is expandable till infinity. It also reduces the chances of duplicate naming (unless you give the same name to more than one post in a month).

You will also agree that This is a better way than
OR [running number] OR OR 34/greatest-indian-blogs...   OR media discussions/greatest-indian-blogs...

It should be obvious why the Blogger's way of arranging posts in the archives is the best of all, but if you are not convinced, we’ll discuss it in the second post again, after we have discussed the different ways in which archives can be displayed on blogs.

This is first of a two-post series on blog archiving. The next post can be visited here: Keeping archives simple

Greatest Indian Blogs today: Platinum Rankings by ITB

Here we are, with the crème-de-la-crème of Indian blogging.

We salute these blogs, which have contributed magnificently to the Indian blogosphere, in 2012-13, with the following.
(i) great content [including thought, discussion and visual material],
(ii) great visual appeal [that includes appealing design and also viewer-friendly navigation],
(iii) a large and growing resource-base,
(iv) untiring regularity over a long period of time,
(v) excellent use of the blogging platform to enrich niche content, and
(vi) keeping the blogosphere buzzing by spirited engagement with other bloggers.

Our search for the 'diamond' blog is still on - a blog that excels in all these compartments. So we call the list Platinum Rankings, and each of the blog here is a treasure in itself. If a blog is slightly weak in one of these areas, it covers that up by being outstanding in many others.
After a great deal of discussion among ourselves, we made concessions in the case of a couple of blogs for poor or no interaction with commenters, unbalanced columns and a missing link, because their content and overall contribution towards enriching the blogosphere is so good that the listing would be poorer if we excluded them.
It is not our contention that there are no other equally great blogs in the Indian blog-world. As always, we are guilty of leaving some excellent blogs because despite their being excellent in absolute terms, we spotted even better blogs in their category and we could not accommodate many blogs of the same type. In addition, some superb blogs might not have come to our notice despite our having screened over 50,000 Indian blogs so far in the last two years.

We need to give some more explanations about the Platinum Rankings for 2012-13.

Nasty political twitter war in India

by Indian Top Blogs

Sushma Swaraj (Twitter followers on July 1: 519,307): “They ought to be dismissed for being inept and incompetent…Those who cannot govern in crisis do not deserve to be in the Government even for a day.
Manish Tewari (7,790): “Did anyone see LOP's in both houses express sympathy/visit disaster hit Uttrakhand This from a party that criticizes visits of. Cong leaders.” [LOP= Leader of Opposition]

These were two tweets from political leaders of India on the recent Uttarakhand tragedy.

Use of twitter by politicians in India is not new. Shashi Tharoor (followers: 1,819,140) lost his minister-ship in 2009 when he tweeted that he was travelling cow class, referring to the economy class by which he had to travel as that particular flight did not have business class seats. We have seen occasions when politicians tweet, instead of making a statement before the traditional media, to give a nuanced message. For one, this gives them much greater control over what they want to say.

Now this platform is being used by Congress and BJP, the two main political parties, to score points over each other. This will not get any political gain to these parties but the urge to beat the other in virtual slugfest seems to be overbearing.

On the BJP side, Narendra Modi (1,814,719) is the most popular social networker, but he has avoided making a comment in the current tug-of-war. Sushma is doing BJP’s bidding, helped by juicy soundbites from party spokespersons to the media.

On the Congress side, Shashi Tharoor is the most popular Twitter personality, more because of his diplomatic and other discourses over the net than political comments. On the present controversy over Uttarakhand relief operations etc, he has so far been very moderate: “Twitter is not a substitute for action,” he tweeted two days back.

Recall the two key speeches delivered in New Delhi by the ‘future Prime Ministerial candidates’, Rahul and Modi three months back and the Twitter war that broke after that. BJP sympathisers and others created a handle #pappu to make fun of Rahul’s speech, and when Modi spoke, Congress supporters used #feku to deride him. [pappu= dumb kid; feku=boaster]

As Modi’s popularity seems to be growing among youth in the last few months, Congress has renewed its efforts to better use the social media. A rather senior minister, Ajay Maken, has been brought to the party to head the social media cell, a strategy is being drawn up to dominate the social media space before and during the general elections, and social media presence of government’s publicity organizations is being bolstered. The present aggressiveness on the part of Congress seems to be in that spirit and part of that strategy.

The next elections in India, due in 2014, will be fought on issues (e.g. corruption, inflation) and personalities (Modi, Rahul), and Twitter following is NOT likely to influence the poll outcome at all. Yet, the way Twitter is being used by the main political parties in India, it appears that many inconsequential yet highly charged battles would be fought on this social networking platform in the next six months.

You can read here ITB post on a recent survey report on Indian political bigwigs on social media.