January 28, 2014

Arun Jaitley's blog and the Congress social media overdrive

A blog India watchers might like to visit

We have been bringing to the fore blog posts with substantially important content in terms of analysis or impact on the current social / political discourse.

People listen attentively when Arun Jaitley, one of India's respected politicians and the current leader of Opposion in the upper house of Indian parliament, makes his points during parliamentary debates. He is also a wise politician who doesn't open his mouth too often and when he opens it he does not get frivolous or cheap. One another thing he has learnt of late is to write his thoughts in his blog [more a website, but in somewhat blog form]. This is another wise thing. 

In his latest post, he has analysed Rahul Gandhi's interview to Times Now. For those who don't know #RahulGandhi, he is the bright kid of India's great political dynasty of Gandhis. He is known as #pappu by his detractors on the social media. 

Coming back to Arun Jaitley, he has dissected the Rahul interview quite well, though not as brilliantly as he does that job. Yes, a sober counter to what Rahul said, and timely.  

Rahul, rahul, rahul and again rahul!


January 21, 2014

What works for him might not work for you

We have come across numerous blogs, in which the blogger has applied a theme, put widgets or done design experiments that do not suit his blog at all. 

Sometimes it could be due to lazy thinking but in most cases it is due to copying what the blogger found good in others' blogs.

Copying others' virtues is great, but mindlessly copying other blogs' elements is not. We give a few stark contrasts to make our point clear. 

We came across an Indian blog in which the blogger lady thought of monetising the blog fast. So, what she did was to put advertisements from a number of sources including AdSense. When we came across this site during our blogosphere survey, we thought it was a site soliciting romantic relationship. But as its content per se was on family, raising kids etc, we kept it for second check. An inappropriate advt showed up again when we visited the blog after about a fortnight. We still believed that there was no intention of the blogger to have such advertisements on her site and we sent her an email telling her about the advts. She made amends and sent us an email in which she wrote that advertisements from the same source had been carried by some of her friends and she had been influenced by them, and that those friends' blogs had never had such a problem. We reckon that this blogger used the same source but somewhere in the registration process, allowed adult advertisements while her friends checked that out. 

Second, the case of childish experiments on an aged person's blog. The blog talks of the blogger's life-long experiences and gives real good advice on how to deal with emotional issues in the family, but its initial display had a number of animations, social networking widgets, time displays, etc. that didn't fit at all with the blog's subject. It seemed that the blogger's granddaughter had helped him in making the blog. The blog has undergone design change for the better over the last two years and was in the Directory of Best Indian Blogs in 2011-12. 

Third, when a good blog in Blogger platform shifted to Wordpress and lost its sheen. This blogger was influenced by the experiences people shared on a respectable website about different blogging platforms and decided to migrate her blog. In fact, she was so excited with the prospects that she just opened a Wordpress account and immediately exported the blog there and closed her Blogger account. Her first post after the migration was on how professional her new blog looked and how great she felt about it. In one of her latest posts, she has rued her hasty decision as some widgets and colour schemes that were working wonderfully in the Blogger blog were not available in the theme that she had applied on Wordpress blog. Worse, she is stuck with it as reverse migration to Blogger is not yielding smooth results. [We have, by way of a comment on her blog, advised her to open a new blog on Blogger, spruce it up as she had done the first blog and manually bring all posts to the new blog. It would be quite time-consuming but she would have found her earlier mojo.]

Copy others' good points but with care

When we find good colours, layout, linking, archiving and other design aspects in others' blogs, we should take note and visualise whether these fit well in the design as well the subject of our blog. Maybe, something fits well but something else does not. 

In the case of widget, one should see whether it would be useful to the visitor and it would add value to the overall content of the blog [these, in addition to colour, size and other design aspects].  

If you like a colour theme on a blog, apply this theme thoroughly on your blog but do not save it if you are not satisfied. However, if the changes auto-save after every few minutes, you have to be extra careful while applying changes. If you have a self-hosted blog, test it as a stand-alone test page before applying it. 

If you want to add or modify navigational aids such as menu bar, archives, widgets giving old or popular posts, because you found them to look great on a friend's blog, be sure that they will really add value to your blog. Maybe, a horizontal top menubar does not suit your tiled blog design. Maybe, another such widget clutters the blog's sidebar.  

Also see whether the changes you intend to do suit your own personality and your blog's personality. For example, garish themes on a serious blog, or the other way round.

Check if the intended changes will not create limitations of a new kind. For example, small grey fonts might look good as many modern sites use them. But if you have lots of content to read, such font will have a big reading handicap, more so if your website is for older people. If you find big photos on some websites worth emulating, you should look whether the column size of your blog can accommodate such photos, whether your host gives you enough webspace, whether the blog won't become slow, whether big photos will not pixellate [this will happen if you try to fit a small photo in big space]...

One tip that will allow you all sorts of experimentation without risk: open an experimental blog on the same platform on which your main blog is. Limit this blog's viewership to yourself. Do all experiments on this blog, and use them on your main blog only when you are satisfied with them on the experimental blog. 

Another tip to avoid spoiling your blog while making changes. Save the code of the blog and its resources before doing major experimentation. Also, if you are not comfortable with technology, do not use 'hacks' or try code modifications [but if you insist on trying them, do save the code].    

January 14, 2014

Facebook acquires 'Little Eye' of Bangalore

A Bangalore based startup of one year has been acquired by Facebook to strengthen their mobile development efforts. 

Little Eye Labs builds tools for app developers and testers. These tools lead to optimisation of resources etc, according to the company's website.

What is known is that the entire team of the startup will move to Facebook, but the terms and the size of the deal are not known. 

January 12, 2014

Which is the best free blogging platform?

Updated in May 2017
This is the second post in the 2-post series on blogging platforms. The first post was on the available free and paid CMS and blogging services.

We'd compare here the most well-known free platforms - Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr and Livejournal.

Common features of free blogging platforms

  • Free account and free blog(s). You don't have to pay to host and publish the blog.
  • Limits on technological support beyond the offer [unless you go for premium services if available].
  • Themes available to suit different genres and for varied looks and feel.
  • Editing of content, sprucing it up, posting graphic content possible. Sprucing up is possible by  choosing different options of fonts, colors, backgrounds, widgets, etc.
  • No or limited facility to control the base code.
  • You need not know html and other web technologies to change design, layout and presentation of the blog.

Blogger
  • Many themes available.
  • You can change code if you so like, to a good  extent.
  • Versatile post editor.
  • You can modify a page's / post's URL [to some extent].
  • You can put advertisements.
  • Solid Google support and seccurity behind it. New features added regularly.
  • Integrates with other Google apps such as Google+ and Picasaweb.
  • Integrates with Google Analytics.
  • It has inbuilt social networking aids.
  • You can do a lot of experimentation with colors and widgets. [It may make your blog beautiful but it can make it look childish too, depending upon your sense of design.]
  • It is possible to map your own domain [e.g indiantopblogs.com] with the free blog [indiantopblogs.blogspot.com]. This mapping or redirection is free.
  • It is easy to have widgets. Google calls them Gadgets.
  • You can have multiple authors for the same blog.
  • You can make the blog password protected or private. 
  • Each post can have its own meta description and privacy control.
  • Provided with https security.
  • You can monetize the blog through AdSense and other PPC ads. All types of ads are possible through widgets.

Wordpress
  • Numerous themes available.
  • Most themes give modern and clean look and feel. [Some themes allow customization but you cannot do too much experimentation with color, design.]
  • Very little change in code of the blog is possible in free plan.
  • It is easy to have plugins and widgets. Javascript widgets are not allowed.
  • Reliable Worpress support and backing.
  • It has inbuilt social networking aids.
  • Premium plans available.
  • Good post editor but you can only add photos, not videos in the free version.
  • It is possible to map your own domain [e.g indiantopblogs.com] with the free blog [indiantopblogs.wordpress.com] but at a payment.
  • You can have multiple authors for the same blog.
  • Provided with https security.
  • You can make blog as well as individual posts private or password protected.
  • No monetization possible through AdSense and other such methods.

Tumblr
  • Focuses on sharing content. You can decide to keep your identity anonymous while sharing.
  • You can publish text, photos etc on the fly and share them.
  • You can reblog a blog post on another blog. In fact this is how Tumblr bloggers mostly operate.
  • Posts come out clean, focusing only on content [rather than widgets, advts etc].
  • Has some themes and allows some customization, but not as versatile as Wordpress and Blogger.
 
Livejournal
  • Its strength is its communities and a highly social ecosystem.
  • Not scalable. Limited resources.
  • No scope for putting advertisements.
  • Very good if you are OK with having a sober web diary and sharing content with your community on Livejournal.

Medium and Pen.io also deserve a mention here though they are not full-fledged blogging platforms with a variety of options. Medium is a platform where you write a post and start a discussion or you participate in a discussion started by others through their posts. On Pen.io, you can publish a page on the go, with a minimalist post editor. Just post a page and share its URL with whomsoever you want. And to recall blog.com, which splashed as a vibrant platform that gave many free options but disappeared in 2016.

January 2, 2014

Good blogging platforms other than Blogger, Wordpress

This is first in the 2-part series on the subject of blogging platforms. In this part, we'd talk about the options available and in the second part, we'd compare the main platforms. 

When we talk about the blogosphere, two names come to our minds: Blogger and Wordpress.com. They together account for the majority of blogs. [Wordpress.org, well, is also popular among bloggers but it is a website building software / content management system rather than a blogging platform.] Both have powerful tools and add-ons, and both are free [with paid options too for hosting etc]. 

Tumblr too is popular, but it is a cross between a blogging platform and social network. Proliferates on people's [mostly young people's] quick sharing of content and the anonymity that it provides to the blogger.

Livejournal, once phenomenal but now not that popular, is a platform that promotes people of similar interests making communities of bloggers.