#Social is fast becoming the first media choice

It seems that 'internet first' is catching on even in the less connected world. India is no exception. The 2014 general elections in India saw a great deal promotion on the web media, and politicians began using social media to say critical things about their adversaries as well as unreachable party biggies. PM Modi excelled, and continues to excel, in using social media for promoting himself and his government. We have been carrying such developments in our 'social media discussions' segment. 

What is happening now is that the use of social media is maturing; more than that, social media is becoming the very first choice when public figures have to say something. 

Most big politicians are now on Twitter or Facebook. Even a reluctant Congress prince Rahul (#RaGa) has over 126 thousand followers now. Only the very serious ones now maintain their blogs, and some have gone beyond blogging and made blog as part of their portal.

Let's look at some big social media activities of public figures in India. Later in the post, we'd talk about some more developments.

It was Sushma, the External Affairs Minister, who used Twitter to threaten Congress with tit for tat for their tirade against her. She tweeted to say that she would expose the Congress politician who had pleaded with her for passport for a scam-accused businessman. She has followed it by more tweets to explain her position.

Of all people, it was a very discreet Nitish, the Bihar CM, who showed indiscretion on Twitter. He tweeted to suggest that he was like a sandal tree around which his political bedfellow Lalu had curled like a snake but the sandal tree's cool nature remained intact. He used a saint's couplet for that, and it caused political turmoil for sometime but the two did quick damage control as elections are approaching in the state.

Neha Dhupia, a mid-level Bollywood actress, perhaps in her annoyance with a not-so-good going in filmdom, posted a tweet telling the PM that he should focus on implementation rather than pontificating. As you would imagine, she was trolled for days by Modi's followers.

Salman Khan, the top film star of Bollywood, ran a series of tweets on Sturday night, sympathising with Yakub Memon (the prime convict of 1993 serial bomb blasts who is to hang on July 30) and saying that his brother Tiger Memon should be hanged and not he. After an outcry, he retracted the tweets and apologised. 

Some more social media developments in India

ahalya-film-by-sujoy-ghoshA short film Ahalya has been released on YouTube. Within 6 days, it has been seen 2.4 million times! You can watch this 14 minute film by clicking on the screenshot here.

Good films are finding a great following on the social media. Film Masaan (Fly Away Solo) has been lapped up by the social media in a big way, and a very-short film has been released on social media first.

Shashi Tharoor's impressive talk at Oxford has gone viral. In the talk, Tharoor has argued how the Brithish rulers fleeced India during their rule.

Yes, the wait for Windows 10 is over. Hope you have updated your system (It is free for many existing versions of Windows) and you liked it. 

How bad is the digital divide?

Digital divide = the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the Internet, and those who do not.
We all have heard about digital divide. Common sense says that there is less usage of internet in developing countries and rural areas as compared to developed countries and urban centres. In addition, unemployed and poor people as well as aged persons are less likely to use internet due to constraints of purchasing power and technological barriers. 

But common sense does not give a measurement, so we searched the web to update ourselves and our esteemed readers about the status of internet penetration at global level. We came across a report by ITU (International Telecommunication Union, a UN agency) published as recently as 4 days back. Let's see what the data say about the availability and usage of internet.

Internet penetration, price and quality

According to ITU, there are 3.2 billion internet users in the world (population over 7 billion) in 2015. Out of them, 2 billion are from the developed countries. 

In developed countries, 8 out of 10 people have access to internet but in the developing ones, only 4 out of 10 have internet. In Africa, only 2 out of 10 have the luxury of internet.

Even if broadband is available, how good is it? The report says, the broadband speed in S. Korea, Japan, Europe and north America, the speed is 10mbps or more. In the least developed countries, it still remains 256 kbps or less (that's about 1/40th of that in the developed world).

In developing countries, internet is about thrice as expensive as that in the developed countries. This, even in PPP (purchase price parity) terms; in dollar terms it is much more.

Availability of mobile phones

The use of feature phones and smart phones has risen over the years, much faster than that of other devices. It has grown manifold in poor countries but due to a low base, they are too far from catching up with the developed nations.

By end 2015, there are over 7 billion mobile phone users, having grown ten times in the last 15 years. By this count, almost everybody 
in the world (97% of the population) has a mobile phone. We believe it to be a statistical fallacy.

Mobile internet and smart phones

Availability and use of mobile internet is growing at a scorching pace. It has grown 12 times in 5 years. 

Almost half the world population now has mobile internet.

Mobile internet penetration is low in rural areas: while almost everybody in cities can access mobile internet, the facility is available only to one-third of the global population residing in rural areas.

Mobile internet in developing countries remains twice as expensive as that in developed nations, even in PPP terms.

Is the digital divide widening or narrowing? 

Well, this report would let us believe that the divide is narrowing. However, when you segregate data for various regions, you find that the #digitaldivide is going both ways; in some pockets (especially in countries where governments have been proactive), it has narrowed down fast whereas it has grown in other areas. There are conflicting reports too about the same country or region. 

One thing is certain: the divide has grown in qualitative terms even if it has shrunk in numbers. The well-to-do (whether nations or individuals) lap up the latest technology much faster than the ones whose devices, purchasing power and technology absorption capacity allow only low-end technology. 

You may also like to read our take on net neutrality.

Hemingway: a useful tool for bloggers and writers

We have been experimenting with all the tools available FREE on the web to find one that could help bloggers in correct and effective writing in English. We thought, we must help especially those bloggers whose mother tongue is not English and who are not sure of the sentence structure, grammar, spellings, punctuation marks and so on. 

After spending days registering ourselves with different tool providers and checking their products, we have one offer for you: Hemingway App. This tool not only does what we were looking for, it also tells you how difficult or easy your prose is. Oh yes, you don't have to take that literally or you might get depressed!

Using Hemingway

For using this tool, go to this website and start using the editor online. If you like to have its offline version on your desktop, be prepared to shell out about $7 (as of July 2015). 

Hemingway allows you to compose in the editor or copy-paste a passage there. It tells you how easy / hard is the English, which sentences need shortening, which adjectives need to change and so on by highlighting the text as well as a summary.

Hemingway has also started an editor that is in beta stage yet. You can format the text while it is analysed by the app for grammar etc.

The desktop version allows you to save and reedit text and also export the html for web publishing.

What this product does not do? 

Hemingway has no FREE desktop version. In addition, the tool is no replacement for proofreading. It can at best give you advice on grammar etc, and remember that it is machine-generated advice only. 

As it happens with all such tools, you might sometimes feel irritated, for example when it colours 'very' whenever you use this word because it has been taught to the tool that adverbs are lazy words and need to be replaced by active verbs. Similarly, it will colour the clause whenever you write in passive voice.  But if you take the advice as a gentle reminder that you might be erring, you will feel less annoyed and would thank it for letting you have a serious re-look at your prose.

Do also remember that when you are an expert writer, you break rules with a purpose. So, put a great writer's (e.g. Ernst Hemingway's) prose into this app, and expect unrealistic advice and a poor grade.

The online app does not, as of now, save files. However, you can copy the corrected text and take it elsewhere if you want to. 

Our recommendation

Hemingway App is a great tool for bloggers, especially for those not too sure of their English. However, don't expect it to make you a literary genius or convert sloppy and poor English into standard English. Take it as a friend who highlights areas in your writing that might need attention. Plus it gives you some extras such as summary, html export etc.

We have many other free software / tools recommended for bloggers. Click on this link to visit them all.

IndianTopBlog does not have any commercial dealings with Hemingway App. Our recommendation is based purely on our own experience of the tool.

Trolling, VIPs and other happenings on Indian social media

We'd start this social media update with the disturbing trend of rightist trolling in the Indian social scene, and then we'd get you VIP stuff and else.

The dissent haters on Indian social media

Humans are inhuman by nature. Put a gullible guy before a group of smarties and they would exploit him; put a stranger in a closed community and they would all turn racial; put a vulnerable person among socialising males and tell them whatever they do would never be known, and they might commit the worst possible crime.

We the humans hate people who don't follow our religion, traditions and beliefs. We hate them much more when they question any of our silly-looking beliefs.

We won't talk about global phenomenon, but in India, we are growing intolerant of even slight dissent.
We hate those who do not like even our leader or our political line of thinking. And social media has given us a free tool to throw muck at anybody and as much as we like. 

Look at some of the dissenters whom Indian social media has trolled, disparaged and abused. All these happen to be examples of social hate against people who talked against Modi's policies or pro-'nationalist' thoughts.

  • Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has been trolled and even called anti-national only for criticising Modi government's economic policies.
  • TV Anchor Rajdeep Sardesai was abused and shouted upon for commenting against Modi's show at Madison Square, New York.
  • Rishi Kapoor has been called names for questioning beef ban in some parts of the country.
  • Actress Shruti Seth has been trolled for disagreeing with Modi's call for #SelfieWithDaughter.

There is a crop of regular haters and there are others who get carried away. The regular ones can be seen abusing anybody who is a 'pseudo-secular' or 'anti-national' or 'you...Paki' or 'presstitute' or something like that. They hate anyone who even slightly questions Indian ancient wisdom or Hindu heroes or RSS leaders. Somehow, they feel that they are the biggest nationalists and their jingoism is doing the country much good. They also feel righteous in abusing others as they feel that a particular community in India has long been unduly 'appeased' by Congress and that the left-wing 'pseudo-intellectuals' have not allowed true national thought to prosper. Their abuse is for correcting these past wrongs!

@NarendraModi himself recently chided his fans against being abusive on social media. Hope, he was addressing these trolls and (Should we hope?) these ultra-rightists stop browbeating criticism and dissent in social media.

How the social media is coping with the powerful people

@HemaMalini has of late been saying good words about the girl who died in an accident between their cars, but after she got brickbats for being too selfish and not even inquiring about the child. Hema, the original dream-girl of Bollywood, was immediately rushed to a hospital while the fatally hurt girl was not. Was social media only showing her the mirror> She does not believe that; She has chosen to return 'shame on me' tweets to her critics.

@LalitModi has used the social media well for exposing his foes and earlier friends who are not helping him in these tough times. He has used Twitter to 'declare war' against his detractors, by publishing stories, exposing exchanges, giving out documents... One tweet, however, might make his life more difficult; it is a tweet accusing Indian President Pranab Mukherjee of having favoured a businessman when Mukherjee was Finance Minister. President House has lodged a police complaint against him for the defamatory tweet.

While we are still on defamation, let's share with you that a man has been booked under IT Act for defaming Chief Minister of Maharashtra. The defamation: a misleading claim that the CM was holidaying with his family while on a recent trip to the US. The photo really was a trip to Goa in India, which was used as a prank. Does this really call for an arrest, Chief Minister?

The blue bird hits a plane!

A tweet early this week created bomb scare, forcing an Indian plane to land at Muskat. The tweet, saying there was a bomb in the flight and calling it 'operation badla' or operation revenge, was spotted by an airline staffer. We had heard about bird-hits but the cute Twitter bird hitting the plane? That was too scary, isn't it?

Quoting from others might hurt your blog badly. How to avoid this?

When you copy-paste material from other blogs or websites into your own blog, that is not only unethical, but illegal too. Search engines also frown upon it. Unless you help search engines to know that you are quoting something with a good intention, your copy-pasted content might be taken as 'duplicate content' and you may be penalized for plagiarism.

There are times when you genuinely need to copy-paste. You may need to illustrate something by showing the original, use the original as an example, quote some important statement...

There are ethical ways to quote exact text in your blog and instead of being penalized, you will earn goodwill for acting in a transparent manner. Let's tell you how.

Wordpress (wordpress.com) as well as Blogger give you the option to quote using the rich text editor as well as by putting the html code. If you are not comfortable with html, you can use the " option to quote a passage. It will be indented when you see this passage on the blog post. Wordpress lso adds quotation marks around the text.

Html gives you two choices: to quote a big passage or to quote within a sentence or as a small phrase.
For big quotes, the html tag is 'blockquote'. [This is what is done by " in text editors of these two blogging platforms.] Go to html option in the post editor and place the passage like this: 
<blockquote>passage here</blockquote>

For example, we want to use the following passage from a literary blog, as an example of a particular type of writing,

He would stand next to the wall every evening to listen to that ethereal whisper. He thought he always heard it and heard the same sentence and with pauses at exactly the same places. And Roshanara always told him he was suffering from hallucination that was growing by the day.

What we'd do is to put 2-3 stars (***) at the place where we want to insert this passage, click on HTML in the Post Editor and look for the stars and remove them. [Stars were placed just to take you to the right spot easily.] Now we'd type out or copy-paste the passage and surround it with <blockquote> and </blockquote>

Though we could have put indentation / quotation marks manually, the html <blockquote> tells search engines that it is a quoted text. We can, for further emphasis, make this text italic or in a different colour.

Using html and quotes in Wordpress and Blogger blogs.
When you need to quote a small part, say something within a sentence, you can use <q> code in html. For example, we have quoted a personality's statement in this para:

<p> Julius Caesar said,<q>Et tu, Brute?</q></p>

This will put " marks before and after the quotation and also tell search engines that it was an intentional quote.

For all our tips at one place, you can visit this link: all blogging tips or follow us / subscribe by email (link in the sidebar please).

YouTube Newswire: Journos, take note!

YouTube has launched a new channel dedicated to news as it happens. It has been aptly named Newswire.

How is the Newswire different from any other channel on YouTube? After all, YouTube already telecasts hundreds of television channels live besides getting 300 hours of video uploads every minute.

On Newswire, the news stories are posted by people at large, but are checked for trustworthiness and content quality. This 'hub of news videos' has a growing 'playlist' on different events. It is the product of collaboration between Google (YouTube) and an organisation called Storyful (It calls iteslf 'world's first social media news agency'.)

Áine Kerr, Managing Editor of Storyful says, 
...YouTube Newswire, an open-source tool for the world’s newsrooms and journalists; a tool that is grounded in years of trial and error, partnership and expertise. 
And so now, on June 17, 2015, the problem we are trying to fix is the same we’ve been innovating against since 2010: helping journalists find stories worth telling amid the noise of social. The noise and the need for curation have never been greater — and neither has our team’s commitment to creating the best social journalism.

It is expected that this new entity (channel?) would be a trustworthy resource for journalists, news organisations and the lay web surfer.

Facebook Newswire already exists, you know?

Facebook and Storyful started Facebook Newswire in Novemrber 2014 and has been liked by over a hundred thousand people by now. 

For getting updates on this channel / page, you need to 'like' the page and select 'Get Notifications' from the drop-down menu. You can also get updates through the related Twitter handle @FBNewswire.