December 30, 2017

Last social media updates of 2017: FCC, Facebook, Google and ITB itself!

Net neutrality: a big blow by US FCC

As was expected, FCC took a decision on December 14 to repeal its earlier policy on net neutrality. What it simply means is that a net provider company in the US will now be free to slow down or kill political views of a type, or fasten a particular news site, or serve some content free without the permission of the user. 

In theory it is no better than North Korea allowing only state-sponsored news in the country because there are now no bounds in the US on internet service providers (ISPs), but things would only as bad as dictated by commercial considerations and political or business pressures.  

It is also apprehended that big companies and innovators will wipe out the smaller ones trying to pose competition to them, just by bribing the ISPs, even buying them out.

Unless the Congress or courts take it down, FCC's ruling prevails and internet is going to be served according to the big ISPs' whims in the US.

ITB has been posting on this important aspect and its latest update was to welcome Indian TRAI's bold decision in favor of a neutral net

Google faces monopoly fine in Europe

Telegraph reports that comparison sites in the EU have been meeting EU's competition commissioner to complain against Google for being unfair with them in showing shopping results on search pages. They plan to formally lodge a complain which, if upheld by the commission, may result in stiff fines on Google, says the report.

Google was earlier fined by the European Union a record 2.4 billion Euro fine for abuse of its dominance. Google has been asked to comply with fair practices and explain how it wants to do so. Google has appealed against the order.

Facebook to penalize soliciting shares, likes etc

Examples of baits to get likes, shares, etc
Facebook has announced that it is going to demote posts that ask for sharing or liking a content, following etc that bait people into taking that action. Such practices artificially raise the content's popularity score. Facebook says, ... we will demote posts that go against one of our key News Feed values — authenticity. Similar to our other recent efforts to demote clickbait headlines and links to low-quality web page experiences, we want to reduce the spread of content that is spammy, sensational, or misleading in order to promote more meaningful and authentic conversations on Facebook.

Facebook now allows you to unfollow somebody temporarily

Facebook has introduced a 'snooze' option when you click on three dots on top of a post. When you snooze a friend, his/ her posts do not show up on your news feed for the next 30 days. You can similarly snooze a page or a group. You can reverse snooze whenever you like and re-snooze if you don't like to see their updates for another 30 days.

This feature was being tested for about two months and is now universally available.

What people searched the most on Google in 2017?

Google says, the following were the most searched terms in 2017:
  • overall: Hurricane Irma
  • people: Matt Lauer
  • consumer tech: IPhone 8
  • elections: French elections
  • sporting event: Wimbledon
  • movies: IT
  • recipe: Chicken breast
You can visit the long list here: Google search trends in 2017

What ITB brought to you in 2017 in social media updates

ITB carried 17 social media and blogging updates in 2017, which included 
  • reports on threats and harm to bloggers and their stories of courage, 
  • WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware attacks, 
  • WikiLeaks telling how US state agencies snoop, 
  • huge Yahoo! and Equifax hacking episodes, 
  • the controversial monkey selfie, 
  • big decisions on net neutrality in the US and India, 
  • use of social media for crimes, 
  • studies on social media's effect on people's well-being, 
  • nations' right or wrong actions against social media, and also 
  • important new features announced by major social platforms.

December 26, 2017

Directory of Best Indian Blogs 2017: updates

The year is closing and the best Indian blogs' directory 2017 is six month old. As in last years, we have added some blogs and removed blogs that have gone either very bad in quality or have become irregular since June 2017.

We now pick up a niche and look at the best blogs available in that niche; this focused approach has given us some fantastic blogs that we missed during the annual exercise to search for top Indian blogs in English. So, in this edition, we have especially added literary and art blogs that we discovered in the last six months.

If you know of any new fine Indian blogs in English, which we have missed in the directory, do suggest on kp.nd.2008@gmail.com

Directory of Best Indian Blogs 2017
Category-wise listing of the Directory

December 24, 2017

allgudthings

All Gud Things


AllGudThings, a Travel and Lifestyle blog, is the brainchild of a couple travelers (Suruchi & Tashi), who are opposite to each other - in every way but aspire to see the whole world together in one small life. 

We see every day as a new challenge and fight with the courage to win it. 
-Suruchi

December 21, 2017

Fiverr traffic: Bloggers beware!

I am writing this short post prompted by questions blogger friends have asked about using traffic services from Fiverr.

If you don't know, Fiverr is one of the sites that sell services at a cheap price. As the name suggests, most of the offers here are for 5 dollars. There are thousands of people selling a poster, a passage editing service, a SEO plan, a web-audit... for $5 or its multiples. There are many others including FoverUp, GigBucks and Zeerk and SEOClerks.

On such penny-offer websites, a large number of people offer 'gigs' to do 'genuine' and 'proven' SEO and increase 'relevant' traffic manifold in a short time. They give hundreds of testimonials of 'satisfied' customers. 

I would request you to NOT fall for such offers, which look attractive because of claims and the very low price charged. The claims are mostly false and testimonials are mostly procured by force or are outright fake. Their claim of having sites with 'PR7 and above' and using  back-linking techniques that are Google approved are bunkum. They repeat the same sites and use methods that just cannot be to the liking of Google and other search engines because the traffic generated by them is paid traffic, nothing else. Moreover, most of their link-building or other work is automated, which makes them even more suspect in the eyes of search engines. 

If you buy a gig from such websites for your own website or blog, it is likely that your blog suffers minor or major penalties (depending upon the time for which you use their services and the level of fake and illegitimate traffic tricks they apply) from Google etc.

Isn't it foolish to think that if the so called 'PR7 and  above' websites are not known to Google as sham sites. Moreover, it is sure that the smart search engines of today are able to differentiate between the content on a high-reputation sites on one hand and a spam comment made on their posts or an account opened on their platform just to get a link.

Yes, there could be a very small number of genuine SEO techies who do part-time work on such platforms. But any search engine optimization done without thoroughly analyzing the website/ blog, even by genuine guys, is not likely a good SEO.

Bloggers beware! 

December 15, 2017

Coverr! Cover your site or project with a free video!

Let me introduce a new website in this edition of great free offers: Coverr - a stock video site.

Coverr has a collection of fantastic videos that you can download and use, ALL FOR FREE! According to Coverr, Coverr.co grants you an irrevocable, nonexclusive copyright license to download, copy, modify, perform, and use videos from Coverr.co for free, including for commercial purposes, without permission from or attributing the Videographer or Coverr.co.
 
Yes, there are some restrictions relating to use of videos having logos/ brands and people.



So, want to give a video background to a project or a webpage? Or want to use a video to express your thoughts and feelings? Use videos for making messages with video background? Need a filler video clip? Coverr is the place to go!

There are dozens of videos there, not thousand, as of now. Most videos relate to technology, nature and urban life. Videos are small in length but of good quality. 

The site says, its videos were downloaded over a million times last year, and the biggest users were web designers. 

December 10, 2017

Blogging and social media updates: Mosul Eye blogger comes in open, Mother Mushroom gets jail, AIM goes down...

Blogger Omar's sustained blog posts open Mosul to the world in the face of death


Omar Mohammed, 31, is no longer the anonymous blogger who ran Mosul Eye for over three years, exposing IS atrocities in this historical city to the outside world.

Mosul Eye blog
Omar began his blogging journey with a Facebook page and then started a regular blog, MosulEye, on Wordpress in June 2014. He was one of the most credible voices reporting on ISIS atrocities in Mosul, and to escape IS wrath he had to remain anonymous. He has chosen to come in the open, now that Mosul has been salvaged from IS.

Assoiated Press reports this on his blogging adventure: He would wander the streets of occupied Mosul by day, chatting with shopkeepers and Islamic State fighters, visiting friends who worked at the hospital, swapping scraps of information. He grew out his hair and his beard and wore the shortened trousers required by the extremists. He forced himself to witness the beheadings and stonings, so he could hear killers call out the names of the condemned and their supposed crimes... By night, anonymously from his darkened room, Mosul Eye told the world what was happening. If caught, he too would be killed.
   

Vietnamese blogger sentenced to 10 year imprisonment

One year back, we carried this story on how 'Mother Mushroom', a popular blogger was booked in Vietnam for being vocal on the issue of corruption.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 37, now gets a 10-year jail term for propaganda against the state, after an appeal court upheld the sentence by a lower court.
  

Tumblr founder leaves the blogging platform

Tumblr founder, David Karp, is leaving his platform. He founded this very simple blogging platform in 2007, which was taken over by Yahoo! in 2013 for $1.1 billion. Karp was retained as CEO at a reported sum of $81 million for four years.

Now that Verizone has acquired Yahoo! and is streamlining its working in its own corporate way, Karp has announced that he'd leave the company soon.
 

AIM to shut down next week!

AOL Instant Messaging (AIM) is shutting down this 15th, after serving for 20 years as a chat application. In the 90's it was a rage in the US in the 90's and everybody would use it for communication with 'buddies'. Due to competition from other contemporary chat apps, then SMSs and finally the modern chat apps, its base had shrunk to a few millions and not being a mobile application it would die in any case even if AOL didn't close it.

Many in the US and elsewhere would say Adieu to AIM with a sad heart, but let the best technology prevail!
  

Netflix leaves pay channels behind in the US

Data provided by Statista on cable television and Netfix streaming videos shows that in terms of number of subscribers per quarter, the latter has surpassed cable TV first time in 2017. The trend shows that Netflix would keep the pace in fututure. Major cable TV providers did not lose much in terms of lost connections, which means people with cable TV are subscribing to Netflix more and more.

Of course, with higher viewing time per visit, users still are consuming more content on pay TV than Netflix.

With Netflix expanding its wings to many countries worldwide (220 by the latest count), and many social media platforms promoting video streaming, television viewing seems to be undergoing a big change.

Footprint of Netflix
   

Is the Russian 'disinformation' on US politics more subtle than thought earlier?

If you believe this article on Wired, Russians were active in quite subtle ways to influence US public opinion during the last elections. Taking a close look at three Twitter accounts and associated blogs, the article comes to the conclusion that though Russian state might not be involved, there is more to the language and content of political articles on these social media spaces. It says, "Russia's disinformation campaign around the US election spread well beyond Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. They were also blogging."

December 6, 2017

Why canonicalization is good SEO and how to implement it?

     

What does "canonical" mean?

   
In simple English, canonical means what is according to canon or rule. That means what is authoritative.

Canonical URL is more equal among equals.
In website/ search engine optimization terms, canonical has a similar connotation: the URL that you take as most authoritative out of many that point to the same web page.For example, the following URLs may refer to the same website: www.xyz.com, xyz.com, xyz.com/index.html, xyz.com/home.asp, xyz.com/index.htm, www.xyz.com/, https://www.xyz.com. In addition, one could be maintaining two websites with similar content but differing in some respects; in this case there would be two distinct URLs but with same content. Modern websites that are dynamic/ code-driven create a variety of URL paths, all referring to the same webpage, that result in dozens of URLs. 


Why is canonicalization necessary?

   
When the same website can be reached in different ways, it is not an issue as far as visitors are concerned. But that creates an issue with search engines. When a search engine finds same type of content in two or more webpages, it gets alerted that the content has been copy-pasted at two places (duplicate content alert) and thus sees it as an undesirable activity. Search engines also scoff at multiple URLs for the same page because this artificially bloats web-links and other references arising out of that page. As website owner, you lose in terms of poor SEO due to penalties from search engines.

In addition, when you have two websites with same content (arising dynamically or manually),  people visiting site 'A' might link or bookmark site 'A' while others visiting site 'B' might link site 'B'. Only part of the links are thus counted by Google or other search engines, depending upon which site is indexed by their bots.

The coding that is done to tell search engines about the canonical (=authoritative, preferred) URL out of more than one URLs is called canonicalization


How to implement canonicalization?

  
This is damn simple! You need to put this HTML element to all your websites that should redirect to your canonical URL: rel=canonical

1.  Decide which one of the alternate URLs suits you the best (e.g. which one is likely to be used most by visitors).

2. Go to <head> section of the homepage of each website and add this code, including on the canonical site:
<link rel="canonical" href="http://xyz.com"> 

(There used to be different opinions about using the HTML element given above on the canonical site itself also; it is now settled that this is rather useful than bad.)

3. Go to your Google Search Console (earlier 'Webmaster Tools') account if you have one; tell which is the canonical URL for a particular website.


Canonicalization on Wordpress and Blogger platforms

  
At present, blogs on Blogger platform are automatically given a canonical URL out of www and without www versions of the site URL. This applies to independent domains mapped to Blogger blogs also. For other versions, you can put the above given HTML expression in the code of the website(s).

In the case of Wordpress free blogs, canonicalization is not automatic. You have to implement that with the help of a SEO plugin. If you do not want to invest in that, the least you can do is to open a Google Search Console account, and canonicalize the website URL.

December 1, 2017

India's best fashion and beauty blogs in 2017

Fashion and beauty blogs have been popular in the western countries for some years and they earn good money through affiliate and display ads, guest posts, product reviews etc. India has lagged behind, not primarily because of lethargy or lack of imagination on the part of bloggers but primarily due to lack of market. 

Things are changing, and they are changing fast, and a number of good blogs in this niche have come up and some of them are reported to be flourishing. 

fashion and beauty blogging

ITB has a detailed post on beauty and fashion blogging, which looks relevant when you look at these blogs for information, tip or just inspiration.

This list is culled out from the Directory of Best Indian Blogs and has further been updated. This list may have omitted some 'lifestyle' blogs that have fashion or beauty as one of many sections but not enough resources on beauty and fashion niches.

akanksharedhu - Akanksha Redhu
bbeautilicious - Be Beautilicious
beautyandfashionfreaks - Beauty and Fashion Freaks
bhushavali - Fashion Panache
cherryontopblog - Cherry On Top
corallista - Corallista
cosmetopiadigest - Cosmetopia Digest
cosmochics - Cosmochic
curiouscomponents.in/ - Curious Components
fashion-bombay - Fashion Bombay
ftlofaot - for the love of fashion and other things
giasaysthat - Gia says that
guiltybytes - Guilty Bytes
highheelconfidential - High Heel Confidential
jhallidiva - Jhalli Diva
missstylefiesta - Miss Style Fiesta
newlove-makeup - New Love - Makeup
peachesandblush - Peaches & Blush
pinkandpink - Pink and Pink
purushu - Purushu Arie
stylishbynature - Stylish by Nature
tanvii - tanvii
thatbohogirlindex - That Boho Girl
thefashionflite - The Fashion Flite
thegirlatfirstavenue - The Girl At First Avenue
theindianbeauty - the Indian Beauty blog
thesnobjournal - The Snob Journal
vanitynoapologies - vna


November 29, 2017

India's TRAI backs open internet rules, US's FCC to repeal existing rules too!

Indian Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI) has come out with strict recommendations on net neutrality. In short, any internet service provider in India will not be able to carve slow and fast lanes and discriminate the former with selective content. These recommendations are required to be adopted by the government before they come into force.

TRAI has recommended that Internet of Things (IoT) services should also come under the non-discriminatory clause. A multi-stakeholder body for monitoring and enforcement is also recommended.

With that, Indian policy makers have completely rejected free offers such as those from Facebook.com and Airtel.com in the name of serving the poor who otherwise cannot have net facilities. The issue is using discriminatory practices in providing net and content; specialized services are excluded from net neutrality provisions. (You can see a detailed discussion on this matter in this article: Net Neutrality: what lies ahead...)

Net neutrality activists have applauded this move, seen to be way ahead of US stand on net neutrality. In fact, the Federal Communications Commissions is having a vote on repealing the existing net neutrality rules soon.

You can visit the recommendations here:   TRAI recommendations on Net Neutrality; November 2018

There are a good number of critics of net neutrality too, especially in India's context. Facebook chief, Mark Zuckerberg pitched for its 'Free Basics' fervently on his visit to India last year, promising to connect the huge number of un-connected Indians in one go and without their need to pay a penny. This editorial of Financial Express concludes that net neutrality is not an issue and TRAI is fussing over it for nothing:
Nor has Trai been able to justify its opposition to Facebook’s Free Basics – free access to a stripped-down version of various sites for people that did not have internet access. Net neutrality activists and some politicians argued India was for the “full internet” and did not want “walled gardens”. It was argued that only a few companies would be able to meet Facebook’s specifications and so they would benefit unduly – it didn’t seem to matter than at least people were getting some version of the internet and that they could graduate to the “full internet” when they had the money. When a telco offered a plan that gave free access to the website of a particular company, this was said to be anti-net-neutrality since only a handful of firms could afford to subsidize users on their sites – since a Flipkart, say, can afford to give free data to users to access its site while a Gokart can’t, this was said to be against the principle of a level playing field. That nowhere in the world do all companies have the same access to capital or talent or raw materials was something that neither Trai nor the activists/politicians even considered. At the end of the long – and not yet complete – exercise, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that what Trai has offered is a solution looking for a problem.

In the US, FCC seems to be leading the charge on behalf of telecom operators!


Interestingly, the FCC head, Ajit Pai, has taken on votaries of net neutrality in the US. In his speech yesterday, he called celebrity tweets in support of net neutrality as 'utterly absurd'. He also was critical of Twitter, a votary of net neutrality, of filtering content on its platform which, he says, goes against the concept of free internet. FCC is actively considering to repeal the 2015 Open Internet Order, and Pai is confident to do so with the help of Republican commissioners in FCC on 14th December. 

In the US, the fight of net neutrality is being fought fiercely between tech companies on one hand (Twitter, Google, Reditt...) and telecom providers (AT&T, Verizone). This round seems to have gone to the telecom companies. You can have your own arguments based on which way you look at things.

November 25, 2017

Don't let your blog suffer when you apply new Wordpress or Blogger theme

This post comes in the wake of two bad experiences shared by bloggers with me and my colleagues in the last six months.

The bloggers had gone for blog themes available on the web. In both cases, the themes had very good reviews and in one case it was from one of the most popular web theme developers who comes on top of search results when you search for 'blogger themes' on Google.

One friend created his blog on Blogger but did not like the available templates on Blogger. He looked for good themes and found one with so many good features: a nice two-column layout with modern title area, a fine looking menu bar, good fonts, nice looking social bookmarking and social media buttons, rich cards implemented, SEO optimized and good speed. It worked that way for three months but then the blogger found something fishy as his Google AdSense did not work the way he wanted, his titles of feeds would sometimes appear and sometimes not, and the 'related posts' widget worked erratically. He shared the theme with me and I applied the trial version of the theme on a free blog and then checked its source over time.

The problem with this theme was that the coder had hard-coded some features that should not have been, and had disabled/ modified some generic Blogger codes and widgets. Then I looked at the code minutely and found clever codes and links.

This happened with a paid theme!

In the second case, it was a free theme and it had links to the coder's proxy sites and scripts which won't work when modified, without damaging some of the features. Even when the blogger removed the theme and installed a native theme of Blogger, it kept on creating issues till each one was manually resolved.

A small disclaimer: Since we mostly deal with Blogger blogs, these examples are of Blogger themes. I reckon that the same might be the case with Wordpress themes.

Blog theme sites should be transparent about their codes, links and third-party resources, but that unfortunately is not the case. So, my advice to dear bloggers is that they must be careful in installing themes on their blogs other than those available with the blogging/ website creation platform.


apply new theme on Wordpress Blogger blog
Do not buy cheap themes from sites such as Fiverr. Buy themes only from reputed  vendors and go for them even if their themes are a bit expensive.

One way to check the quality of themes is to check some good websites/ blogs for the theme they have applied. (In case of free themes, the imprint will be somewhere on the blog's homepage itself, perhaps at the bottom; in paid themes, it might be available when you see the 'page source' of the web page.)

Though reviews can be manipulated, they still help in taking a decision. But the final decision must come after considering all aspects. In fact, in ITB we believe that content matters much more than looks.

November 23, 2017

moviessansfrontiers

Movies that make you think
http://moviessansfrontiers.blogspot.in/

film-blogA selection of intelligent cinema from around the world that entertains and provokes a mature viewer to reflect on what the viewer saw, long after the film ends - extending the entertainment value.

-Jugu Abraham

November 18, 2017

Blogging report 2017: better content, well promoted, more professional...

This post is on a study by Orbit Media on the state of blogosphere in 2017 in terms of use of blogging. They have based their findings on the basis of responses from 1377 blogger to 11 questions. Summary of findings:

1. Bloggers now take more time in composing blog posts than before.

The time spent on creating a blog post has been found to be increasing over years since 2014. Now a blogger spends 3 hours 20 minutes on an average in creating a post. In addition, the number of bloggers who spend over 6 hours in composing a post has more than trebled over the last four years and they have said, they get 'strong results' by posting big!

2.  Most bloggers post weekly or around that, and the overall frequency has gone down.

But it is not that the drop in frequency gets good results even when the content is big. Frequency matters in getting good results, bloggers report.

3. More bloggers are using editing support than before.

4. The size of blog posts now averages 1142 words as compared to 808 in 2014. 

Moreover, the number of bloggers writing more than 2000 words has risen very sharply though half still write below 500 words, and those who write big posts say, they get 'strong results'.

5. Bloggers are now using more visual content. 

Those using multiple images per post and using audio have reported to be getting 'strong results'!

6. Guest posting is still popular.

7. Most bloggers (over half of those surveyed) update their old posts, at least some times.

8. Bloggers are more into promotion, especially paid promotions.

Use of social media comes on top when it comes to promoting blogs. Bloggers' attention is rising to use of SEO, paid promotions and reaching out to influencers.

It is found that the less popular ways of promotion, which also need hard work, give the best results (other than paid services). In decreasing levels of effectiveness, these are: influencer outreach > paid promotions > email marketing > SEO > social media.

9. Most bloggers use analytics and refer to it regularly.

10. Blogging is giving results, and better!

One in three responders says, 'the blog delivers strong marketing results' and another half of those surveyed say, 'blog delivers positive results'.

ITB view:
Blogging has become much more professional!

We have been observing, and we've shared it many times before, that the face of blogging has changed greatly from maintaining a web diary and social networking to professional blogging. More and more bloggers are now taking blogging as part-time or full-time vocation. They write more wholesome content and use media to aid it. They use professional tools such as analytics and SEO techniques. They are making investments into it when required, for example hiring content editors, buying themes, optimizing blog for search and paying for promotions. This study once again proves our point.

You can visit here the Orbit Media blog post.

November 13, 2017

Social media, blogging updates: double tweet size, WhatsApp delete, security lapses and vulnerabilities

Tweets finally are double their earlier character length


After a pilot run with 280 character limit for tweets, Twitter has finally implemented it. It shares the behavior of Twitter users during the experiment: people were initially excited and did silly things to bloat their tweets beyond 140 characters, but not many were found using space much beyond this earlier limits. However, it has led to ease in writing tweets and users are likely to spend less time in editing tweets to squeeze them into the tight character limit.  

You can now delete your messages on WhatsApp from others' phones too!


WhatsApp has introduced this long-awaited feature now. You can delete a message sent to an individual or a group within seven minutes of sending it. But for this to work, you and message recipient must have latest version of WhatsApp on their Android, iPhone or Windows Phone.

Hope, this helps reduce the embarrassment or damage that is caused by sending a wrongly worded message, a wrong photo or a message to a wrong recipient. But no luck if the recipient(s) have already seen it before you could delete it, isn't it?

Of course you can delete a message from your own device.

Both these features work when you press and hold the message and get options to delete the message for everyone or only yourself.

 

How safe are your social media accounts in the hands of the giants?


We generally feel safe when their accounts are with tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter. The thought that comes to mind is that at least for their business and reputation, these biggies would take all cautions so that public information is safe and there is no risk that their information is leaked except legally.

Ok, there are numerous cases, when governments have asked these biggies to pull down an account or share information in that account often with the excuse of an investigation into cases of hate crimes, pornography, drug pedaling, terrorism etc. (One news report later in this very post!)

However, I am talking even of that. What comes as a shock is that Donald Trump's account on Twitter was taken down INTENTIONALLY by a Twitter customer support employee on her last day in that company! It remained unavailable for about 11 minutes on November 2 before being restored. Consider what would happen to our accounts with these giants if a low-level employee could play with the account of someone who is not only the present US President, he is also one of the top Twitter personalities in the world. 

That raises a biggg question: Are internal controls good enough in internet giants, especially Twitter?

Afghanistan bans chat sites, revokes ban after protest


Afghanistan's move to block popular messaging platforms, WhatsApp and Telegram, seems to have backfired.

The ban was enforced early November, for 20 days. First it was said to be for security reasons, and then the concerned ministry explained that the closure 'request' was to improve their services. But in the wake of widespread protests, the government had to take back the ban within four days. Sigh!


Lurking outlaws and social media use by teens


The Australian Psychological Society has found that around 15% of teens are contacted by strangers on a daily basis, on Facebook alone. Ten percent are reported to be 'actively communicating' with strangers. Please remember that friendly-looking strangers can be bad guys out there to goad innocent victims into crimes!

bad guys are lurking in social media
What is equally worrisome is that 60% parents among the 1000 people interviewed said, they never monitored their child's social media accounts.

Shows, once again, the type of threat is lurking on social media and how careless and indifferent the society is towards it.

Source: ABC News
 

Wordpress plugins can be a big security hazard


Wordpress is so poor without plugins. And there are thousands of plugins available free and on payment, for almost everything that a website or blog can do: SEO, listings, polls, security, displaying images, editing, even e-commerce. However, not all plugins are of high quality, and the issues range from a bloated code to poor execution of code to serious security issues.

In the face of reports of even erstwhile good plugins getting vulnerable to new forms of web attacks, it is recommended that bloggers with plugins on their Wordpress blogs/ websites should apply only reputed plugins and then keep updating them.

November 9, 2017

30 very useful blogging apps, tools and websites: updated list for 2017

We bring you the updated list of 30 very useful websites, apps and tools for bloggers. Each of these have been used by us and our blogger friends and we have found them stable, safe and really useful. Some of these have already been reviewed in detail by us, and we have linked them to the review pages. There are some freemium or paid tools that open a free account but after giving very limited results, ask you to go for paid version; we have rejected such tools outright. The tools that do not install well or are reported to install junk on your computer have also been rejected.

And all these great tools/ sites are FREE!

Writing

  • CoSchedule Headline analyzer 
Helps you create and test headlines that attract attention.
A magnificent spelling and grammar checker for English, which checks passages online, integrates with MS Word and has browser extensions too.  (Premium, paid, version has many more features.)
A fantastic free online grammar and readability checker, Hemingway app tells you how good or bad your writing it, suggesting ways to improve it. (It also has a paid desktop version.)
These alternatives to MS Office and other office suites are a workhorse. These have been included in this list because of their versatility for web use. You can make available on your website a document or spreadsheet or a presentation prepared with Google Docs, through a link. There are many more ways you can share your skills through this set of tools besides doing the job that paid office suites do. 
A very comprehensive dictionary cum thesaurus that is available offline and also online. Offline app integrates well with all Windows programs. It is free if you declare that you are not rich enough to buy it!
If your blog needs typing in languages other than English, this tool (has web and app versions) is a must for you. With intuitive word formation, it can type in 121 languages instantly as you type in English. 
Has online 'plagiarism checker' tool and a tool for comparing two articles.

Graphics and videos

The great free alternative to Photoshop. It has almost all that Photoshop has, maybe something more. And this helps to make all types of graphics for blogs and websites. But the learning curve is steep.

A dependable storehouse of mostly license-free images. 
Earlier called Picasaweb, this Google entity is free storage space for images. You can decide to share images stored on it through link on any webpage as each image has a unique web address. If you are on Blogger blogging platform, all your images are saved here automatically.
A great software for editing almost all types (some with the help of plugins) of audio files. Great if you are a podcaster or have a music blog. You can also use it for preparing audio lectures to go with screen captured video (e.g. for tutorials).
Needs no introduction. For blogs with videos or vblogs, it can be used as free storage space which not only allows linking but also embedding the video on the website. You can visit this article on why YouTube is so great as a secondary web host for videos.
Free, simple, online tool from Buffer with numerous free templates for making quick graphics for social media, especially with embedded text.
Another website that allows creation of beautiful graphics in a jiffy, using available free (and paid) photos and design elements, for all types of web media and other formats.
A marvelous infographic generator, it has free version that is good enough for most bloggers. 
A feature-rich screen-capture software that can easily make videos for tutorials.

Social networking

  • Facebook groups 

Some of these groups can be great for promoting your blog. However, if you discover that members are interested in promoting their content only, without much interaction or discussion, don't go for such groups.
  • Google Plus communities
Bloggers discard G+ in favor of Facebook, Instagram  and Twitter. However, we have found that Google Plus communities are more focused, encourage good participation and are liked by Google search engine.
Twitter's own scheduling and management tool. Has multi-column layout that makes it easier to deal with tweets.
A good scheduler for Tweets (and other social content). Unlike other paid schedulers, it has a good free version if you want to use it for only one service and limited number of social accounts.

SEO and search

Previously called Webmaster Tools, this gives you deep knowledge about search on your website, including what might be wrong and how to fix that.
Gives great insight into traffic on your website. A must for serious blogging.  The daddy of keyword research, this is part of tools available under Google AdWords - the advertising platform of the search giant.
Another useful free tool for keyword research.
Reported to be the most popular SEO plugin for Wordpress, with a useful set of features in its free version too.

Productivity, misc 

An offline and online blogging software that can be great for formatting and other frills (e.g. tables) not available on editors of Wordpress, Blogger and other blogging platforms. OpenLiveWriter integrates well with blogging on various platforms. 
A great website that teaches you bits of HTML in very simple ways and explains why a code on your website/ blog is working the way it is. You can test sample code then and there.
Bloggers need to look for updates in their area of specialization, and nothing beats Google Alerts in giving alerts on any number of topics.
Not to forget this most popular cost per click (CPC) program from Google, which allows bloggers to make money by placing AdSense advertisements on their blogs/ websites.
A fine automatic email sender and opt-in form generator, with enough resources in free account.