Social media updates: blogger killed, new tech from F8 conference

I thought, in this edition I'd share with you only some  exciting news coming from the Facebook's F8 Developer Conference. But then came the news of a blogger's murder for challenging authority. So, let me start with that, as ITB's tribute to such fearless bloggers.

A blogger pays with life for criticizing authority

In Male, the capital of Maldives - a tiny nation in the Indian Ocean - a blogger was stabbed to death on April 23. Yameen Rasheed was found dead with multiple stab wounds in his apartment staircase.

Yameen had complained to the police several times about death threats he had been receiving for months.

Yameen was a well-known voice in favor of liberal thoughts and freedom of expression. He ran a personal blog, Uglyy, since 2005. In 2013, he started a new blog The Daily Panic, which he called 'Maldives' only news website'. He used it to satirise the frequently unsatirisable politics of Maldives.

daily panic blog

The political opposition in Maldives has blamed the government for the killing and associated it with the government's systematic crackdown on all dissenting voices. United Nations has issued a call for an immediate investigation into the killing of Yameen.

Back to business. The annual Facebook Developer Conference, nicknamed F8, has just ended with a lot of exciting tech and social media predictions.
F8 showcased over a dozen products, concepts and offers to developers and entrepreneurs including a 360-degree video camera and other camera features, new features on FB Messenger, video streaming on FB Live, and a bot platform. I'd talk of just three that are particularly interesting:

Virtual reality social chat app, Facebook Spaces

If you are one who happens to chat with his friends on Facebook Messenger, you might soon have the option to chat ‘in virtual reality’ in which your and friends' avatars are placed inside a 3D video and become part of it, like being part of an immersive video game. Unlike video games, you can chat real time and your respond to the others’ reactions is instant, not programmed. Of course, to be able to do so, you’d need the Oculus Rift virtual reality gear. Right now, it is not too exciting and has problems,  and you need to spend good money on the VR (Oculus Rift) gear. 

Facebook Spaces
FB Spaces: chatting in virtual world

The augmented reality push

Augmented reality has been high on the tech biggies’ minds for sometime. Facebook gave its hint earlier, but now it has shared the AR platform with developers wanting to create AR based apps, games and so on. 

Starting with possible augmented reality shooting and sharing, it would move to games, 3D objects, etc.

So, if augmented reality takes centre-stage in people's minds and is adopted widely, the tiny camera on your mobile phone would become one of the most important part of your electronic gadgetry, that's what Facebook feels.

For the uninitiated, augmented reality is the science of putting virtual objects in real life (i.e. reality) for a surreal experience. For example, being able to create a virtual piece of art on your real wall or [in FB's own imagination] having a coffee mug next to yours so that you feel you are not having your breakfast alone.

Typing with brain, hearing with skin!

A bit of futuristic tech this. It was also shown in the Conference how it will be possible in a couple of years to type at the speed of 100 words per minute strait with brain's commands and without use of fingers.   

In the same vein, It should be possible, using the advances in using the power of brain to interpret sensory experiences, to use touch sensations to 'hear' things.  Cochlear transplants have already shown that this is doable in near future.

It would be interesting to see if support from Facebook helps technology grow fast in this direction.

7 tips on how to organize resources for your travel blog and keep them safe

Organizing the stuff that is required for and generated during travels and blogging is very important but often ignored. When we don't organize ourselves properly, especially when we amass huge resources (e.g. thousands of travel photos or hundreds of blog ideas), it leads to clutter and we tend to lose precious time in searching for the required thing and sometimes don't find it at all!

We give here some simple tips on organizing oneself as a travel blogger. 

1. Of course, nothing helps you remain in full control of yourself like a pocket diary

You can use it for jotting down quick information before you transfer it to your electronic device, taking notes and gathering ideas. Keep a few pencils and a sharpener in your handbag in addition to a ball-point pen. Pencils are the best and fountain/ gel pens the worst in rainy or very hot/ cold weather.

2. Organize your electronic resources thoughtfully.

I'll show you one way of doing it but you can have your own system. Again, you will need to customize it depending on whether you have one computing device that you carry everywhere (e.g. laptop or a power-packed tab) or you have one to be kept at home/ hotel and another that has enough computing power and you carry it everywhere.

Let's talk of your main computer (PC/ laptop). Create a folder in your work area (Windows: Documents or My Documents) and not on desktop or common area (e.g. C drive). You will keep all your resources here, so give it a memorable name (e.g. TRAVEL-BLOGGING). Think of organizing this folder like a library where each book has its own designated place. 

travel blogging resource management

Look at the image here. This arrangement is one of the best because it is not too complicated and yet takes care of all aspects of 'inventory management' relating to travel blogging. Look at the top: The main folder has a number of sub-folders inside it, one each for travel destinations, travel events and major topics. Over time, these could be 50, 100, 500,... Each of these sub-folders (e.g. LONDON/ OFF-BEAT/ PHOTOGRAPHY-TIPS) has sub-sub-folders for (i) your own photos, videos and audio/ podcasts; and (ii) research material (This sub-folder has resources you  gather for research, get from the spot and copy from the web). You will place all material created by you (other than own photos and videos) associated with the topic (e.g. LONDON) directly in this sub-folder. These include draft posts, ideas, own research.

Some bloggers prefer to keep all their photos and videos together and have folders for other things. Some have a carefree approach; they dump all their photos from one visit in a folder, keep all other material in one dump and periodically clean their storage of old material. I find that the approach to have folders for major themes is the best, as it builds archives and manages them well.

The main folder (e.g. TRAVEL-BLOGGING) has just three other folders and a document file. One folder is for keeping all software tools. Keep a copy of useful software programs so that you re-install them if the running one gets corrupted. Also keep shortcuts to running programs. The tools for a travel blogger can be paid ones (e.g. Photoshop for major photo editing work) and/or free ones (e.g. Gimp for major image editing work, IrfanView+thumbnails for photo viewing and quick edits). You can also have links to online tools here.

The second folder keeps all external resources and acts as your library. It could include learning resources, brochures, newspaper clips and so on. Remember, you will keep resources specific to a place or event or topic in the related sub-folder.

The third folder will be a common kitchen for all blogging work, not specific to a particular event or place. These would include a spread-sheet for SEO work, a sheet for social media work and so on.

3. How about an electronic scrapbook?

It is a good idea to have a document (e.g. MSWord doc) which you keep for jotting down whatever comes to your mind. It can have a sudden idea that you got while working on another post, a telephone number, some reminder etc. You could be copying things here from your old pocket diary before you discard that. 

Precede each entry with date.

Where to keep this doc? That depends on your device and working habits. I would suggest a few places: (i) On the desktop/ opening screen of your PC/laptop tab; (ii) Inside the main folder (e.g. TRAVEL-BLOGGING folder in the image given above) - in this case, it will be part of your travel kitty but you will need to click at two places to reach it. 

If you have a single scrapbook and that is located on the device that is not with you all the time, you will have to write quick ideas or info either in the pocket diary and then transfer that to this scrapbook when you have time. On the other hand, you can have a scrapbook on your tab or smartphone. But you will have to learn how to sync the two, so that the main one remains updated all the time. If syncing is an issue, you can decide not to work on the main scrapbook but on the portable one only and replace the main one periodically with the updated one.

If you are not averse to experimenting with electronic tools for organizing your thoughts, scheduling, etc, you can try Trello and Evernote. However, many bloggers quit them after some time.

4. Put a short-cut rather than folder itself on the desktop. 

The opening screen (=desktop) on your PC or laptop is not the right place to store a big folder. It leads to many problems including the risk of losing it and slowing down the computer. 

What you should do is to keep the folder at a place that is accessible only to you (e.g. on Windows, Documents or My Documents, depending upon the Windows version). Right click on its icon and you have the option to create a short-cut. Copy this short-cut to the desktop and there you are. In one click on the short-cut, you'll reach the folder but the folder will be safe even if you accidentally lose the shortcut. 

5. Follow a standard naming pattern. You can choose to carry on with common-sense naming of folders and files and leave photos with the native naming system of your camera. But over a period of time, they will create something like a slum city in which there are no street or building names or numbers.

It is better to start using a more scientific naming system from the beginning. A good one, which is not complicated and yet serves the purpose,  can be like this: 2017-3-philippines-boracay (year, month, main place or event and a running number/ keyword/ tag.

As you would notice, this naming system keeps resources in a chronological manner - a thing of special importance to travel blogger. Keyword/ tag is very important because you can dig out such a file easily using the 'search' facility of the computer.

6. Use your browser as an aid to blogging.

On your main web browser, bookmark the sites you need to visit regularly. These should include links to your blogging platform, affiliates/ AdSense/ Google Analytics etc if you have installed them, Google language tool in case your blog is not in English, a good web dictionary and thesaurus (we recommend WordWeb), a forum or community that you often visit, and of course online utilities and tools.

All big browsers of today come with many plugins and extensions that can easily make many of your tasks easy. Similarly, all major mobile OSs come with very useful apps for travelers and bloggers. 

For example, if you are not good in typing, there are tools for taking dictation; if you want to voice over a video and your voice or pronunciation is not perfect, you can try a text-to-speech tool; you can easily convert files online, do a quick-edit on your photo, create a collage of photos, get a draft translation, find meanings of words in the foreign country that you are currently visiting...

7. Sync and back up your resources.

Back up your blog periodically. Blogger and WordPress have inbuilt provisions for backing up the blog. If your blog is independently hosted, contact the web-host to learn how to back up the blog.

Also back up other resources. Over years, you will have numerous photos, videos, recordings, documents, maps, illustrations, projects on Photoshop, etc. These can be easily backed up, and as a blogger you should not ignore this vital action that you need to do only periodically, say once a month. We'd recommend that you back up the resources in more than one place out of those suggested below.  

If you have arranged your resources as we have illustrated above and you take care to copy paste items stored on the phone or camera to the main storage, backing up needs just a few clicks.

Think of backing-up the resources in these places:

a. On cloud. Google gives you G Drive; Yahoo and Bing allow massive free storage on their servers. There are many other free or paid storage options.

b. On your main computer. Install 7-Zip (a free zipping software). Right click on the main folder. Choose 7-Zip and then archiving options. Give a password to the archives and store the secure archives somewhere else on the computer. 

c. On a high-capacity pendrive or external hard disk. It is better to zip the folder with a password, as said above, before storing on these portable media. Alternatively, you can password protect the entire drive/ disk.

Some computer users 'sync' resources between two locations. We do not recommend that if you are not a careful type. In syncing, the same entity (e.g. a MSWord file) is backed up in two places (e.g. on main computer and pendrive) and when you sync them, the new one replaces the old one. However, if you want to keep the earlier version also or you work simultaneously on the versions in different locations, syncing may at times give you pain.

Hope these help. Best wishes!

Other articles in the travel blogging series:

1. Travel Blogging: How to succeed without pain, and have fun
2. Travel Blogging: Don't ever ignore supporting activities
3. Tips, inspirations from successful bloggers

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Tips and inspirations from successful travel bloggers

As promised, we bring you first-person insights from successful travel bloggers. This is the third post in the series on travel blogging.

What successful travel bloggers have in common

Let's give you the summary first. But be conscious of the fact that everybody's experiences are different from others'. Also remember that we are talking of a 'generation' of bloggers who did not have others to guide them or many pathfinders whom they could follow.

  • Most of them would die rather than quit travel.
  • Most are also avid photographers. May not be 'professional' photo journalist sort but they love clicking photos all the time.
  • A good number started travel blogging in a jerk.
  • Many of them have left their 'normal' jobs to turn full-time travelers and bloggers.
  • A few earn awesome amounts, many earn rather good sums and most of them (just to remind, we're talking of successful ones only) have learnt to live a spartan life. Perhaps the last type enjoy life to the hilt.
  • A few have grown into businessmen/ women. They still love travel, but now the focus is on earning.
    Travel blog by Matt

    Now, let's share some insights.

    Let's start with this guy, Matt, a big travel blogger. On his blog, Expert Vagabond, he says, If I had to guess, I’d say less than 100 people make decent money directly from their travel blogs, and then goes on to advise that we should build audience first and then think of money. The hard truth is you’ll only earn income with your blog once you have a decent audience. Readers first, money later.

    You can read this post on how Matt makes money from his travel blog.

    Derek of Wandering Earl goes a step further when it comes to 'reader first' dictum. He gives the credit for success of his blog to building a community around the blog, Of course, without the blog, there would be no community. But without the community – and this part is far more important in my eyes – there’s a good chance I would not still be traveling and as a result, there wouldn’t be any blog. 

    Derek has started a tour company. He feels, travel plus blogging is a viable avocation option: I want to use my own experiences to prove that long-term travel does not have to be a crazy fantasy. It can, and should be, a realistic lifestyle option instead. 

    The Blonde Abroad, by Kiersten, offers a number of services that include arranging press trips, content creation, social media consultation and blog mentoring.

    Kiersten turned blogging into a paying business after leaving her job as a corporate finance professional with high salary and living on a shoe-string budget for many years.

    Shivya Nath too left her professional job in favor of full-time travel blogging, but was more systematic in approach. 

    On making money through travel blogging, Shivya says, she started with freelance jobs but now focuses on long-term relationship with brands. At the same time, she advises to never compromise on the quality of content or your own integrity. When I run sponsored posts on my blog, I pen all content myself, and ensure I'm writing about a topic I would genuinely care to write about even if a paying brand wasn't involved.

    You can visit her blog The Shooting Star here, and her full interview with ITB here.

    If you wanted to meet one who is a travel blogger by her own right but blogging is not her full-time job, meet Sushmita of My Unfinished Life

    An infrastructure consultant by primary profession, Sushmita is in love with travel. With blog as her anchor, she does freelance work and sponsored posts on travel. Her advice to budding bloggers: 'Never run out of patience!'

    Mark Wiens has an unusual niche for his 'travel' blog. He has created huge resources, focusing just on food and made it almost into an art form: food in different parts of the world. He URL too is unusual: migrationology!

    He jumped to blogging from English teaching and has traveled half the world. 

    Flight related travel blog

    Meet Lucky, of One Mile at a Time. His blog originated from his fascination for airports and he still focuses mostly on the transportation aspect of travel.

    Most of his posts are tips on flights and how to maximize savings using right airline offers, loyalty miles and card points.

    Luxury travel blogging is a great niche with high earning potential, that's obvious. What is not that obvious is, for earning a place in this exclusive club you need to be very choosy. 

    Take Ana of Mrs O Around the World. She chooses her brands carefully and says, she writes based on her personal experiences only and discloses compensation she receives for that. She also does not accept offers for press trips: ... I believe that being a blogger is a very different thing from being a journalist and my blog is about my personal travel experiences, traveling the way that I always do (and that is not in groups). (ITB take on this: We had, in our first post in the series, advised thinking like a journalist. If you read that along with Ana's advice given above, it comes to this: Think like a journalist when it comes to being curious and inquisitive but don't act like a journalist who loves to be part of every press party. In fact, serious journalists don't like an organized  'press trip' except when it takes them to a place or event which they'd otherwise miss.)

    Kach and Jonathan, the owners of Two Monkeys Travel Group focus on adventure and luxury travel. Interestingly both are not too enamored of writing  and prefer to pay bloggers for writing their stuff. 

    Our initial motivation was just to get discounts on Hotels and tours but the more I learned about this field, the more I realized that it’s not just about getting Free Stuff. It’s actually a respectable career that requires hard work and determination, says Kach. Quite satisfied with their venture which now is a 'Travel Group', she shares, The real hard work is behind us and we can enjoy the fruits of our labour. We’re working normal hours now, instead of 16 hours per day. We have a team of amazing people who love what they’re doing and are growing with us.

    The Solo Traveler took birth when Janice's husband passed away. She was already a good traveler but the loneliness made her write about her experiences. When she met Tracey, a food and wine professional, in a food event, she invited her to write on her blog and thus the blog added a section on food and wine. Now the blog is full of solo travel advice and deals, besides of course her personal experiences. 

    Solo Traveler has been able to build a buzzing community on Facebook.

    Hema and Suma, two sisters who run Tales of Travelling Sisters, advise travel bloggers to invest in good camera and even take a short photography course. Promotion and Patience are the other two Ps they give high value to. 

    We would just say never give up hope! With so many travel bloggers already running successful websites, one might feel out of depth in the initial stages. Keep traveling and share your stories, we are sure you will find your success with time... Do not ignore the ongoing travel trends or what the readers want you to present them through your blog. 

    Craig and Linda run Indie Travel Podcast a blog in podcast format. 'Addicted' to travel, they initially had a tough time saving for travels. But after years of hard work, they say, we see no end in sight, and have been judged by the Lonely Planet as the best global travel podcast.

    By the way, not all posts on the blog are podcasts; there are many text-and-photo posts on the blog on their experiences and travel tips.

    For his blog Travel with Bender, Josh has chosen family travel as his theme. It comes naturally to him as he's made his wife and two kids sort of partners in his travel cum blogging pursuits.

    The Untourists guys, Param and Shikha, are a hugely creative couple, and the travel blog is just one of their places to express themselves. True to their blog's URL, they are always looking for that unknown untouristy place or look for untouristy things to do in a popular place... like to experience, observe, and explore life through our lens, though cultures unknown to us and through authentic foods that we can’t resist, once served, even for a picture! 

    They tell us, weekend getaways, romantic and honeymoon destinations and beautiful locations can be good niches to look at.

    Let's learn from the experiences and advice of these (and other) fantastic bloggers. More on travel blogging next time. Happy blogging!

    We'd carry some full interviews given by travel bloggers later in our 'blog showcase' section.

    You can visit other posts in this series here:
    1. Travel Blogging: How to succeed without pain, and have fun
    2. Travel Blogging: Don't ever ignore supporting activities

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    Travel blogging: don't ever ignore support activities

    This is 2nd post in the series on travel blogging. You can visit the 1st one here: basics for new travel bloggers

    Well, professional travel blogging requires time, energy, some investment, passion. You also need to identify your weak areas and take outside help or learn the tricks of the trade yourself. You need proper gear. Well, you have taken care of all that. You have an appealing blog, which is updated regularly with good content. What next?

    Blogging alone does not make full-time profession, so don't ignore supplementary activities

    As for other types of blogging, blogging alone is often not enough when you take up travel blogging as your full-time profession. 
    The core blogging (writing blog posts and maintaining the blog) alone is like planting a single tree in the barren land. For creating a living forest, you need a variety of small and big plants which support each other, even the tallest tree. In the same way, a number of related works have to be undertaken to support the blog and in turn be supported by it. 

    We have already made a list of such works for you in the accompanying infographic. What you need to do is to copy them down and examine each one carefully. Then choose the best ones, not more than 4-5.

    Travel blogging income streams

    Let's make it slightly easy for you to take the decision about which ones to choose.
    SPONSORED TRIPS: In the initial days of travel blogging, many travel bloggers look for sponsored trips from tour and travel firms. 

    When you are not well known, you have to introduce yourself to them. Such trips help you to meet similarly placed bloggers, learn what all to ask and get, and how to write according to a given time-frame. But once you have one or two such trips, you;ll need to assess whether continuing such trips would help you in the long run. Most established bloggers find sponsored trips not worth, because you work according to others' schedule and end up wasting time. 

    When your blog is well-established, you might get sponsored trip offers that might pay you handsomely. 

    SPONSORED POSTS: When you approach travel and tour firms (that would include hotels, sellers of travel kits; and big brands as well as small local ones), they may want you to write about them on your blog. As a budding blogger, writing posts about individual products and services looks tempting especially when the firm pays you well, but you must be very careful. Any indiscretion might mar your reputation and hurt you in the long run.

    Do not jump at the offer even if it comes on your approaching them; say, you'd like to see the product first. Look deep at the product; research on the web; ask local people if it is a local business; ask them to show it to you. Accept the offer only when you are satisfied that the product is worth writing good about.

    Tell the firm beforehand that you'd carry a disclaimer in the blog that it is a sponsored post. Don't ignore this aspect. You lose credibility (and not many things are worse than that) when readers find that you are not honest about your dealings.

    REVIEWS: Many travel blogs make good money out of reviews only. But for that, you must establish yourself as a genuine, trust-worthy reviewer. 

    On a Twitter chat in which we recently participated, a number of travel bloggers shared that they were earning good money from reviewing small hotels and guest houses in tourist locations. But it might not be true for all locations.

    When people plan a travel and look for places or deals, they'd Google it rather than looking for blogs. On Google, what they see first are ads and websites of big tourism/ travel firms. You as a small review-blogger cannot compete with them, but if you build reputation as a reliable blogger, whosover comes to your blog by chance or through your promotion will become your loyal visitor. That is one more reason that you choose a narrow niche (=area of activity) and be expert on it. Respond quickly when someone seeks further advice in blog comments. 

    ARTICLES IN OTHER PLACES: You can think of writing for travel or family magazines, online mags, newspaper supplements and in-house mags of airlines and hotels. Write only for reputed publications even if they don't pay you well. Post these on your blog for gaining reputation fast. Give a link to your blog in your byline of the article, to the extent the publication agrees to it. If you succeed in this area, you can have a section on the blog on 'My articles in the press'.

    Some reputed publications also accept photo-features on remote but fascinating places. Make a list of such publications and target them. Don't be disheartened if initially their response is not good.

    Avoid guest blogging unless it is on highly reputed sites (or sometimes on your friends' sites). If you have time for article writing beyond your own blog, you can ask reputed blogs and websites if they would accept your guest post. Approach them with an outline of your proposed article and why it would interest their visitors.

    Avoid writing for article submission sites.

    You can accept freelance writing and ghost writing (=writing for someone who will claim the article as his own) assignments if you get good compensation. You do not get a long-term gain out of such writing.

    ADVERTISEMENTS ON THE BLOG: This is one of the first things that comes to a blogger's mind but new bloggers must not rush to add advts on the blog. 

    Advertisements should not be too many. They should not irritate the visitor. They should not be sub-standard in message and looks. 

    As is obvious, visitors will click on an ad only when they find it giving the information or tip they were looking for. So, the ads must be relevant. The ad will be relevant if it is related to the topic of discussion (e.g. ads of flight/ hotel booking companies on a travel blog) or if it is related to the search behavior of the viewer (e.g. if a person had been searching for toys, Google will likely serve him ads relating to toys irrespective of whether he's reading a blog on horticulture or dance or tourism).

    If you are a new blogger, you can start with CPC ads - these are the ads that, when clicked by visitors, get the blogger a few cents in commission. Google AdSense is the daddy of this ad format. (You can visit this post on AdSense if you are not exposed to it.)

    Another such format, used mostly when businesses want to create a buzz about their brand or product, and not necessarily want them to immediately buy the product, is CPM ads. The advertiser pays you by the traffic your blog gets. PropellerAds is one popular site paying by CPM (Cost Per Mille = cost per thousand impressions).

    Affiliate ads are a more paying variety of ads. It suits travel blogs quite well, but the visitor must buy using the ad on your blog. You get a commission when someone clicks on the ad and then makes a purchase, otherwise you get nothing. Commission Junction (CJ) and Amazon run two of the biggest affiliation schemes.

    Direct advertisements are the best paying ads. You approach a firm to pay you for displaying its ad and negotiate the best possible rate. But you would be able to get such ads only when you have established yourself as a popular blogger.

    SELLING YOUR OWN PRODUCTS: Most big brands use blogs to support their main business. They use it as one another means of engagement and for giving updates on their activities, product launches and so on. On the other hand, many people who started as bloggers have turned into businessmen/ women by first proving their worth and then branching out to business.

    Your business need not be selling tour packages or hotel rooms. Bloggers seldom do that. There are many other options for travel bloggers: selling photos, being on the roll of travel agencies for advisory or creative works, running a travel advisory service, serving as local tourist guide for foreigners, etc.

    You could write a travel book or open an advisory  service - these do not involve the hassle that goes with selling of merchandise. You can use the blog to promote these. There are myriad freelancing jobs that you might get when you are an established blogger, and you also get offers for lectures, seminars, workshops etc.

    We'd discuss more on travel blogging in another post in which we'd also bring you first-hand experiences of established bloggers.

    If you find the advice worth sharing with others, pl. share it: 

    Disclaimer: We don't have commercial relationship with firms mentioned here, except for AdSense.