August 12, 2018

Give your blog independent identity without hosting costs!

Many of our visitors and followers are those who are scared of technology and have created a blog on a free host because it does not demand any tech know-how. 

That leaves the blogger with many constraints. For example, the free Wordpress.com blog cannot have advertisements, cannot apply a new theme and cannot use plugins.
 

In most such cases, i.e. when the blogger is interested in just sharing his thoughts with the world, even the free blogs are good enough. The Blogger (=blogspot.com) blog even allows placing of ads and optimizing the blog for search engines.
 

But what the free blog on these platforms does not get is AN INDEPENDENT IDENTITY. The blog is seen as a casual or amateur blog and not as a professional one.

In this post, let me tell you how you can shed that .wordpress or .blogspot easily and without spending much money. In case of .blogspot blog, the only money you spend is a small amount needed for buying the domain and annual charge for keeping it with you. In case of .wordpress blog, there is additional cost that Wordpress charges every year.
 

By this approach, you get good features of free blogging without any need for learning technology or spending big amount on web hosting.

Getting the blog an independent domain


I will summarize the basics in just two bullet points. I will then discuss the nitty-gritty of actually going about it. The 'mapping' your present blog to an independent URL, involves just this:

  •     Buying a new domain name.
  •     Mapping the free blog to this domain name.

Your current blog remains where it is, and you retain all the resources and design of this blog on the same platform. And yet, your blog gets an independent ID - its own unique brand!

Let's compare the expenditure that you incur on maintaining a free blog, hosting a blog independently and what I am suggesting here (mapping) [prices are indicative only]:

Free blog: No expenditure on hosting and domain name. No expenditure on web designing.

Self-hosted blog: about $10 per year on domain name plus about $50 per year for a low-end hosting plan (or a package with name and hosting, for $100 per year. If you do not have skills of web designing, then one-time cost of buying a theme could start from $20 for a routine theme.

Just mapping: about $10 per year on domain name (for .blogspot blog) and additional $15 a year (for .wordpress blog).




Let's go in a bit detail on the underlying concepts and how to change the domain on Blogger and Wordpress platforms:


Advantages and disadvantages of free and paid paid web hosting, for a blogger


Free hosted blogs have .wordpress.com, .blogspot.com etc suffixed to their operative name. What it means is that there is a big domain and your free blog is part of that domain, along with thousands of other similar blogs. In the case of a website/ blog with independent domain name (e.g. www.example.com instead of www.example.wordpress.com), the site exists there alone.


In the case of a free blog, you don’t pay anything for opening and maintaining the blog. You use the platform's resources for keeping the blog available on the web, your use their blogging tools free, and you store your images and videos on their servers. For maintaining a stand-alone blog, you pay for (i) designing the blog, (ii) buying the domain name, and (iii) hosting the blog on the web.


A free blog has the platform and the community that creates free widgets, apps, themes (templates) etc, answers to queries, troubleshoots issues and discusses new developments. Independent blogs lack this support other than the limited tools provided by the web host and its customer support (which is not great in case of low-end plans).


The middle, golden, path of blog hosting: just an independent domain, no paid hosting


When the blog has a distinct identity, it is looked upon as a professional blog. This identity remains even if the blog is not hosted independently! The independent identity

  • shows that you are serious, as you are spending money on the blog.
  • helps in the long run, as your blog is seen as a stand-alone entity on the web.
  • gets higher web authority and popularity as search engines tend to attach a low value to free blogs.

So, the golden path is to register a free domain name through a Domain Name Registrar and map the free blog to it. 


There are dozens of domain name registrars on the web, including GoDaddy, BlueHost, HostGator and inMotion. The domain names these days are not very expensive unless you want a popular or special name.


The next thing is to map this domain with your blog.


Blogger does it FREE. Take the following simple steps and you are there:


1. Go to Settings on your Blogger dashboard.
2. In the Publishing option, your blog's present address is given. There are two links below that:
a- Set up a third-party URL... If you have already purchased the domain name, put it here. Click on  Submit and your new domain ID is mapped to the current blog.
b- Buy a domain. Select this option to buy the domain name from Google itself. It will take you to Google Domains, where you can select the name of your choice and make payment, and come back to the Settings.

In both the cases, it takes only a few seconds/ minutes to map your .blogspot.com blog to the new independent identity.

In the case of free Wordpress blogs, this mapping comes with an annual fee. Therefore, many bloggers on Wordpress prefer to go for wordpress.org, and pay for both hosting and domain name - an option better than paying just for mapping the domain name because then they get all the independence that comes with paid hosting.
(If you are confused about wordpress.com and wordpress.org, please visit this article: Wordpress confusion: created deliberately? )

1. On the dashboard, select your blog.
2. Choose Plan option, and then Domain.
3. Choose Add Domain.
4. Select the domain name that you have already purchased or go for the domain offered by Wordpress. Make payment and the mapping is over.

At the given link, you may visit the first post of a 3-part series on choosing the right domain name, web hosting and related matters in greater details.

August 6, 2018

Hindi best blog directory compilation begins! हिन्दी के सर्वोत्तम ब्लॉगों की डाइरैक्टरी का संकलन शुरू!

Friends,

The next edition of the Directory of Best Hindi Blogs is to come out on 30th September, 2018. The last edition came on the same day, in 2017, and had the best 140 Hindi blogs.

The blogosphere is undergoing a big transformation since the fast rise of social networking, social sharing and instant messaging apps and websites. Non-English blogospheres are affected much more and are facing sort of turmoil due to it. 

Even earlier, we had seen that established blogs suddenly went into hibernation or stopped altogether, and many blogs of the earlier editions were replaced by new ones. We apprehend that it might happen in a bigger scale this time. 

Whatever the case, we are committed to bring out the list, and with the same parameters. Fair play will be our hallmark.

We invite visitors to suggest blogs for the latest  edition of the Hindi directory. We will be able to consider any blog suggestion that we receive by the end of August. We already are surfing the web for good blogs and have found a handfull of good ones.

So, friends, expect a more compact Directory of Best Hindi Blogs on 30th September. As always, your suggestions for improving ITB listings are always welcome.

Best wishes. ITB team


मित्रो,
अब समय है हिन्दी के सर्वोत्तम ब्लॉगों की डाइरैक्टरी के अगले संस्करण का। पिछले संस्करणों को कई मित्रों ने सराहा था और हमें आपके बहुत सारे सुझाव भी मिले। साथ ही आप लोगों ने कई नए ब्लॉग भी हमें सुझाए। धन्यवाद।

अगर आप हमारे पिछले एडिशन को देखें तो पाएंगे कि बहुत सारी पिछली प्रविष्टियाँ नई लिस्ट से बाहर हो गयी हैं। हालांकि हमें अपने पिछले ब्लॉगों  को फिर से डाइरैक्टरी इत्यादि में स्थान देने में खुशी होती है, लेकिन जब ब्लॉगों को परखने की बात अगले साल आती है तो हम बहुत सख्त हो जाते हैं। आशा है, आप quality के प्रति हमारी इस ज़िद को समझेंगे। 

इस बीच फेसबुक और व्हाट्सएप्प जैसे सोशल नेटवर्किंग तथा चैट की वेबसाइटों के प्रादुर्भाव की वजह से भी ब्लॉगिंग पर खासा असर पड़ा है और हिंदी का ब्लॉग-संसार इससे अछूता नहीं रहा है। फिर भी हम नए और उन्नत ब्लॉगों की डायरेक्टरी आपके सामने लाते रहेंगे, यह हमारा वादा है।  

अगस्त अंत तक नए ब्लॉग सुझाते रहिए ताकि हम इस वर्ष और भी अच्छा संकलन आपको प्रस्तुत कर सकें। हिन्दी ब्लॉग का 2018 का संस्करण हम 30 सितंबर को प्रकाशित कर पाएंगे।
शुभकामनायें।
   
itb टीम

July 30, 2018

Voice search is going to rule the search universe in future: should you be worried?

With a number of virtual assistants available on desktops/laptops, mobile phones and standalone devices (e.g. Google Home, Siri), people are going to search more and more by giving voice commands. 

Voice search will take natural language search forward by leaps and bounds. Are present search engine optimization (SEO) actions geared towards this change?


Will voice search ever be popular or is it just a hype?


Talking is easier and less boring than typing. You need not be in a particular posture and tied to the device with fingers working on the keyboard. You can give the command while you are doing another task. Voice commands are unobtrusive and instant; you remember something suddenly or you need some help while doing a chore - and you speak to the device for an answer.

The trend may take some time before it breaks out in full swing and then becomes the norm. 2020 could be the time when voice search would have started becoming mainstream and  2021 when it becomes the preferred search option.


Voice queries are more conversational


Voice queries are likely to be more like our natural commands/ queries to a guide, an assistant or a friend in real life. So, search engines would need to learn the contextual meanings of  queries better than at present.

Before that, the voice recognition technology will have to be perfect. At present, there is a lot of gap between the spoken word and what is interpreted by the software due to voice quality issues and different accents.


Voice search will need to produce multiple results


Right now, virtual assistants are geared to give specific answers to specific questions. However, such single answers are not always sufficient. Bookmarking, opening multiple tabs, expanding the query with more specific queries, and saving useful links for future are other actions that searchers on desktops or tabs often take immediately after the first search query. 

On mobile phones, whether voice activated or typed, we often ask for nearby malls, restaurants, fuel pumps, directions etc and get instant results on screen with a great deal information attached to them. There are multiple answers and one can make  comparisons too (e.g. restaurants, based on customer reviews). However, such search and further actions are either not possible or are prone to error when searches are made for non-specific, nuanced and complex queries.

When there are no screens (e.g. with standalone assistants), display of answers is required even if the search engine is able to correctly figure out the query. That would mean another display hardware attached to the assistant or virtual solutions might emerge.

From a technology observer's point of view, voice search - for that matter, all voice activated ICT actions - will be a major development. For bloggers and website owners, the takeaway is that they have some time in hand to make their content better optimized for queries in natural language and they must make the best use of it.

July 24, 2018

Doing away with the list of the topmost Indian blog list

Top Blogs has been running a Platinum List of blogs for the last eight years, but has decided to NOT compile the list this year.

The reason is small. The list was found to be very elitist by some, impractical by some others. (It had blogs with content of significance and high blogging standards but not necessarily the most modern design. Earning was not a factor at all.) Some felt, it was too small to take note of (between 20 and 30 blogs). And it took a lot of time of ours in deciding the best-est among the best.

Moroever, our focus has also shifted towards helping bloggers with practical tips and also updating visitors and subscribers on social media. In that role, we have always been global in our outlook, not India-focused.

However, the Indian roots stay with us. Our flagship listing is the Directory of Best Indian Blogs. Besides that, we also compile a similar listing of best blogs in Hindi language. Both these are very popular and in demand. We'd continue to bring out editions of these directories in future. We had earlier shared our intent to bring our directories in other languages, but we are giving up that ambition at least for the time being.

Happy blogging!

July 20, 2018

Big social media updates this week: Google fined, Twitter purge, government actions and China IT report

Let's start this issue of social media updates with the two biggest stories of recent times: Google fined heavily for anti-competition bundling of apps, and Twitter's massive purge of spurious accounts.

Google is slapped the biggest European Commission fine so far


European Commission has fined Google with $5 billion over bundling of Chrome browser, Google search and 9 other apps with Android OS. 

Android OS runs most of the non-Apple mobile devices. 

This is the biggest fine slapped on a single company by EC/ EU ever.

What has been irking Google's rivals is that Google's Android OS (the non-Open Source version) comes laced with Google apps, and most phone makers pre-install them on phones and thus provide Google a huge market share of these services.

Google has explained its position on its blog:
The free distribution of the Android platform, and of Google’s suite of applications, is not only efficient for phone makers and operators — it’s of huge benefit for developers and consumers. If phone makers and mobile network operators couldn’t include our apps on their wide range of devices, it would upset the balance of the Android ecosystem. So far, the Android business model has meant that we haven't had to charge phone makers for our technology, or depend on a tightly controlled distribution model.
The ruling has wide implications. It challenges the Google model in which the ultimate consumers (and intermediaries) get a number of services free in return for an advertisement based system. The ruling also might put pressure on Apple, which bundles many services but has so far been able to avoid such rulings. Or will Apple gain in Android's fall? How will Google implement it? Will it lead to a more chaotic app ecosystem once Google's monopoly ends? 

Donald Trump tweeted soon after the ruling, in a retaliatory tone: I told you so! The European Union just slapped a Five Billion Dollar fine on one of our great companies, Google. They truly have taken advantage of the US, but not for long!

Millions hurt with Twitter purge, and that includes @Twitter too!


Twitter started purging its platform of suspicious accounts last week, and as per initial reports, some top celebrities have lost thousands, sometimes millions, of followers in one brush.

Interestingly, Twitter's own account lost about 7.8 million (nearly 12.3% followers)! 

Britney Spears has lost 2.1 million, Instagram 1.4 million, Nicki Minaj 1.2 million, Oprah Winfrey 1.4 million.

BarackObama has lost 2.3 million, accounting for about 2.26% of his followers. Many other world leaders have suffered to more or less similar degrees. Donald Trump too has lost 308 thousand, which comes to just 0.58%.

Recall a New York Times expose last year in which a firm Devumi was found to be selling fake followers to politicians and other celebrities all over the world. It is reported that a big percentage of followers - up to 93% - supplied by this company have faced the purge.

On 11th July Twitter announced the cleansing action, stating that it will not impact most accounts greatly:

Most people will see a change of four followers or fewer; others with larger follower counts will experience a more significant drop. We understand this may be hard for some, but we believe accuracy and transparency make Twitter a more trusted service for public conversation.
Though the most significant changes are happening in the next few days, follower counts may continue to change more regularly as part of our ongoing work to proactively identify and challenge problematic accounts.


social-media-updates-2018

The next segment is on a slew of governmental controls that have taken place in recent days on social networking, messaging and blogging. Social media has always been at the receiving end of governmental actions. Sometimes they do not like its use because it is uncomfortable to them; sometimes social media is used by criminals and hate mongers, and thus needs to be legitimately controlled. The dividing lines are often hazy. You decide which side you want to take while assessing these actions:

Uganda imposes heavy social media tax


Ugandan government has imposed tax on online social activity, the way Tanzania did last month. The good news is that Ugandan parliament has referred the taxation to a parliamentary committee.

President Museveni says, social media is just gossip and is hurting his government's efforts to showcase democracy and economic growth. It is also argued that the tax would help Uganda in economic progress.

The tax is a whopping  $10 a day for using social apps.

Sri Lanka shuts down social networks to quell violence


In Sri Lanka, social networking sites were shut down for three days last week following violent protests that had spread across the country.

It had earlier blocked social networks over hate speech (March 2018) and resultant clashes between Buddhist and Muslim communities.

In India, WhatsApp goes out of control; separately, supreme court wants the government to tell if it intends to control social media


Two major developments have shaken Indian social media. One, use of WhatsApp for mob killings and two, government having to explain whether it intends to monitor and control social media.
 

The lynching of innocents by blood-thirsty mobs in different parts of the country surfaces now and then for the last few months, and it has a trend: A message is spread on WhatsApp that some strangers are roaming in the area to abduct children. Then, some stranger (in one case a local tourist, in one case a foreigner) is spotted, a crowd gathers and starts hitting the stranger. It does not stop till the stranger is dead! More than 20 people are reported to have lost their lives so far.

The Indian government had earlier warned WhatsApp to pull its socks but when the lynching did not stop, has threatened to sue it:

Rampant circulation of irresponsible messages in large volumes on their platform have not been addressed adequately by WhatsApp... When rumours and fake news get propagated by mischief-mongers, the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability... If [WhatsApp] remain mute spectators, they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action.

On its part, WhatsApp has introduced new features on its platform that include identifying the one forwarding a message and limiting the number of forwards in one go to five. 

The supreme court has asked the government to bring a law if present laws are not sufficient to deal with murders by mobs.

In another major social media related development, Indian supreme court has questioned the government's move to create a 'communication hub' on social media. While the government says, the proposed entity would provide feedback from each district on the implementation of its policies, activists and opposition parties smell in it a plan to monitor social media communication. The hearing in the top court is not yet over.

Finally, good news about how internet and social are helping China grow:

How internet is driving China: a report


Reported to be the most comprehensive report on China's IT scene, China Internet Report 2018 says, in China rural internet penetration has risen fast, and its own social media ecosystem rules with some aid from the government.
Abacus News released the report earlier this week. The rural internet penetration in China stands at 35%, and this has helped rise ecommerce, education and media usage fast in villages, the report says.

Chinese ecommerce companies have adopted a Social+ model where their business is anchored by a social pillar that drives user engagement and growth.

China's internet, smartphone and mobile internet user bases are many times that of the USA. The number of payments China makes are over ten times that are made in the US! 

China has a strong ecosystem of social media, apps and ecommerce that rivals the global peers: It has Baidu for search, WeChat for social networking and messaging, and has own shopping, video sharing, payment platforms and so on. And all are going strong, with positive help from the government and also checks on foreign social media and IT.

July 13, 2018

Best blogging tools in 2018: Bloggers' queries answered

In the last three posts, we introduced reputed and tested free software/ tools relating to writing and language, image editing and video editing. In the present one, we answer some questions asked by bloggers (on Quora etc) that pertain to tasks that can be easily done with available free software but many bloggers do not know about. 

Can you suggest a screen capture software that does the job better than the one available on Windows computers?


Computers have an inbuilt sniping tool, and most keyboards have a 'print screen' key. However, if you want a feature rich screen capture software, don't pay for it as Greenshot is an equally good free alternative.

For video screen capture tools, please visit the previous post on video tools.

What are the best websites from which I can download free and license-free photos?


There are many such sites. Even normal photo sharing sites such as Flickr have a number of such photos. The following sites deal exclusively or predominantly in license-free photos: Pixabay, SnappyGoat, Freeimages.

How can I share a Word document or a slide with others through my free blog? There is no way I can upload it directly. 


Free blogging platforms such as Blogger, Tumblr and Wordpress do not have a provision for hosting such documents. What can be done is to host the document on the web through a file-storage and sharing site (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive) and give a hyperlink to that document from the blog. Slideshare is a good option to host presentations/ slides on the web.

Google Drive has an outstanding set of office tools, G suite, that allows you to create all types of documents, data sets and presentations and share them with others.

Is Quora a better blogging platform than Wordpress and Blogger for an information related blog, because many people come there in search of information? 


Though Quora offers blogging, it is NOT primarily a blogging platform. If you want your blog to be seen by people asking questions on Quora, include hyperlinks to your blog in your replies.

Is UC News a good blogging platform?


We have seen advertisements and promos of UC News. Unless you have a special reason to go with their platform, we'd recommend sticking with the standard ones such as Wordpress and Blogger.

I want an emailer that would send emails to addresses automatically. Is there some free service?


MailChimp is a good emailer/ email management tool if you want a free one. It will serve you well if you do not have to send thousands of emails a day. It has a number of customization features even in the free plan. 

My camera's photos are too heavy, running into MBs. What software should I use to make them light without cutting out anything?


Camera photos are often huge because they store a significant amount of pixel attributes and extra data. It is not advised to upload them directly on the website.

Our post on picture editing ( second in this series) has details on image-editing tools. However, if your interest is in just optimizing photos for the web or simple edits, popular image viewers such as IrfanView can save your photos for the web in much smaller sizes without perceptible loss in quality.

Optimizilla is a free online image optimizer for the web. However, you need to upload your original photos to the website, which you might sometimes not like to do. 

Is there a software for safekeeping my blog so that it does not get deleted by mistake or through cyber-attack?


You must regularly back up your blog. If the blog is on Wordpress or Blogger, there are in-built options on these platforms to export the blog and also back up. Wordpress also has free plugins for this work, but you can install plugins only on self-hosted blogs created with Wordpress or a premium plan. 

If your blog is self-hosted (i.e. hosted on a server for which you pay), the host will give you an option for backing up the blog. 

In all cases, make it a habit to store the content on your computer at regular intervals even if it means copying each post and saving it individually.

How do I put AdSense advertisements on my blog? Do I need an app or a code and knowledge of coding for that?


It is damn simple, and we have discussed it in the linked posts. However, know that you cannot put advertisements on your blog on Wordpress.com (free plan), LiveJournal, Medium and many other free blogging platforms. 

Best software is sometimes available free! Enjoy it.

=====

We have, over time, listed a number of free software / tolls useful for bloggers and others. You can browse them all in one place here: Posts of best free software category.

Other posts in the present series:

July 6, 2018

Best blogging tools in 2018: Professional audio and video tools, completely free!

In the previous two posts, I gave an update on the best free writing and language tools and picture tools available at present on the web. The present post talks about some tested, reliable and acclaimed multi-media tools.

One caveat: All the tools listed here are top class and beat their paid counterparts. However, all need a bit of familiarization. Bloggers who are not required to have highly polished products with sophisticated effects may find these difficult. However, there are tutorials available on the web on all these tools.

In the next post, I am going to share experiences of two YouTubers who are doing excellent job without much learning and sophistication. Yet, I feel that quality matters. And the tools look intimidating only till you are familiar with them. You read a bit (in case you do not know anything about video work), play with these tools and keep becoming more and more of an expert. After a few days of experimenting and learning online, you find them easy and the time spent on learning would amaze you that you can be so productive later.

Lightworks

Lightworks is a professional-grade video editor that can be used for all types of editing and effects on a wide range of videos. However, it has a steep learning curve if you are very new to video editing, and consumes big resources on the computer. However, there are a number of tutorials available on the site to guide you.

video-blogging
Lightworks pane: professional video editing
Shotcut

Shotcut is even better than Lightworks in some ways. It is simpler and instant. Unlike most video editors it does not require a project to be created and one can work straight on the video. Its range of video formats is also wider.


video-blogs
Shotcut: a short cut to prof video editing
Audacity

Nothing beats this software tool when it comes to recording and editing audio. Rich in filters and options on different aspects of audio editing and enhancement, Audacity is a must have for audio bloggers and podcasters, and also for those recording audio for tutorials etc.

OBS Studio 

This is a very sophisticated suite for video and audio capturing from the computer, video streaming and mixing on the go. Being opensource and free, there is no limit on the number of sources and length of streaming or recording.


Links to the earlier posts in this series:
1. Best free writing, language tools
2. Best free picture tools


July 1, 2018

Best blogging tools in 2018: Picture enhancement tools

Continuing from the previous post in this series on free, tested and verified tools for bloggers as of mid-2018, we have the following recommendations in the area of image editing and enhancement:

Professional photo editors


There are free professional editors such as Photoshop and CorelDraw, which are immensely feature-rich but very expensive. In most cases, even professionals do not know all their  features and do not need to use them. 

Luckily, the wonderful open-source community has been supporting three almost equally good FREE professional image editing software:

1. Gimp is a highly professional raster image editing software just like Photoshop. It has numerous editing options, brushes and effects. The latest version (2.10) is superb.

2. Inkscape is a free vector image editor and is a CorelDraw alternative. One can create beautiful vector graphics using this software.

Quick and easy image editors


Most bloggers do not need to use sophisticated image editing software because their needs are limited to creating infographics or simple images, putting text over images to display quotes or slogans, and minor editing and improvement of photos. For such jobs, the following are fantastic free tools available, which are free and easy. However, most of them have free and premium versions, so the free versions have some limitations.

Infographics are images in which data is depicted through shapes, graphs and process indicators. These make it easy to appreciate lots of data, a long history etc. and are popular on blogs and social networking sites.

If you are a blogger or are active on social media working in a visually appealing niche (e.g. travel, arts, fashion, cooking) but do not need high-end photo editing, go for the simple ones listed below. They sometimes give much better output in a short time than the professional ones and their results are fine enough for the web media. For example, making an infographic or overlaying text on a photo is very time-consuming on the top photo editors but it is damn easy on the ones given below.


1. Paint.net is slightly less sophisticated than Gimp, but easier to use and has some ready-to-use effects, brushes and tools good enough for most image editing work.

2. Krita is a near-professional grade painting software for making artwork and paintings. Like Gimp and Inkscape, it is opensource and completely free.

3. Fotor free version is a good image editing and design tool available online and offline (only for Windows). The Fotor site also has a number of tutorials on image editing.


4. Canva is an online quick image making and editing tool, and can make images suiting different social media accounts and blogs. Its free version has a number of photo backgrounds and presets and one can use one's own photographs and also edit the default fonts and colors. It is not limited to blog images but can be used for making presentations, design brochures, make infographics,  etc.

5. Visme is a free online infographic and presentation maker and has numerous themes available. You can use wizards to customize a theme to create wonderful infographics in minutes. It can also be used to make ebooks, flowcharts etc.

6. Piktochart excels in making infographics in a very large range of formats.  

To be fair to others not listed here, let me add that there are many other free online and offline tools for image-related jobs. In fact, many picture viewers have a library of effects and minor image editing capabilities. 

The previous post in this series was on best free writing tools.

Disclaimer: TopBlogs does not have any commercial or other arrangement with the software, tools and websites recommended here.

June 27, 2018

Best blogging tools in 2018: writing and language tools

As a serious blogger, you need to take care of technology, design and of course content. In content, you need to have high quality text, visual, audio and audio-visual matter. You also need a way to integrate the blog with your other social media accounts. One other major requirement is search engine optimization or SEO.

Managing the blog professionally needs so many skills, and one cannot be a master of all. Some tasks look too overbearing if one is very weak in those areas. Luckily, there are some FREE and dependable tools available on the web, which make life easy for the professional blogger and he/ she does not have to run to experts for each and every work e.g. quick editing of a photo, checking grammar, SEO and so on.

In this first part of this series on free, tested, tools, we have listed those on improving the quality of writing in English:


FREE ENGLISH LANGUAGE TOOLS


Grammar and language checkers


Grammarly is a fantastic tool to check grammar. Its free version is good enough for general grammar check as you type. It easily integrates into most apps on your device and keeps suggesting changes and better expressions where it finds an issue. However, that can sometimes slow the computer or can look annoying. If you want it just to work online for blogging purposes, use its Firefox extension.

Hemingwayapp gives you suggestions for improvement, tells the level of language sophistication in terms of educational grade (e.g. sixth grade, tenth grade), and also has the facility for markup! So, you can quickly format blog posts with headline level, bullets etc.

Online dictionaries and thesaurus (list of synonyms)


There are numerous dictionaries available online but some of them have too complicated feel and some do not do justice with words. We've picked up the best- simple, exhaustive:

Dictionary.com is very simple and has dictionary and thesaurus options side by side.

Collins dictionary is more exhaustive, with thesaurus and other options, and we like its informal way of presenting meanings. 

Wordweb is a superb offline thesaurus, and it integrates well with Word and other programs. 

Headline analyzers


Crisp and relevant headlines and those with power words attract readers and results in higher traffic and its stay on the blog.

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer analyzes headlines on many parameters and gives a score. One can play with many headlines and apply the best one on the blog post. The following three free online tools have their own ways to find a headline's worth. You may pick one and stick with that.

AMI's headline tool gives score based on the category to which the headline belongs and its emotional appeal.  

Sharethrough has a headline tool that rates headlines on engagement and impression.

All-in-one offline blogging tool


Open Live Writer is a useful offline blogging tool. In its own words, Open Live Writer is like Word for your blog. Open Live Writer is a powerful, lightweight blog editor that allows you to create blog posts, add photos and videos then publish to your website. You can also compose blogs posts offline and then publish on your return. Open Live Writer works with many popular blog service providers such as WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, Moveable Type, DasBlog and many more.


TopBlogs periodically recommends new free and reliable software tools. We keep testing our recommendations so that they remain current. The present series of posts seeks to update our recommendations as of June 2018. 

June 22, 2018

Blogging, social media updates: Tanzanian law, Pak blogger getting threats, offers from social networks...

Tanzanian law kills blogging

The Tanzanian law asking for a hefty registration fee equaling $900 a year for online publishing has come into force [we talked about it earlier too], effectively killing blogging. That includes other forms of online publishing such as websites, forum engagements and posting on YouTube. Bloggers also have to produce a tax clearance certificate. 

Those not abiding by the law incur a penalty of approximately $2500 fine with or without imprisonment!

The rule had in fact come into being in March itself, but it was challenged in the Mtwara high court. Now the high court has turned down the appeal against the rule, and the rule is in force from 15th June.

Many bloggers have quit in protest, quit as they cannot pay registration fee, or have offered their blogs to be run from outside Tanzania. 


Pakistani blogger says, family getting threats from ISI

Pakistani blogger and activist, Ahmad Waqass Goray, who now lives in the Netherlands, has through a series of tweets, stated that his elderly parents living in Pakistan are getting threats so as to silence him. 

His tweets show the threat he is to live with and depict his sense of persecution, so we are adding no editorial comment:
""Thread : Men from Pakistani intelligence agency ISI visited my elderly parents in Pakistan yesterday 20th June. They said loud and clear that they have orders to abduct and torture my father and attack my family to teach me a lesson. This is not the first incident.""
""ISI officials and men in Army uniform along with the FIA have been threatening the families of other activists as well. Many people can not report it due to fear.""
""If my family is harmed any way directly or indirectly the world should know that General Faiz DG ISI internal wing, Brigadier Adil Sector Commander Lahore and their staff is responsible.""
""It should have been clear by now that I will not be blackmailed by blasphemy campaigns and guns pointed at my family... Pakistan is my country and I will keep fighting to free my country from this terror. Abductions, killings, dumping political activists and terrorizing families has to end. ""


Extortionist blogger or a case of defamation?

Kenyan blogger, Robert Alai, has slapped a defamation notice on publishers of Weekly Citizen, a weekly publication, for an article against him, asking for 'immediate withdrawal of the defamatory words and an unqualified apology'

The article claims that the blogger has been threatening his victims with damning exposes if they fail to pay him money demanded by him. 

It is also reported that after the defamatory article appeared, Alai stormed the editorial department of the paper and damaged property. Alai has faced many charges of rowdy behavior, scuffles with police etc earlier and also been jailed for a short period.


'Linking tax' from EU regulators?

It is reported on Forbes website that EU Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs has approved copyright proposals that require, according to the report, """"any site linking to a third-party site with a snippet to adhere to an astonishing 28 separate copyright laws, or else pay for a license to provide the link.""""

Critics say, the law, if it comes into force (it still needs approval of EU Parliament), will lead to a copyright tyranny, distortions in the flow of information on the web and political repercussions.
You can visit the report here.


Facebook to come up with 3D pictures on newsfeed

Facebook is to soon have 3D posts on newsfeed, as announced in its F8 Conference in May. We tried to find how it will improve viewers' experience of viewing photos taken from mobile phones.

When you tilt your phone, touch the photo or scroll it, the photo will respond to the movement, giving a feeling of depth. 

Humans get 3D sense of objects in real world because of two eyes which simultaneously process the object from two angles. In addition, we get to see objects from different angles when we slightly move ourselves while looking at the object. 

Though by taking many pictures with a single camera while panning it (as it happens in 360 degree photography) and then stitching them through a software is how 3D imagery works, Facebook is reported to be giving us this small 3D effect on photos taken with dual camera mobile phones. The images taken by the two cameras will be processed through depth measuring and other features of the back-end software.

The feature is likely to be rolled out in August.

Paid group content on Facebook

Facebook has launched a pilot for allowing group administrators to offer additional content on paid subscription. 

The regular features of groups will remain available to other members, but the new option will let group makers earn a few bucks for their time and energy spent on maintaining the group.

Facebook explains on its blog: ""We hear from group admins that they’re looking for ways to help them earn money to deepen engagement with their members and continue to support their communities. Many admins do this today by creating an additional subscribers-only group that sits alongside their existing group, and rely on additional tools to track and collect payments. Subscription groups were created to make it easier for admins to provide these experiences with built-in tools, and to save them time so they can focus on offering members-only content. For members, they’re now able to sign-up and manage their subscription through the Facebook app for iOS and Android.""

A report says, the fee could range from $4.99 to $29.99 per month.


Instagram introduces long-form videos with IGTV

Instagram has rolled out long videos, of up to one hour duration, on this popular platform known for small video flicks. The platform already allows streaming of videos up to this duration. 

The IGTV video is in vertical format (i.e. the way we normally hold and view the mobile phone). It can be streamed live or can have a recorded video that lasts one full hour. Besides it being available on Instagram, a standalone IGTV app has also been issued. 


It is anticipated that some YouTube video creators will shift to Instagram, maybe for the novelty sake or getting incentives from Instagram or having faced issues with YouTube. It might also impact other video providers such as NetFlix.