Archive for : March, 2015

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Kickstart your blog-Tools

Beginning to blog? Appears to be pretty easy. Indeed it is easy. Once you have an idea of the niche (or no-niche), you have decided on a platform you’ll blog on, you have polished up the skills needed to churn out compelling articles, week after week after week, you are good to go out blogging. Now since you have finally decided to start blogging, let us tell you a few things which you will find helpful in starting your blogging career on a great note, and once you have kickstarted it, there is ample scope of improvements, throughout the years till you choose to blog.

In this episode , we will take a look at some of the tools you might find helpful to blog on and off. Why these tools, you ask? Well, that’s a pretty valid question, for anyone to have, when they know that all they need is an idea to blog on, a laptop/pc/mac or a cellphone/tablet to write articles, and a blogging platform to publish what they write, to let others read and appreciate your articles, your knowledge and writing skills. We would like to inform you that, you are very right when it comes to the bare minimums you need to start blogging. However, blogging is a lot more than writing contents and publishing online. Yes, you read it right. There are a lot of other things, you will feel the need for, as you go on exploring the blogging arena. These things (tools), which, we are discussing about, here, are not among the bare minimums you need to start blogging. These are to help you out blog better, add value to your blog. Using these tools, you can make one of your works easier. Either make compelling illustrations and graphics for one of your articles, give your blog a more professional appeal by tinkering with the CSS, secure your media from getting plagiarised (i.e. copied and used without consent, in many cases, with people claiming it to be their creative works) by watermarking them.

These tools span over a variety of domains, and you will be astonished to know about the number of tools, bloggers use to take their blogs to the next level, and add value to it. These tools include common tools such as Word processors like Microsoft Office Word, Spreadsheet applications like MS Excel, text editors like Notepad++, image editing applications like MS Paint or MS Office Picture Manager, or if someone likes going advanced, then specialised applications like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, GIMP, InkScape, and such advanced image creation and editing applications. Then there are some not-so-common tools, which not everyone uses. A few examples could be digital image water-marking software for watermarking your media files like illustrations and photos. HTML editors help people to modify the look and feel and layout of their blogs, and their pages and posts.

So, let us take a look at a few tools which, in our opinion, will help you kickstart your blogging career, and might help you reach the next level if you have already started it.

1. Text/HTML Editing: Since all that we write is Text, and is processed as HTML over the internet, applications to edit Text and HTML contents is among one of the most used tools in blogging. Irrespective of whether you are a novice blogger, or a more experienced one, there will be one point in time when you felt the need to edit the text and/or HTML on your blog. One such tools includes Notepad, that comes bundled with the Microsoft Windows OS. It provides you with the very basic of the text/html editing capabilities. If you want to go beyond, you can look for a free application called Notepad++. A pretty robust piece of software that helps you quickly work through a number of programming languages, do a lot more than just text editing. Frankly speaking, Notepad++ is an application a lot of programmers use in their day to day life, as this makes their life easy. Be it editing regular text or working up on complex HTML, CSS, JavaScript or JQuery scripts, you name it and you can happily do it in Notepad++. Owing to its code highlighting capabilities, it can help you work quickly through a piece of HTML code, as it is clearly marked per the language conventions. What more? You can actually record macros to programmatically complete tasks that you are required to do repetitively. The best part is, Notepad++ is under GNU GPL license, and comes free. If you want more, you can get yourself better tools, but, then you will need to pay for it. There’s an application called Sublime Text Editor. A paid application targeted at mostly programmers, Sublime text editor is a great tool for handling

2. HTML Cleanup: A lot of us know the web works on a standard language called HTML, that stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. Irrespective of whatever scripting language we use to make those pages, PHP, HTML, ASP, it all gets translated into HTML on your browser. A lot of us do use MS Word or other word processing applications to compose our posts (like we do, which helps in keeping a copy of the blog’s contents offline, with on our own systems, in the event of something going horribly wrong with the blog, and all the content gets deleted, we can resurrect it again. Additionally, for some other blogs, it helps us manage the formatting of the blogposts). If you have ever tried creating or inserting tables in your blogposts, you would very well understand what we are talking about. While on MS Word, it’s a child’s play to insert and format a table as per your wish, it’s a headache doing the same in HTML, and when it’s to be done in the blogger’s post compose window, you can just imagine how it will be done. Anyways, the idea was to give you some insights into HTML cleanup tools. Let us give you an example, for instance, you compose a post on MS word, and then paste it in your blogger post compose window. MS word transfers with the text, along with a whole lot of information on the text/image formatting you did in MS Word. And believe us when we say, this is a lot of information, so much so that it could easily confuse a novice. Additionally, so much of data on the page makes it unnecessarily heavy for the server to transfer and for the client browser to process. While most of the formatting can be had without so much backpage formatting. For a couple of our posts, we use a few of these tools, like HTML Cleaner. There are a variety of options available to strip down unnecessary HTML tags, which helps making your page lighter and better structured.

3. Watermarking: You call yourself an amateur photographer, to show your work to people, and you put up your pictures online on your blog, and one fine day, you stumble upon a picture being used somewhere, that resemble like one of yours, and on a close examination, you get shocked to see one of your photos being used without your permission. And then, someone else takes the credits for the picture you clicked. This is a scenario that turns into reality a number of times. And if you have your bread and butter linked to your photography, this can have a very negative impact on your earnings. Even if its a hobby for you, seeing someone else take credits for your work hurts, and believe us, it hurts very bad.

The way out, either you put up marks on your photos that you are sharing online, or don’t post them at all. Watermarking photos is considered one of the best ways to protect your pictures from getting abused and plagiarised. And it’s said, better safe than sorry. It’s always better to watermark the pictures before putting them online, rather than being sorry after finding them plagiarised. There have been instances when media files have been plagiarised and the original owners of the work had been denied what rightfully belonged to them. We have been posting media files here, and we make sure that all the media files that we put up online are properly watermarked. While one can choose to use image editing applications like Adobe Photoshop or any other image editing software you like, there are dedicated applications that can be used for specifically this purpose. One of such applications is uMark. While this application is a paid one, a trial version is also available, and even in its trial version, the application is very useful. You can easily use an image file or a custom text to add copyright informationto put up watermark on the photos.

4. Tabulating: Often in your blogging journey, you are be required to put tables in your blogposts. While, it’s pretty easy to add tables in MS Word and paste the table in your blogpost, however, it doesn’t turn out to be the best possible ways. As we have already pointed out earlier, with contents from Microsoft Office applications like MS Excel or MS Word, there comes a lot of unnecessary formatting information, it’s not the best option always. Tableizer, is the thing that can help you fulfill your requirement. Just copy the cells or table from your Excel or Word, paste it here, copy the code, and paste it in the HTML code window of your blogpost composing window.

There are a few more tools that will help you blog better, and it would be better for the sake of keeping it simple and shorter to help readers understand the topics better. We will be sharing the rest of blogging tools in the next post.

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Choosing a Suitable Blogging Platform – Part-2

In the last post, we looked at some blogging platforms, ones, that can help you go online in a matter of minutes, and showcase your skills to the world. The list in itself is a pretty exhaustive one, and hence had to span a few posts, if not more. This time around, we came up with some more blogging platforms, that you might use to go online. Some of these include a few, what one can call, no frills blogging platforms, which one can use with a simple signup with the service, write your post, and publish it. No worry to design the look and feel of a blog, worry about the SEO and stuff, and no need to build a network, to fetch yourself some readers. These platforms do that themselves, for you, free of cost, get your content discovered, fetch you visitors, readers and admirers for your content, so that you have to bother about just creating content, and posting it online. A few of these blogging platforms we would like to share with you are, not to mention, these are in continuation of the previous list, which can be found here.

9. Medium: Medium, a blogging platform, that can help you go online and publish what you want, in one of the easiest ways possible. Medium, a platform, created by co-founders of the popular micro-blogging platform and social network – twitter, Evan Williams and Biz Stone in August, 2012, had, while creating this new platform, wanted to fill the gap between the full fledged blogging platforms to the likes of blogger and wordpress, and the immensely popular micro-blogging platform twitter, a service which they co-founded, which limited the users to post within 140 characters.

According to what Wikipedia – the free encyclopedia says-

The platform software provides a full WYSIWYG user interface when editing online, with various options for formatting provided as the user runs over text. Once an entry is posted, it can be recommended and shared by other people, in a similar manner to Twitter. Posts can be upvoted in a similar manner to Digg and Reddit, and content can be assigned a specific theme, in the same way as Tumblr. A specific difference from Williams’ earlier service Blogger is that posts are sorted by topic rather than writer. Users can only create accounts or log in to Medium with a Twitter or a Facebook account.

Read the last sentence of the above quote? It means, you’re not required to create a new account to blog with Medium, just sign up into Medium using your existing Twitter or Facebook account, feed in some details like your name, your account name, which will be used to publish your articles on, and an email id to associate with your Medium account. Once you do this, you’re needed to verify your email ID and you’re good to go blogging with Medium. This is a no nonsense platform to share what you like, i.e. blogging.

10. Hubpages: A free web publishing platform, founded in 2006, Hubpages has gained good popularity in the United States, ranking among the 100 most visited sites of the US (According to a Quantcast report). Hubpages, as their About Us page describes themselves –

HubPages is an open community of passionate people—writers, explorers, knowledge seekers, conversation starters. Interacting and informing. Sharing words, pictures and videos. Asking questions. Finding answers. It’s a rich and rewarding experience with a unique set of tools and resources to help Hubbers find and build an audience, easily create articles, and earn all sorts of rewards, from accolades to ad revenue. Over 34 million people explore HubPages every month.

Hubpages, in its current form is among the most unique web publishing platforms, because of the fact that having a free web-publishing platform that allows the members to write and publish their articles/content at their wish, free of cost, Hubpages is one that also provides the user to monetise their “hubs” right from the beginning. If you are someone looking for earning from blogging as soon as possible, and can’t wait on for ad publisher programmes like Google’s Adsense to approve and monetise your blog, and then wait for months and years to start earning something, at all, then Hubpages can be an answer. Right from the beginning, a member gets access to advertisement programmes, and a member can choose to display ads and affiliate links from different publishers and online stores, including ebay and amazon. The members also get to show Google Adsense ads on their hubs.
The usage statistics of Hubpages, a global monthly unique visits of 28.4 million with 16.3 million visits coming from the US alone, a monthly pageviews of 5,10,89,736 (as of writing this) says volumes about Hubpages’ popularity. Hubpages is a social networking platform, a forum, a web-publishing platform and a platform to monetise your writing skills, rolled out into one. Ofcourse, Hubpages does place their ads too on your hubs, but that, we guess is acceptable as long as you’re getting a chance to earn for your writing. Again, earning anywhere over the internet is not that easy, and different people have different stories to share about Hubpages Earning Programme, but getting a chance to monetise your content from the first day itself, is what we think is something that people can look forward to.
The interface is easy, with Hubpages themselves asking the members (Hubbers, as what they call the members) to make their hubs as much interactive and rich with use of multimedia content as much as possible. You get an editor window where you insert “capsules” of text, image, videos, and make your hubs more interactive by adding elements like maps, polls, quiz and other such elements. Earning over the internet is not a one day phenomenon. You have to write and continue writing great content over weeks, months and years to reach a good level of earning, and continue writing great contents to continue earning from it.

11. Quora: In its own words – Quora’s mission is to share and grow the world’s knowledge. They say, – Quora is your best source of knowledge. Ask any question, get real answers from people with first hand experience, and blog about what you know. How quora works? We will start answering this question by telling you the outreach of Quora. By numbers, Quora is the world’s largest question-answer platform. Quora users can ask any kind of question, in an appropriate category, and the vast user base that quora boasts of, will take care of answering your question. You might get answers from a number of people, and at times, subject matter experts also help you out with your questions. The Quora blogging platform was built over as an add on to Quora’s existing working model. The Create a Blog feature lets you create yourself a blog, giving you a chance to write awesome contents, post it on the free blogging platform provided by Quora, and you can choose to provide a certain category, a field of knowledge your blogpost belongs to, and allows your blogpost to be discovered by someone other than a blogger, that is, a regular internet user, who might search for something, and ends up on your Quora blog, reads through your post, and finds it useful. Someone having a Quora account, can actually upvote your content, making it widely available to more Quora members. But, just don’t expect a bit too much from such a new blogging platform, not yet. It’s just two years old, and needs to evolve a lot. From giving access to the users to make their Quora blogs, parts of them, instead of making the blog posts, part of Quora, we mean to say, visually, as there is no way to visually differentiate one Quora blog from another, that means, you may write awe inspiring contents, but, there’s no way for you to make the contents on your blog stand out from some other not so content rich blog, except the upvotes and comments working out in your favour. So, again, if you’re on a lookout for genuine and intellectual readers for your content, Quora is a place for you. Post here, get hundreds of thousands of visitors and readers for your writing skills, and be content with it.

12. Google Plus: Google Plus, the social networking service from the search engine giant, Google Inc. Not exactly a blogging platform in its essence, however, Google Plus can double up as one, for sure, garnering for you, precious pageviews and yes, the Audience, which, on some other platforms are needed to be painfully gathered. The huge size of Google’s network, with the help of Google/Gmail accounts, which serve as a base account to access a host of popular Google services like Youtube, Blogger, Picasa, Google Plus to name a few. The best part of a Google+ blog is its deep Search Engine Integration, that can help you reach out to your target audience in a much better manner. Google Plus, as what Google defines it as, is a “social layer” that is targeted to connect and enhance properties of a its online services.
Google has pretty well integrated the social aspects of Google Plus, as a social networking platform. The +1 button that can be seen on Youtube videos, blogs and many other places is something that shows you the reach of Google plus as a social networking platform. Something that has such an outreach can help you get enormous number of visitors for your post. Google plus, though, not boasting of a full-fledged blogging platform, gives you the flexibility to reach audiences, but, doesn’t give you the control to modify its look and feel, as you would have done with a full blown blogging platform. You can post text, images, videos, links and the same will be posted on your timeline in real time, and will be visible to audiences, if you choose to display it. The audiences, the other Google plus users can choose to share your post with others, thus giving more audience for your content. Other Google plus users can follow you and you can reciprocate to create a vast network as well. Monetising the content you post on Google plus is not possible, so, in case you’re looking to earn from what you share online, you should not opt for Google Plus. Someone looking for an absolutely no frills platform to share their content, get readers and viewers for their text content, their photos and/or videos, without getting their hands dirty, can definitely go ahead and begin posting over Google Plus.

Again,  the blogging platforms, or the simple services that let you blog, we shared here with you are not just the ones you can go with. We will get back with some more platforms worthy of being considered for the task, and might pretty much, be helpful in getting you a much better blogging platform for your contents.