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Do virgin bloggers provide fresh views?

As of 2012,there are more than 173 million blogs in existence (Neilson, 2012) and if you think you have a fresh idea for a blog because you are new to it, chances are someone had already published your ideas. So how you package your blog is going to determine your success.

Image from symplegades.com

Image from symplegades.com

I have never done a blog before and I get this feeling that my writing style has changed for this blog. As I am beginning to adopt a different approach by being less uptight when thinking about blogging contents, I am also learning to enjoy sharing my thoughts by writing in a less formal and relaxed manner.

From an almost academic style of writing to a casual conversation, I began to reflect issues and discuss them, as I would when having a chat with good friends.

However, this process of improving the style of blogging will never end, as fashion changes through the seasons, writers must also adapt to changing the moods of the audience and engage their emotions. But to put it in a nutshell, here are 5 key considerations I made in creating this blog.

1. Have a catchy heading
Similar to the newspapers, I wanted my headings to yell out to the audience “READ ME!”. The inverted pyramid also helps me to get readers to continue reading on.

2. Keep it short and concise
The audience on the internet will lose their interest if the article is more than 500 words long and “text heavy”. I had chose to break up lengthy articles with pictures and illustration to break up the monotony.

3. Focus on your goals
Even if it is a personal blog, often you will be tempted to write something that may be out of line with what you had originally envisioned, as I have been tempted to side-track at times. Stick to your guns and stay with the theme, I had also create sub categories within the blog so that readers can zoom into the information they desire.

4. Have some widgets but keep it simple
Widgets are small limited applications embedded within the web; provided by the site hosting your weblog. I had added some like the share or search options, these may be great ideas for friendly customization but when there are too many widgets, it can become overwhelming and distracting.

5. Be diplomatic and honest
If you are going to write a review or a commentary, be ethical and responsible in what you publish. There are always going to be several perspectives about an issues and never let your emotions sway you into becoming a keyboard warrior or slanting a story just so that you become the winner. Remember respect begets respect.

Reference
Nielson Wire, 2012, Buzz in the Blogosphere: Millions more Bloggers and Blog Readers, Nielson Wire, Available at http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/buzz-in-the-blogosphere-millions-more-bloggers-and-blog-readers/ [Extracted: 12th Feb 2013]

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Posted by on 13/02/2013 in Commentary

 

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Beware the spams and scams

Online Security Image extracted from news.com.au

Online Security Image extracted from news.com.au

When you begin to publish blogs or put yourself online for business or personal reasons, you will be opening yourself up to a dangerous world of spam and scams. Managing your privacy and discreet usage of your personal identity and information is important. I say this because several days ago, after starting up this blog, I received a comment from an online user. At first I was quite excited that some random person was liking what I wrote, then it struck me that perhaps my details were being phished.

New bloggers beware! They are not interested in your blog entry, they are merely there to get information so that they can sell you something or worst still get your personal contact to scam you.

Screen Capture of Spam

Screen Capture of Spam

This made me think back on an incident whereby my aunt had received a call from a stranger saying that my uncle had been kidnapped in Malaysia and demanded a ransom. Fortunately, my uncle was lounging in the living room, but imagine the chaos and the stress my aunt would go through if he were actually out that day. Later, we had found out that he had been leaving his personal contact on several financial sites.

I am therefore committed to providing some links on how you can keep yourself and your family safe when you begin to delve into the world of online publishing. Have a happy and safe journey.

Links
How to avoid scams, spams and phishing?
How to keep your wordpress blog secure
Scammers turning your WordPress Website into a Spam/Malware Distributor
Top 10 Online Scams
How to outsmart online scammers

 
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Posted by on 07/02/2013 in Commentary

 

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The sun sets on the print publications

Citing poor print advertising revenue and a mass migration of readers to online media, the reputable Newsweek magazine announced that it was going to terminate the print edition of the magazine and focus on the digital format. (Lever, 2012)

The final cover for Newsweek Print Edition

The final cover for Newsweek Print Edition


The swansong for the famous magazine underlines the troubles being faced by print publications globally. For me, reading about the demise of another publication seems like deja-vu. It felt like yesterday (but actually two years ago), when one of my favourite magazines, PC Magazine had also gone fully digital. I know that it is uncanny that a person who loves to find out about computing prefers to do it in print, but maybe holding onto paper adds a nostalgic feel. Yet people like me are a dying breed and that is perhaps one of the reasons print publications is a sunset industry. Although the sun is setting slowly here in Singapore (Straits Times reported 2.3% dip in print readership), the scene for print publications will be unrecognizable years from now and here are some reasons why.

1. Rising cost of newsprint
This is just a part of a bigger economic problem, but to put it briefly, publications like newspapers, magazines and books rely heavily on recycled paper. The rising costs of recycled paper is attributed to large orders and heavy usage in China, not for print but for packaging. In basic economics, when demand is high and when supply cannot be met, prices increase. From 2010 to 2011, the prices of newsprint had increased by between 20% – 25% and as much as publishing houses want to blame the increase in paper prices as a cause for their difficulties, the truth is that material costs will fluctuate all the time, but this cycle of price increase only acts as a trigger to declining publishing revenue. The publishing industry which is facing a downward spiral of less printing work, is experiencing increased operating costs where the economies of scale are a reason why many print publications are going electronic.

Print versus Online extracted from The Press Gazette

Print versus Online extracted from The Press Gazette


2. News and information on the go

News and information gathering has also changed drastically, the internet allows the audience to read the latest breaking stories as they are unfolding. Unlike traditional journalism, the information gathered would be collected in the news room and put together for the newspapers to be published only the following day. Besides getting updated information, online news and information has become attractive because it is portable. How else would you squeeze a dozen newspapers or magazines and a couple of books into a bag?

3. A divided and informed reader
The audience has become more segmented because they know they have a choice of what information they want and online publications know how to use the interactive features of internet to facilitate those needs. (Tewksbury and Rittenburg, 2012, p.63) As compared to gathering information from a static source, internet users have more options in getting stories from differing perspectives. Readers also want to share their outlook and perspectives on what writers present.

Despite the obvious benefits of online publishing, some experts are arguing that the decline in print readership is merely cyclical. As publishing powerhouses fail, successful online news sites are reinforcing their niche through print. (Hooper, 2012) “A lot of people have discovered their opinions and voices writing blogs and sharing in social networks. A natural next step is to create something permanent … I think the mainstream publishers have let down the industry and individuals are trying to create better publications”, says Jeremy Leslie, founder of magculture.com. Print publishing will not die as long as it can be integrated with modern technology. We can no longer think of each medium as an individual component but instead harness its strengths to create a new reading experience.

Reference
Hooper, M. 2012, Who says print is dead?, The Guardian Online, Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/jun/03/who-says-print-is-dead, [Accessed] 3rd Feb 2012.
Lever, R. 2012, Newsweek ends 80-year print run, goes all-digital, AFP News, Available at
Tewksbury, D. & Rittenburg, J. 2012, News on the internet [electronic resource] : information and citizenship in the 21st century, Oxford University Press, New York, N.Y. [Accessed] 2nd feb 2012.

 
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Posted by on 03/02/2013 in Commentary

 

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An online world of lies and deception

A few days ago, I picked up a book from the library about how a marketer lures an audience and the media to take notice of his client’s work through digital publishing. I found the author’s backhanded methods to be interesting, yet going against almost every principle that I learnt about blogging. “Trust me I’m lying: Confessions of a media manipulator” by Ryan Holiday is no run-of-the-mill guidebook to produce better blogs. In fact, he reveals his online exploits of creating fake publicity, fake material and fake hype, which is easily devoured by the hungry media. Although his book provides a strong implication that netizens and the media are an easy bunch to fool, I am absolutely enlightened by the way he reveals the techniques he’s used and I admit that I am that fool who occasionally falls for the fabricated media buzz.

Photograph by Natalie Castellino; Source image: Martin Hospach/Getty

Photograph by Natalie Castellino; Source image: Martin Hospach/Getty

This book is split into two parts with the first detailing 9 tactics for attracting attention. My favourite was tactic #6, make it all about the headlines where he compares the overstatement of publishing headlines to be similar to “parading themselves infront of the public like a prostitute”. The second part of the book helps us to understand the lies and deceit of blogging, as he plays the part of the masked magician who reveals the secrets of the illusions. Unlike some drastic opinions about this title (which I have now learnt is likely to be made up), I feel that this book makes good toilet reading and deserves a place on my little bookshelf “dans le petit coin” (not necessarily a bad thing since that is where I do most of my reading).

 
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Posted by on 03/02/2013 in Reviews

 

Nothing fanciful here but a brilliant idea!

Sometimes you do not need to have a well designed blog to make it interesting. This next blog which I came across is a classic example. “Parking Idiots” is a weblog with a no frills design and layout, but a brilliant concept which should be expanded. If you have ever driven a vehicle and wanted to get a parking lot only to realise that someone inconsiderate has occupied two or three lots, this is the site for you to air your grievances. With this blog, the writer intends to publicise inconsiderate parking by showcasing “… all those idiots who can’t park properly and need to be publically shamed to learn a lesson”.

Screen Capture of "Parking Idiots" blogsite.

Screen Capture of “Parking Idiots” blogsite.

As I browsed through the entries, I was actually anxious to find my vehicle amongst the photos. Fortunately, I couldn’t locate anything related to myself and I can safely say “Damn those inconsiderate drivers!”. Sadly, this blog was not well publicised or managed and had died from malnutrition in 2011, otherwise based on the response and hits recieved, its concept and target was spot-on. Nevertheless, I think that a blog like this should be revived, barring any legalities (maybe the blogger was threatened). Otherwise local government agencies like the Traffic Police or LTA (Land Transport Authorities) should pick up on ideas like these to discourage illegal parking and also engage the public (as whistleblowers).

 
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Posted by on 03/02/2013 in Reviews

 

Seeing things in black and white.

How would you judge these statements?

How would you judge these statements?

Recently, I came across an article in the Daily Mail Online which reported that the usage of colour can affect drastic views in individuals. The research by Dr Theodora Zarkadi and Dr Simone Schnall, of the Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Cambridge, respectively, had shown that when documents are displayed in monochrome, people had the tendency to judge the contents holding extreme views. Whereas, participants who read a text with mid-tone backgrounds like grey, blue and yellow tended to be more diplomatic and be less judgemental. The researchers claim that discovering these elements can help to avert the potential for people to manipulate its usage. (Gayle, 2012)

We know that colours can affect people’s moods. From the time we were kids, we were conditioned to link colours to gender, e.g. pink for baby girls, blue for baby boys. As we grew up, different cultures had influenced our perception of colour. For example, red was perceived as danger or loss in some western cultures but a colour of luck and prosperity in Asia. Thus, to conclude that illustrations in black and white will lead to extreme views is very subjective and cannot be defined as a general psychological trait in all individuals and considerations have to be made in the context of cultural influence. There is so much more to discover about colour psychology and how its use can affect one’s emotions and behaviour. A basic understanding can be applied to publications and other aspects of design. To read more about colour psychology, refer to the following links.

Links on Colour Psychology
Goethe on the Psychology of Colour and Emotion by Mary Popova
Colour Psychology in Marketing by Derrick Daye
The Psychology of Colour by Larckaa

Reference
Gayle, D. 2012, No grey areas: Seeing the colours black and white can actually lead people to more extreme views, The Mail Online, Available at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2249989/No-grey-areas-Seeing-colours-black-white-actually-lead-people-extreme-views.html [Accessed] 5th Jan 2013.

 
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Posted by on 31/01/2013 in Design Principles

 

Top 5 considerations to make when writing for the web.

People love scanning the web

People love scanning the web

1. Make the web page easily scannable.
As we move towards higher speeds of internet connectivity, we should realise that people who surf the web want to access information quickly. They do this through scanning the web, moving from one page to another till they find something that engages their needs. Plan your layout to consider eye tracking movements instead of planting elements in an unorganized fashion.

2. Be concise with what you are writing.
Readers online do not wish to read more than is expected, you do not need to write with twist and turns to make a point. Duplicating connotations within a sentence and redundant words which do not add value to a sentence are also known as pleonasm. Unless being used for effect, they should be avoided or edited. As an example, the following sentence “The bunny rabbit ran into hiding as a result of the freezing cold winds which it was trying to avoid.” could be shortened to “The rabbit ran into hiding as a result of the cold winds.” The rest of the text is redundant as they present the same meaning.

Irrelevant graphic: Were you distracted?

Irrelevant graphic: Were you distracted?

3. Avoid anything that looks like a marketing gimmick.
As if there aren’t enough advertisements and marketing gimmicks disguised as articles, your readers are intuitive and they can detect fluff. Following the press agentry model may work if you are trying to do a business or sell a product, but creating hype for the sake of gaining popularity will have its ill effects over time. When you write with your heart, people will be more willing to believe in you and what you are saying.

4. Your graphics should relate to the text.
Having graphics and illustrations will definitely make your blog and website look attractive, but it is best to select one that reinforces your message. Placing pictures or photographs for the sake of decoration may end up being distracting.

Your readers will not like to see this

Your readers will not like to see this

5. Update your links.
Many blogs are created each day and just as many are abandoned. The content that you may have provided links to may be non-existent over time. Even more reliable sites may archived some older articles. Be current and let your audience help you by providing a section for feedback or if you intend to write professionally there are programmes which can help you check for broken links within your website.

 
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Posted by on 31/01/2013 in Technical Writing