HAPPY BIRTHDAY HALF-EATEN MIND : Celebrating our first birthday
By Vijay Shah
It is a bit belated, well, a week’s worth of belatedness to be exact, but your favourite news and features blog – the authentic outpourings of a partially digested brain – has just turned one. Over the past twelve months there has been a lot of changes. Only last month the blog got a facelift, with a brand new theme and layout, incorporating more user-friendly features and easier navigation. We have enlisted the help of the blogging software Zemanta to offer a more interactive experience for our readers, introducing relevant news articles, webpages and blog posts to develop the story further. Working with Zemanta will give the means to open up new worlds of opinions and news reporting so that the Half-Eaten Mind’s articles will have a new place among the millions of blogs and sites informing us all on the Web.
Meanwhile in real life, I had relocated from Stratford to a new houseshare in Plaistow, where I have been publishing new blog posts since the beginning of March. I have started my own Twitter account – which has proved quite useful as an avenue to self-promote and link up with other bloggers and news organisations, many who have served up inspiration for a few HEM posts.
The Half-Eaten Mind is not the most well-known or popular blog in cyberspace. That does not matter a jot to me. I never set up this blog for any worldwide virtual popularity contest. I set it up and laboured long and hard for a couple of hours every Sunday, and sometimes more than that, as I wanted a chance to develop and show off my writing skills to the world, such as it was my strong admiration for established and paid career journalists writing for the online versions of organisations like the BBC, Huffington Post, Al-Jazeera, The Guardian and other great news outlets. I never expected my small blog to have the ratings or multi-million pound investments in content and other such things that they have, but I wanted to replicate their professionalism and “roving reporter” spirit here on this blog, at a fraction of the capital.
What started off as a mere thought gathering dust in my mind about six years ago eventually reincarnated itself as a massive glowing Osram light bulb of an idea a year ago. With the help of a special someone, I cleared away the cobwebs, got over my insecurities about what exactly I was going to write about and began setting up my account on WordPress. Within about half an hour, I took a hold of that light bulb of an idea and hit the ground running. While many other bloggers come up with great plans for their blogs only to see the whole thing fizzle out after a few months, my blog was not so restricted that I could not find any topics to write about. I did not have to worry about long periods of inactivity would have put off followers. Instead I had the freedom to write about anything that I felt like, as well as being guided by the suggestions of ideas and stories from the blog’s loyal contributors.
Although the Half-Eaten Mind is my personal blog built with my (now extremely worn-out) laptop, moulded upwards on my blood, sweat and tears – not to mention countless keystrokes and strong mugs of tea – it is not just about me. This blog is not only a place to show off my writing skills, stories or that I am good at sticking pictures on a page, it is about giving people a chance to learn about the world, to see things that they might otherwise completely pass by, and to give them what hopefully is helpful information to aid them in discovering things for fun or as serious research for work projects or educational reports. There are times when I feel too tired or busy to think up a new post. Times when even the blogging software makes me curse the computer in anguish. Writer’s block sometimes sets in, albeit temporarily. My perseverence is the key to get me past these obstacles though, and nearly every weekend (and once every two days when I am on annual leave from work) I have kept my faith to the blog, always surprising even myself with what I turn out just before I hit the ‘Publish’ button.
Most importantly, my motivation for keeping the Half-Eaten Mind digesting the world around it has been those who have helped support it. Friends, family, work colleagues, WordPress followers, and various organisations have all motivated me and made me proud of this blog and of myself. I do not say this because I am a vain allsort who likes to puff my chest out and preen my feathers in the manner of a self-absorbed peacock. This pride has given me a new lease of life. I come from a difficult background and experienced a very unhappy childhood thanks to certain so-called family elders who are now long removed from my existence. I grew up in one of the poorest parts of one of the richest cities in the world: London. I grew up seeing, and being exposed to, a lot of painful things and had to see many others get caught up in the difficulties of life – and not all of them escaped. People who grew up in the same environment as me usually ended up as drug users, alcoholics, criminals, prisoners or dead. But even though I have had a difficult and miserable life and I still struggle today, I vowed I would make something of the years God allocated to me. I may have not been able to reach all the perks and opportunities afforded to those born into luckier lives, but when opportunity did come knocking at my door, I damn well made sure I got my backside off the couch and answered its call.
On the 15th April 2012, I shook Opportunity’s hand and invited her in for a chat. She gave me the motivation, the time and the idea. The Half-Eaten Mind was born.
A year is a long time, and a lot can happen. In the past 53 weeks, the Half-Eaten Mind has:
- Published 78 posts, ranging from basic online news reports, to personal accounts, reviews, guides and photo features.
- Been viewed 14,219 times (as of Sunday 21st April, 2013 – 1:45 PM G.M.T.) from more or less 70 countries around the globe. Of these, 4,561 were from the United Kingdom, where the blog is based; 2,669 were from India, with the United States a close third at 2,099 views. We have received visitors from places as diverse as Iraq, Fiji, Mauritius, Bermuda, Ireland and Vietnam. These figures are taken from information supplied by the blog’s official statistical centre, powered by WordPress.
- Published articles under 643 tags. The most popular tags are ‘London’, ‘photography’, and interestingly, ‘Half-Eaten Mind’.
- Been featured on the likes of photoshare site Tumblr and Q&A portal Yahoo Answers. One of our articles was even quoted in a semi-academic website on the Chelyabinsk meteor explosion in Russia. Read it here.
- The blog’s professionalism and diversity of material has helped attract follows by 72 bloggers on our shared platform and we have been reblogged twice. You can view my blogging friends on the ‘Blogroll’ page accessible from the menu at the top of any article.
- Not to mention another five on our Facebook page and 222 more on my private Facebook profile. Then add to that another 134 on my Twitter account as well ten via comments and the HEM email list.
- Worked with an amateur film-maker based in the US and a media marketing firm here in London on the production of three of our features.
- Received a shoutout from the founder of the bloggers’ collective IndiBlogger both on Twitter and on the relevant article’s comment section.
- Created a commemorative ‘first anniversary edition’ BlogBook, currently waiting to be published by online book printing partner, Blurb. It is a fun coffee-table softback book featuring a selection of articles from the blog, rendered in glorious Technicolor on glossy paper. You can take a peek, and maybe order a copy yourself right here.
- Being nominated for our first blogger’s award: The Hope Unites Globally HUG Award – a mutual recognition of bloggers bringing hope into a tough world through their posts.
These are small accolades and achievements, but very satisfying ones. Each new follower, retweet, comment and Facebook like is just another step to motivate and continue doing all the hard work to make this blog a place worth visiting. I am very pleased with the progress and development of the Half-Eaten Mind, and I am looking forward to writing yet more hard-hitting news stories, involving features and really useful stuff you have just got to read.
So where does the Half-Eaten Mind see itself in another year’s time. Well unfortunately I am no clairvoyant with a crystal ball, but unless the internet is rent apart by a cataclysmic solar flare or a North Korean cyber-virus, the Half-Eaten Mind will still be digesting minds and feeding them too, just as strongly as ever. We hope to have twice as many articles on here as we did in the past, with a greater, more accommodating mix of topics in our published work. We want to reach out to more people via social networks, blogging sites like WordPress and of course, good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. I want to make more effort in this area, because as you all know, more effort=bigger audience. This will not only help me in the publicity stakes, but it will give more individuals and organisations a chance to contribute to the blog and benefit from the wealth of information I have put out there.
Sometime in the near future, I hope this blog will help me land the journalism job of my dreams or at least offer a exciting talking point at my next job interview. That it will continue to give me pleasure, pride and something useful to occupy my deadbeat time on a Sunday afternoon. Maybe if we make it to the Half-Eaten Mind’s tenth anniversary, I might even be teaching my children to read with the Mind’s help. Who knows what we will have achieved by then……“Happy 1st Birthday, Half-Eaten Mind”
- NEW BEGINNING, NEW LOOK: The Half-Eaten Mind unveils new makeover (halfeatenmind.wordpress.com)
- HUG AWARD: Half-Eaten Mind nominated for its first bloggers’ award (halfeatenmind.wordpress.com)
- INDIBLOGGER: Creative badges from an Indian blog club (halfeatenmind.wordpress.com)
- My interview on Zemanta’s blog (brandsandfilms.com)
- Sprinkle themed Birthday Party! (drlill.com)