HEM NEWS AGENCY: 5th anniversary + blog makeover

 

London – VIJAY SHAH

Hey everyone,

As you may have noticed, the blog is looking a little different nowadays. Today is the fifth anniversary of its founding (back in April 2012) and I decided that to mark the occasion, I would give the blog a makeover. We got rid of the old theme we were using (Mystere) and brought in a more modern looking one from WordPress, named ‘Plane’. The blog has also been officially renamed. It is now to be known as ‘HEM News Agency’, to better reflect the content and premise of the blog. The old name “The Half-Eaten Mind Blog” is still acceptable however, and we are keeping it as an unofficial pseudonym (not sure if this would be the right word for it).

Nowadays, an increasingly number of websites are going for the flat design trend, shafting the gradients and gimmicks of old and going for a cleaner and simpler look, with block colours and basic typefaces. The Half-Eaten Mind has joined the fray, and I have spent around 2-3 hours creating new headers and branding with the help of graphic design website Canva. I have spent a good chunk of this morning putting the new branding in place (we had massive trouble with the blog header however, wrong size meant it had to be redone, don’t ever take WordPress’s recommended header measurements as gospel, let me warn you!). The branding also applies to our social media accounts and any related sites like Gravatar. The colours I have used (dark green, sky blue, and slate blue, were chosen as they firstly fit well together, and also they relate to the history of what used to be known as the HEM Blog, in terms of the blog’s previous design. As a mark of respect to how we used to do things, I carried over the famous HEM street sign, which was our semi-official logo for a couple of years. Something new, something old, as people who organise baby showers would say.

 

 

We are also introducing new flags at the beginning of our articles. The 7+ year old flags made by FamFamFam (leeched on via StatCounter) will now be replaced by a new set of flags designed by Turkish graphic artist Muharrem Senyil and originally featured on designer’s hangout Dribbble. These flat design-inspired elements suit the new look of HEM News Agency very well, in my opinion.

It has been a great five years at the helm of HEM. I have learnt a lot and made many friends. This blog was originally set up partly to help me enter the journalism profession. While I did not ultimately realise that dream as of yet (stiff competition for jobs!), the blog indirectly helped me score a second job which I have now been working in for two years, as a writer, creative consultant and social media manager for a small consultancy focussed on finance and education between Africa and Europe.

I’m not going to sing like a canary and say it was all plain sailing. There were times when I felt like giving up the blog, as I have now have less time to write on weekends than when I first started. But then I would be giving up my dreams and talents needlessly, and I would disappoint a lot of friends, fans and supporters. I did feel the blog needed a makeover, as it was looking a bit outdated and stale, and hopefully this spring clean and makeover will help breathe new life into this baby of mine.

Don’t worry though, we will still be releasing the same news stories, features and personal blogposts that made HEM what it is. That is not going to change.

I hope you all like the new look and name and please feel free to comment or give your feedback if you prefer.

Let’s look forward to another five years of great news, features and writing, and many more memorable experiences and lessons along the way.

Vijay Shah,

Blogger and editor – HEM News Agency.

BLOGGER RECOGNITION AWARD: HEM’s first award for 2016

The Half-Eaten Mind, East London’s leading (and paywall-free) news and features blog, is pleased to announce that we have been kindly nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award by photographer  and blogger Alex Smithson of Mother Nature – life at the touch of a button.

Alex was nominated himself on the 31st of March, 2016, by fellow blogger Brooke in recognition of services to blogging, so we at HEM feel we have been honoured with a very special legacy.

 

Via theutopiauniverse

As with many blogging awards, there are some simple rules to follow and nominations to be made. The rules are as follows:

  1. Write a post to show your award
  2. Give a brief story of how your blog started
  3. Give two advice notes to new bloggers
  4. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to your blog
  5. Select 15 other blogs you want to give the award to.

My blog started four years ago here on WordPress. I am a journalism graduate who has always been passionate about current affairs and the world around me since I was a small child. Sadly, although I was unable to secure the career of my dreams, I decided to keep my news reporting and writing skills fresh by writing and rewriting news myself on a blog. The name for the blog came from an expression my ex-fiance used when we used to talk for hours on messaging services. She would say she was ‘eating my mind’ when she thought she was taking up the whole of my attention when we were conversing. I was inspired by her to set up the blog, and even discussed naming it with her. She originally suggested the name “Vijay’s Blog”, but I wanted something more memorable and ‘exciting’. I remembered her mind-eating expression and from this, the name Half-Eaten Mind stuck.

Then in 2015, to compliment HEM, but mainly as a separate venture, I set up a second blog dedicated to animated GIFs – it was christened “Gifville – Vijay’s gallery of animated images & art”.

My two bits of advice to new bloggers is firstly to acquaint yourself with social media, because it is one of the best ways to promote your blog and work. Don’t just involve yourself with the big social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, but also look for niche ones too that are applicable to what you blog about. I have had one post here shared more than 500 times on Facebook and I know of bloggers who have reached millions of shares, retweets etc.

Secondly, always keep at it. Blogging is fun, but it can take time too, whether building up a following and readership, or at the micro level, setting aside an hour a day to plan out and cook up a post. Some new bloggers sadly find blogging becomes a chore and abandon their blog to the internet scrapyard. Just don’t. Stick with it and blog because you love it and want to nurture your talents.

I would like to give a hearty thanks to my good friend and supporter Alex Smithson over at Mother Nature. He blogs on a lot of interesting things, such as photography, his college experiences, graphic design and gaming, and he is a ‘top lad’ as we Londoners say. I’d highly recommend checking his blog out. You can start with his nomination article for the BRA (Blogger Recognition Award) at this link.

My BRA nominees are:

  1. LILRANT …what you see is what you get.
  2. Poems Amit Rahman
  3. THE SCREENPLAY OF LIFE CHRONICLES
  4. decocraftsdigicrafts Having Fun with Photography
  5. GIFS GRATUITS PJC
  6. It Is What It Is Dr. Rex …. Blogging for change.
  7. The Science Era Blog
  8. La Audacia de Aquiles El Mundo Visible es Sólo un Pretexto
  9. Eyes on Europe & Middle East News
  10. The thoughts and life of me Enter at own risk
  11. The Whitechapel Whelk Ripping the piss since 1888
  12. Ace News Services
  13. VIAJES AL FONDO DEL ALSA “¿ASÍ QUE QUIERES SER ESCRITOR?”
  14. ღ♪ Odaița Mea Virtuală ღ♪
  15. off the leash

As always it is not a massive deal if you cannot or wish not to accept the award. However, I chose you as I feel your blogging deserves to be recognised….and to those who didn’t make the list, please don’t think that I value your work any less. If the BRA rules allowed me, I’d nominate every one of you.

Have a great weekend!!

Vijay Shah

ADDITIONAL SOURCE:
“Blogger Recognition Award | The First Award of 2016 | Mother Nature” – Alex Smithson, Mother Nature (31 March 2016) https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/blogger-recognition-award-the-first-award-of-2016-mother-nature/
IMAGE CREDIT:
“BLOGGING RECOGNITION AWARD” – Brooke, theutopiauniverse (29 March 2016) http://theutopiauniverse.com/2016/03/29/blogging-recognition-award/

THE HEM ANNUAL REPORT: Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016

On the very last day of 2015, it has been my pleasure to have provided you all with quality news, views and features, and to have consistently remained true to our core objectives of impartiality, information and telling the facts as they are. As we look down into the beginnings of a new year, I have been very proud of this blog and everything it has achieved.

3d_happy_new_year_2016_wallpaper

 

In 2015, I made news and writing a bigger focus of the Half-Eaten Mind than ever before, and our proprietary GIF Moments were spun off into a second blog named Gifville, which in many ways has become a phenomenal success as a project in its own right. I created a website that showcases the best of HEM’s designed (and hurriedly assembled) graphics, and we have made many new friends along the way. We also recently joined forces with SWNS digitalhub, a news and features agency, and look forward to further developing our partnership with them.

Every year, alongside WordPress, the Half-Eaten Mind releases a special annual report, excitedly illustrating the many achievements statistically speaking this blog has made in the past year. I’ve only gone ahead and made the report public for your viewing pleasure. You can now see it at the link below.

https://halfeatenmind.wordpress.com/2015/annual-report/

2016 is soon to be upon us, and I am so excited to see what it will bring the Half-Eaten Mind. Most importantly I have got to thank all those who help keep the blog extra-special and keep me motivated through your likes, comments and shares, as well as the contributors who have submitted articles and story ideas to HEM.

We’d like to take this moment to wish you all a very happy, prosperous and lucky New Year 2016. Stay great and keep smiling!!

IMAGE CREDIT:
“3D Wallpapers Written On It Happy New 2016” – Abu Hossam, Happy New Year 2016 Images – Wallpapers – Quotes (8 October 2015) http://www.happynewyear2016w.com/3d_wallpapers_happy_new_year_2016/

A DRUGSTORE ADDICTION: 10 Christmas ideas for bloggers

Fashion and beauty blog A Drugstore Addiction has penned a special guide on ten ideas for bloggers to explore this Christmas to get themselves and their readers into the festive spirit.

As the 25th December nears, many bloggers and online writers will be thinking long and hard about what seasonal content they are looking to post, and sometimes it can be tricky to think of revolutionary new ideas especially given the Net is such a crowded place.

A Drugstore Addiction may well be the saving grace of any blogger struggling to come up with something Yuletide related.

The 10 tips are:

  1. Christmas gift guides (reviews of Christmas-themed gifts or of gift ideas, making your own gifts at home, articles on shops, ideas for gifts for family/friends/colleagues etc).
  2. Christmas wishlists (bloggers can write about what they want most for Christmas, very good for dropping hints to loved ones about what you really want, and that’s not yet another pair of loud red socks).
  3. Christmas make-up designs (such as festive-themed eye makeup, festive colours for lipsticks, features on make-up artists’ best looks for the season or winter generally, recommended for beauty bloggers).
  4. Secret blogging Santa (many bloggers organise ‘secret Santa‘ events for their blogging community, or in real life for their friends; these and their outcome can be featured).
  5. Christmas ‘DIY – arts and crafts (bloggers can get all creative and make their own gifts, decorations, trees, greetings cards, even their ideal Xmas music mixtape!).
  6. Christmas ‘card haul’ (many greetings cards have beautiful designs ranging from traditional Victorian drawings of robins to modern ones with festive memes. Some bloggers will often collect greetings cards and feature the best or most inspirational ones on their sites).
  7. Christmas day trip (especially for lifestyle or travel bloggers, they can blog on a day trip to a Christmassy location, such as a dad’s visit to the local Santa’s grotto with his children, or a blogger’s account of a holiday to Lapland. There is also great ammunition and inspiration in this idea for photographers and artists).
  8. Christmas ‘shopping haul’ (for the shopaholics out there, this is an idea to blog about what you buy in the runup to Christmas, your shopping experiences and any recommended places.)
  9. Recipes (Christmas is a treasure trove for the home cook and foodie – turkey, cakes, Christmas puddings, roasts, festive ethnic foods, biscuits…the list is endless. This is a good time if any to share recipes and ideas, and to set the culinary creativity going).
  10. What I got for Christmas (did you get some cool pressies?, you can blog about them. If anything, it can make gifting even more exciting, especially when you share the good news with your followers/readers. Even if the presents were not so great, you can release your disappointment online).

A Drugstore Addiction is the blog of Jemma, a fashion and make-up blogger and student of marketing from Nottingham and currently studying in Liverpool in the United Kingdom. She is 18 years of age and often blogs from a farmhouse in the East Midlands.

SOURCES:
HEM Bloggers List, The Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/hem-bloggers-list
UK Blogger RT, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/UKBlog_RT
Jemma l, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/dsaddictionx
“12 SEASONAL POST IDEAS FOR BLOGGERS” – Jemma, A Drugstore Addiction (10 November 2015) http://www.adrugstoreaddiction.com/2015/11/12-seasonal-post-ideas-for-bloggers.html
“ABOUT” – Jemma, A Drugstore Addiction (13 September 2014) http://www.adrugstoreaddiction.com/p/about.html
IMAGE CREDITS:
Getty Images via Zemanta.

 

DIWALI 2015: New HEM festive graphic unveiled

In celebration of the festival of lights, Diwali, which arrives this year on the Wednesday, 11th of November and which coincides with Armistice Day in the UK, the Half-Eaten Mind has unveiled a special commemorative graphic.

The graphic is part of a long tradition on the blog for what is termed in the business as ‘homemade graphics’. Every Diwali since 2013, HEM’s blogger and editor Vijay Shah uses his graphic designs skills to produce special edition graphics which serve as not only a bit of fun and celebration, but also as a tip of the hat to the talent that goes on behind the scenes.

This year’s image is derived from a wallpaper offered by HappyDiwaliGreetings.in and created via image design site piZap. It features three symmetrical and stylised diyas (lamps) arranged over Paisley patterns in a nod to traditional north Indian art. The design carries the official HEM branding as well as a QR code which when scanned with a suitable app on a mobile phone, can take the viewer to the blog.

The graphic will be featured on the HEM social networks nearer the occasion.

The Half-Eaten Mind would like to wish our readers, supporters and the Community a very happy Diwali in advance.

IMAGE CREDITS:
“Beautiful HD Happy Diwali Greetings Images of Diyas” – Celebrate Diwali With Us/Kopasoft (14 August 2015) http://happydiwaligreetings.in/beautiful-hd-happy-diwali-greetings-images-of-diyas.html
“Vector – Pattern” – CanStockPhoto/Can Stock Photo Inc. http://www.canstockphoto.com/pattern-7404553.html
piZap http://pizap.com/

CORY LEE: Wheelchair-using traveller pens ‘open letter’ to hotels for more disabled access

Twenty-five year old wheelchair user and self-confessed ‘travel addict’ Cory Lee, the blogger behind ‘Curbfree with Cory Lee’ has reignited the controversy around the lack of suitable disability access for wheelchair users in the hospitality industry by penning an ‘open letter‘ encouraging hotel owners to make staying at their establishments easier for their differently-abled patrons, the Half-Eaten Mind blog exclusively reports today.

The letter, which appears on Cory’s blog, was originally published on the 19th December 2014, but the traveller tweeted the article again recently as many hotel firms and owners have yet to make their facilities completely all-inclusive. Lee is highly complimentary towards the many hotels he has stayed at over the course of his travels but then draws attention to what he calls “unique challenges when it comes to navigating even the smallest things”, he writes in the letter.

Wheelchair ramp and disabled parking space
Wheelchair ramp and disabled parking space (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The blogger then exclaims that he ‘finds it a breath of fresh air’ if he is lucky enough to find a wheelchair-friendly hotel in the places he visits. While he is appreciative of those hotels who already offer good access to wheelchair users, in particular the offering of special ramps, wide paths, decent space for wheelchair access and lifts, he implores hotels to do more to make their stays enjoyable and comfortable for disabled travellers. Lee reminds hotels that the differently-abled community in the United States have a large amount of disposable income, and cites a 2001 issue of the Disability, Inc. publication that states that this community has collectively $220 billion of discretionary spending to tap into, meaning hotels who do not offer disabled-friendly facilities could be missing out on extra income by excluding a community with a lot of money to spend.

In his bid to get hoteliers thinking about improving their disability access, Cory goes on to make some suggestions himself in the letter. He advises big chains and smaller hotels alike to invest in such facilities as stair lifts for people with mobility issues, roll-in showers, and even setting aside special tables with higher legs for disabled restaurant customers, which will not only get the hotels good reviews from disabled guests on popular review sites such as TripAdvisor, but could also increase the hotel’s profit margins as more disabled patrons stay in their rooms.

Lee also offers tips to hotels to help play their part in local disabled tourism, including offering maps of the local area highlighting disabled-friendly top attractions, as well as public transport and restaurants, saying that it would be “a small gesture on your end that is a real kindness to us”.

Cory Lee has travelled all over the globe and has run a popular blog promoting wheelchair travel. His niche blogging has earned him attention from the mainstream media, disability publications and within the blogging community. He has appeared in articles by USA Today, The Huffington Post and in the travel guide series Lonely Planet, and has also made speeches all over the US on disability issues.

While many hotels, particularly the bigger chains such as Ibis, Hilton and Radisson Blu, offer access for wheelchairs as standard, many smaller hotels are unwilling or unable to afford to make the necessary adaptations and install equipment to ease life for their disabled hotel stayers. Lee’s open letter to the hotel world, written from the perspective of a wheelchair user himself and on behalf of many others everywhere, may be that nudge that will open up new experiences for thousands of disabled travellers alongside benefitting the global hospitality industry and making travel a possible option for more.

SOURCES:
The Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind
WordPress Bloggers, Renate Flynn, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/renate_flynn/lists/wordpress-bloggers
Curb Free w/ CoryLee, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/coryleetweets
“AN OPEN LETTER TO HOTEL OWNERS. FROM WHEELCHAIR USERS EVERYWHERE.” – Cory Lee, Curbfree with Cory Lee (19 December 2014) http://www.curbfreewithcorylee.com/2014/12/19/wheelchair-accessible-hotel-rooms/
“ABOUT CORY” – Cory Lee, Curbfree with Cory Lee http://www.curbfreewithcorylee.com/wheelchair-travel-blog/cory/
“CORY IN THE MEDIA”” – Cory Lee, Curbfree with Cory Lee http://www.curbfreewithcorylee.com/wheelchair-travel-blog/cory-media/
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:WheelchairRampAt2500AugustineBlvd.jpg” – Niteowlneils & Maksim, Wikimedia Commons (21 February 2005) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WheelchairRampAt2500AugustineBlvd.jpg

MY JOURNEY THROUGH A LENS: New photography book by Alex Smithson

Alex Smithson, the blogger behind news, photography and music blog Mother Nature has now celebrated nearly a month since the successful launch of his latest published photography project, a book entitled “My Journey Through A Lens”. It is the third such book created by the Croydon College photography student, a firm supporter of the Half-Eaten Mind, and follows the success of his earlier works “My Journey Through Photography” and “A Year in Photography”.

Alex’s third book of his amazing nature and scenery photography had been many months in the making, combining both pictures and articles published on the Mother Nature site, as well as external projects Alex worked on in his free time and also as part of his photography and art course at Croydon College, a further education institute located just south of the UK capital, London.

By March 2015, Alex was already putting the final touches to My Journey Through A Lens, a book chronicling his career as a budding photographer and graphic designer. Like any author, Alex spent much time ironing out spelling and grammar mistakes as he sought to make his third book just ripe for the picking and reading, as well as tackling the inevitable umm and aahs of getting a suitable set of photographs prepared. He also spent considerable time designing the front and back covers of My Journey. He at first went for a simple and minimalistic, yet visually powerful format in design, with his favourite nature photo taking pride of place. Alex prepared two such designs, one featuring plants silhouetted in a sunset sky and the other depicting exploding fireworks taken over the New Year period of 2014-2015. Alex however decided to fire up his graphic design skills for the final choice of cover concept, dispensing with the photography altogether. Alex’s final design is a proud homage to his proficiency with the open source graphical software GIMP. Reflecting a recent re-haul of Mother Nature, Alex chose to adopt the blog’s new colour scheme for the final front and back covers, opting for bold squares of blue and bright orange bordering a white square with the book’s title in bold black capitals. The new cubed logo of Mother Nature, with its slogan ‘Life at the touch of a button’ neatly tucked into one side, also makes an appearance.

Slide1

By March 2015, Alex had crossed the 400-page barrier and was excited at getting the book up-and-running, offering it for free download via cloud service Dropbox. Not only would My Journey showcase Alex’s photography, but also case studies he wrote on key personalities in British history, such as the once prime minister Winston Churchill and notoriously oft married monarch Henry VIII, and musical tributes to Madonna, a favourite singer of Alex and to Ben Haenow, a fellow Croydon resident, who had won the final of UK musical talent show The X Factor in 2014.

By the beginning of this month (July 2015) and after nine months of groundwork and editing, My Journey was ready to hit the virtual bookshelves. In a blog article on Mother Nature, Alex narrates how he was ‘extremely pleased’ to be finally launching the book on July the 4th, American Independence Day. He had originally planned to launch his third book in May, but demands from college studies and exam revision for his GCSE finals put paid to that, forcing Alex to reschedule. By then, the young blogger had now included six historical case studies for educational purposes, detailing historical icons from the 1500s onwards, as well as additional information of Alex’s learning experiences as a fresh-faced A-Level student on his career journey to becoming a professional shutterbug.

On the 4th July, as our cousins across the Pond exploded fireworks, waved the red, white and blue, and generally made merry, My Journey Through A Lens was officially launched at 6:00 pm London time and made available completely free of charge on Alex’s website along with his previous editions. To celebrate the special occasion, Alex published an elated blogpost sharing the good news with subscribers and visitors. In this book, Alex celebrates historical icons such as Henry VIII, Queen Victoria, Guy Fawkes, Mary Queen of Scots, Winston Churchill and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the assassinated US President. Alex also paid tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, former South African president, humanitarian icon and victor against government-sponsored racism and hatred, who tragically passed away from illness last year. Alex also penned tributes to Croydon lad Ben Haenow, along with musical legend Madonna, the Italian-American ‘Queen of Pop’ whose top slot career in the charts has been going strong since the 1980s and had recently released songs and albums, including ‘Rebel Heart’, ‘Living for Love’, ‘Ghosttown’ and ‘Bitch, I’m Madonna’.

Slide2

Alex certainly has not run out of steam with his sideline hobby of creating and marketing his work as a ‘indie author’ and aspiring professional photographer. On the day of his third book’s release, Alex also hinted that he will be working on a fourth title, although he has not yet revealed any further details at this early stage. While his third instalment will be made available as an e-book, Alex also teamed up with book printers DoxDirect to release a limited run of physical copies of My Journey, which he tweeted.

Alex dedicated his third book to some very special people in his life who have supported and influenced him along the way. The dedications, which appear on the back cover, include a tribute to Ajay Mody. Living in Mumbai, Mody was a passionate member of the WordPress community under the nickname ‘Ajaytao’. Like Alex, he also photographed the natural and bustling side of his hometown, India’s cultural and commercial capital, and was a keen blogger. He sadly passed away on the 10th August 2014, after a cardiac arrest and declining health. Tributes were also paid to actor and presenter Lynda Bellingham, the UK’s much beloved ‘OXO Mum’ who died in October of that year from colon cancer and to cricketer Philip Hughes who passed away after being struck by a ball during play on the 27th November 2014.

Alex also pens a dedication to this blog’s writer, a close friend and supporter, who in Alex’s own words, has “guided me along the way since I began my blogging journey”.

If you would like to obtain a copy of My Journey Through A Lens, or any of Alex Smithson’s previous titles, please visit https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/  and scroll down to the ‘Free Books’ section on the blog’s sidebar on your screen’s right, directly underneath the social media and contact buttons. You will see the title pages of the books and clicking on them will take you direct to the download site.

SOURCES:
“My Journey Through a Lens | Out Soon!!!” – Alex Smithson, Mother Nature (29 March 2015) https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/my-journey-through-a-lens-out-soon/
“My Journey Through a Lens: Out Independence Day!!!” – Alex Smithson, Mother Nature (3 July 2015) https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/my-journey-through-a-lens-out-independence-day/
“My Journey Through a Lens: Out Now!!!” – Alex Smithson, Mother Nature (4 July 2015) https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/my-journey-through-a-lens-out-now/
IMAGE CREDITS:
Alex Smithson.

 

 

GIFVILLE: New blog by Vijay Shah

One of the things that always fascinates me when it comes to the internet are GIFs. Little moving images, often quirky, hilarious and artistic, they always help to brighten up a boring internet search.

One of the members of the HEM Community is a professional at sharing GIFs on her blog. Dominique, of the blog GIFS Gratuits PJC, based in France, regularly shares galleries of animated images usually revolving around a theme, such as Bastille Day, Christmas, humour and animals.

Her work, plus the GIF Moments features I write up here for many major festivals in my life are what inspired me for my latest project.

Yesterday, while at my mother’s house in Seven Kings, just east of London city, I began the groundwork for this new project and today, I officially launch!

Introducing my new blog, dedicated to sharing my choice of cool, fun and interesting GIFs. It’s called Gifville (as in Farmville, Cityville etc), but without the unwanted game requests. The blog is still in development stage while I work out a few things but I will be begin posting on it now. I’ll aim to do a post every two days or so, and on Saturdays and Sundays. We’ll be covering all kinds of GIFs – from old-fashioned memes with cats to commentaries on pop culture

You can check out and follow the Gifville blog at: https://gifville.wordpress.com/.

If you wish to contribute a GIF to the blog, please let me know, and I’ll be happy to feature it with credit to you. If you didn’t create it, then simply also give me the link to the website you got it from.

GIFVILLE – The New Blog by Vijay

Capture - Gifville About Page

 

Gifville is a separate project from the Half-Eaten Mind, although there will be some overlapping, especially in the first few articles I’ll be doing. I look forward to seeing you all there!

 

HEM GRAPHICS: Our new portfolio website

Last night, we decided to visit the Internet for an end of day jaunt….and came back with an awesome souvenir….a brand new website.

Introducing to you our latest presence on the web, a slick, contemporary and attractive portfolio website, known as HEM Graphics’.

The purpose of the website is to act as a portfolio for the images and graphics I have created for this blog over the past three years, including our famous header images and idents created for individual pages. In addition, HEM Graphics will also serve as a depository for images from contributors and for interesting GIFs that have been featured on the Half-Eaten Mind, such as those in our Diwali specials and the recent forum flag icons I have been blogging about on our Animated ccTLD flags series (the Virtual Vexillology articles).

The website was created using Weebly, a free website-hosting service with a unique drag-and-drop approach to making webpages. Weebly was set-up in 2006 by three university students as part of an internet portfolio project and by 2012 had 20 million users and was receiving 1 million unique visitors per month.

 

HEM Graphics Weebly pizap.com14330233749031

 

 

Although I am quite good with computers, I had very little website design or formatting experience, so I found Weebly a relief in that they pretty much make things stupidly easy for you. You begin by choosing a site URL (address), which for the free version always ends in ‘.weebly.com’, then you choose a template, and after that is registered, you can begin customising your site’s appearance with text, titles, images and even Flash/HTML widgets.

The HEM Graphics site has a minimalist vibe in order to make the graphics I will be featuring on it more prominent and noticeable. Unusually for a website the page menu and blog logo are on the left hand side, and just like the blog, the header image is of that famous dawn photo of the tower blocks in Plaistow, London I took years back in 2007.

The website is still in the development stage, but so far I have made some astonishing progress in the hour or so I spent setting everything up. I have organised the home, about and contact pages and also uploaded all my ‘homemade’ graphics to a dedicated page for them. I also made some time to add some fun functionality to the place, installing a revolving globe from RevolverMaps that records visitor locations and a clock widget to make things business-like.

I am also moving the links to the two Paper.li e-newsletters along with this new site to a dedicated page on the blog, provisionally titled ‘HEM Links’.

The new website can be viewed at :-

http://hemgraphics.weebly.com/

Let me know in the comments section what you think, and any suggestions or improvements you may have. If you are a Weebly user yourself, what were your impressions of the site and its usability?

 

HEM 3rd anniversary banner pizap.com14293560242241

 

ADDITIONAL SOURCES:
“Weebly” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weebly
IMAGE CREDITS:
piZap http://pizap.com/
“Showing (20) Pics For (Blue Fading Background Tumblr)…” – pixshark.com http://pixshark.com/blue-fading-background-tumblr.htm

TWITTER WEED WHACKERS: Solving the bot crisis with SM Cadman

If you’re a Twitter user like me, you’ll know that the social media network with the cute blue bird is full of great advantages. A cool interface, brevity of messages, lots of photos and now videos to comb through, and the level of interaction with other users is second to none. You can keep updated on things that matter to you, whether your favourite sports teams, celebrities, artists, politicians etc. as well as your family and friends closer to home. And of course block or mute anyone who does your head in.

But nothing is perfect in life. Not even Twitter. Aside from the occasional and mildly annoying drunken tweet or unsolicited direct message (DM) ….not withstanding the recent controversies surrounding racist and sexist trolls abusing people on Twitter…there is also the scourge of bots. Fake accounts with dodgy names and quotes clearly slurped off a website somewhere, gift-wrapped with a stolen display picture (usually some random meme or woman), or that God-forsaken egg that usually is served up as default, sadly not with some sausages or bacon as well.

These bad eggs are the bane of the Twitterati. Although the admin behind the site are very good at obliterating most of the fake followers, new ones take their place with the speed and intensity of mushrooms on the forest floor after a long rainy spell. Talk about putting too many eggs in one basket.

(c) P. Morris/SearchMuse

According to a filing made by Twitter with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2014, it is believed that bots and spam bots account for 14% of Twitter’s active user base. That is around 23 million accounts out of the 271 active users on there. Many of these bots are programmed to retweet garbage or clickbait articles. Not all bots are bad, indeed some are fun (such as the Wiener Schnitzel bot that retweets you every time you mention that phrase) but there are concerns that some may be a gateway for hackers or data miners. Other bots are created to boost up follower numbers in that never ending popularity contest of ‘Who has the most followers?’. There are some companies that will for a small fee get fake accounts to follow your every move and tweet, and inflate not only your follower count but also presumably your ego as well. They do a relatively roaring trade despite Twitter rules of usage prohibiting tweeters from enlisting the services of such ‘follower farms’.

No-one, and I mean no-one is safe from the attention of the bots. Not even celebrities or politicians. United States presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton is said to have once had 2 million fake or inactive followers and that only 44% of her followers are real, living, breathing people. She has also been accused of plumping up her 3 million follower figures with fake accounts, according to British newspaper The Daily Mail. Over here in the UK, former Member of Parliament Louise Mensch found herself in a bit of bother after a Twitter statistics and auditing website determined that 97% of her followers are counterfeits. Several other ministers and low-level politicians in her party, the Conservatives, also found their accounts’ popularity called into question amid flying accusations of wholesale fake follower shopping to boost party morale.

Personally I’ve seen more than my fair share of bots and dodgy Tweeters. On both my individual and blog accounts, I often receive up to five add requests from suspicious looking accounts. They are either accounts with Russian names and bios written in the Cyrillic alphabet or English language accounts with really strange names combining different ethnic origins. For example, recently I’ve been befriended by a Yuriko Dille, a Manika Boag, a Eustachius Knowler… other with half Arab or Indian or Japanese names affixed to Anglo-Saxon, Scottish or German surnames. They must shred up phone directories and randomly piece the names together like some sort of hellish Yellow Pages puzzle.

You can usually pick them off because their feeds are full of spammy retweets and their bio is some sort of quote. Other bots have nonsensical handles like @fnerit_elephantfartunicorn which is one of the main things I look out for when evading bots and fake accounts.

Last weekend I was having a Twitter conversation with a fellow blogger and keen writer, SD Cadman (a.k.a Sarika and Luna Elektra). Since we met on WordPress, we often have little chats of 140 characters or less, but this time there was a serious topic on hand. The conversation was inspired by an article I posted on @halfeatenmind about obtaining quality followers rather than just breaking numbers. We then got talking about fake followers, and how Sarika mentioned that they may well be bots sniffing out data for possibly nefarious purposes. We agreed that the worst bots were, in Sarika’s words, those that “act bloody human” or the “nonsense Factoid accounts”. We joked that we needed a weed whacker (a nice sharp blade) to remove these bots from Twitter like those pesky dandelions that never seem to give up sprouting over your smart well-manicured lawn.

Here’s a GIF she sent me to illustrate the frustration with these meddling dregs of AI….

(c) Tumblr via Giphy

 

In a nutshell, what Sarika proposed is that Twitter should have some kind of ‘Weed Whacker Award’ for the person who culls the most bots. That can mean ignoring them when they coming knocking at your account’s door, reporting them to Twitter, but most importantly of all, not adding them, as that gives them legitimacy and access to your followers list. Twitter does often undertake regular purges of fake followers, exterminating them like the filthy rats they are, but new ones keep cropping up. The winner of the bot wipeout can receive a certificate in the post or possibly a badge to go on their header or sidebar et cetera on Twitter. A sort of virtual Neighbourhood Watch against the fraudulent and fake. This would be a bit of fun, but also encourage people to look out for each other and protect against malicious hackers and other cyber-criminals and general online trouble makers.

Inspired by Sarika (SM Cadman), I’d thought I’d come up with a couple of designs for a ‘Weed Whacker Award’ badge if Twitter did such badges. If Dick Costolo, the Twitter CEO, is reading this, you can hire me and Sarika as your ‘creative consultancy team’ or whatever they call them in Silicon Valley. Free lunches and Segways would be a bonus.

 

Weed Whacker Award 1 pizap.com14299598637681

Weed Whacker Award 2 pizap.com14299625569931

Weed Whacker Award 3 pizap.com14299644459731

 

You can find out more about Sarika at her Twitter account @SMCADMAN or visit her blog at http://lunaelektra.com/ . She is a Canadian author, writer and blogger.

 

HEM 3rd anniversary banner pizap.com14293560242241

 

Part of the sourcing and writing of this article was done using my work computer at Informa in Euston. Many thanks to them –  informa.com
ADDITIONAL SOURCES:
“Twitter acknowledges 23 million active users are actually bots” – Judy Mottl, Tech Times/TECHTIMES.com (12 August 2014) http://www.techtimes.com/articles/12840/20140812/twitter-acknowledges-14-percent-users-bots-5-percent-spam-bots.htm
“More than 2 MILLION of Hillary Clinton’s Twitter followers are fake or never tweet – and she’s already under fire for ‘buying’ fake Facebook fans” – David Martosko, Mail Online – News/Associated Newspapers Ltd () http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3038621/More-2-MILLION-Hillary-Clinton-s-Twitter-followers-fake-never-tweet.html
“Does Louise Mensch have 80,000 fake followers on Twitter?” – Alex Hern, New Statesman (24 July 2012) http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/alex-hern/2012/07/does-louise-mensch-have-80000-fake-followers-twitter
Sarika (now L. of teh Internets), Twitter/Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/SMCadman
IMAGE CREDITS:
“HOW YOU LOOK ANIMATED GIF” – Tumblr, Giphy http://giphy.com/gifs/machien-gun-how-you-feel-weed-whacker-zqkRtj9uERDr2?tc=1
piZap http://pizap.com/pizap
“Blank white badge” – PSDgraphics/PSDgraphics.com (16 May 2011) http://www.psdgraphics.com/backgrounds/blank-white-badge/
“Common Malware Types: Cybersecurity 101” – Nate Lord, Veracode/VERACODE (12 October 2012) https://www.veracode.com/blog/2012/10/common-malware-types-cybersecurity-101
“Accueil” – Université d’Orléans http://www.univ-orleans.fr/
“BLANK – Create On-Site – Write-On – Solid Backgrounds, Borders, Parking” – ComplianceSigns.com/ComplianceSigns, Inc. http://www.compliancesigns.com/BLANK-Solid-Border-Parking.shtml
“A Cute Collection Of Despicable Me 2 Minions | Wallpapers, Images & Fan Art” – ZQ, DesignBolts.com/Design Bolts (18 July 2013) http://www.designbolts.com/2013/07/18/a-cute-collection-of-despicable-me-2-minions-wallpapers-images-fan-art/
“Millennium Bug V20.12” – Paul Morris, SEARCHMUSE (28 May 2012) http://www.searchmuse.com/blog/2012/05/28/millennium-bug-v20-12.html
CC Search, Creative Commons http://search.creativecommons.org/
“Dandelion wish (88/365)” – John Liu, Flickr (29 March 2011) https://www.flickr.com/photos/8047705@N02/5572197407/