HEM News Agency is now an official member of the blogging networking site Bloglovin’. I signed up quickly last weekend and made my blog’s record there official.
Bloglovin’, established in a Swedish garage in 2007, is a platform that enables bloggers and non-bloggers alike to curate, follow and keep up with their favourite blogs, ranging from the postings of leading organisations such as the BBC (the first blog HEMNA has followed) through to small mummy blogs and personal online diaries. The site now has more than 16 million people signed up and has reached such heights that it is said to host its own blogging awards ceremony annually in New York.
Under its previous incarnation as ‘Half-Eaten Mind’, HEMNA has signed up with a select handful of blog platforms over the years, such as Blogarama and the now closed Technorati, but the returns from those websites were quite poor. I joined Bloglovin’ to give the blog more exposure and attract new followers, as well as give existing ones a new way to keep track of our news and other posts.
You can show your appreciation of our posts by clicking the little white and blue heart button to give some love, and use the other buttons to share our articles via Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and email. There is also the option of saving articles for future reference at a time that suits you.
Croydon-based photo-blogger and good friend Alex Smithson announced yesterday night (Saturday 31 August 2014) that he has now introduced a revamped ‘Directories’ page for his blog, Mother Nature. The new page comes hot on the heels of a raft of changes and improvement Alex has brought to his blog, including a name change, two photography book, and adding a new self-designed logo and theme to maximise presentation and usability.
The changes are low-key and the page is still in development, but already two links are live. One is to the Big Blog Collection, a blog that serves as a directory itself of different bloggers according to categories. The second link is to the Half-Eaten Mind, the news magazine and personal blog of Vijay Shah. A badge issued by the Big Blog Collection sits in the centre top of the page and underneath a special badge/banner designed by Alex especially for the Half-Eaten Mind. He created this badge using GIMP, an open-source graphic design software that is free of charge to the public. Alex’s HEM badge, which only took around five minutes to put together, features Woodsy the Owl, Seventies’ children’s mascot of the US Forestry Service and also the HEM ‘unofficial’ mascot. Alongside Woodsy, there is a ‘signboard’ carrying this blog’s name and slogan in white on a brown and green colour-shift background – the colours of the mascot.
The new directory page also features a host of sharing buttons for readers to share the page with their friends and family. Services to choose from include WordPress (the blogging service that hosts both Mother Nature and the Half-Eaten Mind), Twitter, Facebook, Stumbleupon, Google+, Pinterest and Tumblr. There is also a preset ‘like button’ for WordPress bloggers to show their appreciation and a comments box for further feedback.
You can see the new Directories page at this link.
Of course, a big thanks to Alex for producing this lovely badge for the HEM on his blog. If the proportions are right, then I may use it as a header for the Half-Eaten Mind itself. It would become our third banner in use.
A screenshot of the new ‘Directories’ page of Alex’s Mother Nature photography blog prepared on the 31st August 2014.
Another screenshot of the old “Directory(s) page before the changes, captured here from the Internet Archive showing Mother Nature as it was on the 20th August 2014.
The HEM banner and badge which links to our blog from Mother Nature’s directories page. The colour scheme is influenced by the dominant hues of the HEM mascot Woodsy the Owl. Alex created this on his home computer using an open-source imaging program.
As many of our blogging friends may know, the Half-Eaten Mind maintains a Twitter account, where I share the latest happenings and articles to come out of a partially digested brain. It just came to my attention that it has been exactly a year since we began tweeting our mind on one of the world’s most influential and bitesized social networks.
I was looking through my Gmail account from where I receive all mails regarding the HEM Twitter feed and came across one from the Twitter HQ in San Francisco, California, USA. It said:
“Happy Twitterversary! You just turned 1.
Let everyone know that it’s your Twitterversary.”
So we’ve been one year on Twitter. That works out to 8,106 tweets, 2,001 followed accounts and 976 followers, as of Tuesday 24th June 2014. So we do not have the legions of followers of famous celebrity accounts like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, for example, but that’s still an impressive tally. Of course, I cannot stress enough that each and every follower counts… We are also big on multimedia. The HEM account currently has 92 videos and images uploaded.
Well it’s mainly a promotion tool for the blog. Our public face. As any online business expert will tell you, social media counts for everything in getting the word out and making your blog, in this case, more accessible. Twitter has millions of users and accounts and your tweets can very easily reach an audience far greater than word-of-mouth or paper-based promotions, perhaps more than the website or blog can generate itself.
The Twitter feed works functionally as a means of showing off new articles. Whenever a new blogpost goes online, a Tweet is automatically created by WordPress straight onto the HEM account. I then manually access the account and pin the tweet to give it prominence for any visitors. I also share other bloggers’ posts, with priority given to those who like articles on the blog. I’ll retweet the article on their site which I like as a reciprocated thanks for visiting the Half-Eaten Mind. I also retweet development from the Daily Post and Hot Off The Press online newsletters from WordPress and news stories furnished via Twitter or LinkedIn. I also retweet articles on blogging techniques or handy advice concerning the noble art of blogging.
I also use the account as a source for news and article ideas which feed directly into the blog. I follow several hundred news and media organisation accounts which provide breaking news and features which saves me having to sniff around the wider internet looking for that next ‘scoop’. Separate from the media section, there are many other bloggers who also tweet their work and I make it a habit to follow other bloggers, mainly those already following HEM on WordPress. We also have a contingent of followers who are Tweeps who are outside either blogging or journalism and media, both individuals and companies. I aim to follow everyone but currently we have reached our following limit which is imposed by Twitter and we cannot do much about it.
The account also has links with providers of journalism resources which is helpful for a bit of self-education and awareness on new issues and techniques affecting the world of news reporting across all platforms.
“News & views of a partially digested brain – a news and features blog run by Vijay Shah (@VShah1984)”
All accounts added to our followers/following portfolios are sorted into one of several lists. That is partially because I am obsessively organised, but also to help place people and businesses into suitable categories for when, for example, I need to find a news story or locate a blogger. In return, we have been added and always subscribe to, other people’s lists. We consider it a big honour and appreciation of our work when we are added to your lists.
This is for accounts on developments and reactions in the field of journalism. This includes educational accounts on the media, press freedom, influential and aspiring journalists, jobs, journalism tools and news on the industry.
This is the list of all personal (not company) accounts we follow. Often many readers who visit our blog decide to subscribe to the Twitter account so get information at their fingers without needing to be on WP or overfilling their inbox.
These are miscellaneous businesses that follow us on occasions who are not connected with newswriting or reporting per se. It runs the gauntlet from South Asian promotional events, facts on whales and alcoholic drinks to flower deliveries, human rights and pubs in London.
Our largest list. This consists of mostly news media organisations and some journalists. A very important list as it supplies much of the blog’s news content when I am using Twitter. We follow both local, national (British) and international news providers from TV, online, magazines and newspapers, across language, political leaning and reporting style to aim for an unbiased and multi-angled coverage of the world’s news.
‘Twitterversary’ is a portmanteau (word-blending) of the nouns ‘Twitter’ and ‘anniversary’. In its basic form, it is a fun way of marking your arrival on Twitter. The MacMillan online dictionary describes it as “the anniversary of the day somebody started using the microblogging site Twitter”.
To celebrate the HEM Twitterversary I produced this cool graphic to illustrate social media’s impact on the blog and incorporating elements particular to HEM, especially our new “London road sign” logo and mascot Woodsy. The globe in space does look ‘pretty’ but it also reflects our focus on news from all four corners of the world, and the dominant blues and turquoises utilised in the original wallpaper image by Geralt chimes in nicely with the flock of Twitter birds. Twitter is valuable in disseminating both news and my writing to more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.
Yesterday was a very special day for the Half-Eaten Mind. While for the owner it was yet another long one at work and surviving the Hammersmith and City line followed by buses that just don’t want to wait for you, the blog has marked two years since its establishment on the 16th April, 2012. That’s a whole two years of news stories covering the globe, of entertaining and visually powerful features on a variety of subjects, hordes of awards and of course, the dozens of friends and supporters I have made along the way. It has been a great twenty-four months, in which I have developed and grown as a blogger and journalist and the blog has become a labour of love which has brought a lot into my life, even if that means slogging a bit on the weekends. Especially when my landlord supplied with a squeaky second-hand office chair that is a heavy as a pregnant walrus and does my back in.
In the couple of days running up to the anniversary, I was slowly becoming jittery with measured excitement at the Half-Eaten Mind reaching this important milestone. On its official Twitter account, I tweeted on the impending birthday a couple of times, complete with our own unique hashtag #HEMturnstwo. The way I was going would have perhaps got the casual observer wondering if I was talking about a living breathing human being… or going slightly soft in the brains, but for me, HEM has been almost like a child of mine, one that I helped nurture and grow. Now it has reached the tender age of two, I can stand back from my laptop and say that I have really achieved something here, which for someone like me who was not born with a prestigious life and a silver spoon in his mouth, means a great deal.
HEM's 2 year anniversary coming this week. Can't wait. Thanks to everyone for your support, likes and comments 🙂 #HEMturnstwo#blogging
To ready HEM for its birthday, I decided to do a reorganisation of the front menu and basically sort our two hundred plus articles and blogposts into set categories based on subject. I did this, as apart from being a bit of an organisation freak, I wanted to give HEM a more professional news website setup as you would find with any mainstream news media outlet. Equally important, there was a significant need to make the blog more user-friendly too. By reforming the menu options, visitors would not only find it easier to locate what they’re looking for but also to search around subjects that interest them. So for example, if you are looking for international news, there is now a tab on the menu that takes you directly to all our ‘World News’ stories, with minimum fuss and maximum relevancy. This of course supplements the existing search option on the right of the webpage which came pre-packaged with the theme I’m using. As the blog matures and increases its online presence, and with the anniversary rapidly approaching, now more than ever was an ideal time to tidy up the menu. All articles were categorised according to certain broad themes and using the HEM dashboard’s ‘quick edit’ function, took only two days to designate those categories for eleven pages of articles stretching back to our very first feature published in the spring of 2012. I was incredibly grateful for the quick edit function. It made things for me a lot easier than having to manually edit each article which would have taken more like two weeks than two days.
On the 16th April, 2014, I was unable to produce this article then as I was on the day job. However with the long Easter break coming up and with both the upcoming Friday and Monday being public holidays (bank holidays), I was in for a long lie-in. So after arriving home with a steaming hot lamb doner kebab in hand, I stuffed tonight’s dinner in the fridge for later and went upstairs to my room and the epic nerve centre that is the home of this blog. In other words, my Toshiba Satellite C660 laptop. Literally the first thing I did upon switching the laptop on and waiting for it to (slowly) power up, was to begin searching for pictures. Why, you may ask?. Because just like a chef will rummage through the fridge to find the right ingredients for the perfect casserole, I needed to find the right visual ingredients to make the official HEM second anniversary graphic. I used the Google CC search to pick out media and blogging related images, but the crux of this beastie was a wallpaper. A free PC wallpaper that showed a glass sphere sitting and refracting sunlight onto a newspaper page so straight and flat it appeared to have been heavily ironed and folded immaculately.
While there were many other wallpapers and backgrounds with a newsprint or journalistic theme available, this particular wallpaper spoke volumes to me. I needed something that would fit the blog’s purpose as a news site, but not be gaudy, childish or be too loud for the components I would be adding later. The contrast of light and physical state between the orb and the paper struck me as being particularly attractive yet subtle in its portrayal. This was amazing especially given that the image, taken from a free wallpapers site, was in black-and-white. The image’s simplicity, unabashed intellectual design, and its size would give me ample room to work on with my graphic design skills and follow the recipe instructions that were rapidly unfolding in my head as I opened up another website that would be the online ‘kitchen’ of my ideas….the photo editing page of piZap.
Those of you who have followed this website for a while will know that piZap is my go-to source for easy to make yet flawlessly appreciable graphics. Indeed a lot of the homemade graphics I have produced for the Half-Eaten Mind, including our Plaistow tower blocks header came out of the pizap foundry. I won’t go into the long and probably boring detail of how exactly I put the HEM 2nd anniversary image together, but let’s put this way, this image was probably one of the best I have created to date.
Now while I do have a good eye for the artistically wild side of life, I’m not under any delusion that I am an amazing Photoshopping whizzkid who can make Michealangelo masterpieces with some pixels and a few clicks of a mouse. But when I finally pulled the tarpaulin off this baby, I was so shocked that I could hear my mind shout at me “I’m bloody impressed”. After about one and a half hours of working on an empty stomach, mind buzzing while tweaking image sizes and opacity and moving text boxes all over the place, I had created a masterpiece that I think would win a few plaudits at your local design awards bash. I think what works for this special ‘poster’ graphic is just that it appears professionally done and forged in the visual essence of what the media is about in a single element.
This image is colourful, but restrained in its expression. It is busy but not over the top. It’s catchy, but not in-your-face. You could say I have reached a happy and settled medium between my desire to go crazy with all the colours and widgets that piZap offers, and the need to project a professional clean-cut image, which is a steadily increasing importance as my blog matures as a news and views website. Everyone will have their impression and perception of this picture, but when I looked at it yesterday I was saying to myself that this would not look too out of place in a trade magazine or even as a half-page spread in a newspaper. Subeditors: if you like what you see, you can find my contacts on the About page 😉
Please bear in mind that the clarity and resolution of the HEM 2nd anniversary image might be less than perfect. That is due to the limitations of showing piZap images on these blogpages but also due to resizing to help accommodate it in this article. You can see the original unstretched version on the HEM Flickr page.
Before we round off things with a little birthday cheer, here is a Top Ten of HEM-related stuff from the past two years we have brought you cutting-edge news and amazing features, as well as various other facts and tidbits.
All-time (total) blog views – as of 17/04/2014 13.06
All-time number of comments – as of 17/04/2014 13.06
Today, we pick up the second award for this week and this month, with a never before seen badge for 2014 especially created by our good friend, Don Charisma. He has nominated us for the very dazzling Angel Award.
Don Charisma is a very intelligent and multi-talented blogger who has an impressive with both texts and graphics. Whether it is panoramas of Thai temples, taking pictures of a rather rude gentleman with a parrot touting for tourist dollars, or his amazing line in award badges, I have been privileged to call DC, as he’s affectionately known here, a friend and a fellow blogging enthusiast.
DC was himself nominated for this award by a good friend of his named Angie. She is, from what I gather, the originator of this heavenly divine award.
This award is dedicated to all the HEM Community as well as my youngest sister Anjali, whose name sounds very much like ‘angel’ (although nothing to do with angels, her name has a spiritual meaning). Yesterday, while visiting my mum’s house, I spent time with her teaching her how to draw graffiti-style art, after a special request from her, and I also took the chance to resurrect my drawing skills with the help of Anji’s massive set of glitter and ordinary gel pens. I did some logo designs that I plan to feature on the Half-Eaten Mind at a later date.
The badges for the Angel Award – original badge first, DC’s version depicted below.
Especially, I would like to give a big hearty thanks to the Don for selecting me. The badge is really beautiful and detailed, indeed, probably one of the best badges I have ever seen. I think both versions are awesome, but DC’s version works better because there is a tie-in with the name of the award and the picture of an Renaissance-era angel. The background as well has a heavenly feel to it. The way the light breaks into its component colour wavelengths as it emanates from an angel’s wings perhaps. What is even more touching is that DC made up this badge as a kind favour to his friend Angie – a small offering, but one in which the angels will smile on.
The Angel Award does not come with any rules or need for nominations. To take a leaf from DC, your only requirement is to do an acceptance post too. I am offering the Angel Award to ALL of the bloggers in the HEM community, so feel free to accept.
“The Angel Award – Thanks Angie :)” – Don Charisma, DonCharisma.org (5 April 2014) LINK
As I gradually added to and improved the Half-Eaten Mind, I created a blogroll page which had links to bloggers who followed me here on WordPress. However as time went on and more followers were picked up, it began becoming a bit of an ordeal constantly updating the page. Then a new widget appeared for the theme I am currently using (Mystique) which display the HEM community’s individual avatars on rotation, so from then on the “Blogroll” became redundant.
I’ve just created a new “Useful Sites” page, and as they say ‘out with the old, in with the new’. The Half-Eaten Mind needed to shift some dead grey matter and as of now the Blogroll page is being decommissioned. Being somewhat nostalgic, I decided to make a blogpost with the text the page carried before I pull the page offline, as part of the blog’s refitting for 2014.
A screenshot of the Blogroll page just before it was taken down. Ignore the banner ads. The Firefox browser this shot was acquired has a bad case of malware which has cause the browser window to break out in attractive Russian girls.
A compelling and fascinating list of bloggers recommended by the Half-Eaten Mind.
This page is dedicated to the blogs of fellow bloggers, artists, writers and photographers who have supported or captivated the Half-Eaten Mind. I personally would like to thank each and every one of the people listed here, for their support, entertainment and education in all matters great and small….
PLEASE NOTE that the author is not responsible for the content of sites featured below, and absolves himself of all liability for any offence or injury caused in relation to viewing and/or usage of any of the featured blogs.