GOOGLE SEO: What are the SEO trends in 2017?

London, UNITED KINGDOM
MEHFUZ HUSSAIN (writer) with VIJAY SHAH (editor)

 

This article was written by Mehfuz Hussain, a digital marketing specialist based in London with expertise in online marketing concepts and Google Analytics.

Search Engine Optimisation has seen many changes in 2016 thanks to Google. From the launch of its ambitious AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) Project in February 2016, Google has shaken up the way traditional SEO worked. Understandably, Google knows well that the best way to dominate the industry is to be aware of how search engines are changing, and strategising SEO and content techniques accordingly. The world of SEO continues to evolve at high speed. While some SEO techniques have been a staple for several years, there will be many new ones that you will have to pay attention to. Here are some of the game-changing trends to help you stay ahead this year.

 

Photo credit: BigOakInc.com

 

1. Mobile-first Approach by Businesses

With ongoing improvements in the mobile computing field, browsing on mobiles has become equivalent to desktop browsing if not more In many countries, mobile browsing is more popular and dominant than via traditional desktops and laptops. In the last few years, the plethora of new smartphones with internet capabilities has changed the way search engine look at them. Remember Mobilegeddon?

A few months ago, Google said, “To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.” This influenced their latest search algorithm which prioritised ‘responsive’ websites at the cost of older, mobile-unfriendly sites.

So, in 2017, your top priority is to separate your desktop and mobile measurement plans to account for the fundamental differences between mobile and desktop behaviour.

 

2. Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Google Rank Brain

There is no doubt, Google’s main focus in 2017 is on Artificial Intelligence. If you followed the Google I/O event 2016, most announcements were related to AI. Google also said that the speech recognition errors have reduced from 25 to 8 percent. It’s been officially named Google’s third-most important ranking factor. Voice search will grow even more in 2017, with better voice recognition and understanding.

 

3. Infographics

Infographics make complex information eye-catching, shareable and easily digestible. An image coupled with information tends to stay in the minds of readers. Such content generates more social shares and also generates leads. Of course, your content should also be suitable enough to add Infographics to it, and they can really make it pop.

 

4. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) takes centre stage

A great way to ensure better user experience is switching over to Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). More brands are using this option as Google also has begun to favour the use of AMP. It contains three sections – AMP HTML, AMP JS, and Google AMP Cache. Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) allows websites to make pages equipped for loading right away onto mobile screens. Interestingly, sites that have switched over to AMP are given more visibility with a special icon in Google searches.

 

 

5. Branding gets personal

There is no denying the power of personal branding. If used strategically, it can be a powerful tool in ensuring the success of SEO campaigns. Even social media platforms like Facebook refine their algorithms to favour individual posts over branded posts. Also, once you have a personal brand in place, it gets much easier to boost user trust and engagement. This, in turn, will up the traffic to your site.

 

6. HTTPS Everywhere

Google has inducted https as a ranking factor in its algorithm. Since then many companies hurriedly made the transition from HTTP to HTTPS in order to protect their own and their users’ privacy. It helps even more if there is money transactions happening on the website (e-commerce) and gives consumers extra confidence about their privacy. Let’s expect more websites switching to HTTPS than ever before in the history of the Web.

 

7. Focus on Content Curation

Though many people do not realise it, content marketing and SEO needs to work together for better results and visibility. Include all types of content in the mix: press releases and newsletters as well as articles and blog posts. A good content mix will help you increase backlinks on authority websites and establish you as an expert in your field. This strategy will help you boost your business to the top of Google’s SERPs.

 

2017 will see a massive hike in Internet usage. People are more concerned about the content they read. Now is the right time to prepare a well-developed strategy to survive in the market and beat the competition. As an SEO marketer, you have to be prepared for changes. Keep an close eye on SEO trends in 2017. All the best everyone!

 

IMAGE CREDITS:
“Google SEO Magnifying Glass” – BigOakFlickr, Flickr (1 July 2016) https://www.flickr.com/photos/31682982@N03/27940989741
“Free illustration: Seo, Web Page, Responsive – Free Image on Pixabay – 2016484” – Templune, pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/seo-web-page-responsive-web-design-2016484/

ONLINE TRANSLATION STUDY: English-language websites becoming more popular for foreign language speakers

gb

London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via the Open Business Council

A recent survey by an online translation company has discovered that English-language websites are becoming more and more frequented by speakers of continental European languages, particularly French and German, the Open Business Council reported this past Thursday.

One Hour Translation, an online translation agency which self-describes as the world’s largest in this sector, and which provides translation services to global e-commerce companies, conducted a research study of 4,000 e-commerce translation projects during late November 2016. The projects stretched from a period beginning in 2015, and up until November this year. The agency’s research discovered that the first language of choice for translation of Anglophone sites was French, with German coming in at second place.

 

 

Several international tongues were examined in the study. The analysis ranked target languages according to the rate of translation projects opened for them, against the total annual number of translation projects for English-language e-commerce websites.

In 2016, translations from English to French ranked first, with 13.5% of the total relevant projects, followed closely by German, with a rate of 13.4%. Unexpectedly, Dutch was placed at third, with 11.3% of the projects. The languages that ranked 4th to 10th in 2016 were, respectively, Italian (10%), Korean (9.8%), Japanese and Spanish (both 9.3%), Polish (8.5%), Norwegian (7.8%) and Swedish (7.1%).

French and German also topped the 2015 ranking, with 19% and 17% respectively. However, in 2015, Spanish was ranked third (15%), Dutch fourth (12%) and Italian fifth (9%). Ranks number 6 to 10 were Swedish (8%), Korean (7%), Norwegian (6%), Polish (5%) and Japanese (2%), respectively.

One Hour Translation’s chief marketing officer and co-founder Yaron Kaufman commented on the study results “…the fact that the French and German markets top the priorities of global e-commerce players immediately below the English-speaking markets is not surprising, since Germany and France are the strongest economies in Continental Europe. French and German are also spoken in other strong economies such as Canada, Switzerland and Austria. Dutch came third as a target language in 2016, compared to number 4 in 2015, and this strengthening demonstrates the resilience of the economy and purchasing power of the Netherlands compared to other European countries.”

Kaufman added: “Another notable fact is the sharp rise in the ranking of Japanese, which rose from number 10 in 2015 to number 6 in 2016. This development demonstrates that e-commerce players are also targeting the significant purchasing power of consumers in Japan.”

English is the most dominant language on the web, with more than half of sites written in that language. While English is widely used on the net due to its founding and dominance by Anglophone countries such as the U.S., other language communities like Chinese and French are also strong internet users. 

 

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
intelligentHQ.com, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/intelligentHQ
“English Language E-commerce Websites Target French German Dutch Markets” – Open Business Council (15 December 2016) http://www.openbusinesscouncil.org/2016/12/english-language-e-commerce-websites-target-french-german-dutch-markets/
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:WMF Fundraiser 2011 Translation Project-1.jpg” – Victorgrigas, Wikimedia Commons (29 December 2011) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WMF_Fundraiser_2011_Translation_Project-1.jpg

OLD-FASHIONED COURTING: Oxford University student launches ‘chivalrous dating’ website

In a dating scene that often complicates relationships and gender behaviours, and where many new dating sites seem to encourage casual hookups, a new dating website launched by a graduate from a top UK university plans to return to old-fashioned courting values, like the man making ‘the first move’. While many will applaud the website’s emphasis on traditional values, the dating portal could well raise questions of sexism and the perpetration of outdated concepts of dating behaviour. In a nod to the ideals of days past, the website features vintage black-and-white images of romantic couples, with the catchy handwritten slogan “good old-fashioned dating”. The portal aims to counter the notion that chivalry is dead in 2015.

English: A boy helping a girl over a creek.
English: A boy helping a girl over a creek. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chivalrynotdead.com was set up by Oxford University graduate Beth Murtagh to counter the current trend for casual dating in the heterosexual community. Male users are required to initiate interest and conversations with females. Women are banned from approaching men they take a fancy too, apart from sending a handkerchief icon to men who spark their interest, which is meant to attract the potential husband or boyfriend’s interest. The handkerchief is an attempt by Murtagh to hark back to the Victorian era when ladies would only offer a would-be suitor a signal of their single status, while the Victorian gentleman was expected to woo and court her in return. 

The site also features traditionally-inspired dating tips for men and women, but with the tips only visible to the gender they are written for.

Murtagh, who is also managing director of Chivalrynotdead.com’s holding company Gargery Ltd, said in a statement: “…it is particularly important in the era of hook up apps to bring romance back into the dating scene. The rules of chivalry are important, particularly for women, as they allow a woman time to assess how a date treats her and to negotiate how she would like to be treated in a relationship. I don’t see this as anti-feminist.” Newly developed apps like Tinder and its gay equivalent Grindr have taken the dating scene by storm, with their emphasis on appearances and quick fuss-free dating, but have caused alarm among exponents of traditional dating who say that they have cheapened love and relationships for the sake of a one-night stand.

Murtagh’s dating site has come in for particular criticism on social media such as Twitter, where it has been blasted as ‘sexist’ and ‘outdated’, although many have supported it in its ambition to bring chivalry back to dating. For those interested in signing up, member profiles are available for free until September, after which a monthly fee applies. Chivalrynotdead.com can also be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

SOURCES:
“Oxford University Graduate launches world’s first chivalrous dating website” [press release] – Journalism.co.uk/Mousetrap Media Ltd (30 June 2015) https://www.journalism.co.uk/press-releases/oxford-university-graduate-launches-world-s-first-chivalrous-dating-website/s66/a565634/
“Home | Chivalry Not Dead” – Beth Murtagh, Chivalrynotdead.com/Gargery Ltd. http://www.chivalrynotdead.com/
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Victorian chivalry.jpg” – Jonund, Wikimedia Commons (15 December 2009) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Victorian_chivalry.jpg

VIRTUAL VEXILLOLOGY: Animated world flags with TLDs – the full set

HEM Animated ccTLD Flags Ident pizap.com14318621928841

For our very last article in the Animated ccTLD flags series (a.k.a Virtual Vexillology), you will have the opportunity to see the flags we have featured in the previous articles altogether in one place, along with some examples made for forum users who wish to decline their country of origin when creating their signatures.

It has been a fun and enjoyable series to work on, and it does seem a bit sad to be finally drawing it to a close. This series may be wrapping up, but we are going to do it in true fluttering style. Here are all the flags in alphabetical order of top-level domain. Feast your eyes and enjoy.

P.S. At some point in the future, the Hancki flag icons plus some even smaller flag icons originally from ‘FamFamFam‘ , a website run by British graphic designer and developer Mark James and other sources too, will be added as a page on this blog’s sideline website, HEM Graphics. Don’t click the browser window…or touch the dial!.

A small inspiration for me writing and researching for this series is that at work we often work with ISO codes (which are broadly similar to ccTLDs) when processing data and so it was interesting to see more exciting examples of these shortened country names in use. Sadly since these flags first burst onto the scene in 2008, forums have lost a bit of popularity as social media has become the new outlet for people to air their voices, and the forums that are still be updated now tend to go for the minimalist look, dispensing with embellishments like signature GIFs, userbars, stats and of course these flags. In a way, this is my way of preserving this piece of internet history for the future, should forums no longer use them.

 

 

No flags available under this letter.

 

Previous Articles in the Series

Part 1 – North America

Part 2 – South America

Part 3 – Europe

Part 4 – Africa

Part 5 – Asia

Part 6 – Australasia/Oceania

IMAGE CREDITS:
“Animated fonts 018” – APRENDE INGLÉS CON GIFS ANIMADOS http://clafoti.com/dictionary/A_alf_018.htm
“Pakistan Defence” – Pakistan Defence http://defence.pk/
“RIGS OF RODS” – Rigs of Rods http://www.rigsofrods.com/content/
IPBURGER/IPBurger.com http://ipburger.com/
“Category:Country Flags” – EP.com Wiki/EntropiaPlanets.com/EntropiaPlanets Wiki – Entropia Universe Guides Wiki Info http://www.entropiaplanets.com/wiki/Category:Country_Flags

 

 

VIRTUAL VEXILLOLOGY: Animated world flags with TLDs (Part 6 – Australasia/Oceania)

HEM Animated ccTLD Flags Ident pizap.com14318621928841

Our final leg of the journey in this series on animated flag icons featuring ccTLDs now takes in the continent of Australasia, also known as Oceania. While this continent’s total area is very dominated by the landmass and Commonwealth of Australia, it also has a large number of small islands dotted over the breadth and length of the Pacific Ocean. Many of these islands are their own sovereign states, while others are dependencies of larger Australasian nations.

As far as flags go, one common theme with flags from Australasia is that a lot of them carry a smaller flag in their cantons (top left-hand corners of the flag). This is the Union Flag (Union Jack) of Great Britain. The reason for this is simply that many of these countries were at one point part of the British Empire until the latter half of the past century, and it was standard for British colonies to carry an ‘ensign’ which included the UK national flag. After independence, many did away with the colonial flags, but some, like Australia and its southerly neighbour, New Zealand, retained them for cultural and political reasons.

While we are on the subject of ccTLDs, did you know that the domain registries of several Pacific countries allow their ccTLDs to be used for commercial purposes by companies which may have nothing whatsoever to do with the country that the TLD is related with.

.tv is the ccTLD for the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. It also is very much like the acronym for television (TV). As a result, several media companies have adopted the .tv domain for their websites, usually ones rich in video content. The .tv domain is owned by a private company, dotTV (Verisign) based in the United States. The Tuvaluan government owns a 20 per cent stake and makes US$1 million in royalties annually of the back of renting out their TLD. The neighbouring island of Niue has also turned its .nu domain into a moneyspinner as well. This was one of the first such domains to be auctioned out for marketing purposes as an alternative to the bog-standard .com, .net and .org trinity. The domain sounds similar to the English word ‘new’ as well as in other European language versions of that word, and has been particularly popular in  Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium, as nu is the word for “now” in Swedish,Danish and Dutch. Another island nation, Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) still uses its old TLD .ws . It is administered by SamoaNIC, for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the government of Samoa. It can also stand for ‘web site’ or ‘world site’ and has been popular with companies looking to expound on their international credentials. All three of these examples from Pacific island registries are known in the web business as ‘domain hacks’.

Bouvet Island is normally considered part of Antarctica, but for the sake of brevity I have included it along with Australasia.

AUSTRALASIA/OCEANIA

(c) Cruickshanks/Wikimedia Commons

 

as - American Samoa

au - Australia

bv - Bouvet Island

cc - Cocos (Keeling) Islands

ck - Cook Islands

cx - Christmas Island

fj - Fiji

fm - Micronesia, Federated States of

gu - Guam

ki - Kiribati

mh - Marshall Islands

mp - Northern Mariana Islands

nf - Norfolk Island

nr - Nauru

nu - Niue

nz - New Zealand

pg - Papua New Guinea

pw - Palau

sb - Solomon Islands

tk - Tokelau

to - Tonga

tv - Tuvalu

vu - Vanuatu

ws - Samoa

 .as American Samoa
.au Australia
.bv Bouvet Island
.cc Cocos (Keeling) Islands
.ck Cook Islands
.cx Christmas Island
.fj Fiji
.fm Micronesia, Federated States of 
.gu Guam
.ki Kiribati
.mh Marshall Islands
.mp Northern Mariana Islands
.nf Norfolk Island
.nr Nauru
.nu Niue
.nz New Zealand
.pg Papua New Guinea
.pw Palau
.sb Solomon Islands
.tk Tokelau
.to Tonga
.tv Tuvalu
.vu Vanuatu
.ws Samoa

We are very nearly reaching the end of our special series on the flag icons that make ‘virtual vexillology’ a success. Next week, the Half-Eaten Mind plans to bring the flags featured in this series, plus a few extra others that were excluded for not being country-specific, together into one article in the form of a gallery. There will need to be some groundwork to see if it is possible to create such a gallery from the flags already uploaded to the Mind’s image gallery, but we are hopeful of success.

Previous Articles in the Series

Part 1 – North America

Part 2 – South America

Part 3 – Europe

Part 4 – Africa

Part 5 – Asia

This article was mainly prepared at the HEM home office in Plaistow, with some writing and formatting work done at Informa in Maple House, Euston, London. Some of the work adding links to Australasian government websites was also undertaken at Maple House.
ADDITIONAL SOURCES:
“.tv” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.tv
“.nu” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.nu
“.ws” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=.ws
IMAGE CREDITS:
“File:Oceania UN Geoscheme – Map of Australasia.svg” – Cruickshanks, Wikimedia Commons (30 January 2014) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oceania_UN_Geoscheme_-_Map_of_Australasia.svg
“Pakistan Defence” – Pakistan Defence http://defence.pk/
“RIGS OF RODS” – Rigs of Rods http://www.rigsofrods.com/content/
IPBURGER/IPBurger.com http://ipburger.com/
“Category:Country Flags” – EP.com Wiki/EntropiaPlanets.com/EntropiaPlanets Wiki – Entropia Universe Guides Wiki Info http://www.entropiaplanets.com/wiki/Category:Country_Flags

 

VIRTUAL VEXILLOLOGY: Animated world flags with TLDs (Part 5 – Asia)

HEM Animated ccTLD Flags Ident pizap.com14318621928841

Asia is one of the most linguistically, ethnically and religiously diverse continents on the planet. Its kaleidoscope of nations and cultures is well reflected in its range of flags.

Just like Africa and South America, which we explored earlier on in the Animated ccTLD Flags series, Asia was once part of foreign empires, but is also home to many countries which escaped colonialism and have a long and vibrant history.

Asia is home to a wide variety of alphabets and writing systems, which makes it an interesting point to note in what comes next. While the first set of ccTLDs which became current from the 1980s onwards (and featured in our series) were rendered solely in the Roman alphabet, the advances in internet and computing technologies mean that such domains are no longer restricted only to Western-style letters.

In October 2009, at its annual meeting in Seoul, South Korea, the organisation in charge of TLDs, ICANN, announced a plan to extend the range of alphabets enabled for use in domains and URLs from the old American influenced system of writing ‘root zones’ in Latin characters. At this critical meeting, ICANN representatives tabled a motion to introduce the ‘Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs)’ which would enable people using other scripts to use the Web in those scripts, thus ending the discrimination of the current state web in favour of those using languages written in the Roman alphabet. The new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) Program, approved at the ICANN meeting in Singapore in June 2011, paved the way for countries using other scripts to create their own TLDs in their own writing.

By May 2010, the first such internationalised codes were implemented for Arabic, applying to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE. Russia followed soon after. According to ICANN, Arabic was chosen for the initial rollout because it is one of the most widely used non-Latin languages on the Internet. Languages in India and much of South Asia were then catered for. As of December 2014 there are 45 approved internationalized country code top-level domains. The most used are .рф (Russia) with over 900,000 domains names, .台灣(Taiwan) with around 500,000 and .中国 (China) with over 200,000 domains.

(c) Wikipedia
(c) Wikipedia

A comprehensive list of IccTLDs published by Wikipedia.

The oldest flag-like object ever found, according to one source, was a metal square sheet mounted on a copper pole. Dating to the third millennium BC (BCE) it was uncovered in an archaeological site near Shahdad in Iran. Depicting depicts two figures facing one another on a rich background of animals, plants, and goddesses, the vexilloid is still a mystery as to what purpose it served or who created it.

Asia is also home to the world’s only pennant style national flag, that of Nepal. Nepal adopted this unique flag with its crescent moon and sun design in 1962, and the deep red is said to reflect the hue of the rhododendron, Nepal’s national flower.

ASIA

(c) Tsui/Wikimedia Commons

ae - United Arab Emirates

af - Afghanistan

am - Armenia

az - Azerbaijan

bd - Bangladesh

bh - Bahrain

bn - Brunei

bt - Bhutan

cn - China

ge - Georgia

hk - Hong Kong

id - Indonesia

il - Israel

in - India

iq - Iraq

ir - Iran (Islamic Republic of)

jo - Jordan

jp - Japan

kg - Kyrgyzstan

kh - Cambodia

kp - Korea (Democratic People's Republic of)

kr - Korea (Republic of)

kw - Kuwait

kz - Kazakhstan

la - Laos

lb - Lebanon

lk - Sri Lanka

mm - Myanmar

mn - Mongolia

mo - Macao

mv - Maldives

my - Malaysia

np - Nepal (rectangular flag)

np - Nepal

om - Oman

ph - Philippines

pk - Pakistan

ps - Palestine, State of

qa - Qatar

sa - Saudi Arabia

sg - Singapore

sy - Syrian Arab Republic

th - Thailand

tj - Tajikistan

tm - Turkmenistan

tp - East Timor

tr - Turkey

tw - Taiwan

uz - Uzbekistan

vn - Viet Nam

ye - Yemen

.ae United Arab Emirates
.af Afghanistan
.am Armenia
.az Azerbaijan
.bd Bangladesh
.bh Bahrain
.bn Brunei
.bt Bhutan
.cn China
.ge Georgia
.hk Hong Kong
.id Indonesia
.il Israel
.in India
.iq Iraq
.ir Iran (Islamic Republic of)
.jo Jordan
.jp Japan
.kg Kyrgyzstan
.kh Cambodia
.kpKorea (Democratic People’s Republic of)
.kr Korea (Republic of)
.kw Kuwait
.kz Kazakhstan
.la Laos
.lb Lebanon
.lk Sri Lanka
.mm Myanmar
.mn Mongolia
.mo Macao
.mv Maldives
.my Malaysia
.np Nepal
.om Oman
.ph Philippines
.pk Pakistan
.ps Palestine, State of
.qa Qatar
.sa Saudi Arabia
.sg Singapore
.sy Syrian Arab Republic
.th Thailand
.tj Tajikistan
.tm Turkmenistan
.tp East Timor
.tr Turkey
.tw Taiwan
.uz Uzbekistan
.vn Viet Nam
.ye Yemen

Next weekend, we’ll be completing the final leg of our world ccTLD tour by visiting Australia, New Zealand and a panoply of beautiful ‘South Sea’ islands as we move southwards to Australasia, otherwise known as Oceania. This will be our second to last article in the series, and the very final blogpost will bring all of the flags together as a reference, possibly to be arranged in alphabetical order.

Previous Articles in the Series

Part 1 – North America

Part 2 – South America

Part 3 – Europe

Part 4 – Africa

This article was mainly prepared at the HEM home office in Plaistow, with some writing and formatting work done at Informa in Maple House, Euston, London.

HEM 3rd anniversary banner pizap.com14293560242241

ADDITIONAL SOURCES:
“Internationalized Domain Names” – ICANN/Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (25 February 2012) https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/idn-2012-02-25-en
“Internationalized country code top-level domain” – Wikipedia/ Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internationalized_country_code_top-level_domain
“Bronze flag, Iran, 3rd millennium BC” – HISTORICAL FLAGS, Tumblr  http://historicalflags.tumblr.com/post/61418440418/bronze-flag-iran-3rd-millennium-bc-this-is-a
“Flag of Nepal” – Wikipedia/ Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Nepal
IMAGE CREDITS:
“Internationalized country code top-level domain” – Wikipedia/ Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internationalized_country_code_top-level_domain
“File:Asia map pastel de.png” – Tsui, Wikimedia Commons (18 January 2006) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Asia_map_pastel_de.png
“Pakistan Defence” – Pakistan Defence http://defence.pk/
“RIGS OF RODS” – Rigs of Rods http://www.rigsofrods.com/content/
IPBURGER/IPBurger.com http://ipburger.com/
“Category:Country Flags” – EP.com Wiki/EntropiaPlanets.com/EntropiaPlanets Wiki – Entropia Universe Guides Wiki Info http://www.entropiaplanets.com/wiki/Category:Country_Flags

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

GAMER ART: The userbar

Two geeks walk into a userbar…..

Okay, so I might have completely lost the punchline to this joke, but the popularity and artistic capacity for expression of the userbar certainly isn’t any laughing matter. For almost a decade, gamers, geeks and online artists have used userbars as decorations and virtual badges of honour to announce their presence and creativity on the internet.

So what exactly is a userbar?. It’s a small and slender graphic which is a really skinny version of the ubiquitous advertising banners found all over the web. The big difference though is that they aren’t ads for companies. Instead they are used to express a person’s interests, skills and passions; or to advertise their gaming level and prowess. Cramming a lot into a space usually measuring no more than the standard 350 by 19 pixels (with a border of 1 pixel thick, userbars can be larger though), userbar designers will often incorporate imagery, text and even animations and gifs taken from videos or popular TV shows. The most widely used typeface (font) for userbar text is Visitor TT2 BRK with the standard size of letters set at 13 pixels in height. The font gives a very computer generated and retro  appearance to the bar and often, rather like a framed picture, designers can choose to make their userbars visually presentable by applying a ‘glass finish’ that gives the design a glossy look. The natural home of the userbar is usually forums, mainly those connected to gaming or technology, but I have seen them being attached to signatures used in a popular South Asian young people’s forum.

(c) R-a-w-Z/DeviantArt

Userbars reached their zenith in the mid 2000’s, as the internet was already becoming well entrenched in people’s lives and gamers made the transition from downloading PC games to battling and co-operating with fellow hobbyists on online portals such as World of Warcraft. While userbars have never broken the mainstream like other ‘geeky‘ expressions of culture have done, and their popularity has declined since their heyday, userbars still retain a loyal fanbase and several thousand are being painstakingly handcrafted by forum users and passionate gamers today. There are vibrant online communities built around the designing of userbars as a hobby. One, userbars.be, is “a respectful community of creative people who are passionate about creating and sharing userbars they make ” with a showroom of more than 40,000 userbars sorted into categories such as brands, celebrities, computer hardware, patriotic, and sports. The site currently has over 28,000 members and contributors. Another, called userbars.name, is a German-based forum dedicated exclusively to the online art form, the 21st century evolution of the miniature paintings of 17th century India and Persia. It has a cult popularity among gamers from Russia and east Europe in particular.

One of the ideal things about userbars is their democratic nature, and that given such a limited space, there are countless millions of ways to express any vignette of personality or interest you like. Anyone with at least some basic graphic skills can make one, and there are sites, such as best-signatures.com, which offer easy to use userbar generators for the fresh-faced userbar novice. For the experienced artist, photo-editing and image suites like Adobe Photoshop or GIMP offer capabilities for making userbars from scratch and there are web-based tutorials and forums for anyone who wants to learn how to make them using photo-editing software. For those who don’t have the money or the inclination to get to grips with the complicated DIY Photoshop option and are frustrated by online userbar generators, there is also the option of downloading special software that creates userbars without the need for broadband. The one I used for this article is the AmitySource UserBar Generator 2.2, which is a small program that gives you the capability of designing your own bars, using images saved on your computer and your choice of colours and filler effect from a preset menu. Although not without its limitations, such as being only able to use the standard Visitor font and that only in one colour and style, the Userbar Generator is very easy to use, even if you’re utterly new to the game, like I am.

To celebrate the miniscule artistic awesomeness that is the humble userbar, I have used both best-signatures.com and the AmitySource generator to make some userbars of my own. In honour of their original spirit, I drew inspiration from other’s creations to make a series of bars that reflect my personality and interests, as well as things that are special to me. As well as the static userbars, I also found another website, www.myspacegens.com, which will quite happily take up to 10 static ones and blend them into a GIF that shows each individual bar in 2-second intervals, transforming your creations into a sort of uber-cool userbar slideshow. That’s very handy if you have a lot to say and display to your fellow gamers or forum commentators.

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STATIC

Anglo Mauritian 1z1b3fd

Cadbury's Creme Egg Fan

Casual Photographer

Emoji Abuser

Frequent Whatsapp User

HEM Userbar SPHdlw

Informa Plc.

Kebabish King

Kraving for Kellogg's Krave

London Commuter

Newham Resident

Newspaper Junkie

Pound Sterling User

Proud Hindu

Reppin' Plaistow

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini User

Shaniya's Uncle

Simpsons Fan

Tax Stamp Collector

Trad Asian Dude

Wordpress Blogger

ANIMATED

Animated Userbar 1 4246826

Animated Userbar 2 4246830

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A brief explanation of the static userbars.
1. ANGLO MAURITIAN: This bar represent my ethnic heritage, half-English (British) and half-Mauritian. The image is a pin badge featuring the intertwined flags of the two nations
2. CADBURY’S CREME EGG FAN: In honour of one of my favourite items of confectionary and a childhood favourite. The image is of a batch of the UK version of these sweet treats
3. CASUAL PHOTOGRAPHER: I do like to pull out my phone once in a while and take some jaw-dropping pictures, and I humbly appreciate the great expression of photography as an art. The image is a Nikon camera lens or some other specialist model
4. EMOJI ABUSER: As my Whatsapp and Facebook contacts can attest, I am trigger happy when it comes to emoticons. Well it does save on typing. The image is of a gallery of emojis commonly used on messaging services and social media.
5. FREQUENT WHATSAPP USER: Whatsapp, the almost-free messaging service is very important for me to keep in contact with distant family and friends. I used the app’s logo and made the background the same colours.
6. HALF-EATEN MIND: Why should I have all the fun?. This was the first userbar I made, using the Best Signatures site. In honour of this wonderful blog which helps me express myself and keep the reporting dream alive, I used the blog mascot, Woodsy the Owl, as a background.
7. INFORMA PLC.: Made with pride to represent the company I work for, using their corporate logo.
8. KEBABISH KING: This one is to pay homage to one of my favourite restaurants, Kebabish Original (K.O.). As with the Informa bar, I used their logo.
9. KRAVING FOR KELLOGG’S KRAVE: In honour of one of my favourite breakfast cereals. Full of chocolatey goodness.
10. LONDON COMMUTER: They say if you tire of London, you tire of life. I don’t always enjoy commuting, but it is a fundamental part of my day-to-day life. I used a Transport for London (London Underground) ‘Tube Map’ as a background.
11. NEWHAM RESIDENT: In honour of the London borough where I live and grew up in. The logo is that of Newham Council, our local government body.
12. NEWSPAPER JUNKIE: I can’t get enough of that black and white, baby. In honour of a news media that has inspired my journey as a journalist and taught me so much about the world. Graphic used comes from a picture of various British newspapers.
13. POUND STERLING USER: In honour of my currency of choice when at home. This userbar features Bank of England paper money.
14. PROUD HINDU: This bar celebrates my religious identity. The symbol is ‘Aum’ the first sound to originate in the universe and an identifier of my faith. The orange colour is another marker of my beliefs.
15. REPPIN’ PLAISTOW: A little statement of local pride here, Plaistow is the part of east London where I now live and also grew up in. The logo is a signblind from the N69 night bus which cuts through Plaistow and Stratford. I used to take the daytime 69 route to go to college in Leyton.
16. SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 MINI USER: Influenced by the userbar’s original purpose, I made this one a technology special. The mobile phone in question is my current model.
17. SHANIYA’S UNCLE: I made this in honour of one of my nieces, who I’m very close to. I used a family photo of her and chose pink as a background as it’s her favourite hue.
18. SIMPSONS FAN: Depicting the yellow-skinned family at rest, this bar celebrates one of my all-time favourite cartoons.
19. TAX STAMP COLLECTOR: A homage to one of my pastimes. The picture was supplied by a fellow collector of some stamps I was swapping with him.
20. TRADITIONAL ASIAN DUDE: Paying my respects to one of my ancestral cultures. Unlike a lot of South Asians in the UK, I try to remain close to my roots.
21. WORDPRESS BLOGGER: As my blogging friends know, old WP is our bread and butter.

I hope you have enjoyed my userbar collection, and perhaps are inspired to make your own.

By the way, this will be the last article I will be publishing for 2014. This one came out on the 31st December 2014, New Year’s Eve and the very last day of this year. I will not be posting tomorrow, but will be back on Friday 2nd January hopefully. I wish you all a prosperous new year 2015.

Made with Thank You Mario.
Made with Thank You Mario.
ADDITIONAL SOURCES:
“Userbar” Wikipedia http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Userbar
“Userbars.be – the best userbar site of the web !” – userbars.be http://www.userbars.be/
IMAGE CREDITS:
CC Search/Creative Commons http://search.creativecommons.org/
“Halo Clan Userbars” – R-a-w-Z, DeviantArt http://r-a-w-z.deviantart.com/art/Halo-Clan-Userbars-81516428
“Userbar Designer” – Best Signatures/Best-Signatures.com http://www.best-signatures.com/userbar/#designer
AmitySource Userbar Generator 2.2, downloaded from UptoDown.
“Animated GIF Maker” – myspacegens/MyspaceGens.com http://www.myspacegens.com/handler.php?gen=animatedimage
“Thank You Mario! – Super Mario Brothers Animated Text Generator” – Zach Beane, Thank You Mario/WigFlip http://wigflip.com/thankyoumario/

 

HACKER’S DELIGHT: ‘123456’ tops worst password of 2013

As more and more people get online to chat, play, shop and bank, there never has been a more important time to be secure on the internet. Choosing a password is one decision that should be made very carefully, as cyber-criminals and website administrators continue to battle it out over stealing or safeguarding internet users’ details. Yet it seems that not everyone got the memo, as Irish news site thejournal.ie discovers. 

Most of us are guilty of using passwords that may be easy to remember but also easy for a hacker or disgruntled partner to crack. However some password choices really take the biscuit, as thejournal.ie reporter Michelle Hennessy uncovered. Unbelievably many still go for far from fail-safe choices like ‘123456’ and ‘password’. Slightly more witty surfers have opted for eclectic picks such as ‘monkey’ and ‘letmein’ to access their accounts.

Hackers
Hackers (Photo credit: José Goulão)

Every year, mobile data company Splashdata releases a special list of the top easy-to-break passwords used by the public. All their data comes from lists of passwords placed online by hackers who have broken into websites. Last year’s list was influenced by a daring raid on the servers of software company Adobe in which several thousand passwords were leaked onto the Web.

The list of the worst passwords to use is as follows:
1. 123456
2. password
3. 12345678
4. qwerty
5. abc123
6. 123456789
7. 111111
8. 1234567
9. iloveyou
10. adobe123
11. 123123
12. admin
13. 1234567890
14. letmein
15. photoshop
16. 1234
17. monkey
18. shadow
19. sunrise
20. 12345

Splashdata released some valuable advice to go with their top 20 worse possible choice of passwords. The company has recommended that users think up passwords with at least eight characters, and ideally aim to create a ‘pass-phrase’ rather than just a single word, using other characters and underscores to separate the words. Use a variety of characters and numbers to create your password, the more complicated, the better. Also avoid using the same password combination for multiple accounts. If a hacker gains access to one of your accounts, then this will only make life easier for them when they realise that the key fits all the locks, and this can cause untold online damage and financial losses. It also goes without saying that if one of your passwords appears in the above list, or you have one that is just as simple, you are strongly advised to change it immediately.

Be careful when surfing, as some websites and downloads carry malware and trojans that can log keystrokes and send your password to a waiting hacker. Make sure your firewall is fully turned on and check that you have a current and updated anti-virus software package present. Even if you use a common word such as ‘password’ and change the ‘o’ to a zero for example, Splashdata warns that hackers could still get in. The CEO of the company, Morgan Slain, said “Hackers can easily break into many accounts just by repeatedly trying common passwords”. Indeed a select, but growing number of enterprising password breakers have made use of customised hacking programs that can flick through an entire dictionary of words before finding the right one, often in a matter of minutes.

Even though people are encouraged to select secure, strong passwords, many people continue to choose weak, easy-to-guess ones, placing themselves at risk from fraud and identity theft.” Slain added.

Hacker inside
Hacker inside (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hackers in search of easy money and Dick Turpinesque status on the information superhighway have already made headlines last year. In December, two million passwords belonging to Facebook, Gmail and Twitter accounts were uncovered by an unknown group of hackers using a keyword logging virus and a Dutch server. The compromised accounts, which also included 6,000 remote log-ins and 41,000 credentials used to connect to File Transfer Protocol (FTP, the standard network used when transferring big files), were being illegally accessed as early as October. The sites were forced to reset all the compromised passwords.

Also in that same month, American supermarket chain Target became the victim of a serious hack in which the credit and debit card details of 40 million online grocery shoppers were swiped. That was larger than the entire population of neighbouring Canada. Earlier in 2013, dating site Cupid Media had 42 million names, emails and ‘plaintext’ passwords lifted from its profiles. The hoarded cache of personal information was found by cyber investigators located on the same server as other stolen details from  Adobe, PR Newswire, and the National White Collar Crime Center. This incident was described by technology news outlet Ars Technica as ‘one of the bigger passcode breaches on record’. The Cupid Media user records contained the usual assortment of weak passwords. More than 1.9 million accounts were protected by ‘123456’. Another 1.2 million used ‘111111’. 

SOURCES:
Half-Eaten Mind on Twitter LINK
TheJournal.ie on Twitter LINK
“Weird Wide Web: Bad passwords, printed chocolate and creepy human emojis” – Michelle Hennessy, thejournal.ie/Journal Media (26 January 2014) LINK
“’123456′ tops list of worst passwords of 2013” – Quinton O Reilly, Business ETC/Journal Media (20 January 2014) LINK
“New study finds the 25 worst internet passwords” – thejournal.ie/Journal Media (20 November 2011) LINK
“2 million Facebook, Gmail and Twitter passwords stolen in massive hack” – Jose Pagliery, CNNMoney/Cable News Network. A Time Warner Company (4 December 2013) LINK
“2013 was a very hacked year” – Dave Neal, The Inquirer/Incisive Media Investments Limited (26 December 2013) LINK
“Hack of Cupid Media dating website exposes 42 million plaintext passwords” – Dan Goodin, Ars Technica/Condé Nast  (20 November 2013) LINK
“What is internet security?” – BBC Webwise Learning and Knowledge Beta, BBC (6 June 2013) LINK 

 

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