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.
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.
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!!
“Our stats helper monkeys have been busy putting together a personalized report detailing how your blog did in 2014!”
Our annual report for 2014 is now available for viewing, courtesy of the Half-Eaten Mind’s hosting service, WordPress.
The Half-Eaten Mind saw an astonishing 39,000 views over all categories and articles in 2014. That’s enough to cover 14 sold-out performances at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. The 1st of January, 2014 (New Year’s Day) was our busiest yet for views, with 2,042 viewings, buoyed by our New Year’s wallpaper specials. 14,806 views originated in the United States, 8,104 here at home in Britain, and in third place, India, with 3,699 views to the blog.
2014 has been a year of massive growth here at HEM, and I’ve picked up a few useful skills and blog improvements along the way. We doubled our weekend schedule, and made many new friends as well.
Cheers on a great 2014!! 🙂
View the HEM WordPress Annual Report for 2014 here:-
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.
It is with heavy heart and deep sadness that we mourn the passing away of Ajay Mody, also known as Ajaytao, blogger of “Ajaytao2010” and the “Ajaytao Botanical Photography” blogs. He left this world on the 10th August 2014 after a short illness at his home in Mumbai, India.
Ajay was an incredible blogger, a great friend and a proud Mumbaikar. I was humbled, yet reassured, by his kind and spiritual take on life. His imagery was moving and beautiful. He loved nature, loved children and loved life. He has been a great blogger and a firmly loyal friend to many of us.
United by a common knowledge of Gujarati language and our love for blogging, I first encountered Ajay in April 2013 after I stumbled across his blog, possibly after he had visited one of my articles and liked them. The simple imagery of flowers, exotic birds and the kindly smile of a young neighbour on her favourite tricycle that was the highlight of Ajaytao 2010 in those early days of our friendship soon warmed my heart to what I appreciated as a kind and gentle soul. I related to Ajay as a fellow introvert and a keen photographer, and soon developed a respect for him as an elder brother. It was no surprise that I took to calling him “Ajaybhai” – literally “Brother Ajay”. In our first conversation, responding to comments left by him on my blog’s information page, he complimented my rather derisory attempt at speaking Gujarati, and always addressed me too as his brother and friend.
Apart from his sheer talent as a blogger, Ajay also struck me with his generosity and support for the Half-Eaten Mind as we marked our second year of operations. He often sent various blogging awards my way, and indeed probably a third of the awards we picked up were thanks to my new and illustrious elder brother in the blogosphere. His comments were sweet and reassuring, but he did not hold back from telling me I made a mistake if I did. But this was rare, and never in a harsh voice, but merely to guide and notify. I looked up to him, the way he blended powerful imagery with quotes from the famous and the historical, and was slightly jealous, in an admirable way, of the many hundreds of followers he had acquired. Ajay was someone I looked up to and aspired to be like.
Ajay made many friends and supporters during his few years blogging. He was probably one of the most enthusiastic and patient bloggers I have met in my more than two years at WordPress. Yet he was never an overly proud man. Obviously brimming with a talent and wit that was apparent as soon as you visited his site, Ajay always expressed himself boldly but in another way, was quite understating in the skills and mastery of language and visual that he had. Many of his images were profound and detailed, yet were calming. Glimpses into the beauty of nature. Ajay must have made quite an impact on behalf of the world battle to safeguard the environment beyond his laptop and camera.
The last time I wrote to Ajay was a day before his passing, when he posted an article on his worsening health. I knew that Ajay was advanced in his years and had a heavy blogging schedule, yet always kept things going on Ajaytao2010. Only a few weeks previously, he had started two more blogs and was branching out into one of them, which was a homage, an online gallery of his invitingly vivid photography of plants. Botany was one of Ajay’s pet loves, and one which he could happily wipe Magnus Magnusson over the studio floor with had he ever appeared on Mastermind. Unfortunately old age did take its toll on my good friend and he was confined to home due to a cardiac issue. Though his heart troubled him, he made happiness blossom in all our hearts. His dedication to blogging was so strong, that even though the doctor handling his condition advised him against using the computer, Ajaybhai still wanted to give it his all to the thousands of fellow bloggers lovingly following his every post. I told Ajay, in that friendly jokey joshing way that we Mauritians always do, that his doctor must have surely made a mistake and that he should get a second opinion. I wished him a speedy recovery and glowing health…as you do.
I am still reeling from the shock as I type this. I am tearing up but trying to keep a brave face. I was not even aware of Ajay’s departure from this world until I visited another blogging friend, Serena, and saw on her site her own dedication to this shining bright light of the blogging world.
I can understand that he passed away from a heart attack brought on by the protracted illness on that Sunday morning with his friends and brother passing on the sad news to those who had called Ajay’s home in Mumbai to check up on him.
Dearest Ajaybhai. Thank you for supporting me and inspiring me to reach new heights and for your steadfast support for my little east London blog. Your kindness and motivation, direct or indirect, was one of the reasons that I knew blogging would always be a part of my life. You were always a bright star illuminating the community and though the light here on earth has been extinguished, I know that now you are brightening up the heavens. May God/Bhagavan give you eternal Moksha and liberate your soul from all suffering and I offer my deepest condolences to all of your family and friends in this saddest of times.
Goodbye, Ajaybhai, my friend. May the heavenly flowers fill your heart with joy as much as the ones on Earth did.
On the 7th of July, 2014 (this past Monday) the Half-Eaten Mind has been kindly blessed with its first peer-offered blogging award since May. The Versatile Blogger Award, complete with a special trophy badge, was awarded by a good friend, Kim Gosselin, who writes on the blog “Chronic Conditions & Life Lessons“. We would like to humbly thank Kim for considering this blog to be adorned with a very fine and shining gold accolade.
Kim’s blog consists of a series of articles revolving around her family, parenthood, life issues and general observations. Born in the northern American state of Michigan, home to big lakes and big cars, Kim is the eldest of five children. Deeply family-oriented, she lives her life without prejudice and celebrates the diversity of the world around her. Her hobbies are many and wide-ranging, running the gamut from films, travelling, nature,and spending time with her family and friends, to morning coffees, reading, writing, mentoring, music and the theatre.
She married in her twenties and is blessed with two sons. While her children have always brought her joy and happiness, she has also had to be a strong mother in that her boys both were diagnosed with chronic conditions, namely Type A diabetes and asthma. She has used her writing talents to produce books for other mothers in her social circle to help them better understand raising and understanding children with such impacting health issues. She is also a grandmother to a baby girl and boy. Her life experiences and writing skills, honed as a self-employed business owner/children’s author of 16 titles and 26 other published works, were brought into the online world in October 2013, when she began acquainting herself with the blogging platform WordPress, and “Chronic Conditions & Life Lessons” eventually took shape.
“To my surprise the words came spewing out. Not like the books I used to write for children years ago. Instead, a whole new voice burst forth from inside my head. I couldn’t sleep at night or wait to get up before the sun would rise. With coffee by my side, I’d hunt for letters on my keyboard in the moon of the morning. Passion hooked me once again!“
– Kim Gosselin
Kim received her award from Susanne Leist at http://susanneleist.wordpress.com/. Kim described this award as “beautiful in gold, tall and true, it is a symbol of support and admiration for my work”. Unlike other versions of the Versatile Blogger award badge, which feature old-fashioned print graphics, Kim’s version from her friend Susanne depicts a golden trophy engraved with the name of the award. It is quite like the little trophies you might get for winning a class football tournament at school.
1. I must be the luckiest man in the world when it comes to buying lunch at work, as my office sits directly above a Sainsbury’s supermarket. I therefore do not have to walk very far to get snacked up on sandwiches, chocolates, fruits or whatever I feel like, within Sainsbury’s remit.
2. I’m normally a quiet person, but I can talk for ages and ages until my mouth gives up on me.
3. I’ve recently got the hang of cooking rice. A very useful skill if you’re half South Asian.
4. I am very fascinated by the ins and outs of journalism, especially the latest developments in it. It is the career I studied for at university and why I have this blog.
5. I am very fussy about cleanliness and personal hygiene, but will leave stuff all over my room’s floor.
6. I was recently stung by a wasp on my way to work. It somehow found itself between my vest and stomach and discharged its sting as my clothing rubbed on it while I was walking. It stung like hell, before the insect, which was probably at the end of its lifespan anyway, fell to the pavement. Talk about going out with a bang!
7. At my workplace, there are two ladies who seem to have crushes on me. Both are redheads (one is more ginger). I also had a stalker who pretty much obsessed over me for four years. I gave her short shrift.
Nominate 15 Deserving Bloggers for This Prestigious Award
Congratulations to all the lucky recipients of the Versatile Blogger Award. It is not incumbent upon you to accept, but it is my way of showing gratitude for your support and just for being cool people really.
All nominees were chosen from recent likes on my blog around 6th to 7th June.
Kim Gosselin would like to state for the record, that she sold her children’s publishing company back in 2000. Although she retained author’s copyrights, she does not receive royalty fees, etc.
Recently the Half-Eaten Mind suffered what could well be described as the biggest crisis in its two-year existence. For more than two days, over the course of last weekend (28-29 June 2014), the blog was taken offline after allegedly violating the terms and conditions of usage concerning its hosting blog platform, WordPress.
The blog did not finally rejoin the Internet until the following Monday, when this article was begun in draft form. This is the story of how the partially digested brain was almost silenced for good, as told by blog owner and editor Vijay Shah. He produced this article to celebrate the blog returning but also as an educational article and a bit of hopefully helpful reassurance for any other blogger out there who ever experiences the same issue. While researching the problem, the author found several articles by other bloggers who had their sites suspended and he thought to write this post as a way of passing on the good deed they did in giving him a sliver of hope.
Friday 27/6/14:I had done my usual thing of perusing news sources on Twitter looking for that next big scoop. I was nearing the end of a two-week hiatus from work. A badly needed break from the usual stress of customer service checks, tonnes of data in little virtual yellow folders and general office politics, and a chance to work full-time on the Half-Eaten Mind. Originally I was planning not to post anything that day, as I was going to get ready and visit my mother’s place later on, but changed my mind after I was told that the visit may have had to be cancelled. So I switched on my laptop and began typing up the news story for that day, which concerned a west African government signing a contract with a PR company to fix up its reputation in the wake of a huge scandal that rocked that region. I then got the all-clear to go to my Mum’s after all. I stopped typing the article and put the laptop on standby. I then left the house around 5:00 pm and got on the 241 bus at Balaam Street, Plaistow, to travel onwards to Stratford station.
I returned home about 11:15 pm after being dropped off by a family friend and resumed working on the story. Once done, I did my other usual thing of formatting the article’s layout and putting in related articles from the Zemanta plugin. It seemed to be yet another event-free publishing session at the Half-Eaten Mind office. Nothing out of the usual. Not even a picture overflowing the page or a irrelevant link that needed pruning. I hit that little orange ‘Publish‘ button and waited for the article to go online. It published as always, but instead of seeing the article as normal. I was confronted with a grey screen and a message…
“halfeatenmind.wordpress.com is no longer available. This blog has been archived or suspended for a violation of our Terms of Service. For more information and to contact us please read the message in your dashboard.”
A facial expression blended fifty-fifty between confusion and fear immediately took up position on the front of my head. I just sat there in my knackered old swivel chair thinking what on earth I could have done. I tried a few things to bring my blog onto the screen but it was not happening. Reading the message made me think. Did I do something that bad that my blog was simply shuttered….shut down?. Violation? Terms of Service?. I felt like I had been labelled a criminal. The really annoying thing was that I had no idea what crime it was I had committed. Still somewhat shocked and panicky, I immediately began frantically searching on Google for an answer to the situation. Unfortunately I was so out of it that I could not think straight. Frustration and annoyance blew like cyclone wind over my huddled frame as the weekend closed in and my eyelids got heavier. In two years of blogging, I never had an issue as profound as this. Had I pissed someone off? Was my humble news site a victim of bored spotty hackers looking for kicks. I didn’t have a Scooby!.
About an hour later, my blogging friend and regular site visitor Alex, sent me a tweet asking me what had happened to my blog.
Before long, Alex’s tweet was in turn picked up by my youngest sister Anjali who also inquired as to what happened to the Half-Eaten One. Clearly people I knew and loved were seeing this was something out of the ordinary. I had a lot of explaining to do.
I was certainly annoyed that my blog was shut down without any prior notice and with no warning given, and that the filler page that now occupied the space where my blog had been was going to be visible to everyone. I had seen that page before on other obsolete blogs and when I saw that online version of a boarded-up shop window, I immediately assumed that they had done something ‘real bad’ to get their blog binned like that. So understandably I was ‘bricking it’ with concern. It was now coming to one o’clock in the morning and I was just too tired and aggrieved to do any more research on the matter. After sending two emails to the WordPress Terms of Service team via the link in the red-box warning notice slapped on my dashboard, whereby I copied and pasted the text now condemning me to blogging oblivion from my now defunct site, I decided to get some sleep. I felt as miserable as the drab shade of grey splashed all over the ‘out of service’ page where my blog used to be. I didn’t get very much sleep that night. That’s what worrying does to me.
Saturday 28/6/14: I got up at around 9.45 am and still half-asleep, switched on my mobile phone which I had tucked into bed with me close to the pillow the night before, as per usual. I waited for that stupid Samsung welcome graphic to get lost and opened up the Firefox browser. I looked at my website and disappointingly, it hadn’t changed one bit from last night, just it was now on a smaller screen. Teeth-gritting time. I got showered, got ready and headed to the local Iceland supermarket to perform the ritual of the weekly food shopping. In this distressing time, I needed to keep a semblance of normality. When I got back from the trip, I powered the laptop on as well and began doing some extensive research into the reason HEM got put on ice.
I was already well aware that my blog was apparently taken down and archived as I was in violation of some rules, so I began reading said rules to try and find an answer. The WordPress terms of service (linked to at the bottom of this article) are essentially the do’s and don’t’s of using the blogging platform that everyone compulsorily signs up on when they begin blogging with WordPress. They are designed to not only protect WordPress from any likely harm brought on by tricksters and other odious types, but to also make the blogging experience better for everyone. I won’t go into too much detail here but briefly summarising, the TOS covers aspects such as the usage of the software provided for the blog, and the responsibility of contributors; including avoiding extremely controversial material, viruses and naming blogs in impersonation of another company. The Terms then go on to list regulations on payments and renewals, VIP blogging services and issues surrounding things like advertising, domain names, intellectual property and copyrights. Thankfully it is not written in a hodge-podge of gobby legalese and is fairly accessible to your average English-speaking person with a brain. Even one with a half-eaten one, it seems.
I also had a look at the page on types of blogs normally hosted by WP to give me a flavour of what’s not good for their system and to see where I went wrong. From what I gathered, WP hate the following kinds of blogs:
Scraper blogs that simply swipe content from other blogs and mainstream sites and reproduce them wholesale. That really annoys them… “If a blog contains stolen content, it’s gone!“.
SEO blogs which are designed to cheat search engines and propel themselves to the top of search results without carrying a smidgen of meaningful human-written content. You can also apply keyword stuffing and blogs that simply are a jumbled directory of links – usually to crappy things like illicit pills, enhancers and associated bull.
Warez blogs which carry illegally copied or downloaded content – music, films, football matches etc. or offer links to sites carrying such content. That can get WP into serious legal problems from those trying to fight piracy and protect copyrights.
Automated blogs that are cooked up by bots/computers and are packed with mass-produced or generic content and not much else.
So I had a good idea of what stuff was definitely fit for the virtual bin as far as my blog provider was concerned. The problem was, none of these things applied to my blog. It’s a news magazine, with a bit of personal blog on the side. No dodgy stuff. I was not out to defraud anyone. I did not feel like I did anything wrong. It was rather like I had been put in trouble for something I may or may not have done, yet I had no idea what it was. You could be anecdotal and say this was the equivalent of a police officer arresting someone, handcuffing them and then placing them in a cell for breaking the law. But in this case, the arrested has no idea what crime they committed and when they ask the cop what exactly they had been brought in for, the officer simply proffers a handbook of criminal law and tells them to read it and figure it out for themselves. I even felt the suspension notice had in a way, presumed me guilty before innocent. It did feel that way a lot.
Luckily, unlike the officer who wouldn’t even bother fetching you a cup of tea but just sit there jabbing his finger into your chest all day (proverbially), WP did offer one concessionary olive branch. The option of downloading your blog as a ‘XML Export file’ and saving it onto your computer. With this file, you can open up another blog, either on another free blogging service or a self-hosted blog via the WordPress.org blog software package. You would however have to buy your own domain name (URL) and that would involve paying for it directly, plus monthly hosting fees. By now I was quite desperate, and therefore readily stomached the pain of having to now part with cold hard dutty cash for my blog’s upkeep. A small sacrifice I thought and many bloggers do it without compulsion as it gives them more leeway and freedom with their blogs, including widgets and advertising. I saved the export file in three different places to be on the safe side, one on my USB drive alongside my blog images, one on my computer and one which I emailled to myself. Better safe than sorry.
In the course of my research online, I learnt a few things, which gave me significant hope and positive thoughts, but also opened my eyes to people’s despair, anger and frustration. Firstly I came to realise from reading other accounts of blog suspension that every day, WP uses a filtering bot that looks out for a certain something that rhymes with ‘ham’. It seemed that this filter was quite overzealous as I soon learnt. One man, a homeless person from Vancouver in Canada, had blogged about a Russian group that was launching attacks using the electronic messaging whose name rhymes with ‘ham’. He mentioned the group by their name and his blog got suspended, taken him by utter surprise. Another writer had mentioned a new dieting pill. They fell victim to the bot too. Of course not everyone was so innocent. Several bloggers got into small amounts of trouble over hosting ads or banners on their sites, which contravenes WP rules. The WP equivalent of a small tap on the wrist and a “don’t do that again!!”. Nevertheless some people were not getting away so lightly. One blogger was told in no certain terms that he did not deserve his blog being reinstated because he had hosted links to illegal streams of cricket matches. I also discovered that bloggers could also be suspended for copyright violations and plagiarism. I was concerned that that might have been a cause, though I rewrite dramatically all news articles cited here and studiously only make use of copyright waived images to spice up the articles. The more I read, the more I realised I might have been tripped up by the anti-‘ham’ filter. The same generic message from the TOS team kept appearing, as bloggers celebrated the liberation of their babies from binary code-ringed purgatory and henceforth pardoned from death by deletion from WP servers.
I was still quite scared. WP state without ambiguity that any blogs that broke the rules would be terminated. They had the right to seize your content and not return it to you. Your URL would be confiscated and would also be dealt with as well. But on the reprieving side, if there was a mistake, your blog would be restored with full honours and everything intact. For a small minority, they would simply be asked to remove the offending content and as long as they played ball and followed instructions properly, everything would be okay. Only in extreme cases were blogs destroyed with no hope of return.
I spent a lot of time reading the WP support forums, although I could not post on them for help myself. My forum posting privileges were also revoked. I never really posted anything on those forums and very occasionally read them, but at one point I really wanted to get some help from the support people. I saw a lot of other bloggers with the same problem. Alas, the support staff, who are unpaid volunteers, were strictly forbidden to discuss TOS violations and simply told everyone to send the emails to TOS crew via the big red suspension notice. Fat lot of good that was going to be for me, I thought. However while it was not nice to read other bloggers gripes at their blogs getting mothballed – indeed it was the WP equivalent of listening to sick people cough and groan in a hospital accident and emergency ward, but with better tasting cappucinos – I found some diamonds of hope amid the dirt of despair. I saw the comments of one forum contributor, a mysterious fellow named ‘raincoaster’ whose sole calling card was a blue symbol of an Egyptian hieroglyph, an eye. He was a journalist who blogged on issues concerning ‘ham’ and ‘packing’ (as in words that rhyme with certain virtual abuses) in technology. Apparently due to their subject matter ‘raincoaster’ had been suspended ‘numerous’ times. He or she did not say how many exactly or what exactly for, but it gave credence to my theory that I had been caught up by a bot. I kept thinking that perhaps the several Facebook links I had cited as image credits for a recent article I wrote on Luis Suarez biting memes might have been the culprit…or the article I posted just before bloggy went bye-bye. It did mention a west African country synonymous with the notorious ‘419’ ham, there were verbal depictions of governments and ministers and sums of money were also included. To an unthinking filtration bot, devoid of any awareness of context in an article, this piece would have sounded just like those stupid ham emails everyone gets from some relative of a rich prince who needs their bank details to send them a juicy payment by Western Union or something. Anti-ham bot got shifty, flagged the Mind and it was closing time. The End. Or was it really?. As I read on, I became more confident that I w0uld be back.
I also discovered:
That based on other bloggers’ accounts, a reply back from WP TOS staff could take anywhere between a few hours to one week, in one unlucky writer’s case. From that I deduced that the average waiting time was one to two days, depending on the workload of the TOS team. They do have meetings like many people in the tech geek industry and do not operate on weekends, so if you get pulled over on a Friday night, as I did, you’re in for a bit of a wait. Please take a numbered ticket and choose a seat. Thank you. Also as WordPress HQ is in California, USA they may respond to your help request at unsociable hours. I was until then hoping that they had an office in the UK, India or somewhere closer to my timezone, but nope, unfortunately not.
That you have to be patient when expecting a response to your suspension email. They will get back to you. Once you fill out the form on the link in the suspension notice, they will receive it. Do not keep sending emails though, as it will drop you down the queue, which is not great if they are busy. Older tickets get dealt with first.
Most bloggers seemed to have fallen foul of the bot.
Volunteers on the support forums cannot help you beyond the basics and are heavily reliant on copy-and-paste answers. Some do occasionally offer pearls of wisdom and advice and sometimes staff such as CSS experts and ‘happiness engineers’ will make appearances. However, this is rare as an intoxicated dragon high off crystal meth while breakdancing in the Ministry of Sound nightclub. The volunteers generally seem equally useless and helpless, their hands of course being bound by the state. I especially felt sorry for one college student who posted on the forums and who had made a project using a blog, only to see it suspended and inaccessible a day before she was meant to hand it in to the lecturer. No word on her fate…or grades.
People who have imported their blogs from other platforms or just opened new blogs have found themselves locked out of them, before even applying their first new article.
Some bloggers were so annoyed at their suspensions that they decided to ditch the free WordPress altogether and go paid mode or shift allegiance to Blogger or website hosts.
That in addition to enabling the suspended to download their blogs in XML format, WP do also kindly offer a handful of recommended hosting services at low, low prices – such as GoDaddy and Hostgator, so if you don’t get your blog back you at least have somewhere else to start afresh.
That WP do not send out warning emails before suspension, partly as many bloggers have not updated the emails they use for site registration when they change address, but also that there’s no guarantee that the warning will be read. It might end up in a junk folder or be willfully ignored. Arguably though, they are a bit steep to then assume that that they should not have to send out these emails because bloggers don’t warn them that they are about to infringe the TOS. But what if the blogger didn’t even realise the infringement?
If you are suspended, you can still peruse the forums but CANNOT post on them, unless you create a backup account or have spare one lying around for logging in to.
WP prefer to be contacted by email through the appropriate channels. The owner of the platform, Automattic Inc, make it explicit on their site not to be telephoned about complaints and subscriptions. The same applies for postal enquiries.
As WP was shut for the weekend, I could do nothing but sit and wait. Granted at least without any posting to do, I had time for other things. I even had a spare hour to read a novel, but it felt unnatural not having a blog to update. It was like losing a body part. You can still carry on with life, but you know something is missing and you sense it. Okay, so I am a tad exaggerating here, but if you’re a serious blogger like I am, doing it for the love and not the money, you might be able to understand where I’m coming from. Still I was worried my blog would not see the light of the laptop screen for good. I was thinking of all the accounts and sites belonging to me that mentioned the blog, such as the HEM Twitter feed, Flickr Page etc. The blog was on my LinkedIn profile and even mentioned on the CV I use to apply for journalism vacancies. If the blog closed down, then the associated accounts would be like broken anchors stuck out at sea, with no ship to reel them in. I would have to close them all down, and I solemnly and sadly vowed that if I could not get HEM back, I would never blog again. There was no way I could start all over after two years of effort, hard work and memories. I thought of the collaborators I worked with and all the followers. They would see their contributions and favourite articles vanish, probably forever. I needed this blog for my future. Without it, reaching that dream and having that focus in life would be a bit harder.
Monday 30/6/14: It was my first day back at work. While I was happy to see my friends and colleagues again, the pronounced and heartfelt absence of my dearly beloved was still sitting like a pile of bricks at the back of my head. I was hoping that once the WP team started work at 9 am Pacific time (US); which is around 4 pm (UK) time over here, then they would sort out the suspension. I wasn’t expecting a quick reply though and thought how funny it would be to get a reply in the middle of the night or something.
In between spare bits of time, I checked my blog email account to see if by any chance it had come through. Nope, nothing. I decided to stop harassing the Hotmail…sorry, Outlook, and wait till 4:00 to check again. I did then check at exactly four. The sacred email had failed to bless my inbox with its presence. Disappointed was an understatement. Okay so I assume this email will be arriving on a late-night delivery service then?….but then, just as I was about to finish work for the day, I made one last checkup on the HEM inbox until I packed up the desk to travel homewards, and there it was. An email from WordPress. For ticket number 1878220, received at 5.24 pm. Happy days!!. Indeed I was so exuberantly animated I felt like spontaneously cheering, but that would have only subjected me to strange looks from the office. I quietly punched the air in delight as I read the email, which was an automatic generic email sent by ‘Community Guardian’ Cat, who I am very grateful to for bailing out my blog. Thanks a million, Cat. You’re our Half-Eaten Mind Heroine. I checked on my blog, and aside from having to clear the browser cookies and cache, and some initial slowness with the blog’s components loading up (although this could be because of my woefully crap home wi-fi connection), everything was looking great.
Thank you for getting in touch. Your site was flagged by our automated anti-s**m controls. We have reviewed your site and have removed the suspension notice.
We greatly apologize for this error and any inconvenience it may have caused. Cat | Community Guardian | WordPress.com
So indeed I was rather right after all. Just a rowdy bot with an over-eager attitude. The TOS Reports staff had a look at the Mind, decided the coast was clear, and set me free.
To be honest, there were times when I wanted to curse WP in a fiery apocalyptic storm of choice expletives for their brutal application of the suspension, but at the same time I now feel that you cannot really take out your frustrations on a mindless bot that just cannot figure out a bit of context. Without that bot, WordPress would be a minefield of dodgy sites and spurious troublemakers, which fellow blog platform Blogger is said to be constantly afflicted by. It is good that WP are looking out for bloggers and ensuring everyone’s online safety, for them, their blogs and possibly their wallets/purses too. I just think it would be a better idea if WP could at least inform the blogger in advance that their site is under suspicion or scrutiny and maybe instead of suspending the whole thing, it would more advisable and appear less dictatorial to simply just continue giving the suspect access to their site, but for example, stopping them from placing up new posts.
If you have just had your blog suspended and are looking online for a solution or some answers, I hope that this article will have helped you. If not, or if you were like me and desperate to find more information, I am also enclosing these links to various WP pages and accounts of the stresses and strains of dealing with blog suspension. These are all from other unconnected bloggers, who eventually made it back from the brink, and lived to tell the blogging story of how they weathered their shutdowns.
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.
When it comes to creativity and just making things happen, I’m a bit of a ‘night owl’. That doesn’t mean growing feathers, hooting like an idiot and silently divebombing the local drunkards. But it does explain why we have an owl for the blog‘s mascot. What I really mean is that some of my best ideas, thoughts and plans come to me in the dead of night, when everything is quiet and I’ve got me a space to think.
It was exactly such a night only yesterday that an idea that had brewed around in my mind finally took a concrete form. For a while I have mulled over creating another header for the Half-Eaten Mind, especially once I had confirmed that the Mystique theme that HEM uses could support multiple headers. Now don’t get me wrong, the old header with the dawn sky and tower blocks is good as gold. That image and its reincarnations have been there right from the blog’s start and there is no question of ever letting that go. But now and then I’d like to give the blog a small tweak. Try out new things and move the furniture around a bit.
So last night, I had one of my brainwaves after finding I had a lot of spare time suddenly available on a Friday night, so began sifting through the Images of the Internet looking for the perfect ingredients for that perfect header. As the visual idea of my new project churned around and ran circles in my mind like a ferret on LSD, I was chucking stuff into piZap, the photo-editing software (comes highly recommended by our Woodsy the owl) and then after about thirty minutes….my mind (with loyal assistance from my laptop) gave birth to this….
My theme for this header is London, by the way. To give you an understanding of how this design came about, let’s take each of the individual parts in turn and I’ll explain why I used them.
BACKGROUND IMAGE (THE BRIDGE):
The Half-Eaten Mind is based in London, so in keeping with this, I wanted to use an image that is quintessentially all London, but one that both Londoners and people from beyond the M25 motorway would both understand and relate to. I wanted something that would be attractive and bold, yet not liable to get me slammed down with a copyright infringement notice. I found the image I needed on a free wallpapers site. It depicts the Tower Bridge, one of London’s most iconic bridges, a formidable landmark spanning the great river Thames. The bridge looks especially captivating at dusk and night, lit up with floodlights that accentuate the masonry of the structure’s supports. Here the stony hues of the bridge and its yellowish lighting makes a strong, but not overwhelming, contrast with the sky above. Though often a grey concrete jungle when it feels temperamental, London has the ability to really impress with its crown jewels of amazing architecture, where medieval and Victorian rub shoulders with the latest skyscraper project by the Foster Brothers or Zawa Hadid.
The ideal image setting for the Mystique template used in this blog is 940 x 200 pixels. I used a site named picresize, which calls itself the ‘Internet’s best picture resizing tool’ to achieve this. I just uploaded the picture, entered the dimensions, and once the preview was good, downloaded it again before exporting it to the Flash editor in piZap. I did make one minor miscalculation though. I had set the Tower Bridge picture at a length of 960 pixels, 20 pixels overboard. That meant when the final header was done and I uploaded it to the WordPress customiser, I had to crop it a bit, but thankfully without any detriment to the design.
THE BLOG ROAD SIGN:
Again fitting in with the London theme, I decided against using the text normally supplied with piZap and opted to create a logo for the blog which used something that could be customised and look cool. I decided to base the logo on a road or street sign, but not something clichéd. I first thought about motorway signs, but could not find a suitable site to make them on. I changed my focus to road name signs, of which London has plenty, with each borough using its own format/style. During my Google research, I stumbled across this site ‘MyFunStudio‘ by Marijn Kampf. MyFunStudio comes with a special custom ‘London Street Sign’ maker where you can enter your own details and choose font and border colours and create your own take on the iconic central London road nameplate. The style that the customiser uses is the standard used by the city of Westminster and other parts of central London. These street signs, though relatively minimalist in design, have transcended their original purpose and have become synonymous with olde London Towne for many a visitor. Indeed many of the postcard sellers there market cards that simply feature the road sign, usually of a famous throughfare like Oxford Street or Pall Mall.
Using the site’s pre-existing template, I ditched the road name in favour of my blog’s name. The real-life signs carry a set of numbers and letters which are the postal district where the sign is located. The bottom of each sign also displays the issuing authority, the city of Westminster. I changed all that to make the logo geographically relevant to me. So WC2 became E13, the postal district I reside in, and “CITY OF WESTMINSTER” was transformed into “LONDON BOROUGH OF NEWHAM” the borough (local government urban district) where I live. By the way, the Newham road signs look nothing like the sign above. They also show the postal district and use a similar colour scheme, but feature the Newham borough coat of arms on the left-hand side.
THE FLAG ICONS:
They’re a tad on the small side, but if you look to the right of the header, you’ll see three small flags, equally spaced apart. They are in turn, the Union Flag (Union Jack), the banner of the United Kingdom; then in the middle the flag of Mauritius; and lastly the St. George’s flag that represents England in particular. The Union Flag is of course a nod to both my and my blog’s nationality. Please note though that HEM does have an international focus in news stories and a wide-ranging readership from across the globe, so this isn’t an expression of any nationalistic fervour. The Mauritian flag is a homage to my mother’s country of birth and an important part of my personal cultural identity. The English flag was also chosen for similar reasons – as a marker of both personal and a greater regional identity personally, and as a small acknowledgement of respect for the country of my birth. I was in fact born in the Greater London area (the city itself plus suburbs and annexed bits of surrounding counties).
The new header will run concurrently with the old one. When using the site, you will find that if you click on another page or article that the headers change. A third header with a solely news-related theme is in the pipeline, and may be available as early as next week, time permitting.
The Half-Eaten Mind previously reported (last weekend) on the return of fellow blogger Alex Smithson, who runs photography and news blog “Mother Nature”.
As mentioned previously, Alex had taken five months’ break from blogging due to important exams and was planning to return to blogging activities on the 1st of July, 2014.
Yesterday night, I was informed by Alex that a sudden change has been made to the plan. Mother Nature will now be restarted on the 25th of June, 2014, which is around three weeks from now. The 1st July will instead mark a massive redesign of Mother Nature, which regularly adopts new themes provided by WordPress, its blogging technology supplier.
Alex has expressed considerably joy at his forthcoming return to blogging, adding in our conversation that he was “actually excited about blogging again, I’ve missed it a lot“. As part of the redesign, Alex will be releasing a brand new header image which will go live in July. He ultimately is keeping the secrets firmly sealed as he wishes to keep this blog’s writer, other bloggers and the blog’s visitors firmly guessing as to what he has planned for Mother Nature.
In an answer to a request from the one-man editorial staff at the Half-Eaten Mind offices in Plaistow, in London’s eastern reaches, Alex has kindly supplied some graphics for the big launch this July. The image pack, picked up via his Twitter feed includes the website’s new logo, designed by the young Croydon nature aficionado himself. In addition to the rebranding, Alex also plans to move beyond his blog’s original remit as a photography site and begin reporting news on the hour. Before his temporary break, Alex had honed his journalism skills covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
About five months ago, a leading light in the HEM Community, young blogger and avid photographer Alex Smithson took an extended hiatus from blogging to concentrate on revising/preparations for his GCSEs. These are all-important end-of-school examinations taken by students in the UK as they approach their 16th birthday.
Now with exams finally out of the way and stress finally out of the system,Croydon–based Alex will be making a long-awaited return to blogging and taking amazing views of the world through his blog “Mother Nature” http://asterisk15.wordpress.com/.
Alex will be returning to full time blogging on the July 1st, 2014, just as the British summer really begins to kick in, affording ample opportunities for Alex to add to his repertoire of pictures on his blog, much of which involves detailed depictions of local wildlife and urban locations, including much photography in the botanical vein.
He has released some promotional materials that being a good friend and fellow blogger, I have shared these with you all as a congratulations for Alex on his comeback and to help him promote his blog to a wider audience.
Using the open-source GIMPgraphics software, Alex even created this cool “Under Construction” sign as he will soon be selecting a new theme to mark the refurbishment of Mother Nature.
This is Alex’s website as it is now (May 2014) before his refurbishment and new theme kicks into action. I prepared this image using the Snipping Tool feature which I have recently learnt to use on Windows computers and then uploaded to the blog’s image gallery and server from WordPress.