Changes to our writing structure

Change happens. Often change is neither good or bad, it’s just different.

Technology Bloggers logo (2.0)Here comes some good change.

When I founded Technology Bloggers almost three years ago, the idea was meant to be a blog that was built by a community of people. We did have a good diverse mix of writers, however over time quality started to dip and many writers only wrote one post – which was not the aim. As you may have noticed, it is only really myself and Jonny who post now, as bringing new talent through takes such a long time.

One of the advantages I have now is that I understand blogging a lot better, and this has helped me to step back and look at the system we have to see if it is working. It isn’t. We are getting too many applications and it is becoming hard to keep up with them all. Also, many of the applications are not what we are looking for.

Changes

Today the whole writer landscape changes. We do away with the old system of contributors, authors, editors and admins and move to a new system of guest bloggers, authors and editors. The old Write For Us page has been updated to reflect the changes, and is now called Join Us. Head over there for details on each of the new roles and how to apply.

In brief, guest bloggers are those who write one-off, special posts for the blog. They are already well respected individuals in their field and will only be posting occasionally.

Authors post more frequently and are a more visible part of the community in the long-term. Editors are those who post very regularly and also have additional responsibilities.

Everyone who has recently applied to become a contributor will soon be sent an email informing them of our new structure and asking them to check out our new structure if they want to apply. All current authors and contributors will also be contacted to let them know what we are doing.

Our cluttered Our Writers page has gone, and it has been replaced with a new page to reflect the changes. Here you will be able to find out much more about who writes for us than you could before.

Jonny Hankins Profile

Jonny’s old profile (top) and his new profile (bottom) on our new Our Writers page.

I have more (exciting) changes planned for the very near future, however I would like to know your thoughts too.

Do you feel these new changes are fair and will take us in the direction we need to go? Do you have any more suggestions or comments on anything related to the blog?

Thank you for your time, over and out.

Writing frequency

Today I pose a question: is it possible to blog on a daily basis?

It is easy to ‘scrape’ content on a daily basis, but can you write and publish a really good post every day? Jonny seems to have publishing weekly down to a tee, every week we get something new and thought provoking. 4 to 5 posts each month, every month.

I have a more erratic style of publishing, 2 posts in January, 5 in December, 1 in November, 3 in October, 5 in September, none in August – you get the picture.

I like to spend a lot of time on articles. I usually do a lot of research and background reading to try and put together an interesting, factually sound piece of work. I am a little bit of a perfectionist, which is sometimes really good, but it can be annoying. If I care about something, I like to put a lot of work into it. I care for this blog, so I want every post to be really good. Not every post I publish has or will be really good. I need to face the facts.

So, I as I am writing this I am setting myself a challenge. Write an article at least once a week and hit publish. No faffing around, just write a post and publish it every Monday.

A blog needs posts. I need to be consistent.

See you next Monday.

Over and out.

How to be a little greener

We all leave a footprint on the world, just by being alive we contribute to environmental degradation. No matter what you do, you can’t eliminate your effect (offset it maybe) on the world, but you can minimise it.

In this article I am going to look at some very simple things you can do to reduce the impact you have on the planet, making you a greener individual.

Water Usage

The amount of water we use has a big impact on the environment, as well as other people. Last April I posted an article which asked you to question your usage of water. I have included a brief summary of the article

Of all the water on earth, just 0.007% is drinkable, and whilst our usage of water and the number of people on earth are both rapidly growing, water supplies aren’t. Drought is a real issue in many areas of the world and one in nine people don’t have access to safe drinking water.

Rainwater storage tank

Wall mounted water butts are becoming more popular – a great way to collect and store rainwater.

Excessive use (and arguably wastage) of water via things like regular use of hose pipes and using water hungry appliances (like washing machines) when they have spare capacity, can easily be reduced, and can significantly decrease our water usage.

In the comments, there was some great feedback. Jonny suggested using a water butt to collect rainwater to water your garden, saying “it is really shocking to think that many people use drinking water to keep the lawn green“. Shane told us how he plays 5 minute songs when having a shower, so he know when it’s time to get out, and Jean noted how he tries to fix leaks as soon as he finds them, as they are a massive waste of water – and money!

Buy Local

Another step you can take which will reduce your carbon footprint is choosing local. In 2009, I wrote an article on the technology behind food, discussing the journey food takes, and the impact it has on the planet, getting it to our table. Although the figures might have slightly changed, the concept behind the article is still the same: buying local produce significantly reduces your carbon footprint.

Local doesn’t even have to mean that close. Ideally, within 20 miles of the shop you buy is the best sort of ‘local’, however even food that has been grown within 200 miles is much better than food that has been flown across the globe.

Local food not only promotes energy conservation, but it also supports local farmers. Farm shops are a really good place you can get local food, why not check out BigBarn, a site designed to help you find where you can get locally produced food.

Farmers shop

Farm shops are a great place to source local food.

Reuse, Repair and Recycle Technology

It is important to use technology to its full potential, and to keep using it until it is no longer viable. Once something stops working, or is no longer able to fulfil your needs, whenever possible, repair or upgrade it. If your PC is starting to run a little sluggish, try to speed it up again (maybe visit my speed up your computer article) add some more RAM, upgrade the graphics card, and consider increasing the storage capacity.

As Jonny wrote last year, electronic waste is a real problem, computer components can be hard to recycle, and are often toxic. Therefore it is important to try to reduce electronic waste, and when it does occur, ensure it is disposed or/recycled properly.

If you have reused and repaired a device as much as possible, the next step is recycling. Recycling electronic waste is a growing industry, computer recycling and schemes which enable you to recycle mobile phones, so your technology is either properly recycled, or repaired and reused, either resold locally, or distributed to developing countries are becoming ever more common. Many firms (like the one I link to above) are even paying you for your old technology – reduce your ecological footprint, and get paid, what more could you ask for!

Save Energy

There seems to be a growing resistance to nuclear power, fossil fuels are running out and this matched with the lack of investment in renewables, is leading us to a global energy crisis. Every individual can make a difference, by reducing their consumption.

Electrical energyTurning off devices instead of leaving them on standby, switching to energy bulbs, and insulate your home and relatively simple and cheap ways to save energy, which we have probably all heard many times. Steps which involve using smarter technologies, such as getting Remote Heating Control installed and choosing smarter energy using devices are also good ways to save power, and are now also becoming more common.

In Summary

Four of the best ways you can reduce your environment impact are to: be more frugal with water; try and buy local produce; maintain technology for as long as possible, and then recycle it; and reducing your energy usage.

Feel free to critique any of my points, and by all means, suggest your own ideas below.

Technology Bloggers turns 2!

Today, Technology Bloggers turns 2!

Happy Birthday Technology BloggersMany blogs get abandoned within the first year, blogs that last more than a year are rare. Blogging is said to have died and been reborn so many times, with millions of blogs, big and small falling by the wayside. But we haven’t!

Amazing growth, a growing social influence, and ranked in the top 275 technology blogs on the internet by Technorati, Technology Bloggers has had an amazing two years; and there is loads more to come!

Always striving to improve, every day we are becoming a bigger name in the technology industry.

Lets have a look at what’s happened in the last year…

Traffic

The blog has undoubtedly grown in popularity since last year. Here are some interesting visitor statistics which show the extent of our growth.

  • In year two (2012/2013) we had 65,000 unique visitors, 20k more than in year one (2011/2012)
  • Overall the number of visits were up 88% year on year
  • Year one saw 70,000 pageviews, whilst year 2 saw a staggering 64% increase to 115,000!
  • On average people spend 100 seconds (1 minute and 40 seconds) when visiting the blog

Social

Our presence on social media has significantly grown in the last year. We now post every article (title, excerpt and link) to Twitter and Facebook, as well as interesting things we find across the net, and developments – like my recent visit to the Gadget Show Live – more to come on that soon.

  • Our Facebook page has gained 246 new likes, which is a 473% increase in the last year
  • We now have 275 followers on Twitter, which is 299% up on the year 2011/2012
  • Since last year we have joined Google+ and now have 33 followers

Want to join our followers? If you subscribe you can get updates from the feed. We will only ever post something additional if we think it will interest you.

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Achievements

As a blog we have achieved far more than traffic and a strong social presence, here are some of our other great achievements:

  • Almost 4,000 comments have been posted by around 500 different commenters
  • We have 175 feed subscribers 63 of whom subscribe via email
  • We are ranked in the top 300 technology blogs in the world by Technorati (we are currently ranked 261, which is in the top 0.6% of all technology blogs in their index)
  • We were awarded British Gas’s blog of the month last April
  • We have a Google PageRank of 4 (although this doesn’t really mean very much)
  • The blog has attracted 71 different writers 24 of whom have written more than one post
  • Of our writers, 4 of them have 10 posts or more and 2 authors who have written more than 50 articles
  • Many of our writers are now claiming Google Authorship, strengthening the names behind the content on our blog

Community Awards

In the last two years, we have awarded 12 community awards in total. These awards have been given to 7 different people, with notable award winners including: Alan Tay winner of two awards; Peter Lee also winner of two awards; myself, (Christopher Roberts) winner of two awards; and Jonny Hankins who has won three awards.

2012 Community Award WinnersWinners of Technology Bloggers Community Awards - 2011

The Future

Our current growth seems to be showing no signs of slowing down, everything is just accelerating at the moment – which can be hard to manage!

In the pipeline for next year there is already a series, a competition, and loads of ideas for new posts!

Thank You

As always, thanks for playing your part in the community. Without you we couldn’t operate. Read, write or comment, everyone is important and everyone is part of the community.

Thank you everyone, here’s to another great year :-)

By the way, this is our 400th post!

One blog, two perspectives

Technology Bloggers has two types of community members, those who read and those who write – some people do both.

For a long time now, those who contribute articles to the blog, and those who read those contributions, have seen the blog in the same way.

Not anymore.

Thanks to a clever bit of coding and a plugin or two, logged in users, now see a different blog to those who are logged out.

One of the major differences is advertisements. As you know we sometimes host advertisements on the sidebar or in the footer of the blog, in order to help fund the maintenance of the blog – someone has to pay the bills!

Logged in users still see sponsored editorials and writers personal AdSense units, however they no longer see sidebar/footer promotions. Also, logged in users get ‘behind the scenes’ information an updates that normal users don’t need to see.

For an example, see the image below.

Logged in vs standard users footer view

What Technology Bloggers homepage footer currently looks like for normal readers and logged in users.

For search engine optimisation reasons, I have been trying to remove links from the blog’s design (specifically sidebar and footer) as too many links can look spammy, and throw PageRank in all directions. Fewer links means those pages that are linked to (both internal and external) carry greater authority.

So, if you are a writer, check out your sidebar and footer, as it is different to when you are not logged in. Even if you don’t have an account, take a look at the sidebar and footer, as there is some really interesting stuff which you might find useful there!

On a slightly different note, our prodigy (well he did win the 2012 ‘Rising Star’ community award) Jonny Hankins is currently learning more about our commenting systems, via Technology Bloggers Progression Academy – a new initiative I am developing – with the aim to have him modifying comments, and therefore being promoted to the status of Editor (Level 1), in the very near future.

Hopefully we can get more writers moderating their own comments too soon. Technology Bloggers Progression Academy material is currently being tested on our guinea pig – also Mr Hankins!

Quality vs quantity – the blogging dilemma

When I write, I want to write quality articles; articles which interest, amaze and inspire. Mediocre content annoy me. If ever I write something which I consider of low quality, I never publish it – I will either review it or scrap it.

A Wordle of blogging wordsI want to make a difference in the world, be it a small or big difference (I would prefer big) I have to start on a personal scale. If I can improve your life by changing the way you think and feel (for the better), and enriching your knowledge and understanding, then I am doing my job.

I love reading Jonny’s posts every week, they always interest me and many have inspired me to make (usually small) changes in my life and have often caused me to write something myself. Jonny posts once a week, on a Thursday – with the odd exception. Would he be able to post such great content if he posted twice a week? What about three times? I don’t know.

I am not meaning to pick on Jonny, once a week is just great and very appreciated. One day Jonny will stop writing as often, and one day he will stop writing all together. I hope that day is a long way off, and by that time I have no doubt that we will have other writers writing the quality and quantity of content that he writes.

The same goes for me. I get a lot from blogging at the moment, I love the researching and crafting process that goes into making an article, and I also love the responses. But one day I shall probably stop too.

Think about your favourite TV show, how often does it air? Usually (with exceptions) the best shows/series take months to produce and don’t launch every day/week of the year.

Blogging is the same. I want us to post 6 great articles a week. Jonny gives us one of those posts. I am usually able to provide another, and we often get the third from another writer – like Steve, Ron, Alan or another writer. Usually we only post 4 or 5 articles a week, and that’s fine. I would like to post 6, but would rather post 4 quality articles than 6 mediocre ones.

Blogs that post less often, usually don’t have such a great readership. It’s a fact. There are exceptions of course. What would a news site be, if it only published once a week?

If I was able to monetise Technology Bloggers so that I could run it as a business, then I could dedicate more time to it, as it would become a job, not just a hobby. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we do host the odd bit of sponsored content, to help pay the hosting bills, and fund competitions, but this site is never going to make millions. I am not sure I would still want to blog, if it was solely for money though, so I don’t want to monetise the site.

So, here is the dilemma I have: produce okay content, daily; or produce quality content, less often.

I want to post 6 articles a week, only 3 are provided, who plugs the gap? Usually me. If I don’t I feel bad, as I don’t feel I have fulfilled my duty to the site. If I post the extra posts needed, but they aren’t quite as good as content I have produced before, I am angry that I let the posts go live.

There is a very fine balance which needs to be struck, and I am not sure I am there just yet.

Would you prefer to read 5 star articles once a week, 4 star articles twice a week, or 2 star articles daily?

The reason I am writing this is because I feel we had a great 2012, I had a great 2012 as a blogger, especially in the last few weeks. That said, I know my diary for 2013 is already looking pretty full. Friends, family, education, work and recreation all take a lot of our time, and rightly so. However other commitments I have, do mean that I will have less time to write in 2013.

Rest assured, I am not throwing in the towel and am going to continue to do my best to keep us up and running at full capacity, but there is a lot to do.

If you want to help, I am more than happy to accept suggestions. I would love to promote more users to author status, and give everyone more control.

Technology Bloggers community awards 2012

Slightly later than last year (I was on holiday in Italy over New Year this year), I am now going to announce the winners of Technology Bloggers community awards!

This is the second year of community awards, and this year, the awards were democratic. I gave you (the community), the opportunity to suggest awards and nominations, and then you voted on who you wanted to win each of the six awards.

This year each award had 4 nominees, meaning that there were 24 nominations; which were filled by 13 different people.

You have voted, and the results are now in. Here are this years winners.

Top Commenter

Nominees:

  • Lillie Ammann
  • Peter Lee
  • David Jamieson
  • Neil Duncan

Runner Up

Lillie AmmannThe runner up for this years top commenter community award is Lillie Ammann! Congratulations for Lillie for her nomination, she doesn’t comment very often but when she does, it is always kind words and useful feedback :-) You can find out more about Lillie by visiting her blog.

Winner

Peter LeeWith 57% of the vote, the clear winner of this years top commenter award is Peter Lee! My thanks go out to Peter for his fantastic contribution to the blog. Peter commented on the blog around 60 times in 2012, which is quite a lot! Never were his comments bland or meaningless though, they always added value to the article, which is a credit to Peter and the community. Peter has a website which you can visit called Computer How To Guide.

Top Writer (Contributor)

Nominees:

  • Alan Tay
  • Hayley Anderson
  • Nick Sotos
  • Chadrack Irobogo

Runner Up

Hayley AndersonHayley Anderson took 29% of the community vote, putting her in second place. Hayley likes to write about nanotechnology, a very interesting industry which is advancing all the time. Hayley maintains a website herself, which is about Microscopes.

Winner

Alan TayThe winner of the top contributor category of the community awards 2012 is Alan Tay! So far Alan has contributed 7 articles to the blog, and displays many of the characteristics of a good writer. Alan often replies to people who comment on his articles, and generally writes thoughtful and useful material. Alan is a specialist in IT Security, which he blogs about on his own site too.

Top Writer (Author+)

Nominees:

  • Christopher Roberts
  • Jonny Hankins
  • Steve August
  • Ron Fletcher

Runner Up

Jonny HankinsIn a very respectable second place is Jonny Hankins. Author and innovation and responsibility researcher for the Bassetti Foundation, who currently resides in Boston (USA), Jonny has been a great author this year. His posts have inspired, amazed and amused, making him a true credit to the blog. Check out more of his work by visiting the Bassetti Foundation website.

Winner

Christopher RobertsIt is with the¬†utmost pride that I announce that the winner of the top author award 2012 is me – Christopher Roberts! It was a close fought contest between me and Jonny and myself, with 37.5% and 62.5% of the vote respectively – I am honoured to have won. Personally I feel that Jonny’s posts are often better than mine, but I shall acknowledge to the public vote and declare myself the winner. Thank you everyone :-)

Rising Star

Nominees:

  • Steve August
  • Jonny Hankins
  • David Jamieson
  • Chadrack Irobogo

Runner Up

Steve AugustWith 25% of the vote Steve August is the runner up for this award. Steve is relatively new to the community, and yet in the 5 months of 2012 that he was part of the community, he posted 7 app reviews – his preferred area of writing. Steve also contributes to Alpha Digits where you can read more of his work.

Winner

Jonny Hankins63% of the vote saw Jonny Hankins take the 2012 community award for rising star! My heartfelt congratulations go to Jonny for his fantastic contribution to the blog. With 59 posts and a series under his belt already, who knows where 2013 will take his ever progressing blogging career!

Most Friendly Member of the Community

Nominees:

  • Tammi Kibler
  • Peter Lee
  • Lillie Ammann
  • Chadrack Irobogo

Runner Up

Lillie AmmannLillie Ammann was also nominated for this category, and took 25% of the vote, making her the runner up for this award 2012. Again, well done Lillie for the nomination and votes, you are a truly valued member of the community.

Winner
Peter LeePeter Lee took his second award this year by winning the most friendly member of the community award. Huge congratulations to Peter, as willing two awards is quite something! I look forward to your participation in 2013 :-)

Top All Rounder

Nominees:

  • Christopher Roberts
  • Jonny Hankins
  • Alan Tay
  • Chadrack Irobogo

Runner Up

Jonny HankinsNow for the big one, the top all rounder. In the past I have referred to this as “Technology Bloggers ultimate award” as it is for someone who is an example an outstanding community member, which is why it is very deservingly that Jonny Hankins was nominated for this award, which he claimed runner up status for. One community award and runner up for another two, not a bad 2012 Jonny!

Winner
Christopher RobertsI am truly humbled to have received 91% of the vote for this award. I love this blog and the people who make it as great as it is, which is probably why I put so much time and effort into posting content, moderating comments, tweaking things and generally just doing my best to make it a fantastic site to visit. Again, I would like to thank everyone who voted for me, I am truly grateful.

Well that’s 2012’s awards over, 6 categories, with 7 unique winners and runners up, democratically chosen by you: the readers of the blog.

2012 Community Award Winners

2012 was a brilliant year for us, and our visitor numbers prove it. Here is a sneak peak at some traffic stats that I wouldn’t usually¬†publicly release.

Technology Bloggers Traffic

The number of visits the blog has had (per month) since it started on April the 13th 2011.

Happy New Year everyone, here’s to 2013!