A new theme as Technology Bloggers turns 3!

A chocolate cakeImage Credit

Three years ago today, on April the 13th 2011, Technology Bloggers was born. The blog has changed a lot over the years, however we have always stuck with the same theme. Today everything changes.

Technology Bloggers new logo

A new logo (version 2.5) for our third birthday.

Today’s theme change is clearly the biggest visual change the blog has ever had.

We are now using a theme called Celebrate. There are many things I do not like about the new theme, but there were many things I didn’t like about TwentyTen, (our old theme) but slowly, over time I ironed out most of the creases.

The font is my main bugbear at the moment, but at least it is legible – Celebrate’s default font was very thin.

Feedback and suggestions are very welcome.

Anyway, watch this space.

Looking Back

Once in a while it doesn’t hurt to take a glance back to see how far the blog has come – in fact I believe it is probably quite healthy to review how we got to where we are – so here is a quick snapshot of Technology Bloggers progress, three years in.

Visitors

  • In February of this year, we received our 150,000th visit
  • This month we hit a quarter of a million pageviews
  • Earlier in the month we also received our 135,000th unique visitor
  • The average time spent on the blog is 1 minute and 29 seconds – just enough time to read an article

Community

  • Over 80 people have written articles on Technology Bloggers
  • Together we have published 499 articles – post 500 will be the first of a new era
  • We have received over 4,400 comments from hundreds of different readers
  • It is now possible to comment on articles through WordPress, Facebook and Google+

External Interaction

  • In the last year we have gained hundreds of subscribers
  • We now have almost 400 Twitter followers
  • Over 300 people receive updates from Technology Bloggers on Facebook
  • More than 230 people subscribe to our feed – with over 50 people subscribing via email

Looking Forward

I want Technology Bloggers to be more author focused from now on. The blog was founded as a community blog, to be focused on a strong base of authors – not just a lot of guest posts which is what we have seen in the past. I will be developing the theme to help promote the people behind the content. As always your suggestions and ideas will drive the blog forward.

Very soon we are going to be introducing a whole new wave of guest bloggers and authors – and maybe an editor or two as well.

I leave you with this: just look how far we have come…

Two images of Technology Bloggers

Technology Bloggers shortly after it launched and three years on – before the theme change.

Over and out. 🙂
Christopher

Don’t underestimate Jetpack

Jetpack is a WordPress plugin that lets you access many of the features which come inbuilt with a WordPress.com site, on a WordPress.org installation. Historically plugins have just one function, however Jetpack is a combination of plugins which can perform a huge range of actions.

Plugins on Steroids

Jetpack by WordPress.comOne way of describing Jetpack is plugins on steroids. Jetpack makes it really easy to access loads of the great features available through WordPress, all in one simple package.

Jetpack creates its own area in WordPress Admin (wp-admin) where you can learn about, configure and activate/deactivate different elements of the plugin.

You don’t have to activate all of Jetpacks elements, you can use as many or few elements as you choose. Like with every plugin, every extra function of Jetpack you activate will have a small affect on your blog’s speed, so only use the ones that work for you.

The Future of Plugins

The way Jetpack sets out all the different plugins and makes it so easy for users to configure them is a great leap forward for WordPress. Currently the wp-admin plugins page is quite boring, and it can be hard to find the plugin you want fast. I feel that a Jetpack style interface could significantly improve usability, and generally make plugins more fun.

A screenshot of Jetpack's plugins

A screenshot of the different plugins and settings Jetpack includes.

Could a future version of the CMS use a Jetpack like style to display plugins? Maybe.

Features

Here are some of the many features that Jetpack includes:

  • WordPress.com Stats – On-site analytics for your site. Personally I feel server side analytics and more detailed external statistic managers (like Google Analytics) are better than Jetpack’s version, however nonetheless many people find it is an easier, free alternative.
  • Publicise – This enables you to post your articles to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Tubmlr. The great thing about Publicise is that it only publishes when your articles go live – so it works on scheduled posts too 🙂
  • Spelling and Grammar – Simple yet advanced spell checking for content. I use Firefox’s default spell checking software, and Jetpacks version is slightly annoying, so this is disabled on Technology Bloggers!
  • WP.me Shortlinks – An easy inbuilt URL shortener. Using the WP.me URL shortener helps to keep short URLs tidy, as having too many from too many different sites can look messy.
  • Infinite Scroll – This is a feature that I personally dislike – a lot! It enables you to have a bottomless page, so once uses get to the bottom, it loads more articles. This can effectively put your entire blog on one page. I don’t like bottomless pages, they drive me mad, so if you want me to visit your site, keep this option off 😉
  • Sharing – Technology Bloggers uses the Sharing feature to power the share buttons at the bottom of each article. I have removed the standard buttons and replaced them with more minimal, stylish buttons. The sharing feature is truly great, and is a lightweight way of combining many network sharing plugins.
  • Omnisearch – A fantastic and really simple way to search wp-admin.
Technology Bloggers share buttons

Technology Bloggers new share buttons – found at the bottom of every article.

Give It A Go

I didn’t think I would like Jetpack, and at first I didn’t. After reading a bit about its features and how good it can be, I thought I would give it a go. I now love it!

I love the flexibility that it offers, in that you can have as many or few elements active as you choose. Technology Bloggers only uses 4 of the 27 functions, and that works fine for us. On my personal philosophy blog, I also use Jetpack and have 8 of the 27 elements active; it is a different blog which benefits from different plugins.

Do you use Jetpack?

Your thoughts are welcome as always 🙂

Is there really that much diversity on the internet?

The internet is big right? Okay it is massive. With that massiveness one naturally associates extreme diversity. Don’t get me wrong, across the entire internet, there is amazing variation, with billions of people adding their spin to the net.

What I am going to investigate in this post though is how diverse the ‘main’ internet is. What I mean by that is the internet that we use every day. How diverse is the most regularly used/visited content? Is there really as much choice as we think, or is the majority of the internet dominated by a few firms?


In order to go about this research I am going to use Alexa, who gather statistics on websites traffic. For most sites, the data isn’t that accurate, however for really busy sites, the numbers are so great, the reliability of the data is much higher, hence why I can use it.

Alexa's Logo

Google

According to Alexa, Google.com is the most visited site on the web. How could it not be? Alexa estimates that 50% of all internet users visited Google.com in the last three months. Second on the list for most visited sites is Facebook, which is trailing with just 45% of internet users visiting the site.

Remember however that is just Google.com, Google has a massive monopoly over the internet. In the 100 most visited sites on the web, 18 of the sites are owned by Google – 16 localised sites, Google.com and GoogleUserContent.com (the site you see when there is an error finding/displaying a page).

Google undoubtedly has reduced diversity on the internet, having such a monopoly on the sites we all visit. The thing is, it isn’t just 18 sites. Google also owns YouTube and (the third most visited site on the net) Blogspot which is ranked 10th, Blogger at 47 (Blogger and Blogspot are now one) and Blogspot.in (India) ranked 73. That means 21 of the most visited sites on the net belong to Google, meaning it owns more than one fifth of the ‘main’ internet.

Googlite Logo

Google’s dominance on the web suggests that a lot of us are Googlites!

Can you call the internet diverse, when in the top one hundred sites, one firm owns more than a fifth of all sites? Maybe, what does the rest of the field look like?

Microsoft

Unsurprisingly, the company that is arguable Google’s main rival is in second place. Yahoo and Microsoft are currently in a ‘Search Alliance’ therefore restricting competition, so I am going to count them in the list of sites that Microsoft owns/influences. Here is the list of sites that Microsoft owns/influences which are top 100 websites:

  • Yahoo.com – Ranked 3rd
  • Live.com – Ranked 7th
  • Yahoo.co.jp – Ranked 16th
  • MSN.com – Ranked 17th
  • Bing.com – Ranked 29th
  • Microsoft.com – Ranked 30th – ironic how it is lower many of the other sites it owns!
  • Flickr.com – Ranked 53rd and Yahoo owned

Therefore Microsoft own/influence 7 of the top 100 sites. Add that to Google’s 21, and 28 of the top sites on the net are owned by two firms. More than a quarter.

I am starting to think the ‘main’ internet is not as diverse as one may first assume.

Amazon

Next on the list of internet giants comes Amazon. Amazon.com is ranked 10th, whilst Amazon Germany (Amazon.de) is ranked 91st and Amazon Japan (Amazon.co.jp) is 95th. Amazon also owns the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) which is the 50th most visited site. Amazon owns 4 of the top 100 sites.

Amazon's Logo32 sites gone.

Alibaba Group

The Alibaba Group is a privately owned Chinese business, which owns Alibaba.com, Tmall (tmall.com), Taobao (Taobao.com) and Sogou.com. The group therefore account for four of the sites that make up what I am calling the ‘main internet’.

36 sites taken by just 4 companies. How diverse is our internet?

eBay

Next we come to eBay.com which sits 23rd on the list of top 100 sites. eBay International AG (ebay.de) is in 80th place, followed by eBay UK (ebay.co.uk) in 86th. eBay also owns PayPal (paypal.com) which is ranked 46th.

eBay steals another 4 sites, leaving just 60 of our hundred left, and so far only 5 firms are involved.

Time Warner

CNN (cnn.com) AOL (aol.co.uk) and The Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com) are all sites owned by Time Warner. Time Warner is the sixth business involved now, leaving just 57 sites.

WordPress

The blogging platform WordPress (wordpress.com) is ranked 19th, and its brother, which allows users to host the content management system on their own site (wordpress.org) is ranked 83rd.

The Official WordPress LogoThere goes another two sites, meaning just 55 left, and only seven players so far.

Twitter

Ranked number 8 on the list is Twitter, however its URL shortener (t.co) is ranked 31st, meaning Twitter is also one of the big players in the top 100 sites, arguably with some form of domination over the internet.

Twitter's Logo47 sites of the top 100 accounted for and a mere eight organisations involved.

The Rest

Of the final 53 sites, 5 are adult only sites leaving 48 sites – although many of these either are a part of, or are a much bigger group.

Some familiar faces appear in the other 48 sites, Facebook (2nd), Wikipedia (6th), LinkedIn (11th), Apple (34th), Tumblr (37th),  Pinterest (47th), BBC Online (48th), Ask (54th), AVG (62nd),  Adobe Systems Incorporated (67th), About.com (81st), ESPN (82nd),  Go Daddy (85th), Netflix (89th),  The Pirate Bay (92nd) and CNET (97th).

Remove these very well known, well established, and massive brands, and we are left with 32 sites – less than a third. Of the remaining sites, around half are Chinese, showing the growing influence and usage of the internet in China.

My Verdict

In this post I have established that of the sites we visit most regularly, 47 are owned by just eight organisations. Does that really represent the freedom that we all believe the internet offers?

I was surprised by the type of content, and the limited number of different sites that there are in the global top 100. It would seem that the most visited sites consist of search engines, social media sites and news websites. Interesting statistics.

So, what is your verdict on how diverse the internet we use everyday is? I personally am not quite as convinced as I was before writing this article that the internet is quite as free and diverse as we all believe.

Please note these rankings are changing all the time, and all content was correct according to Alexa.com at the time of writing – the 6th of July 2012.

How to find images for your website

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a DIY approach to building your website. If you choose the right tools *cough* WordPress *cough* you can produce something that looks very professional without having to know web design in an out.

As with Creative Commons images, always check the usage rights of every image cautiously. You might be required to credit the photographer, or use may be forbidden in some situations.

Creative Commons Logo

Purchase cheap stock photography

It is all well and good looking for free pictures, but it’s often easier to invest a small amount of cash than to spend hours finding the right totally free image.

That is where websites like iStock Photo and ShutterStock come in. These vast repositories include thousands of pictures, most of which you can buy for just a few pounds. Sure, they can be frustratingly clichéd at times, but a bit of experimentation with what you search for can generally get outcomes. Expect to pay from £1 upwards for each image.

Ask permission

This is most likely your best option if you are looking for an image of a current occasion or specific individual to use with an article or blog post on your web site. Amateur photographers are often pleased to let their photos be utilised at no charge – if you ask nicely.

A good method to find pictures is through Flickr. For example, there are many David Cameron and Tom Cruise pictures to select from. As soon as you’ve found a photo you like, just use Flickr’s contact choice to send the photographer a message asking their permission.

Do be wary using photos of well-known individuals – whilst generally it’s okay to use them alongside news stories and other editorial, you will get in difficulty if it looks like they’re endorsing your item or service.

Take your own photos

With even cheap mobile phones able to create reasonable-quality pictures, you don’t have to be a pro to capture photos that are good enough for the web.

Even though the company is in all sorts of difficulty, you will find some good suggestions for taking better photos on the Kodak website.

Assuming you already own a camera, this method is practically free – and it holds other benefits more than stock pictures. For example, do you think website visitors would prefer to determine a generic image of someone on the telephone, or an actual member of your sales team at function in your workplace?

How do you discover photos for your website? Leave a comment to let us know.