Category Archives: Life in Digitalia

Bit Poetry & Bytes of EyeCandy

It turns out I can do pretty poetry, as long as it’s in small doses. Sudeep Pagedar pointed me in the direction of YourQuote and their daily word prompt has been giving me a reason to post a daily micropoem.

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You can follow these on my Instagram feed

A post shared by Ramya Pandyan (@ideasmithy) on

Or my Facebook album

Or my Twitter feed.

Here are the links again: You can follow my micropoetry on the YourQuote app, on my Facebook album or as they appear on InstagramTwitter or the Facebook Page of this blog.

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A Digital Native In Chinchpokli: My Spoken Stories

I found this post in my Drafts folder. I wrote it in August and forgot to publish. Two of my performances that I’m very happy about, performed at my favorite venue.

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Monday was a peaceful, friendly evening at the Tuning Fork. I’ve been on a deliberate destress drive and I find I’m able to write better and enjoy listening to other people’s poetry more. I performed a piece I call ‘Native Digital’.

I was one of the early performers. One of the other performers read a piece about finding Goa in Andheri East. It was so warm, so wistful and real, I wanted to share one of my own colour-in-the-ordinary stories of my own. So I brought up ‘Flamingos’.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Companionship Online Versus Company IRL

I was a lonely child. I think we all are and we stay that way for most of our lives. It is difficult to find the exact kind of affection, support and loyalty that we are looking for. So most of us do what the wisdom of the ages tell us and compromise. We settle for company since we can’t have companionship.

I’ve had a light week. I took a break after several weeks of stress, tension, ill health and nose-to-grindstone work. Immediately I fell into bad sleep habits and the corresponding poor moods. I’ve also desperately yearned for someone to have coffee with, someone to go to a movie with, someone to snuggle up with and talk to, someone to be with. It’s not something we get to acknowledge a lot these days, it is? Need is often confused with neediness.

This time though I noticed something else. My old instincts were to reach out to the not-so-goods, the people who never have time for me, people who don’t treat me that nice because they are well, people. I’ve always regretted doing this but loneliness is like hunger and you tend to reach for food, no matter how poisonous it is. For a change, I didn’t do that. And it passed. This is not so new. After all, with every year of thirty, the lonely pangs are getting to seem more like fleeting annoyances.

I’ve been reading. Late in the week I installed a few new apps, Buzzfeed, Wikipedia and TED among them. A part of me thought, well TED is just one of those pretentious things that looks good to have. But I’ve spent the last hour switching between these three apps and you know what? I’ve been having fun!

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Image via Unsplash/Gilles Lambert

It makes me think, I’m not really lonely. I already have access to a world of companionship. It just doesn’t correspond to the traditional ways of finding and enjoying companionship. It probably means different things to different people but for me, companionship is feeling constantly inspired, understood, accepted, cherished and entertained. With the people that I have this with, I feel every moment being lived, rather than just passing. I have a handful of them (with enough leeway to hold a teacup) and I don’t get this from most other people around me.

Normally, I’d have to make do with this and feel grateful for the handful that I do feel myself, my life with. But I am a digital native and a blogger to boot. My blog completed 12 years a couple of days ago. And the tribe I found is nearly the same age. Almost the very minute I opened a window into my life on the internet, connection flowed in. And yes, it is enough, it’s more than enough.

I have never subscribed to the thought that the digital universe cannot replace the real. My most meaningful relationships have been with people that I know online. I met my two closest friends through Twitter. The profound kind of sharing (of everything — hobbies, silly jokes, uninformed opinions, fears, bad moods, advice) that happens online, I don’t see its equivalent in the solely offline world. So how does it matter that companionship is coming my way in bits and bytes instead of sound waves and light beams? Who cares that a lot of them are continents away and on different timezones? I am really a creature of ideas, of the mind. Loneliness for me means being around someone whose mind doesn’t connect with mine. I feel a far deeper connection with the minds that create witty articles and brilliant TED talks, than I do with most people that study and work with me.

I’d rather have that than spend my life ‘in quiet desperation’ (as Pink Floyd puts it) exchanging social banalities with people just because they are around. I’m great company for myself so I deserve more than that from the world. If it comes to me online, so be it. Here’s a talk that made me feel like I was listening to myself speak of my own journey.

 

I once got involved in the life of a premature baby in a country that I had never been to. I’ve been a part of coming out stories and healed together with other survivors of abuse and rape. I’ve shared the story of falling in love, navigating a relationship, getting engaged, getting dumped and dealing with the grief of an ex who won’t give me the dignity of closure. Being a blogger is more than just a hobby or a profession or even a lifestyle. It is a life and it is mine. I am so lucky.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

WCMumbai 2016: The Community Manager – The Future Of The Blogger

I was a speaker at WordCamp Mumbai for the third time running. This time, I did something different. I walked up onto the stage with only my thoughts and nothing else. No Powerpoint, no podium, no rehearsed speech. Just me and my ideas. Take a look and tell me what you think.

How Bloggers/Tweeters Get Exploited By Agencies & Companies

A Week Of Exploitation

A few years ago, a certain Bangalore-based PR company organised a week-long social media conference. My business entered an arrangement with them and we were listed among their partners. After several conversations and some work, we were suddenly dropped from the listing, without even the courtesy of a conversation. When we followed up, one of their people told me that she had checked my blog and that “You don’t have that many followers.” I’m not sure how one checks ‘the followers’ of a blog, especially one that doesn’t list its readership stats publicly. And if that were valid criteria, shouldn’t that have been asked for and assessed before the work began?

This year, I was approached to conduct a workshop for the same event. I found out later that the workshop would be a paid one and that the proceeds would go to the PR company but that they would not pay the speakers/workshop trainers.

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This Is Not Getting Paid In Kind

The real problem here is that I know many newer bloggers, tweeters and other people on social media are promised things like ‘visibility’ and ‘opportunities to network’ instead of being paid. For one, social media by its very nature offers visibility and networking opportunities FOR FREE. One doesn’t need to pay someone else, let alone do free work to get this. If your work is good enough to merit a brand or a company riding on it, then it’s good enough to get you visibility and people who want to connect with you.

Blogging Is Work

Secondly, content creation is work. Followership is garnered through steady, quality work (whether you do it for a living or not). None of the other fields that do this operate for free. Ad agencies do not create ads for free. Media houses do not run brand campaigns for free. Event companies do not host their events for free. So there’s no good reason a blogger, tweeter or social influencer should do this work for free.

If you belong in this space, don’t undersell yourself and don’t accept such exploitative behavior. The industry will only give you the respect you deserve if you claim it.

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Image via stockphotos on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

HeroPress: Who We Are

The people at HeroPress asked me to chronicle my journey into WordPress. It turned into a personal saga. That doesn’t surprise you, does it? This blog and being IdeaSmith started with needing to share things that were intensely personal. WordPress has been an important part of that eleven-year long journey. As have you, dear reader. The post with their introduction is here.

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Blogger by Identity: IdeaSmith is not just my name

This is a story I’ve told many, many times before. Only, I’ve never been asked by anybody within the WordPress community. So far, my stories have always been for my readers. My name is Ramya Pandyan but I’m better known as IdeaSmith.

My first brush with blogging began in the late 90s when the internet was a new toy in India and people went to cybercafés once a month to check their email. With all the eagerness of an aimless teenager, I organised my tiny contacts book into lists and started emailing them things I had written. People wrote back asking why. I replied telling them to let me know what they thought. Some of them did and others forwarded those pieces on.

That Funny Word ‘Blog’

Years later, I was squirming in an uncomfortable office chair feeling the angst of someone freshly out of college and hating adulthood. It was only 3PM and my boss had taken everyone else on the team out. Everything of interest on the Internet was blocked (not that there was that much exciting online in 2004 – remember kids, there was an internet before FacebookTwitterPinterest and Youtube). Out of sheer boredom, I went to HowStuffWorks.com. I found an article titled ‘How blogs work’ and the word ‘blog’ made me snigger. I read it and used one of the search engines that we’d call a dinosaur today (yes, internet before Google too) to find blogging sites. The search took me to Blogspot and a sign-up form much like the ones for the chatroom services that were strewn across the internet in those days.

People had warned me that it was dangerous to reveal my personal details online so I did not want to use my real name. I hadn’t had any spectacularly original ideas in my life but I liked playing with pictures and words – just like a blacksmith working iron into objects of use and art. So I decided to call myself IdeaSmith. I wrote two posts, admired the way they looked on the screen and spent ten minutes playing with the template options. Then it was time to leave so I shut down and forgot about blogging.

It wasn’t till another boring lull at work months later, that the word ‘blog’ popped back into my mind. This time, I decided to look for other Indians and see if anyone else had stumbled onto blogging. That’s how I found Rediffblogs. The homepage was very colourful, in keeping with the Geocities design aesthetic of that time. There were six templates to choose from and I chose the one with pencils lining across the top. I carried forward the name IdeaSmith because I really liked it but I decided to call the blog Just A Statistic, to show that I had nothing new to say. I discovered later that it was an echo of thousands of blogs across the globe that carried vague, diffident titles:  ‘Ramblings’, ‘Thoughts’, ‘Meanderings’, ‘Mutterings’ were words that featured prominently. I wrote one post and published it before I got called into a meeting.

When I returned an hour later, the blog was still open on my screen and to my surprise, there was a comment! I followed the link to discover another blogger, a Delhi girl. I spent an hour reading every post on her blog. Then I read conversations in her comments and from there, I found other blogs. I even posted a few comments myself, feeling like the new girl in school trying to make friends. The next morning, many of the blogs I had visited, showed up on my blog in the form of comments. I was a seasoned veteran of chatrooms but this was a new experience. It was less like small talk between strangers at a party and more like a return visit to an enjoyable social call. I wrote another blogpost, waiting to see if it would happen again. I had no idea that I was starting something that would become such an important part of my life.

A Parallel Identity

Soon I was writing two, sometimes three posts a week and commenting every day. There had been no outlet for my creative side since I had finished school. The corporate world demanded that I conform to a certain lifestyle, a fixed way of being and thinking. The blog allowed me to bring out everything that did not find expression in my daily life, in the safety of anonymity. Months later, I went back to retrieve my first posts and discovered that Blogspot was a better platform. So I manually copied my twenty-odd posts from Rediffblogsback to Blogpost.

By 2006, I was still anonymous but I had an entire blogging-based community – other bloggers, frequent commenters and the major group blogs of the time (DesipunditMumbai MetrobloggingDesicriticsTechnorati). There were no references to judge bloggers back then, but I had found a place in that tiny community. Many of them felt like friends even though we had never met in person. My unknown identity was a part of the flavor of my blog. Every now and then somebody would try to find out more but I kept them at bay, treating anonymity like a game.

Growing Up

I met a friend of a friend and discovered that he had a blog. I stalked his blog for months, frequently commenting only as IdeaSmith. One day he left a comment on my blog, asking if I’d meet him for coffee. I had only met two bloggers at that time, both in another city and under oath that they wouldn’t say anything about me. I didn’t respond to his comment. But he persisted, putting up his number and asking me to call him. So I called him, opening with “We’ve met already.” He said “I know, Ramya” and that he remembered meeting me. I was horrified that I wasn’t as anonymous as I had thought. But we became friends.

One day, he gleefully told me that one of his friends was commenting on his blog using a different identity. I asked him how he had realized it. He said, “The IP address is visible in her comments!” I was impressed. I was not a techie and people who tossed around terms like ‘IP address’ were intimidating. “Neither am I,” he admitted, “But WordPress shows me the IP address of every commenter. And her company’s name is visible in her email address.” I realized that I better understand the people who were reading my content, if I wanted any control over my anonymity. So I took a trip down to WordPress.

I was unprepared for what the platform offered. WP Stats were the first thing that caught my eye (on Blogspot, I had had to copy-paste a piece of code and I had managed to break the sidebar while doing so). And Pages! I constantly wished for one static part on my blog where I could just put up the things people kept asking. I was sick of cramming my blog’s sidebar with the static stuff in addition to the usual toys that bloggers played with in those days – blogrolls, mood indicator, song player, blog ranking. My friend was amused by my excitement and said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you, why are you still lagging behind? All the uber-cool bloggers are on WordPress.” I realized that my blog had become more than a scribblepad. It was now a playground for my thoughts, a chronicle of my life, a portfolio even. I knew it was time to give it a better space. In late 2006, I put up a post announcing that The Idea-smithy had a new home.

The ease with which I was able to transfer my posts confirmed my decision. Hundreds of template options opened up (Blogspot had a standard six only at that time). I loved widgets – no more being condescended to by programmers about code errors, no more broken sidebars! Displaying comments in my sidebar, was my way of telling readers, “Welcome in. Mi casa, su casa. Your presence here is noticed and treasured.”

Where I am today

A lot of things have happened since then. I started other anonymous blogs. I became a contributor to the bigger blogging communities of the time. I was on a popular panel that curated Indian blogs. I even edited other people’s blogposts. There were hundreds of conversations that moved me, shaped me and I made a lot of friends along the way. And when I quit the corporate world in 2009, I ‘came out’ of anonymity and allowed my readers to see the Ramya Pandyan side of IdeaSmith.

WordPress might not be my platform of choice, were I to begin today (other platforms seem better suited for newbies). But I fell in love all those years ago and eventually I committed to a platform that allowed me to explore this relationship best. I’ve been here for nine of the eleven years that I’ve been IdeaSmith. It has been my extreme good fortune to find something I love doing and be able to do it for a living.

Today I am a professional blogger/writer and one of the few of the ‘old guard’ still blogging. I’ve set up and run a team of bloggers/social content writers. I write for publications and companies, teach people how to blog and advise businesses on digital content. I run a creative community called Alphabet Sambar, that nurtures aspiring writers. I have also had the privilege of addressing Wordcamp not once, but twice. I still blog at least twice or thrice a week, only it has expanded to cover three blogs, a Twitter stream, an Instagram account and a Youtube channel.

All this began for me with an accident, a chance created by a bored afternoon at work. IdeaSmith originated as words drawn from my life but it became a part of my identity which shapes my every action, personal and professional. I am a blogger, by profession and by identity and WordPress is part of what makes that possible.

How To Go Viral Effectively — Ask Rega Jha

#RegaJha trended on Twitter yesterday. Here is what caused it.

A tweet that:
– appeared right after a high-emotion, visible match
– had nothing to do with cricket
– contained the keywords ‘India’ and ‘Pakistan’
– had a view that is scientifically unverifiable & subjective
– did not touch on any actual political or religious sensitivities
– was posted by a woman

So viral content that provoked attention, instigated response and sharing, sparked off conversations and loyalty-battles threading along unrelated issues (politics, beauty norms, gender dynamics) but did not get into trouble for anything.

I would expect nothing less from a Buzzfeed editor.

You can continue outraging and getting played now.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

People I’ve Unfriended On Facebook

  • Classmates I only accepted requests from because we got tagged in old photos. They weren’t nice to me in school, I don’t want them around.
  • People I met at some event with whom I haven’t interacted again. If we need to speak again, one of us will find the other sure enough.
  • Colleagues from zillion jobs ago. Go, LinkedIn!
  • Friends of exes. Yes, truly done suffering.
  • One time crushes or flames who are married. What’s the point? (yes, I am that cold)
  • People I just don’t like. Maybe I never did or maybe this is recent. I don’t have to explain.
  • Friends who are not anymore. How many of these there have been in the past year! Maybe I was long overdue a life spring-cleaning. Sigh.
  • Spouses, siblings and other associations via the above people. Keep it clean and brutal, make it good.

I’m reclaiming the word ‘Friend’. A friend is someone whose life is engaged with mine, not just connected via digital bytes. Friendship cannot get by on nostalgia or long redundant promises. It certainly is not worth dragging along relationships that have thrown up more than their fair share of resentment, anger and hurt.

I’ve decided it is also okay for me to hold up certain things as standards for people in my life. No lies, no backbiting, no cheating, no pettiness. I bend over backwards to avoid doing these and I have the right to expect it from other people. Lying is a big deal for me and it’s time I let it become the deal-breaker too.

There are new people in there, of course. These are people I see the possibility of really sharing life experiences, with. These may be people I know from work, common acquaintances or events I’ve been to. But there has been something in our last conversations that makes me think, there could be more. If someone has faded to being one of the numbers or I feel like I’ve faded similarly in their life, I’ve hit UNFRIEND.

Relationships matter to me as do words. A cluttered friends list means a diluted life for me. To give someone I don’t like much or who I feel doesn’t treat me well or to whom I’m indifferent, the same access to my life that I give the people who matter to me — this seems disrespectful of these important relationships. And they wear me down. So goodbye, everyone who has ceased to matter and thank you for having passed through my life in whatever way you did. Go in peace, fare well and don’t look back. I won’t.

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