Tag Archives: Wordpress

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.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

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.

Opening WordCamp Mumbai 2014 With A Snapshot of Digitalia

I attended my first WordCamp over the weekend. I also had the privilege of opening the event with the first talk.

Analog-banner

WordCamp is an informal conference that brings together the WordPress community – developers, designers, consultants and users. It is organised locally and happens in 172 cities around the world, each one with its own unique flavour. I’ve attended BarCamps and hosted & helped organise BlogCamps. So I was intrigued by an event centered around WordPress, a service that has been my companion through most of my journey from blogger to Content Specialist.

I have always been technology-agnostic. Technology has powered much of what I do and I enjoy the perks of a digitally enhanced life. But I don’t like to concern myself with the how and why it works as much as what it can do for me. WordPress has been one of those tools that have let me play in the content space without needing to know the nuts-and-bolts of coding and other digitalia. As a power user of WordPress, I figured that the ways I wielded the tools would be of interest to the people instrumental in building them. So I refuse to pick a side in the raging debate between developers and users. Both groups are creators, one of content, one of the technology that makes it possible. The developers’ work facilitates users; users’ needs define the developers’ existence. Thus, my talk revolves around looking at the bigger picture – Digitalia, this parallel universe that we all inhabit and help each other navigate. It was called ‘An Analog in a Digital world’. The presentation is up here and you can view the video here. Or see them both together below:

 

This session segued naturally into Rina Chaddwa‘s talk on ‘WordPress for dummies’  and Karthik Magapu‘s session on GPL Licenses. Post that, the sessions got progressively more technical, ranging from coding nitty-gritty to theme acceptance to plugin development. Annkur completed the two-day event with a talk that brought it out of the strictly technical again – ‘No SEO‘.

I felt at sea with many of the terms being thrown about here (GitHub? GPL? Anchor text spam wot???). But I think it was an important weekend for me, in order to understand better what goes on under the hood of this service that houses my digital presence and work. That I believe, is the purpose of community events such as this, for the different factions to better relate to each other. I had a great time and I hope to be a bigger part of the WordPress community from now on. I would also love to see more bloggers/content users participate in future WordCamps.

A big thank you to Aditya Kane and Alexander Gounder for organising the event and for guiding my talk!

You can find conversations around this event at  and join the Facebook community here.

Here are some other accounts of this session:

Social Networking-The Creation & Consumption Of Content

Earlier in the month, I began writing for Social Samosa. My brief was to recap the major events in social networking over the past few years in India. Given how vast this is, I broke it up into two parts. I started with an article titled, ‘Social Networking: How Communities Were Built’. In that post, I looked at the connections aspect of social networking.

Image via Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot,

The second part of that story is now online in a piece titled, ‘Social Networking: The Creation & Consumption Of Content‘ where I discuss the other harbingers of the social media revolution – blogs, commenting systems, bulletin boards, discussion groups and everyone’s favorite birdie – Twitter.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Online content creation began with a few individuals putting out text & images that could be consumed by other users of the internet. In the recent years, though, we’ve seen content creation get closer & closer to the space that we call social networking.  A content creator is not an artist working in isolation but the initiator & propagator of conversations.  The social networks are but channels to drive conversations, which need content.  Thus it was inevitable that social connectors and content holders should find themselves merging in a borderless space.

‘Content creation’ is a misnomer since, increasingly, we are all becoming both producers & consumers of content.  One person feeds into the network a piece of information or an insight or a personal account (a phenomenon now called ‘seeding’ if done with the intent to propagate).  Others read it and share it on their networks (the phenomenon now called ‘going viral’).  Along the way, comments are added and other bits of content spring up in response to the first piece.  These could take several forms – blog posts, tweets, comments, status updates, pictures and videos, to name a few.  The conversation now spans multiple users, data points, media and web locations. Every user in this process has now become both a consumer and a creator of content.”

Read the rest of the article here.

WordPress Takes A Leaf Out Of Facebook

I just noticed that WordPress is following Facebook’s stead.

Look at this toolbar. My attention was captured by a bright red 2 (now showing as a grey 0). Clicking on it resulted in a dropdown list of notifications. The images next to it is my gravatar or what WordPress reads as my display picture. A click there leads to a menu with basic options like sign out, profile edits, Help and navigation to my other blogs. Very Facebook/Google

After ‘Likes’, Facebook sets another standard in the socially-networked universe.

BlogAdda 11: Reader Devo Bhava!

My post on BlogAdda this week, talks about building a relationship with your reader community. This would seem a little odd to people who knew me 6 years ago, in my early blogging days. Yes, I used to be a touch-me-not blogger who wouldn’t respond to comments or any correspondence from my readers. But much has changed since then, my own attitude the least of them all.

This is the era of connections, of actively seeking them out and building on them. It benefits the people at both ends of the connection. Do read this post and let me know what you think!

Also, since this is a free WordPress domain and I don’t enjoy the benefit of the In Series plug-in anymore, here are the earlier articles for your reference.

———————————————————————————————–

Other articles in this column:

  1. Checklist For A Blogger
  2. Building Access: Feeds & Link-sharing
  3. Protecting Your Privacy
  4. Is Your Blog Facebooked?
  5. The Twitter Birdie At Your Blog
  6. Dress Up Your Blog
  7. Dear Reader, Stay Awhile Longer
  8. Group Blogs: Becoming A Part Of The Online Community
  9. The Internet Undesirables
  10. Blogger Profiles: Creating An Identity For Your Blog
  11. Reader Devo Bhava!
  12. “This happened today…”: Blogging An Event

I believe that the audience is an integral part of any artist’s performance. In the case of a writer (or specifically, the blogger), the readers play this role. Any blogger who says that they don’t care about readers, has to be lying. If you didn’t care, you’d write in a private diary, not on a website visible to the whole connected world! So you can see why a blogger needs to establish a tangible connection with his/her readers. A good blogger ensures that his/her content is fresh, top-quality and recent. A great blogger goes the extra mile by thinking about how to make the blog, a real experience for the reader.

(Click here to read the full post on BlogAdda)

Continue reading

BlogAdda 10: Blogger Profiles – Creating An Identity

This week I post my tenth column in the BlogAdda series and this time I talk about one of the fundamentals. The ‘About Me’ section also known as a bio is a much neglected but very important part of a person’s online presence. It is the first communication about you to your readers and defines your blog. In my column I cover the basics that a bio should have and a few other things that it could include.

When I find myself grappling with a problem, especially a creative one, I go back to my basics, my fundamental assumptions. New ideas usually emerge from there. While thinking about what to talk about in this column for bloggers, I went back to my first post listing the basic 10 essentials for a blog. And in that, I found my answer.

Number 3 on that list is the Blogger Profile. Does that merit a column? Let’s see. How long does it take to describe a person, to define his identity, to etch out her life? How long does one have? A Blogger Profile (or the About section as it is known in certain places) is an introduction, a description and a definition. It can also be a portfolio, a marketing tool, a showcase or a resume. This is the place you go to when you’re facing an identity-crisis of sorts, about your blog.

(Click here to read the entire post on BlogAdda)

Continue reading

BlogAdda 7: Dear Reader, Stay Awhile Longer?

This week on BlogAdda, I talk about how to make your blog stickier i.e. – how to keep your readers glued to your blog for longer. Content is king as far as I’m concerned, so why not bring the king out to meet his public more often?

(Read the whole post on BlogAdda here)

Continue reading

BlogAdda 6: Dress Up Your Blog!

After the serious business of setting up, ensuring access & privacy and integrating Facebook & Twitter, I set out to have some fun. In this week’s BlogAdda column I look at the aesthetics of a blog, beginning with template, right up to sidebar goodies and blog games.

Blogging is a community exercise, a form of personal expression and the newest media kid on the block. Who says it can’t be fun too?

(Click here to read the BlogAdda post)

Continue reading

BlogAdda 5: The Twitter Birdie At Your Blog

October begins with a new season and a new look for our favorite birdie. In honour of the revamped Twitter, my BlogAdda column this week looks at the 140-character phenomenon and how it can benefit bloggers.

I’m still looking for feedback on this column, so my dear readers, please do drop in and leave your thoughts.

(Click here to read the post at BlogAdda)

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: