June 30, 2016

Rolling out the red carpet

"Kanna, you need to sleep now. School tomorrow!"

"Amma, please, just five more minutes!"

"Can you finish eating a bit faster?"

"Wait. I'm trying to find San Mousico on the map/ learning The Fantasian alphabets!"

If you're still wondering, we've been invaded by the 'fraidy mouse gang a.ka. Geronimo Stilton club. The titles follow R everywhere. During the snack hours, dinner, before bedtime, and (shudders) 20 sec milk time in the morning! 

Am I complaining? *insert devilish smile*

Of course, not!!! 

I was waiting for this day to dawn. R was always interested in books and until the time he could read on his own, I'd do the honours for him. Well, to be honest, the reading out aloud bit had waned and dipped to dangerous levels in the recent past. However, the saving grace was that he had begun to read, albeit slowly, on his own by then. And, perhaps because the habit had made its mark, he'd still read a bit on his own. 

I was waiting for the time when he'd be consumed by this habit and reach for books as his first choice of free-time activity. Thanks to 'Geronimo', the time arrived earlier than expected. I'm not sure he understands all of what he reads but the interest and enthusiasm is reassuring and I know that in due time he'd pick up the adequate comprehending skills too.

Here's a warm welcome to the little bookworm! 


June 28, 2016

Why do we react to everything around us

I'm referring to the public display of one's private thoughts over social media platforms. This is something I've always pondered about. Recently, a friendly discussion on a private group on this topic led to resurfacing of random bits of introspective analysis that had been filed away at regular intervals in my head. 

Yes, social media is meant for social and public discussions without which their existence will be threatened. However, it surely has become a double-edged sword in our lives. We cannot ignore it yet we have to steer clear of giving it too much importance. We seem to be not getting that balance right and end up being rather too serious in our attitude towards life. 

Many moons ago, I had written about how we have lost the sense of humour these days. Who could get miffed over what we'd never know! Opinions are being expressed every nano-second. I see a chain reaction for every single incident or issue that has happened either within an immediate circle or somewhere far flung in some other part of the world. You never know what could trigger violent reactions in people who otherwise seem rational and calm. 

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It's not always about issues that may have affected you personally, in the case of which it's perhaps understandable that the person considers public ranting as a means of expressing frustration/opinion/raising concern. I see opinions expressed for every single, stray, random incident that could have happened in some corner of the world but has shaken or shocked you enough to be outraged. Even if these are just temporary outbursts, a venting outlet, a sort of catharsis for the person in question, I wonder wouldn't it have been more beneficial to pick up the phone and talk to a close confidante and let out the frustration? Why choose a public platform? 

Why not, you ask? Because this invariably results in a ripple reaction. A second person expresses disagreement and another third person consequently picks up a fight with the second's disagreement and a totally different fourth guy who is silently watching the scene unfolding has taken umbrage over the opinions expressed and chooses to lash out separately, juxtaposing the events in a completely different light. Again, we see ripples being created. Rinse. Repeat. Just imagine the whirlpool of negative energy that we are consciously or sub-consciously producing. And, this whirlpool has far-reaching effects only because you chose to make your private opinions  public, to even those who need not have known it in the first place. You are entitled to your opinions and thoughts but is it essential to create a drama and fuss over everything? 

Another problem with social media is that it forces you to comment or like or retweet someone's status. We are so consumed by living our lives online that we feel compelled to share our thoughts on every single update on our timelines. On a normal day in our lives offline we'd generally ignore many facets of our fellow beings because otherwise, our lives would become a living hell. It is only prudent to pick and choose our battles in our already frenzied and difficult lifestyle. It's healthier for the mind and body too. Yet, when it comes to our online lives, we want to jump into every single thread of conversation. It becomes a matter of great pride and compulsion to mark your presence amidst the melee. No wonder, we give rise to funny and newly discovered syndromes like the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)! 

If we could just mind our business and scroll past our timelines like we would on a stroll outside our homes, life will be so much better for everyone, no? It's really not needed to voice your opinion every single time and that too for an audience you don't really care for. We have not yet matured to take disagreements in our stride and if you accuse the other of intolerance it is only because you are the other side of the intolerant coin. It does not mean one is right and the other is wrong. 

What are your thoughts? Have I opened a pandora's box? I promise to not get offended ;-)


June 25, 2016

How to churn out successful posts?

The answer to this should be a simple one. Using good content, right? After all, content is king. Well, only partially. Even a formidable king needs a capable cabinet and a great army of soldiers. Likewise, content is just a part of the many other ingredients that make a post, especially on a professional website, attractive and satisfying to read and assimilate.

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Now, it's been a while that I'm writing content as a freelancer. Up until recently, I'd work on the specs mentioned by the content team and draft it out. The rest of how the article got published or added value to their page was totally the lookout of the team I was not a part of. My job and responsibilities ended with the 'send' button. Sure, the content was completely mine and I made sure I was doing complete justice to the people who were paying me, but I really had no control over the edits that went in or the way the article was offered over the world wide web.

However, lately, I've had the fortunate chance to work for a vibrant start-up with a very close-knit and dedicated team. It's here that I'm able to see the whole picture at a broader level and at the same time be a part of all the tiny, excruciating bits of details that add up and make a beautiful canvas for the readers. These rules are of course not generic and most of the behind-the-scene working style depends on the nature of the company, its products, and services. This being a parent-kid related portal, everything that goes in gets packaged to appeal to the said target audience.

Here are 7 things I've learned that helps to hit the bull's eye:

1. The content matters but presentation even more

Think of this as a construction site where you lay the foundation stones, the iron frames, and the slabs. This is the content. The buyer, however, is attracted only by the end product which comes after a lot of scrubbing, polishing, and adding colourful hues to the facade.

I can write a piece on my personal blog, edit it to my satisfaction, add an image and publish it without any more care. However, an article on a good website has to pass far more layers of quality control. For instance, it cannot have a random title, the SEO and keywords (devil's hands that play truant) need to be worked on, the images have to be carefully sourced and rightfully attributed and such other details. All the minutiae follow a process to meet strict quality standards.

2. The final product you see almost never coincides with the first blueprint

You start with a concept, a broad idea. You then work your way into getting the framework right to arrange your thoughts neatly and start filling up the details. However, the idea evolves, matures, and finally blooms into something that is very different from the initial draft. The draft undergoes several iterations and when it finally emerges, it is beautiful, with the soul intact.

3. It's always a team work

You cannot work in silo. Especially, when it concerns the face of one business connecting several others like a needle and thread on a criss-cross knitwork. You need to subscribe to the broader business goal, hold your own amongst some tough competition and yet bring something new to the table each time. With several such layers to function cohesively, you need several hands. Your claim to success cannot be yours alone because there were a lot of factors that contributed to making your piece stand out.

4. You need to have many a critical eye

Cannot stress on this enough, right? Even when you write a piece for yourself on a personal blog, editing matters. So, when it comes to a larger platform, with a much larger audience you cannot be careful enough. It really pays to have several critical eyes comb out the content thoroughly.

5. Polish until it shines

Even as you edit, you need to re-evaluate the content through the eyes of a dispassionate reader. A factually and grammatically correct content needs to flow smoothly, have eye-catchy images, unbroken links, and a crisp appearance. Looking at it with a fresh mind like a dispassionate viewer needs objectivity and patience. Knowing what will work and what won't comes with experience. So, the final polishing happens till the piece shines out bright and glowing.

6. Market, Promote, Push the content

A no-brainer when you're in a professional environment and cater to an eager and demanding audience. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, think of all the social media platforms. You need to mark your presence in each of them. It helps to maintain a fixed time and schedule to share and re-share your blogs, videos, and tweets.

7. Let go and focus on the next

Despite the amount of passion and work poured into each type of content and information sharing, the moment you place it in the reader's hands, you have to learn to let go. The next task awaits you and you need to summon the same amount of passion, energy, and enthusiasm like it were your first project. 

Now, as I introspect, I do realize that this applies not just to professional blogs but personal ones too, no?

What is it that you'd add to these points? I'm all ears! :-)