Is guest blogging hurting your brand?

ID-10049738“Image courtesy of jscreationzs/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

Being able to keep up with the demands of blogging is challenging – from researching topic ideas, to drafting and then finding the time to write about them – and most people will be relieved to have an extra pair of hands to help out. This is why Guest Blogging services have really flourished. A company’s blog is a tool for sharing information with their audience. When regularly updated, it provides a constant flow of traffic to their website and allows them to promote whatever it is they offer. Really, it is the number one marketing tool, allowing business to communicate with their audience and letting them be a part of the conversation. When blogging, businesses need to think, “What is it my audience interested in?” and, “How can we stand out from our competitors?”.

Having a reliable group of Guest Bloggers ensures that the blog can stay active. Maybe the business write three blog posts a week. By involving a Guest Blogger, they can cut that down to one post, while the Guest Blogger deals with the other two. That means less work, and nobody ever complained about having to do less work! By coming to an agreement with a Guest Blogger and delegating them a share of the work, it allows focus to be directed elsewhere within the company.

Finding a trustworthy Guest Blogger can end up being mutually beneficial for both parties. It’s a case of, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”. By letting a Guest Blogger blog for your business, they will be more inclined to return the favour and allow you to post on their blog. This is a win-win situation, as you branch out your network and your business ends up garnering more attention. It’s a very personal form of advertising; by reaching out directly to people who may have never heard of your business, businesses get access to a new audience and new clients.

Guest blogging can be detrimental to your business if mismanaged. Businesses invest heavily on creating the perfect ‘image’. In the online world, businesses must interact with clients and the audience, and importantly, have a coherent ‘voice’ that works in tandem with your brand. Having many different ‘voices’ can make a blog seem inconsistent and can put off readers. If a blog has a certain standard of posts, it is perhaps better to keep blogging in-house, instead of outsourcing. Otherwise, businesses are left with setting out guidelines, proofreading and checking outside posts, creating more work than if the blog was written in-house!

Like with anything, management is key. Businesses are very personal and you have to be careful who gets involved in them. Guest Blogging has it’s uses, but it is a double-edged sword. When done well, it is a welcome addition to any business. Done badly, and there’s a risk of losing all hard work put in to build a brand’s credibility.

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EU ruling backs the ‘right to be forgotten’

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“Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

Europe’s highest court has ruled in favour of privacy advocates today, stating that people should be able to ask Google to ‘delete’ irrelevant or outdated information about themselves from search engine results. The judges came to their ruling because Google as a search engine ‘collects’ data and when indexing websites, Google ‘retrieves’, ‘records’ and ‘organises’ the data then ‘stores’ on its servers and ‘makes available’ to its users, which therefore makes it liable for the content.

The ‘right to be forgotten’ debate was sparked by Spanish national Mario Costeja González, who complained to the Spanish data agency, Agencia Española de Protección de Datos. When his name was search for in Google, the results would contain information about an auction for his repossessed home, which argued was a breach of his privacy. Similar cases have also been found in Spain.

“If, following a search made on the basis of a person’s name, the list of results displays a link to a web page which contains information on the person in question, that data subject may approach the operator directly and, where the operator does not grant his request, bring the matter before the competent authorities in order to obtain, under certain conditions, the removal of that link from the list of results,” said the judges from the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Those against the ‘right to be forgotten’ have stated that removing such information is one step closer to internet censorship. Google, who are disappointed with the verdict, have mentioned that because they do not host the data, and just link to it, they cannot be held responsible for it. This ruling puts search engines in a tricky situation, whereby they must effectively censor their search results.

The judges have mentioned a public interest clause in the information somebody wants deleted and a “fair balance” between that interest and the data subject’s right to privacy needs to be arranged. Privacy and Freedom of Expression must be respected. The ability to hold those in power to account is paramount to a democratic society. Regardless, this ruling may be good news for the rest of us who may have an embarrassing office party photograph floating around the internet, but this law in practice is more complex and requires a lot of work.

Happy Birthday, World Wide Web! 25 Websites We Couldn’t Live Without

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“Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

‘Vague, but exciting…’ were the words used to describe the paper, “Information Management”: A Proposal.” sent to Mike Sendall by his then employee, Tim Berners-Lee. Those words may well go down as the understatement of the century, since it was from this proposal, Lee developed the World Wide Web as a means of publishing in Hypertext that could be viewed on computers worldwide. Lee went on to develop the first web browser and then the World Wide Web took off. The rest is history. Lee’s blueprint changed the world and how we stay connected and informed. You’d probably not be reading this article if it wasn’t for Lee! The World Wide Web celebrates it’s 25th birthday, so I’ve compiled a list of 25 of the most useful websites.

  1. YouTube

As the ultimate video-sharing platform, users can upload and share home videos. The platform has made celebrities of it’s most prolific users. The site was purchased by Google in 2006.

  1. Google

The go-to search engine. The verb ‘Google’ was  added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006. Offering services such as search engine, email, word processors, spreadsheets and social networking, to name a few, we’d quite frankly be lost without it.

  1. Wikipedia

‘The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit’ is the slogan of Jimmy Wales’ online encyclopedia. The collaborative, free online encyclopedia is the place to go for in-depth analysis on whatever your topic of interest is. Great for referencing, you can search through archives of information from the comfort of your home.

  1. eBay

The most popular online auction site, eBay allows small businesses, individual sellers and large corporations to sell their goods online. Still as popular today as it was when launched in 1995, the site is a treasure trove for eager bidders.

  1. Amazon

Amazon holds the title of the world’s largest online retailer. From humble beginnings as a bookseller, Amazon has expanded to selling just about everything, making it a force to be reckoned with. The company also produces the successful Kindle eBook reader line of electronics.

  1. BBC

The British Broadcasting Corporation is a public service broadcaster, funded by taxpayers. the corporation has the largest news outlet in the world and is praised for its dedication to providing an impartial view on world events.

  1. Facebook

Love or hate it, Facebook is the leader in Social Networking. Once setting up a profile, the site allows it’s users to stay in touch with friends and family, share content and reunite with old friends and is a very useful tool for doing so.

  1. Twitter

This social networking site has taken off in recent years. Users communicate by posting 140-character short messages called ‘tweets’. The platform is similar to SMS on mobile phones and allows for a more personal and direct form of contact between users.

  1. Linkedin

It is essential that any business professional joins this website. Linkedin allows employers to post their vacancies, while jobseekers can post a profile and network with employers. Users can ‘endorse’ you for certain skills and with 259 million members (and counting), this is where you’ll be finding your future jobs.

  1. WordPress

A blogger’s best friend. There are plenty of blogging sites out there, but WordPress is the most accessible and user-friendly. Functioning as both a blogging tool and content management system, WordPress does it all. For free.

  1. Pinterest

Pinterest allows it’s users to share visuals and ‘pin’ them on a virtual pinboard. As a result, the site is quite addictive. Whatever you type in the search bar will bring up photographs bound to fill you with inspiration. Great for visual promotion

  1. Paypal

Paypal is a useful way of transferring funds or paying for goods online. The site is regulated heavily and saves paper used by traditional methods of payment by managing payments received and sent online.

  1. TripAdvisor

Booking a holiday? Want to know if that new restaurant is any good? Simply type it in the search bar and you can read reviews and check out user-uploaded photographs.

  1. DropBox

Dropbox is an online cloud storage website that allows users to upload files and them access them on any computer, phone or tablet. It’s an easy to use solution to sharing large files.

  1. TFL

A must-visit when travelling around London, you can check for delays (inevitable in the capital), plan your journey and get live transport updates.

  1. MoneySavingExpert

In times when everyone is tightening their belts, making your pound go further is even more important. Set up by financial journalist, Martin Lewis, MoneySavingExpert is the bible of advice for consumers, helping you get the best deal and campaigning for financial justice. One for your bookmarks.

  1. Bit.ly

This site functions only to shorten long URL links. Useful for all business, and especially on Twitter, where there is a 140-character limit.

  1. NHS

The NHS is a wonderful institution, and thus needs a website to illustrate this. The site allows you to search for your nearest NHS centre for whatever service you need and contains useful information on health and wellbeing.

  1. Gumtree

A classified website where you can search for just about anything in your local area. Chances are, if you’re looking for something, someone will have it on here.

  1. Kickstarter

In times when money is scarce, Kickstarter has provided the solution. The crowdfunding platforms allows users to donate to a project, bypassing traditional investment means. The platform is proving successful, with recent successes including the Veronica Mars movie.

  1. coursera

Take courses from leading world universities online, for free. There’s no catch, users can watch short video lectures, take interactive quizzes, complete peer graded assessments, and connect with classmates and teachers.

  1. w3Schools

Specifically for web developers and those interested in learning, w3Schools provides excellent tutorials on topics such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, SQL, and JQuery. on top of that, the site is designed so people can practise the new codes that they have learnt. an absolute gem of a site.

  1. Lifehacker

‘Life hack’ is a term for finding those little things that make everyday life easier. Who wouldn’t want that? The site contains tips on just about everything, including unusual DIY tips that provide solutions to everyday annoyances.

  1. IMDb

The Internet Movie Database is the ultimate database of films, television programs and video games. Need all the facts on Clint Eastwood’s career? It’s here. Want to know when the next Martin Scorsese film is out? It’s here. Or do you just want to improve on your pub quiz score? Probably here, as well.

  1. Etsy

For shoppers who like to own unique items not on the high street. Etsy allows merchants to set up shop and sell their items directly to the customer. The large range of beautiful handmade items means that there’s something for everyone.

 

 

Fingerprints for Online Shopping? Keeping our online data secure

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“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

The security of our data online has become a major issue in recent years. with more and more companies advertising and allowing customers to purchase online, sensitive information such as bank details are becoming more susceptible to security breaches. with the majority of us sharing details of our lives (our pictures, date of birth and location), if these sites are hacked, we face serious risks of identity fraud, or worse. Since Kickstarter has become the latest high-profile case of hacking, businesses need to find a way to adapt to online security threats.

Recently, Tesco had to suspend the online accounts of more than 2,000 customers after their login details were obtained by hackers and shared. Crowdfunding website, Kickstarter, was also hit by cyber attacking, compromising the security of people’s personal data. Whilst these online sites have proven vulnerable to security breaches, there is also a problem with customers using weak passwords (SplashData published a report finding that the most common password online was ‘123456’) and not alternating their passwords on different online accounts.

These aren’t just isolated incidents, with huge companies like Google, Sony,  Microsoft and Twitter having also been targeted in the past. So, with so many high-profile hacks and usernames and passwords compromised, are these companies investing in a solution?

Already in use by 5% of organisations, Biometric technology is being hailed as the step forward away from the traditional username and password. This week, Google acquired a small Israeli-company, SlickLogin. Their technology replaces usernames and passwords with high-frequency sound waves. So, a site that adopts this technology would play the ultrasonic sound through your computer’s speakers that can be picked up by a smart phone, which then confirms your identity.

Technology companies are also considering biometric technologies when designing mobile phones, with speculation that the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S5 will have a fingerprint censor. The owner would register their fingerprint and be able to use it to unlock the device and various apps. Apple are also rumoured to be investing in iris scanning technology for their upcoming iPhone 6.

As useful as the technology may seem, the difficulty is deciding whether it should outright replace username and passwords, or used as another layer of protection. Fingerprints have not always been secure in the past and having to have your smartphone linked with a computer when you want to login online makes the process more work for the user. Is that worth the extra security benefits? To some, it could be, but to replace usernames and passwords entirely seems unnecessary. Creating strong passwords should definitely be considered by online users. You wouldn’t leave valuable jewellery or money in a safe that anybody could crack open, and the same principle applies online. Biometric technology could be the future, though. According to Gartner, nearly a third of organisations (30 per cent) will use biometric authentication for mobile devices by 2016. The technology to do this is already in place, but the user experience should also be kept in mind before making this dramatic switch.

  1. http://www.itpro.co.uk/security/21559/nearly-a-third-of-businesses-to-use-biometrics-by-2016#ixzz2tlVZc3ke
  2. http://www.macrumors.com/2014/01/21/apple-iris-scanning/
  3. http://splashdata.com/press/worstpasswords2013.htm
  4. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/feb/24/galaxy-s5-samsung-bets-on-fitness-and-fingerprint-sensors-to-beat-apple

The not so obvious IT job: Finding the right IT career

IT is a colossal industry that affects almost every aspect of modern life.  

With salaries 1 and employment 2 on the rise, IT remains a great industry to enter.  However, despite its pervasive nature, many still view it as impenetrable. This is of course not true. IT possesses a massive range of jobs; you don’t have to be an omniscient computer programmer to make a career for yourself.

Social Media Manager/Architect 

As social media becomes more and more prominent in the modern world, it is little wonder that businesses are now beginning to reap its benefits. To this end, companies are requiring specialized ‘Social media architects/managers’. They are seeking confident, skilled communicators with good negotiation skills to manage and creatively enhance their presence in this sector.

Despite social business still being in its infancy, social media titles are already being redefined. As the divide between management and architecture increases, companies are beginning to also seek out those with a more technologically focused skill-set, capable of implementing social infrastructure for larger companies. This is not to say that ‘social media managers’ are not equally sought after. Both roles are necessary and as social media becomes further ingrained in world-culture, it is sure to be a sector of IT which continues to expand. 

Technical Author 

Also known as information designers, technical writers and technical communicators. 

Technical authors explain technical information in a way that is easy to understand. This primarily involves interpreting technology (applications, programs, software etc.), and designing or creating relevant documentation. The documentation may be in a variety of different media, providing software demos and interactive tutorials in video, graphic or PowerPoint format.

There is a large focus on research and liaising with subject matter experts, sales and marketing specialist.  Collaboration with developers and the ability to work alongside translators, printers and service providers is also important.

Employers are looking for quick-learners with great research, organisation and presentation skills.

IT Security Manager 

In this digital age, businesses that neglect to protect against cyber attacks leave themselves immensely vulnerable. Last year over a fifth of UK firms were hit by DDoS attacks3, intangible and crippling strikes that can cause thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Part of an IT security manager’s job is to make sure this doesn’t happen. From securing Wi-Fi networks to handling back-up storage and instigating policies for lost equipment; businesses worldwide are in need of a position dedicated to keeping sensitive data private. Security managers must understand that fraudsters will try to exploit minute weaknesses that no one considers.

Recent publicized incidents of lost laptops 4 as well as other devices containing confidential information demonstrate the need for this job. Employers are looking for people with a wealth of IT security experience, favoring those with military experience or a four-year degree.

Sound engineer/producer 

Sound is an aspect of the IT industry often overlooked.  Despite this, the use of sound in any professional endeavour must adhere to ever-increasing industry standards. To this end, TV, radio, film, games, the web and multimedia projects are all increasingly requiring skilled sound designers to enhance their products.

Having experience in this area provides you with a range of opportunities to employ these skills. ‘Anywhere that sound is used,’ writes Brunel University lecturer, Alan Mannion, ‘leaves opportunity for Digital Media experts to add sonic dimensions which stimulate “human emotional engagement” and elevate the user experience beyond a visual one.’

Possessing even a basic skill with sound production could prove immensely rewarding for those in creative technology and multimedia businesses.

1.      http://www.zdnet.com/it-salaries-will-improve-in-2013-says-report-7000009578/

2.      http://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-2/careers-in-growing-field-of-information-technology-services.htm

3.      http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240188089/More-than-one-fifth-of-UK-firms-hit-by-DDoS-attacks-in-2012

4.      http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/jun/12/defence.terrorism


No Student Should be Left Behind in IT

Today there is plenty of media hype around technology “re-wiring” the young mind. Many educational experts, teachers and parents have mentioned that the digital age has made an impact and improved the way we all do things.  The youth have become more franchised within the community, by having an online voice which is truly being heard.

In the 1980’s, it was expressed in a creative art form called Graffiti which was seen on public buildings, underground tubes, trains including other areas. With most teenagers owning a mobile phone, improved internet connectivity and lower costs we are witnessing the online cultural shift.

This culture is demonstrated with increased social media activity, purchase of goods and online learning to name a few. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are dominant forms of sharing information, content and socialising amongst young people. According to eMarketer (internet market research firm) reports, social activity across the world is still growing.

emarketeer online stats

Young people’s perception

One common view shared amongst them is how they multi-task – emailing, texting, browsing the web, status updates on Facebook, Twitter, including doing coursework.

A survey carried out by Nottingham University, on 16-year-old students, highlights a number of key areas of their relationship with computers,

key areas:

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Forthcoming technology events such as the “Campus Party” at the London O2 (hosted by Telefonica) has inspired and continue to inspire tens of thousands of young people about exciting new opportunities and careers within the technological sector.

 Computing Popularity

The popularity of IT courses has increased partly due to the growth in the IT sector, especially in areas such as programming, web development and mobile apps. The government backed funding initiative for young entrepreneurs is also another cause.  Most young people are internet savvy and have some basic knowledge of managing content such as blogs and web pages.

Apart from colleges and universities offering courses, there are a number of grants and funding opportunities awarded to various organisations across the country who deliver a number of bespoke IT courses in local communities. It’s another route to job opportunities for the youth including the disadvantaged.

Further employment of IT within the education system has led to improved learning experiences across the board from kindergarten to higher education.  Hence the youth are sometimes called the “net-generation”, familiar with popular software packages including Apps across various technological devices such as, tablets and smart phones.

Young Entrepreneurs

With the dawn of Google in 1998 there has been a plethora of technological start-ups around the globe. In the UK we have seen an explosion of young entrepreneurs coming forth with great ideas such as:

  • Rate Your Player an online social football network
  • Target Parking service offering car parks across Britain
  • Vungle a mobile app exclusively for video ads
  • Hailo for hailing black cabs

The growth of young entrepreneurs and IT is still rising, especially with funding provided by the government, crowd sourcing platforms and investors. With the decline in employment in some sectors we anticipate more start-ups amongst the younger generation.

5 Lessons Learned, 5 Pitfalls to Avoid

Perfectionists – do they really exist?

As the saying goes’ humility goes a long way’—this statement does not really apply to most perfectionists as they are always right.  Perfectionists do not know the meaning of the word humility even if it is staring them in their eyes. People particularly leaders have to know that ‘nobody has a monopoly of knowledge’.  Everybody should try and imbibe the cloak of humility in their lives as this will set them apart. The perfectionist can ultimately become the raving lunatic in an environment as their expectations are placed on others.  Challenging their standpoint is not acceptable.  Only a foolish man will think he is perfect but a wise person will be humble to put their head down and learn from others around them.

Giving up at the site of problems

Encountering obstacles most people run a mile – a fact.  Being solution oriented does not come naturally to most, however it should be embraced.  Entrepreneurs or business owners should face the problem, seek expert advice or find practicable solutions.  The ‘solution is often around the corner’ for every problem.  For instance, you may not be in a position to hire more staff as expected, you may have to downsize and delay expansion until the economic window arises. The current economic climate requires solution focused entrepreneurs or driven by viable business ideas and strategies.

Inability to embrace learning

People tend to shy away from learning which can have a detrimental effect on their lives.  It is important to learn at the right time and never give up on one’s dream of pursuing knowledge as ‘Knowledge learnt is knowledge halved’. The brain can be likened to a receptacle that amasses information that shapes and moulds our existence and well-being. Think about people of repute such as President Barack Obama, if he did not embrace learning it would have been impossible for him to be at the pinnacle of his life.  The brain stagnates if one does not continue to learn and pursue knowledge.  A person that clamours for more understanding will ultimately challenge themselves in all areas of their lives be it education, ideas and extra-curricular activities.  As life is for living, embracing learning should be a pivotal part of it.

Having work-life balance and avoiding detrimental clashes

Success should not be determined by how many hours you can stay at work but by how you are able to nurture the youth without losing grip on reality (i.e. the work that supports the family).  We should do our utmost to find out ways to work smarter and more efficiently.  Striking the right balance between work and life is an essential ingredient to success.

Under estimating or not trusting your own instinct

What you can bring to the table matters at all times, not making the right decision at the right time can have a detrimental effect to an idea, project or business.  Sometimes our instinct tells us one thing but we do another.  We have to develop the courage to stick with what we believe, and never falter in the face of adversity particularly when major decisions are being made.  Our voice must always matter in every situation. People can only trust us if we show them that our ideas are invaluable under any circumstances. Examples are Instagram, Facebook etc.; there are a plethora of examples out there.

As the saying goes “feel the fear but do it anyway”, business is a journey be it good or bad times.

It’s how we weather the storm that matters.