Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Rafflesia, The Banished Princess - A Promising attempt in Fiction

Never judge a book by its cover . You might have heard this a million times in so many different contexts, never once in its literal meaning. Well, I had the chance of experiencing this through a recent book I received called Rafflesia - The Banished princess.

The book cover has an image of a beautiful woman (Probably resembling a Japanese girl) holding a hand fan covering part of her face. The title reads Rafflesia - The Banished princess and you'll be naturally inclined to think, this is a mythical / fantasy story. Probably a beautiful princess in a far away kingdom, banished by an evil watch for whatsoever reason and so forth.

Yet, the book is not even remotely about it , and in fact a normal fictional drama. Before you proceed reading, I'd like to stress that , this is a spoiler free review and I'm not revealing any of the main plots in the below review.

The book is a fine mix of young adult fiction and a serious drama , as the author decides to switch back and forth between the protagonist's childhood and his future. Though some parts might get a little slow and melodramatic , it still keeps the reader quite engrossed in the happenings of the story. The dialogues, experiences and events seem quite real and authentic , and the book thankfully stays away from the fictional cliches away and makes it a little enjoyable

This 400 page book may not be the kind of book , that you might be able to finish it in a day or two. It needs time, yet in the end it proves to be a delightful read. The author deliberately leaves a lot of loose strings in several parts of the story , only to bring it all together in the end.

Gautam, the author of the book, has given immense importance to the lead character,Appu and makes the readers sympathize with him and even feel sorry for him at times. The best part about this book is, its non descriptive. Unlike other authors, who takes time in describing a staircase for 2-3 pages, he gets straight to the point.

The few downsides of the book could be the numerous characters being deployed. It's almost impossible to remember more than 60% of the names being mentioned. I had to kinda make note of who's who or keep switching back pages. Additionally , you feel a sense of melancholy throughout the book and this may not be a cheerful read as you might expect to be. Even in a celebration , there's a sadness that lingers away in the background and I sometimes even wonder if this was needed at that point.

Having said that the book is a delightful slow read, a promising bold attempt from the author and would definitely recommend to people who's looking for something new.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Comments, Pods and Instagram : Do Social Influencers really buy Followers?

Blogging and Social Media were pretty much the buzzwords in 2016-17 when people suddenly realised the huge potential lying untapped in it. Several corporates and brands lapped up the concept of freelance bloggers promoting their product with reviews, unboxing, product showcasing etc. This boosted their sales conversion rates and brought in significant traffic to their website.

The Rise of the Followers

When the number of bloggers began to grow quite exponentially, there was a filtering criterion that came into place, in the name of  "followers count". A person having a large follower count was suddenly the hot choice for everyone. They started calling themselves as "social media influencers", and pretty much in demand all the time. The numbers seem to always be exaggerated (similar to scenes inside a political party).

Creation of Fake Followers  with multiple Devices

What's your story?

One school of thought says quality and interesting content drives traffic and followers. Yet, when you actual look into their blog, social media pages, nothing seemed to appear quite extraordinary. There was no "Great" magical content, that could have actually driven a lot of traffic. It was almost the same stuff, that you could have found it elsewhere, a few product reviews, sharing of some experiences, a few travel clicks and maybe a few contest retweets. The hashtags surrounding the post, however, is more than the actual post content.

The Trail of Hashtag #

Ideal scenario : A girl clicks a picture of a selfie with a dog. Hashtag reads : #AnimalLover #DogLover #Dog #Dogs #DogsofInstagram #BowBow #Puppy #Cute #blogger #Instalove #Vegan #Chennai #India #Mumbai #Bangalore and the list goes for another two pages.

You get the point here.  

Such hashtags doesn't generate a thousand followers per post. Npt to mention 20K followers in say 10 - 20 posts. If this was a celebrity, like a sports person or a film star, that just happens "organically" (ok we are going to cover later on this interesting word). However, for a nobody, a stranger in the internet posting a few random pics on Instagram/Twitter, it may not have the actual propensity to gain such a large following in a short time.. So do these so called 100K followers actually exist?

Well, the answer in short is NO. They are just fake. Read on..

Analytics of Social Media Engagement

Suppose a filmstar was to have a half a million followers, you'd be seeing atleast 50,000 likes (thats roughly 10% of your followers likes your post, to say the min). Shahrukh Khan's latest picture in Instagram garnered 500,000 likes while his follower count was 7M. This is in the acceptable limits of 7-8 %. So if an "influencer" claims to have 100,000 followers but doesn't get more than 50 likes/post on an average, you know there's something fishy. Or rather in technical terms "bots" that appears like a real profile, but in fact a fake.
In other good news, I have 200 followers on my Instagram page and I still get 30 likes a post (and that's likes 15%). If you're reading this, it's a cue to follow me there :)

So what are the "non-organic' ways to gain followers?

  1. Buying Followers: 

This is something, most people prefer to not talk about but still quite a few indulge in it. Just like how a top score is vital to a student, the follower count is suddenly a symbol of status for a blogger. It matters even more, irrespective of the poor content and high bounce rate %.

So if you have to join the big league, people resort to buying followers. Now, I am not aware of the technical process that goes behind creating followers, but atleast know the sources where you can do. Here are some of the examples I have come across in sites like Twitter/FB/ to get this done.

  • Engage them through shady profiles in Facebook (There are FB groups for this)
  • Google search for buying Fake followers
  • Professional consultation site has several people offering to improve your follower count by 1000's starting from 5$

From the posts I saw, the going rate was 10-20$ for anywhere between 1000-5000 followers.
The bots don't like/comment/share your content, but just adds up to you followers count.
In essential the page is a mirage. It seems big from the outside but when you go inside its empty.

      2. Comments and Instagram Pods

When I heard the word 'Pod', being referred in a social media context, I was quite intrigued. I thought its a Facebook group to share links and get awareness about blogs. But the objective was a whole lot different than I had imagined. I joined a few to see what's the deal is all about. The members have to post their Instagram links, and quite forcibly(without much choice) have to like 15 other profiles listed in the comments. Once done you hit like to hint at them, expecting a follow back. So in short a "like" exchange. You Follow Me, I follow you (even if both of them may have two different genres).
(Of course, an unfollow happens, once the forced follower gets bored of your content).

Honestly, I don't know how far this can be successful, but you don't gain more than 10-15 followers at any point of time. At most, you'll find yourself having 50 extra followers at the end of the month.

Social Calendars for Pods

    3. Giveaways

A sure shot of gaining large followers is giveaways. Promise a prize for the person inviting the max no of people. Make it mandatory that all of them should follow you to qualify you for the prize and share the post on their wall as well. Also, announce that the most engaging comment would win an additional prize. Want more engagement? Tell them, you should follow their Twitter page, Facebook page, Google + page, Pinterest page (each of which will give additional 1 point in the lucky draw, and increase their chance of winning).

You'd be finding yourself with so many new followers across different platform. Yet they are there just for winning the prize and might unfollow you any minute post that. At least, this still remains in an ethical line to get more people liking your page. But are they there for your content? No. Do you actually have a social influence over them (without offering a prize) : a Big NO!

Becoming successful the 'Organic' way

Organic usually refers to a way of being natural, without adding any artificial ingredients. Being an influencer, should be the same way. People read your content, share it to their circles and the net widens. They see something interesting in your content and await more such stories. They hit the subscribe button out of a willingness to read more.

Some of the top successful bloggers in the world have become popular only because of their content. They wrote about something which no-one else thought of. Their site had interesting information, tips and lots of valuable content for the users. They were honest, had something interesting about them and connected with their users. This is what a social media influencer is all about, even if he had just 500 "True" followers. Not a person with 1,00,000 followers with 0 engagements.

There are people who have grown their audience from scratch and have become powerful thought leaders in this space. Amit Aggarwal (Labnol), Neil Patel (Neilpatel .com) and so many others have shown how it's done the right way. Yet, to get more brand collaborations and aim of getting rich connect, people, indulge in such shameful acts, which leave a distaste to the true bloggers out there.

My opinion :

Having been in the blogging scenario since 2006, I have witnessed the entire life journey of its evolution. From a hobby to a mainstream profession, blogs have provided a steady income stream to several people. Some of the blogs I read are a true inspiration for me and also a very reliable place to get quality information and reviews. An instagram picture can never ever replace that trust & quality, I get from a blog. A blog unlike an Instagram post is forever and may end up in a search result even four years down the line. On the other hand, your Instagram post may never appear in a timeline even after a day.

A recommendation to PR's and Brands : 

  • Instagram is a popular tool with several users across the globe. But it's not going to get you the conversion. All it does, is familiarize a product, without any traffic leading to the client's site. 
  • Invest in true bloggers, who can actually make your brand rank on the top of the search result and link their site to yours , which leads to direct conversion. 
  • Don't fall for the 20,000 or 200,000 follower count in a pitch. Look for actual engagements, conversion rates and actual traffic to their site from theirs. See if they have the technical capability to rank your keyword in a Google search with their blog post. It'll then be a true Win-Win situation for all.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Google Docs Phishing - What really happened & behind the scenes analysis

In the event that YOU GET a Google Doc connect in your inbox today, investigate it painstakingly before you click—regardless of the possibility that it would appear it originates from somebody you trust. A dreadful phishing trick that mimics a Google Docs ask for has cleared the web today,  You've listened "think before you click" a million times, yet this post could truly could spare you from a mess of bother. Here's a short post on the Google Docs phishing scam.

Extent of Google Docs Phishing Attack

"The significance of this phishing attack is not how it spread, but instead how it didn't utilize malware or fake sites, deceiving clients to surrender their passwords," says Aaron Higbee, innovation officer at the phishing examination and protection organization PhishMe, which dissected information from the fake Google Docs battle. "This phish worked in light of the fact that it deceived the client into allowing authorizations to an outsider application. This is the eventual fate of phishing, and each security innovation seller is not well furnished to manage it".

Google has found a way to kill this specific phish. The organization said in an announcement that it has "handicapped culpable records. We've expelled the fake pages, pushed refreshes through Safe Browsing, and our mishandle group is attempting to keep this sort of satirizing from happening once more." But with regards to phishing protection, there's dependably a component of feline and mouse. Vast scale phishing assaults and those mimicking mainstream administrations like Google sign in pages routinely stalk the web. 

Earlier Phishing Attacks

Similar Google Docs tricks have been circling since 2014, yet that doesn't make them any less demanding to spot, to a limited extent since they appear to be so genuine. Phishers can utilise genuine Google accounts and grow outside modules that can communicate with Google administrations. This can easily bait casualties through the best looking Google site pages one. 
Here are some of the means by which you can remain careful:
The Act of Phishing

This round of Google docs phishing messages works like this: 
  • You get an email saying somebody added you to a Google Do , click this connection to view it. 
  • That takes you to a true blue record screen, posting all the Google records you're signed into. 
  • From that point, you pick the one you need to use to see the archive (or sign in, in the event that you weren't at that point confirmed in your program). 
  • There, a noxious administration called "Google Docs" anticipates, requesting benefits to get to your record, your contacts, your secret word rests, your messages, everything.

A quick fix Solution:

By chance you had clicked on that connection link, immediately go to the Permissions page of your Google account , deny access to the administration called "Google Docs." 

Wellbeing First:

To help secure yourself, Google offers a device called Password Alert. This alerts you in the event you write your Google account accreditations into any page that isn't formally by Google. On the off chance, that phishers have made a practical looking fake, Password Alert in a flash recommends that you change your secret key and secure your record when you've committed the error. 

Be that as it may, this doesn't really ensure you when tricksters are controlling honest to goodness Google forms. Furthermore, it doesn't help you recognise fake sign in pages identified with other organisations' administrations.

Fighting the temptation to open remains the best course of action here. When you can spot irregularities or suspicious substance in an email like a "To" field populated by "hhhhhhhhhh", it ought to raise doubts and you should trust your gut instinct here. In any case, for the situation where a phishing email is sufficiently impeccable to persuade you, it takes a general propensity for deduction before you snap to give a shot.

A Safety Check to prevent being hacked


Downloading connections or clicking joins shouldn't be programmed even when they appear to be from your trusted contacts. Especially in case you're not expecting a message, you ought to pause for a minute to inspect any URLs. You should check if it contains a plain content tool or twofold check with your companion through another methods for correspondence and check if they indeed sent it. These fast checks can have a major effect. Some of the time a moment's look is all it takes to understand that your associate most likely wouldn't send a Google Doc to your whole organization  out of nowhere. 
This is a guest post from Rudroju Yashwanth , who owns

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Microsoft Surface Laptop - A Sneak Peek & Preview

Back in early 2017, if you had asked who would be launching the best-looking laptop this year, you’d probably go with Apple, HP or even Dell. But Microsoft has just stumped the world with the launch of the Surface Laptop.

surface laptop sleek design

With the launch of the Windows Surface laptop, Microsoft has basically woken the dead PC market from its ashes, quite literally.  Despite an earnest attempt earlier with the Surface 4, it didn’t really quite take off. However just a couple of years down the line, they have launched an “Apple Killer”, a super sleek device called the “Surface Laptop". Without a doubt, this can very much be the next big thing in the PC industry.

The Surface laptop comes bundled with Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 10S. Only drawback of the 10S OS is the Microsoft App store dependency. So you basically have to install apps from the apps store and that can be a bit frustrating sometimes.

So what’s different in the Surface Laptop?

For starters, it’s a full-fledged laptop, as compared to the earlier  hybrid type tablet/laptop device of Surface Pro 4. They actually pretty much forced you to buy a compatible keyboard for as high as 150$. So this “non-hybrid laptop” comes as a big relief and you also get a free OS along with it.

The most striking thing is the design. The surface laptop comes with an extremely sleek 3.5mm thick touch screen and an unusual fabric finish keyboard, making the Macbook Air look like a dictionary in comparison. The base is made of a mixture of aluminium and plastic while covered with a layer of fabric of nylon. The fabric finish just makes it all the more smooth.

The base is made of a mixture of aluminium and plastic while covered with a layer of fabric of nylon. The fabric finish just makes it all the more easier to handle, as well as to type with a “softer on the hands” feel. They call this an “Alcantara” fabric.

Surface's Stunning Design

The 13.5 touch screen with the thinnest LCD display is packed with several cooling materials in the back and surprisingly even provides the capability to draw with a pen/stylus. This is something quite iconic to all surface editions and hence a designer’s favourite. One unique feature that stands out is the one hand to open option. Unlike most laptops, where you hold the base and try to open the screen, the surface actually stands its ground, while you can effortlessly open the top lid.

The battery life for the Surface is claimed to be 14.5 hours (without even a minute loss of power when you put it to sleep). This is a huge step up against the average battery life of 8-9 hours in Apple laptops and most chromebooks.

Surface Laptop - Colour Options

Just like a smartphone, Microsoft has rolled out 4 different vibrant colours for this, which includes: Burgundy, Platinum, Cobalt Blue and Graphite Gold.

Pricing & Configuration

The Surface doesn’t come cheap, given its superior premium finish and build. The pricing starts at 999$ for the Intel i5 processor variant. This comes along with 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD and a massive 2256 x 1504 resolution. If you throw in 49$, you’d get the Windows 10 Pro, which to me is quite essential to work with most applications and softwares. This includes Google Chrome, which is a glaring miss in the Windows app store.

A final word

Surface laptop could be the best thing that happened to Microsoft, when it comes to the hardware industry.  Going out of the standard "microsoft" design, they have tried something so different and it actually pays off. Given the specs, features and more importantly the design, it really warrants a 999$ price tag and wouldn't be too much to mind for most Windows users. Can we also sense a shift from Apple fans, with some aggressive marketing?

Friday, May 05, 2017

Flipkart Big 10 Sale - Top Deals, Discounts and Cashback Offers

India's biggest and most successful online retail giant, Flipkart is celebrating its 10th anniversary on May 14th. Flipkart, not only became a successful e-retail store but actually gave Indians, the trust to buy things online through never before seen schemes, such as 30-day replacement guarantee, no questions asked returns and of course rock bottom prices. Starting it as an online bookstore, just like how Amazon started, they quickly ventured to the entire gamut of online retailing and expanded quite significantly. In fact, is now one among the top 2 of Indian retail industry and in due process acquired Myntra,  Snapdeal, Jabong and the likes. The second is of course the worldwide giant, Amazon.

In order to celebrate this 10-year milestone, they have announced a massive Flipkart Big 10 Sale from May 14th to May 18th. The sale is supposedly much larger than all their previous sales and would be applicable on almost all products including TV's, Washing machines, Mobile Phones, Refrigerators, Clothes, Home appliances, furniture etc.

Bank Offer in Flipkart Big10 Sale:

This time, Flipkart has tied up with HDFC to over the cashback over and above the discounts you get on the products.

The terms and conditions are as follows :
  • Offer valid from 14th to 18th May ' 17
  • Valid on min spend of Rs 6499
  • Max Discount per card: Rs 1250
  • Cashback  : 10% 

Wallet Offers : Flipkart's own PhonePe wallet is also offering a whopping 30% cashback on the same ( though max cashback amount is unknown at the moment).

Top Participating Brands in Flipkart Sale

  • Clothing: UCB, Vero Moda, Levis, Lee, W, Biba, Puma, Adidas, Reebok, Fila
  • Electronics: HP, Dell, Asus, Philips, JBL
  • Mobiles: Samsung, Apple, Mi, Lenovo

Other Major Prizes in Store : 

A fully paid international trip,  shopping vouchers every hour and even get a golden chance to do free shopping !! Here's a detailed list:

  • Play & Win – Complete simple tasks and win big!
  • Fly High Contest – Free Trip to Kaula Lumpur for top 20 shoppers
  • MakeMyTrip Gift Cards worth Rs. 2500 and more
  • Flash sale with Discounts Up to 90% Off
  • Free Shopping up to Rs. 10,000 – Top 1000 interesting entries win by answering a simple question.
  • What’s your bid? Make the lowest unique bid and win big!
  • Shop for 3 or more products. Top 10 shoppers win Vouchers every hour, worth Rs. 500
I'll try to update the deals as and when it is posted, here. So save this link to get some amazing deals!