WordPress Verification

After blogging for several months, I’ve decided to analyze my blog and make an audit of it.

In total, I’ve published 11 posts on my blog. Eight of them were school based and set by the blogging challenge, and the remaining three were free posts. I find it difficult most of the time to find an appropriate topic to write about, so I enjoyed writing the school-based posts.

Although most of my comments were from my classmates, I did get a few comments from other students who were also part of the student blogging challenge. It was cool to have people that I didn’t know comment on my posts and share their thoughts, and in a way, it connected us.

I may not have gotten a ton of legitimate comments, but I did get, like, a billion spam comments. In total, my site has been protected from 4,416 spam comments. Every time I log into my WordPress, I have to delete between 10-200 spam comments from my spam queue. This got pretty annoying and I eventually had to change some settings to help prevent spam, but it hasn’t made much of a difference.

Public Domain

The post I got the most comments on was “Syria: What it Was and What it Became.” I think it’s because it was about a pressing issue that was currently going on, and because a lot of people didn’t know about the situation in Syria and were surprised after they read my post.

The post I enjoyed ‘writing’ the most from the Student Blogging Challenge was “A Sentence Using Images” because it was a creative challenge and it was fun to formulate a sentence from pictures and have people guess it. From the free posts I did on my own, I enjoyed writing “The Phenomena of Dreams“. It was fun and interesting to research about dreams, and most of the information I had in my post were facts that I did not know prior to writing the post, so I educated myself by writing it.

I switched from the default theme to “Plane”, and I customized the colors and the formatting. I like this theme because the header image isn’t that large, and I feel like it would distract the reader if it was. I also liked the color and background options and was able to customize the site till I was satisfied.

To personalize my blog, I added six widgets on my sidebar–recent posts, tags, categories, blog statistics, flag counter, and a blog roll. I put the tags, categories, and recent posts widgets to make it easier for my readers to navigate their way through my blog and find my posts. The blogroll is a way to connect with other bloggers and give them sort of a shout-out. And finally, the flag counter and the blog stats are just a way for my visitors to see how many other people visit my blog and where they come from.

I think that having six widgets is just right: not too many and not too little. The widgets I picked don’t take up a lot of space, and I don’t think they distract the reader or take away from the posts. But then again, that’s just my opinion, so if you think otherwise, let me know.

On my blog roll, I only have one overseas student, and that would be Alina. We’ve exchanged a couple of comments, and she was the first overseas student to connect with me so I decided to add her blog onto to my blogroll.

Finally, I’ve only used simple web tools like images, videos, and block quotes, all of which were introduced to us by our teacher. The only web tool that I ‘discovered’ and used on my own was a slideshow, but that’s not that creative. I may need to explore WordPress and look for creative web tools to use in my future posts, but for now, I’ll stick to the basic ones.




Your Online Trail

Googling yourself can either be a nightmare or a relief. When you search up your name on a search engine- or worse, when others search it up- everything that is attached to your name shows up. Whether it’s a picture you posted five years ago and completely forgot about, or it’s social media accounts that you made then abandoned, everything that you do online can be found by others.

Public Domain from Pixabay

It’s called a digital footprint. In short, your digital footprint is a trace that you leave behind on the internet. When you post a picture, leave a comment, visit a website or text others (basically, anything that you do online), you leave ‘footprints’ behind that can be seen by others.

If you are unaware and careless of what you do online, it will eventually harm you. A picture you posted that you thought was harmless could be the reason your job application is denied three years later. An offensive comment that you left on someone’s post can cause you trouble later on. Publicly announcing that you’re going on vacation could lead to your house being robbed. Which is why we must be very careful about our online privacy.

A simple way to avoid having a negative footprint is to not overshare. Posting your age, your pet’s name, where you live, your interests, where you’re heading for the summer, or where you ate last night is irrelevant to others and can be avoided.

Fortunately for me, when I googled my name everything that came up I was aware of and there wasn’t anything that shocked me. It was mostly my social media accounts and a website or two that I had activity on. I make sure that all my social media accounts are private, and I try not to post too many pictures. Afterall, I wouldn’t want strangers knowing everything about me.

If you’re wondering what traces you’re leaving behind on the internet, you can try searching up your name on google and hope that what shows up doesn’t make you cringe. Unfortunately, everything that you do on the internet is permanent, so deleting a comment or a picture won’t completely destroy it. However, you can try making your digital footprint more positive by watching what you’re sharing online. Before you post something, think: will it affect me in the future? Would I mind if my teachers saw it? Am I going to be embarrassed about it later? If it’s a yes to any of these questions, then you’re better off not sharing that information.


Syria: What it Was & What it Became

public domain

Six years since the conflict in Syria started, close to 500,000 Syrians have been killed in the fighting, more than a million injured, and over 12 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes- out of a prewar population of 23 million.

How it All Started:

On March 15th, 2011, the year when the Arab Spring progressed, peaceful protests broke out in a couple of Syria’s cities. The citizens were protesting after 15 boys were arrested and tortured for writing graffiti supporting the Arab Spring. One of the boys, 13- year old Hamza Al-Khateeb, died after brutal torture.

Although the protests were peaceful, the Syrian government, led by dictator Bashar Al Assad, responded with violence. Hundreds of protesters were killed, many more imprisoned. More protests broke out, with the same response from the government. The Free Syrian Army, a group of fighters who had one purpose- to overthrow the government and give the people a chance at democracy, formed soon after.

Citizens continued to protest for they were unhappy with the dictator, and the government, wanting to silence its citizens, continued to respond with violence. However, the people weren’t about to give up.

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At first, the government punished its citizens for speaking out with tear gas and bullets; soon after, they turned to missiles and bombed civilian homes, schools, and hospitals.  According to Physicians for Human Rights, nearly 400 attacks on 269 different hospitals have been documented since the war in Syria began, 90% of them by the government and its allies.

But that wasn’t enough to satisfy the government; chlorine attacks and even chemical attacks soon became a common occurrence for people living in Syria.

“You have to get used to the sound of cannons and bombs. You have to hear the planes and bombs, and yet you have to continue. People go out even if there is a plane above. If you care, you will never go out of your home.”- Rami Zien, a 23-year-old freelance photographer in Syria.

**Warning: watch at your own risk**

Impacts of the War:

Six years later, and Syria is a completely different place. The war between the citizens and the government is still ongoing, with no end in sight. Pretty much all of Syria’s cities now consist of ruined homes, schools, and buildings. Those still living in Syria are barely surviving with next to no electricity, food, or safety.

Most children in Syria haven’t gone to school since the beginning of the war since going anywhere is too risky. Many parts of Syria, including Eastern Aleppo, are under siege, making life even harder.

“People were being isolated, starved, bombed and denied medical attention and humanitarian assistance in order to force them to submit or flee.”- Emergency Relief Co-ordinator Stephen O’Brien.

A city that has it especially bad is Aleppo; what many people remember as a beautiful busy city, is now almost completely wiped out.

What can you do? Educate yourself. Speak out. Raise awareness. Support Syrian refugees if you know any. For those on the verge of death in Syria, any type of help is appreciated.

Connected, but Alone?

We all depend on technology to get us through the day- it’s true. What we may not realize, however, is that we are becoming more disconnected from the real world when we spend most of our time on our devices. Just because you are always on social media, seeing what others are up to, doesn’t mean you are truly connected with them.

Recently in technology class, we watched a TedTalk by Sherry Turkle that talked about how we are becoming more and more reliant on technology, and less connected with others around us. While I was watching, I realized that I agreed with most of what Sherry said.

For one, I tend to check my phone a lot throughout the day. Whether it’s because I have notifications from social media sites, texts from friends, or I’m just bored, I find myself constantly reaching for my phone. Sometimes even spending almost an hour using it.

And it’s not just me. It has happened many times where I’m sitting with friends, wanting to talk and socialize, only to find everybody else on their phones and I feel like I’m sitting alone. Just like Eeman said in her post, The World of Technology, many people feel as though their phone is their best friends, and they absolutely cannot live without it.

Public Domain from Pixabay

Sherry also talked about how most people prefer to text rather than talk to others in person. Sure, texting may be quicker and more efficient than talking face- to- face, but that doesn’t mean it should be our main way of communicating.

Over and over I hear, “I would rather text than talk.” ~Sherry Turkle

I’m glad to say that I am not one of those people who would rather text. I find it much more entertaining and real when I talk to my friends face- to- face, compared to when we text. When talking online, we have the ability to present a specific side of ourselves to others, the ‘better’ side, and we can be completely different people. That’s why I feel the conversations I have online are almost fake or robotic since they lack emotion.

So what do you do? Next time you’re sitting with a group of people, put your phone aside. Try to socialize. Have real conversationsIf you still find yourself reaching for your phone to check for notifications, turn it off. Do whatever it takes to actually, truly connect.

This applies to me, too. Lately, my friends and I have been making an effort to not let our devices distract us from each other. Whenever we get together to hang out, our phones lay forgotten, taking pictures being the only reason we might need to use our devices for.

Digital Me

Like I said in my previous post, Commenting: Good v.s. Bad, having an appropriate profile picture is important since it shows up every time you comment on a post. It is also the main way for others to identify you, so your profile picture should be of you or something that represents you, rather a random image you found online.

However, some people may not want to share their personal image, but at the same time want others to recognize them. This is where an avatar comes in handy.

Being one of those people, I created an avatar of me using DoppelMe, a website that specializes in making avatars. To get access to more features, you simply need to sign up by filling out the necessary fields, then wait for the verification email. Through this email, you receive a password that you use to sign in, then you can start creating your personal avatar.

There is a variety of things you can use to customize your avatar, like shoes, hats, tops, hair, and other accessories. You can also change your avatar’s skin color, eye color, and background. With the many options, it becomes easy to create a realistic avatar that resembles you.

Created by me via DoppelMe
Created by me via DoppelMe

This is my avatar. Being a Muslim, I wear a hijab, or headscarf, so I decided to include that in my avatar. My hijab is light blue since that is one of my favorite colors, and I’m wearing a black dress to resemble an abaya. I may not wear an abaya that often, but it is a nice way to present myself as a Muslim.

Aside from clothing, I’ve added a soccer ball and a lightning scar on my forehead. I’ve always been an active person, and soccer is my favorite sport to play and watch, so I thought including a soccer ball would be a good way reflect my personality. I really love reading, and the Harry Potter books are one of my favorite books, so I chose the lightning scar for my accessory.

There were lots of different backgrounds to choose from, so I picked this background since I’m not a morning person and prefer nighttime. If there was a background illustrating a sunset I would have chosen it without second thoughts; I’m in love with the sky, especially when the sun is setting or rising.

However, one improvement this site could make is the accuracy of the color pigments. All the eye color options, like brown and blue, essentially appear as a shade of grey rather than the shade you actually picked. Same with the skin colors; the brown shade appears almost purple, the black as grey, and the lighter skin tones are all deathly white. I had originally chosen a light brown shade for my skin color, but it appeared as blue so I decided on a yellow shade instead. A

Also, you can only chose one accessory, which I found disappointing since I wanted to include a stack of books along with the soccer ball. If I was able to include both of them, the avatar would portray me perfectly.

Overall, DoppelMe is a user- friendly tool that helps you create your own unique avatar, which will make the perfect profile picture. I especially liked that there were cultural accessories available, like hijabs and turbans, which you may not find on other websites. If anyone’s wanting to create an avatar, I recommend you give DoppelMe a try.



Commenting: Good v.s. Bad

Commenting on other blogger’s post drives people over to your own blog, motivates and helps bloggers to write more, and may get you noticed. But that can only happen when your comment is well- written. “How can I write a good comment?“, you might ask. Well, I can help you with that! Here are some ways to write good comments, and some ways to stay away from bad comments.

Using Powtoon, I made a video on commenting. Make sure to check it out!

How to Write Good Comments:

  • Start with a friendly greeting. It is important to acknowledge the post’s author if you want them to even notice you. This can be done by simply say a greeting followed by the author’s name. Takes just a few seconds but starts you off on the right track.
  • Give them a sincere compliment. If you enjoyed the blog post enough to make you want to leave a comment, then let the author know. It encourages them to write more, makes them feel better about themselves and gives a good first impression of you. You can compliment the blogger specifically, their post, or both; just make sure it’s an honest compliment, otherwise it means nothing.
  • Be specific and add value to your comments. When the blogger is reading your comment, he/she will be looking for useful feedback or an opinion. Therefore, just commenting “Post is great! I liked it!”, won’t help them. Make sure to be specific, which can be done by informing them which parts from the post you especially liked, which parts they could improve, or your overall thoughts on the post.
  • Be insightful. Most importantly, a good comment is insightful. Make it obvious you actually took the time to read their post, and not just quickly skimmed through it. Try to challenge their ideas, pose questions on the topic, and add your own thoughts to the discussion. If you disagree with their points, you can tell them why by nicely stating your opinion in the comment.
Photo Credit: Jim Makos Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Jim Makos Flickr via Compfight cc

Some things to avoid:

  • Including more than one link. It is okay to include a link in your comment, as long as it’s relevant and contributes to the discussion. For example, if you’re trying to prove a point, you can provide a link as reference or backup. However, when you put more than one link, it comes off as you advertising rather than commenting on the blog post. The author of the post may label your comment as spam, which will definitely ruin any chance you had of being noticed.
  • Not reading the post thoroughly before you comment. Like I said, it is important that your comment is insightful, and you can only have insight if you actually read the post carefully. If you just skim through it or not even bother looking at it, high chances are you will say something unintelligent and embarrass yourself.
  • Repeating what the post said. Comments that repeat part of the post word for word, or even in different wording, are useless and provide no benefit to the blogger. When you write a comment, you’re trying to help the blogger out, and repeating what they said for sure won’t. These types of comments do not pose questions, add to the conversation, or even challenge the ideas in the post, which defeats the purpose of commenting.
  • Too many words. A long-winded blog comment, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read.”Kevin Duncan. Long comments may look almost intimidating, and encourage the blogger to just skip them. However, some good comments are long, so writing a long comment isn’t always bad, as long as it’s relevant and stays on topic. Remember, it’s the quality that matters, not quantity.

You must keep in mind that when you leave a comment, your screen name and profile picture show up as well. You have to make sure your profile looks professional, otherwise people may not be interested in your blog.

Some things that may affect your online reputation:

  • Using a silly image or a picture that does not represent you as your profile picture. When others read your comments, they want to know who they’re talking to, and the easiest way for them to identify you is from your profile picture. But if it’s just a random cartoon, that won’t help them and will often drive them away from your blog. Therefore, it’s best if you put a picture of yourself, or of something that represents you. If you do not want to include a personal picture but at the same time want others to recognize you, you can create an avatar, which is a cartoon or comic visual of yourself.
  • Using false names or unrelated nicknames. I’m sure “chubbycat101” isn’t your real name, and while you might find it funny, others will look at it as unprofessional and silly. It would be much easier for others to know who they are talking to and possibly connect with you if you include your real name. Also, weird screen names attached to comments may cause the comment to be mistaken for spam, so you should stay clear of funny nicknames.

I hope this post helped, thank you for reading!