SiliconIndia Stealing Content from Lighthouse Insights: Livebloggers Battle the Scourge of Plagiarism

Just under a day ago, I found an appalling phenomenon in my Facebook timeline – A leading online technology magazine focussing on the Indian domain, SiliconIndia, was caught stealing portions of a recent interview published by rising social media blog Lighthouse Insights.

Lighthouse Insights was started in late 2010 by Prasant and Vinaya Naidu with the aim of bonding the community of social media users. I first met Prasant at a meet-up in Pune, and instantly liked the knowledge he had built on the social media scene in India.

You can read the complete account of the theft in one of their posts.

Do News Sites Have the Liberty to Steal?

When the founders of Lighthouse Insights confronted SiliconIndia on Twitter, an incredibly shocking explanation appeared: Plagiarism            

Only the most juvenile of writers could possibly put up such an explanation; I had to remind myself that this was emerging from a well-established media organization that has been around since 1997. The tweet was subsequently deleted, but it was too late as it was retweeted several times and its screenshot began to float around on Facebook.

The founders of Lighthouse Insights decided to battle it out on Twitter to expose the high-profile content thieves after appeals to their CEO and content managers fell on deaf ears. The complete blow-by-blow description of the fight has now appeared in a new blog post on their site.

The battle-cry hashtag #OccupySiliconIndia began to pick up momentum during the early part of the 14th of August, and hit the list of top ten trending hashtags in India by evening. That forced SiliconIndia to sit up and take notice, offering Lighthouse Insights either of two options, of providing due credit, or removing the copied post completely.

The result? The offending post vanished while supporters of the campaign continued discussing possible outcomes. The fight isn’t over; after receiving a bloody nose, SiliconIndia have simply disappeared from the scene instead of announcing an unconditional public apology for the theft and the subsequent distress caused to ardent followers of an insightful new social media blog.

The Scourge of Plagiarism and the Hope from Social Media

Plagiarism has been a perpetual enemy for writers and publishers ever since the introduction of the printing press in the Middle Ages. The matter has become much worse with the arrival of the Information Age, now that just a few keystrokes and mouse-clicks are all that one needs to lift thoroughly-researched material and claim its ownership.

Many web publishers conscious of the lurking thieves invest a significant amount of their time in filing Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) reports to get Google to de-index plagiarised content, but the cat-and-mouse game continues. Even when such reports are not filed or delayed, search engines are sophisticated enough to ascertain the real thieves. Unfortunately, webmasters may end up on the losing side when their sites are restructured or migrated to new domains, since such changes can confuse search engines.

The Wrath of the Connected World

Will social media come to our rescue? The signs are positive, with the victory of #OccupySiliconIndia – even after SiliconIndia decides to undertake major damage-control exercises, Lighthouse Insights is likely to present this story as one of the most potent case studies showcasing the vast power of social media. Publishers, no matter how big or small, must now realize the importance of original content and think twice before facing the wrath of the masses in a connected world.

What are your thoughts about the battle against plagiarism? Please feel free to use the comment form below and speak your mind!

WordCamp Cuttack 2012: An Evergreen Memory for WordPress Lovers

The WordCamp Cuttack 2012 concluded on the 11th of March in the most positive of ways for everyone who got an opportunity to be part of it, whether as an organizer, attendee or speaker.

WordCamp CuttackI was fortunate to be there as a special guest, a result of a generous giveaway by the key initiator of this event, Soumya Pratihari. Soumya leads a locally-based web development company called iDev, which also runs a number of popular blogs that cater to several verticals.

My first pleasant experience came well before the event itself. While I was being driven to iDev, I expected the company to be housed in a more or less snazzy office block, when in fact it was a simple, two-storeyed building situated in possibly one of the quietest corners of Cuttack. Lesson: You don’t have to work in a gleaming glass-and-steel structure to attain heights!

The venue was Ajay-Binay Institute of Technology, and the vice president of the college Mr. A. Mohapatra was the chief guest.

On Super Charging Your Career with Blogging and WordPress

After the encouraging words sent out by the chief guest, seasoned entrepreneur Mohit Pawar took charge of the proceedings.

It began with several seconds of a soothing deep-breathing exercise that clearly rejuvenated all the listeners.

On the subject of blogging and WordPress, the first step, in Mohit’s words was to make a start. He strongly recommended the use of WordPress because of its ease and quickness of use, availability of plugins and their ease of modification. He stressed on the contributions of the WordPress community and their never-ending quest to make the platform better and better.

Looking for keyword rich domains is a thing of the past, said Mohit. Additionally, he was in favor of looking for a brandable domain name, and not one based on the personal name.

On of the key thrusts of Mohit’s presentation was a call to use your blog as a resume. “Written words can be easily scaled”, said the lively and humorous businessman. “I haven’t ever made a resume in my life, it is my blog that has served as a resume!” Paradoxically, Mohit’s newest venture is a resume writing service called FreshResume, that promises users to help them stand out in the job market.

Mohit gave examples of how his blog helped him spread word about things ranging from his thoughts to his latest ventures. A key example was that of a blog post titled 13 tips on organizing a TEDx event which ranks pretty high in SERPS, and attracts enquiries from all over. Another instance to note was that of Paras Chopra using his blog to promote his “visual website optimizer”.

Furthermore, Mohit suggested direct advertising as preferable to AdSense, initially, and said the distraction of revenue when starting out would be mostly detrimental.

On the frequency of blogging, he advised making a plan and putting up posts more often in the beginning. He also advised the audience to network with people with the intention of helping, and not winning favors from them.

The conclusion: Write blogs, if you’re looking for opportunities!

The information-filled presentation included interesting glimpses into Mohit’s own blogging-cum-entrepreneurship journey. The man started his first business at age 16 with a small sum of money, and moved on to gain tremendous experience. He admitted to have made the mistake of cramming together too many tasks in his early days, and now believes single-tasking is a far more efficient way of life. On those lines, he stressed on focusing on one domain and then moving on.

He talked about a post titled 17 businesses you can start with little or no money, which looks like a must read for budding entrepreneurs and anyone convinced that blogging can supercharge your career.

‘Google and Facebook are Stalking You’

Sanjib Parida, Co-Founder and CTO of Muvi.com, was the next to take charge. He spoke in detail about better strategies and tactics to rank higher in Google’s SERPS.

Sanjib expressed dislike for the excessive use of SEO, which essentially involves gaming the system to beat competitors. He instead emphatically talked about the use of branding to build trust in the minds of users looking at search result pages. A good example he gave was that of StackOverflow, which is loved by programmers around the world. A programmer is likely to click through if he or she see a StackOverflow result, even if it isn’t at the top.

Sanjib was intensely dismayed at the massive data collection being carried out by both Google and Facebook under the pretext of improving user experiences and presenting more relevant ads, with the frightening reminder, “Google and Facebook are stalking you!” However, he essentially indicated that the pervasiveness of these services made us accept the loss of privacy as a reality of life.

When I asked him about the influence of advocates like Richard Stallman in the fight for web privacy, he was highly skeptical about it and quick to point out that the software freedom pioneer’s supporters had to rely on these ubiquitous services to spread word, which defeated the logic of fighting privacy.

It was interesting to hear this speaker’s view that SEO needs to be a more programming-oriented activity, that will tailor websites better for search-engine-based visitors.

Another statement that caught my attention was the one about gaining the early mover advantage by making the most of the newest bubbles. The fact of the matter, he highlighted, is that we are living in the social bubble.

More Speeches, Followed by a Workshop

I too got a chance to speak about my perspective on WordPress and blogging. I reiterated the views expressed by Mohit and basically had three immediate benefits of blogging to highlight:
1.The learning experience from collective knowledge.
2.A chance to share your knowledge and views.
3.A chance for new opportunities to come knocking on your door.

It’s a good idea to follow role models, and the best I could think of were the key organizer Soumya himself, Arun Prabhudesai of the business blog trak.in, Jeff Atwood of codinghorror.com (a must read for programmers!) and Amit Agarwal of Labnol.org.

Post-lunch, the next speaker Rahul Banker spoke to the audience via Skype, the main essence of his talk being to give up the obsession with money when blogging away your thoughts.

Web entrepreneur Jaydip Parikh, also connecting remotely, spoke about how to choose content for your blog. Jaydip stressed on quality content being the king, not just content. He had some fine suggestions on where to look for the best content that would have the potential to turn viral. Here’s the complete slideshow:

Next, a workshop was conducted by Amit Singh, the director of AmiWorks. He touched on topics ranging right from those concerning fresh starters to the advanced use of WordPress, and was pleased by the enthusiasm exuded by the participants.

Concluding a Memorable Day

Quick contests were conducted by Soumya and T-shirts given away, and the glow in everyone’s faces appeared to promise to spread awareness about WordPress.

Blogger Puneet Jain launched BlogWorkshop.org via video and was aptly applauded.

The concluding moments included a ‘30 seconds of fame’ session in which participants talked about their interests, with one of the most pleasing comments being “I’m now going to blog regularly!”

I’m immensely grateful to the iDev team, the attendees and fellow speakers for having done everything that made this event an evergreen memory. Were you at WordCamp Cuttack 2012, or following the proceedings via Twitter? Feel free to comment about your experiences!

What does the Amazon vs Flipkart Contest Herald for us?

When you’re out to shop online, there’s a greater variety than ever before if you’re in India!

Shopping giant Amazon has launched the curiously named Junglee.com in beta mode to target Indian customers. Presently, it is only a comparison shopping site rather than one that allows customers to order directly and obtain shipping from Amazon’s own dedicated courier services. Shoppers are taken to vendors’ individual sites to complete their purchases, and experiences may vary.

UPDATE (10th Feb, 2012): Amazon has been granted FDI approval to set up its logistics service in India.

Junglee means ‘of the forest’ in Hindi, and by all means, the offering at the first instant indeed looks to be just a subset of the vast forest that Amazon has become!

The move appears to be cautious, given the fact that Flipkart has achieved wide acceptance in the country, and a full-scale online shopping war of dominance is going to leave consumers frustrated.

Hanging Around on Junglee

I checked out a few camera deals on the new site, and found the comparisons impressive. It’s a good thing to see several aspects of multiple sellers like seller information, shipping rates and return policy nearly at once, and it would be even better if a summarized at-a-glance chart was provided.

Camera Deal on Junglee.com

What about the shopping experience? That will depend on the sellers and their past track records. For now, I’ll hang around on Junglee if I’m looking for something, but probably head over to the trusty Flipkart to hit the “Buy This Now” button.

It’s the same early mover advantage that stops Facebookers from migrating to Google+.

When will Amazon Stamp the Accelerator?

Amazon has chosen to mark its presence through a yellow-pages-cum-reviews shopping website, which is likely to help give good exposure to little known merchants.

That’s great news if you’re a seller seriously looking to expand.

In my opinion, what ultimately will make the difference is Amazon’s ability to match Flipkart’s low prices, timely delivery and the friendliness of trusted delivery personnel.

A quick look at the Amazon services page reveals tremendous promise for sellers. What can be more encouraging than “convert our traffic into your customers” and “no listing fees”?

The question is whether the individual merchants will help maintain the image Amazon needs to make it big in India.

Do you think Amazon will give Flipkart a run for their money? Will healthy competition in India boost the online shopping experience? We’d like to hear your thoughts!

5 Ways to Boost Your Efficiency with Eclipse

Shortcuts

Learn to use the shortcuts. Seriously!

Did you know that if you need to scroll suddenly while typing, you don’t need to reach out for your mouse? Just use the Ctrl or the Ctrl key combinations to scroll up or down.

To learn more about Eclipse shortcuts, head over to TechNonStop’s tutorial on Eclipse Shortcuts.

Templates

Templates are a must-learn – there are so many out there.

For example, sysout, syserr, and systrace.

Look up Window->Preferences->Java->Editor->Templates for all the pre-defined templates available, and don’t forget to add your own!

Often, those working on a single project would like to share templates they create so that the whole team enjoys the shortcuts.

Eclipse Preferences - Java templates

Tweaks to eclipse.ini

I’ve had a noticeable improvement in startup time and overall response times on my Eclipse installation by adding the following to eclipse.ini, at the bottom:

-Xincgc 
-XX:-DontCompileHugeMethods 
-XX:MaxInlineSize=1024  
-XX:FreqInlineSize=1024 

Source: Nerds-Central: Tuning The JVM For Unusual Uses – Have Some Tricks Under Your Hat

Also, tweak the Xms (initial heap size) and Xmx (maximum heap size) to higher values, depending on your RAM and the number of other running applications, or in the event that Eclipse gives you nasty “OutOfMemory” errors. 384m and 1024m respectively for Xms and Xmx work well on my 4 GB machine.

Note: The above optimizations are for Sun’s Java 7. If you use another JDK version, look up this StackOverflow.com thread for optimizations that have worked for others.

Useful Plugins

Mylyn is an excellent plugin to keep track of your TODOs. The Java EE version of Eclipse has this plugin installed, as well as others that are quite useful. Examples are the Web Page Editor for HTML editing, and the XML editor for XML editing.

Use your version control system’s plugin for Eclipse, so that code check-ins can be done from within.

The JDEclipse Decompiler plugin is useful for class decompilation.

Google’s CodePro Analytics is great to analyze and improve the quality of your code.

Eclipse color themes has a cool plugin for changing color themes.

There’s also this cool JSON Editor Eclipse Plugin.

Whatever plugins you use, ensure that you turn them off on startup. Go to General->Startup and Shutdown, and uncheck ALL plugins listed. Also, disable or uninstall the ones you don’t need.

Improve General Eclipse Knowledge

Did you know that you can use the Navigator View (rather than the Package explorer) to see all the files present, including .project files and the bin directory?

Did you know you could just paste exception stack traces into the Java Stack Trace console, and lines numbers turn into hyperlinks?

Use the documentation to keep improving your general knowledge on Eclipse, and for more tips and tricks!

Add shortcuts to related external tools

Yes, I did say 5, but here’s a bonus!

Using the External Tools Configuration window (accessible from the External Tools icon in the toolbar), add shortcuts to scripts that automate commonly run tasks.

For example, I have a script that does the following: syncs down latest code, builds it and runs the test cases after deploying the newly generated artifacts to a locally running server. Adding a shortcut to this within Eclipse has greatly eased the way I run the script and refresh my workspace after it completes.