Working at WPBeginner Full Time

Nearly a month ago I started working at WPBeginner. Leaving my previous job at Axact was a tough decision. I liked my previous job and if I had kept it I would have become associate manager this month. Apart from a comfortable work environment, Axact offers a good salary package, emergency health care benefit, transport, personal loan, etc. Every one I talked to asked me why would you leave a job like that to work with a company in the United States?

Firstly, salary was a big difference, Axact tried to match the offer in their counter offer which was very nice of them but my online mentor advised me that it is extremely unethical to even consider a counter offer once you have resigned. Secondly, I just wanted to work on WordPress. Now with this job offer I had the chance to do so full time and a chance to focus and do something great.

I am so glad that I joined WPBeginner. Each day, I start by checking my twitter feed to see what’s new. Usually there are some new plugins, themes, or development that I learn about. I am following some really nice WordPress developers, experts and plugin authors on twitter. All of them are very nice and kind to me. I learn a lot from these people almost every day and I would recommend you to follow them too.

Brian Krogsgard, Andrew Nacin, PippinsPlugins, Jeff Starr, Siobhan McKeown, Konstantin Kovshenin and many other nice folks. Check out my WordPress list on Twitter.

At WPBeginner, our target audience is beginner level WordPress users. We try to keep our posts simple and to the point. The main focus of our posts is to provide a solution to some common problem. We write about how to do things the easier way without breaking any thing.

It is not an easy job. A couple of days ago I was writing a tutorial and then my boss Syed Balkhi edited it. He pointed out some very obvious mistakes that I left in the article. These mistakes would have left the readers confused. I wrote it again and Syed again pointed out some things that were still unclear. I edited it again. Finally it was published and we got feedback from the readers.

After spending time on twitter, I try out plugins and test themes. A lot of new plugins are not good and some are just awful. Sometimes I find plugins which are actually good but plugin authors are not aware of some easy to fix bugs in their code, mainly because no one has reported those bugs. I try to open support ticket and contact plugin authors. So far I got two plugins improved with my bug reports then I reviewed those plugins. By the way if any of you is working on some interesting new plugin or theme please let me know I would love to test it.

Working from home has also allowed me to do other things with my time. I am learning new things, spending time with my family, I have made travel plans, and I am excited about future prospects.

How I used Plinky Prompts to Create Content and Increase Participation on Facebook Pages

Plinky Prompts for Blogging IdeasPlinky is here to help people create inspired content. Sometimes you want to blog or write something but have no idea what to write about. Plinky helps you by giving a prompt or a question for you to answer. Questions are generic and anyone can answer them. The purpose that these questions serve is to spark a conversation by asking a question and inspiring the users to create content.

I have used Plinky and have answered a couple of prompts. Today, I decided that instead of responding to the prompt on Plinky, I should write about Plinky itself.

Using Plinky to Create Non-generic Content

Everyone loves to be asked questions, they are the best way to start a conversation and to break the ice. However, as a professional blogger I have created some blogs that are focused around specific topics. Since Plinky asks generic questions, these questions are not relevant to the topics discussed on my blogs.

I still think that these prompts can be used even on strictly focused blogs and websites. For example, if today’s prompt was “Who’s the last person you had a really great conversation with? What were you discussing?”. I can use this prompt by referring to a conversation I had with someone regarding one of the topics that I discuss on my blogs. I don’t know how I will be using Plinky in the future, but I do hope that it helps me create content.

Plinky is a project by Automattic, the company behind the WordPress. The user interface of Plinky is intutive and fun. A new user directly lands on the page showing today’s prompt. They can take the prompt and answer it anywhere, or they can create an account on Plinky and answer it there. Plinky has also made it very simple to post an answer quickly. You can search for images from Flickr to attach with your answer or upload your own images.

Once you have answered the question, Plinky will suggest you more ways to share it across the social web and on your own blog or website. You can also check out how other Plinky users answered the prompt, leave your comments, follow people and make new friends. I have not yet made any acquaintances there, so don’t know how active this community part of Plinky is.

Users cannot only answer the prompts they can also suggest a prompt or a question to be asked. For example today’s prompt was asked by a user Simple18. I think it would be great fun to see how people answer to a question that you have asked and follow the conversation around.

I had this tiny issue when I tried to post an answer from Plinky to this website. The issue was that on my web host’s advice I had disabled a file in the wordpress installation for this site. The file is xmlrpc and according to my web host it can be misused and cause issues so I had it locked. Without xmlrpc.php, one can not post an answer directly from Plinky to a self hosted WordPress website. However, Plinky also provides embed code which you can manually enter by creating a new post.

Using Plinky on Social Media

I have also used prompts to increase activity on my social profiles. Like I said earlier, people love to be asked questions. I have asked Plinky prompts on Facebook and it has instantly increased participation. I have noticed similar results on Twitter, and even got some new followers by asking random questions.

The lesson I have learned from this experience is that people like to be asked generic, light hearted, and interesting questions. We all have so much to say, so many stories to tell and such prompts provide us all a chance to share our stories.

Hundreds of Adsense Accounts Banned in Pakistan

Last night, Google Adsense disabled hundreds of Adsense accounts. We are seeing more and more Pakistani publishers who got banned from Adsense last night. Apparantely, most if not all of them received the same email message which cites the same reason. The reason is that the sites displaying ads are violating some quality guideline. However, as we are hearing from bloggers many quality blogs got affected as well. Some well known content publishers who are well known among the Pakistani internet community got affected with this massive ban.

We are unsure as to what we can do. Apparantely, disabled adsense accounts have only one chance to appeal and get reviewed by an Adsense specialist. However, the email publishers received is not very specific and publishers are having a hard time figuring out what went wrong. I am among such publishers. I have published content on one of my blogs for 6 years, serving ads while building a steady readership and traffic from search engines. My site offers very unique content with interesting perspective on the topics it discusses. I hope to get reinstated along with many others who believe that they are wrongly banned.

Before submitting our appeals many publishers are looking around for information as to how to prepare for their appeals, what to add in the appeal, how to present a strong case to adsense team for reconsideration, what sites have better chances of getting reinstated, etc.

If you are one such publisher or if you think you can help us please join us on our facebook group, Pakistani Probloggers Or you can help us on Official Adsense Support Forum, one thread is here, Or you can share this message so that it reaches someone who can probably help.

Blogging and Me

Kashif Aziz asked bloggers on the Pakistani Probloggers Facebook group page:

Pakistani Probloggers: Lets share more about ourselves, specifically:

  1. Why you started blogging.
  2. What are / were your inspirations.
  3. What other blogs / sites do you frequently read.
  4. Were do you see yourself as a pro blogger in next couple of years.

Replying this post I realized I have never wrote about it on my blog, it is about time I share my blogging story, at least for the record keeping. I can then look back at this page and see how it started.

It was back in late 2004, I was new to internet and there was nothing much for me to do on the internet other than reading. As many of you might know, while reading is fun it is not very interactive. I thought I should do something, one thing led to another and I came to know about blogspot. I thought how awesome it is to publish your thoughts and share them with the entire world. First I started an Urdu blog, just because it was more challenging to do so. The response I got from the small and closely knitted together Urdu Blogsphere was overwhelmingly positive. Which encouraged me to be creative and write on different topics. I was then asked by Spider Magazine‘s Editor to write an article for them. Which gave me the confidence that I can write in English and thats how I started my English blogs.

2. Among bloggers Jason’s kottke.org inspired me a lot. It made a significant impact on not only the way I wrote, but also on how I think and see the web today. Chapati Mystery and Huma Imtiaz‘s personal blog were also good motivations. Later, when I started professional blogging, Darren Rowse’s Problogger helped and inspired me. Apart from bloggers, I started blogging because I had this innate desire to tell stories and ideas and hear other people’s stories and ideas. When I look at blogs, I don’t see articles, I see conversations, storytelling, a party.

3. This is going to be a long list. I read mashable, lifehacker, kottke.org, problogger.net, copyblogger, Slashdot, The onion, Matt Cutts, Design Milk, blogs of people I am following at Google Plus, Urdu blogs, Tribune blogs (because it is difficult not reading them everyone’s sharing them on facebook), etc, etc.

4. I see myself outgrowing blogs. I think I will be able to move on to other fields particularly social web, online marketing, copywriting, advertising or something else too. I will continue to blog professionally but I will be known for other things as well. I am not quite sure what those other things would be, but its going to be an awesome journey.

I am working in the night shift during…

I am working in the night shift during Ramadan. Mostly, because I can’t get up early in the morning. Today is the first day and I am already bored. Since there are very few people around and less disturbance I performed all important tasks quickly. Now there are just a few tasks that I am delaying because if I did those too then I will have nothing left to do for tonight.

Another reason to choose the night shift is to save myself from the agony of load shedding. If I had opted for morning shift I’d have to spend four to six hours without power and then two hours for Seheri and Iftar. After that I would have no time left to do anything but sleep.

I am hoping to achieve a lot of things this Ramadan, not spiritual things, but materialistic things. I am hoping to fix a few things. On top of my list is fixing one of my websites that got terribly affected by Google’s Panda Update. Each day I work a little on that website when I get home.

I am improving that website’s theme by replacing the old one with Thematic which is a powerful theme framework. I am creating a child theme that will use Thematic core features with my own styles. While working on themes, I will also improve many other things on that old website. The focus is to make it look more visually pleasant, create a better user experience, and give website some authenticity.

Once I am done with the theme, applied it on the website and fixed all the bugs, the next step will be writing content for it on a regular basis. This next step will be very important as I am hoping not to repeat the mistakes I made last time. This time I will try to build a community around the website, a loyal readership that will help the website moving in the future. I will be also looking forward to find more ways to monetize the content.

I am back

It’s been a while since I wrote anything here. I don’t really feel like writing much these days. Which is very difficult for me, considering the fact that I am employed as a blogger / content writer, and earn my living from blogging.

There are things that you can write even when you are not feeling like writing. Most of the time these are the ideas and stories that hundreds of people have already told. You just rephrase what others have said and give it a little extra something and push the publish button. Often, you don’t really feel any thing after publishing these things.

Today I saw the movie Get him to the Greek. It had the 73% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. So I thought it would be good, but it was not that good. I am getting sick of the people going through dramatic changes in their behavior and lifestyles in the movies. These movies are just like the blog posts that I write these days.

The Chand Raat – 2008

So I decided to finally go to the saloon and get my hair done.  The Saloon, well actually it is still an old fashioned barber shop but they like to be called “Saloon” nowdays. The one I go to is located near Hashmani Eye hospital near Old Numaish area. Just opposed the Imam Bargah Ali Raza, the one that got bombed a few years ago. This saloon is air conditioned, they are the experts but I really don’t care much about expertise or styling what I like about this place is that it is very clean. They use washed and dry towels for each customer. They use Phenyl to wipe the floor, and anti bacterial soaps for the staff to wash their hands. The place looks a lot like hospitals.  

I left home late afternoon thinking that I will be smart to reach there before Eid’s Chand is announced. The barber shops, saloons and beauty parlors get extremely crowded on chand raat. But during the whole Ramadhan such places remain deserted until the Iftar. So being the smart guy I reached there early, and then I realized that I wasn’t the only smart guy in the town. 

The saloon was full of people, there was no room to sit on the velvet seats in the waiting area. Instead of feeling awkward, walking from one corner to other, I decided to sit and found a place between a skinny memon teenager and a beefy pathan guy. The Pathan guy was wearing Shalwar Kameez, was smelling of onions and garlic, and he looked just like Taliban. May be he is a suicide bomber ready to attack the saloon where people get their beards shaved. According to taleban shaving your face is unIslamic. So they bomb the barber shops in Tribal areas of Pakistan. I checked out that Pathan guy once again through the mirror on the wall. I specially paid attention to his upper waist portion, this is where these suicide bombers wear the explosives belt. The Pathan guy had a huge belly, and it was obvious that there are no bombs inside his kameez, just the hideous gorilla sized belly. With his long beard, belly, fatness, and stinkiness, I wandered if he is married or not. If he is married what his woman thinks when he tries to kiss her. But then I don’t know if kissing is allowed in Taleban ideology or not. Women are the most weird of all species in the world. May be she loved him with all his shortcomings. May be she is more ugly and terrifying than the poor pathan guy. 

The staff at this saloon is very professional. They usually don’t waste any time, but there is no barber in the world who wouldn’t want to chat with his clients. I hate such barbers, and the question that I hate most is “What you do for living”? Once when I was in Islamabad and went to a saloon there the barber asked me this question and I told him that I don’t do anything. He wasn’t satisfied so he kept asking and finally I told him that I am a writer. This question is usually an ice breaker for these barbers so that they can initiate a chat about your career, then they discuss whatever is on the television mounted on the wall in all barber shops, then they discuss politics while shaving your chin with a hand on your throat, and finally reaching the agreement that Pakistan is totally fucked up when spraying your face with water. This barber then shared some of his Urdu poetry with me. I told him I have absolutely no interest in poetry at all. So he asked then what you write. I told him I write stories for children, articles for internet magazines. 

Ohh you write Omro-Ayyar and Ameer Hamza kind of stories? He asked me. Well I told you every thing you say to a barber is returned to you in form of another question. He was asking for my home address when he was giving my hair the finishing touch and I end up leaving the shop giving him not only my address but also my telephone number. 

So the staff here is no different from anywhere else, what I like about this place is that they have already asked me all the questions. But they can always bring the current affairs. There was a news report on television about people rushing to the markets to buy new clothes, accessories and gifts for the eid. They were showing women, one of them was telling the reporter about how things are so expansive this Ramadhan. She was 40+ and over weight like 90% other women of her age group. Her face was glowing, she not only spent thousands of Rupees and countless hours while shopping she also got interviewed by Geo Television. Wow, she must be feeling lucky, and may be concious too her make up had long been evaporated. I am sure her friends would let her know how old she looked during her 30 seconds interview. 

Every one, particularly men have an opinion about women. The most common is that they are all stupid. Watching this woman on television the owner of the saloon commented. “Aunti you should have prepared for eid before Ramadhan why you waited till the last days?” Then a client who was bored while waiting for his turn said something, then the pathan guy shared a stupid joke about stupid women. 

It made me think, that sexy guys with hanging jeans, the fat pathan, the staff, the owner, and the little boy who was wiping the floor, they are all the same from inside. May be I am the only unique individual in this place. But then after two hours when I finally got my new fresh look and was about to leave my seat I reached the agreement with my barber. We both, just like many others before us, agreed that yes Pakistan is totally fucked up. I realized that we are all the same We are the common men. What I didn’t like is that I am one of the common men. I should get my hair done at that gay hair stylist’s saloon at Peal Continental.

Last Day Of Ramadhan

There is no better night in Karachi than the Chand Raat (night before the Eid day). The shopping and festive fever starts picking up the momentum since the first day of the Ramadhan. It reaches the peak during the last ten days and then the climax on the last night.

This is the time when nothing can stop Karachiites from going out and shop till the dawn. It doesn’t matter who occupies the presidential palace or who is getting bombed by Pakistan army. Inflation, food and energy shortages, terrorism, nothing can stop them from spending money and feel happy for themselves. They are truly brave people, as they work hard to live in the now and they know how to enjoy it. Of course they are worried about how they are going to spend an entire month without any money left. But lets just not think about it now, they tell themselves. Lets just concentrate on how we can knockout the salesman at the Kurta Corner.

I didn’t get much chance to survey the shopping areas this Ramadhan. No, I was not too busy fasting and offering prayers. I missed several fasts and I prayed once or twice each day. What I did during this whole month? Why I didn’t call some friends to come and rescue me? I am asking myself.

May be it was work, I have started another blog and made it compulsory for myself to come up with one post each day. Any one who blogs regularly would agree with me that it is difficult to come up with fresh ideas every day. Every thing that you thought worth blogging, has already been blogged. It’s a difficult path, each day I go through doubts. May be I shouldn’t have started this blog at all. It becomes more painful to come up with new ideas when you are in doubt. So I need to assure myself all over again. No this project is good, it has so much potential, look at the link backs they are not bad for a week’s blogging. Then suddenly an idea strikes me and I start constructing my post.

I go through this doubt, re-assurance and light bulbing every day. Its really exhausting sometimes specially when I have to keep up with all the fried goodies at iftar. I am not the kind of person who would leave all the food and rush to the mosque for maghrib prayers. I sit firmly on the dastarkhawn and do justice to each and every thing that is there for me to eat. Even when I am not fasting, I never miss an iftar.

I feel sleepy after iftar so I go out for a walk. I walk from DJ science college to the Pakistan Chowk, then to Civil Hospital, then I turn around and walk back to Aaram Bagh, then to Fresco chowk and back home. I love the buildings on this route. They were built during good times. Walking past them, I think about how these buildings looked when they were new? Who were the people that lived and worked there? How was the life back then? Why don’t people make such beautiful buildings any more? I walk past garbage, and I think there is no hope for this city. Its the filthiest in the whole world and nothing is ever going to change this. Then I see women in burqas, and I think that each day there are more and more women getting attacked by the burqa virus.

When I am back home from walk, I am tired. My body is just as fat as it was an hour ago when I left home for the walk, it is my mind that needs rest.

I sit back on my desk again, staring at my computer screen, downloading movies, listening music, reading blogs, chatting with friends. It’s all necessary. Thank God I don’t use facebook or orkut or other social media sites. I simply can’t. There is really no time for any new activity at all.

But I think I should go out and do some shopping. Or atleast, I should go to the saloon for an haircut. I look like Saddam Hussein freshly out of his cave.