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Friday, July 03, 2015

eNidhi India list of top websites listing top bloggers!

This post is highly inspired by repeated updates by Nisha Jha on social media about websites releasing top blogger lists without a transparent process/evaluation. Building on that trigger and using my own experience, observation and analysis, I’m releasing my own Enidhi India certified top sites that list top bloggers!

Of late there’re several sites releasing top blogger lists. Every few weeks some lists popup announcing top XYZ blog/twitter handle/Instagram accounts etc. It appears to be a good business model- start a site, create lists of top somethings, those who got mentioned in those top-XYZ lists will be happy and will promote the list, in return giving visibility, backlink and credibility to the site that published the list.

Of course it is not wrong to identify and publish a top blogger list. Everyone can handle a bit of appreciation and it helps others decide whom to read/follow etc. But then, sites publishing such lists should have some credibility and identify of their own, before they can judge other bloggers/social media accounts. So in this post, I am outlining some criteria we should look into, before taking a “Top Blogger” list seriously. After defining the criteria, I’ve evaluated about 13 sites that published top blogger lists in recent times and have given my score.

So in a way, this post is a list of top websites listing top bloggers

Criteria 1 Identity and Credibility of the website: The website that lists top blogger lists should have an identity of its own. Has it been around for a few years? Does it have some contents worth reading, does it serve any purpose other than its top blogger lists? Had it not published this top blogger list, for what else the site would have been known for?

Criteria 2 Identity/Credibility of key people behind the website. If the website is not well known/popular, how about the people who started it/running it?  Are the well known? Do they have good credibility? Are they bloggers themselves or how are they qualified to judge other bloggers? (Just like how a dancing show judge is expected to be an expert dancer, people who judge bloggers are expected to have some experience in travel, blogging, content writing, photography or related topics.

Criteria 3 Online rankings of the site: While it is wrong to rely fully on numbers, number do mean something. So I expect a site that lists top bloggers to qualify on at least 3 out of below 6 parameters
  1. Have a decent alexa ranking (Say India ranking less than 75000) 
  2. Have at least 5000 twitter followers
  3. Have a google PR 2+
  4. Been around for 2 years or more
  5. Decent reader interaction (say avg 5-10 comments per post or more)
  6. Has decent traffic- Say 1000 visitors per day or more
Criteria 4 Do they follow a transparent, honest process to select top bloggers? Most of the lists do not disclose the criteria used. No one wants to disclose their secret sauce, so it is fine if criteria is not laid out in minute details. But at a high level there should be some disclosure as who what criteria was used to select the bloggers, shortlist them etc. For example, was it personal selection of editorial team purely based on qualitative measure? Was it selected based on statistics (like ranks, followers, traffic etc) or was it done through a public voting things like that. Some lists expect bloggers to register before they are evaluated. Giving some disclosure and assuring readers that a fair process was followed gets lots of credibility score, than blindly announcing a list.

So with above guidelines, I did a quick evaluation of various websites that have released top travel blogger lists in recent times. I was featured in few of these and not listed in most of these, but that has no influence on the scoring. On each of the above parameters, I’ve given a score between 1-5 (5= highest), based on the information I could derive from public sources (such as whois info, alexa.com etc). It is pretty subjective scoring- I’ve given data/rationale where possible. Feel free to debate.

Also the sites shouldn’t force the winner to share the list on their blog/social media profile. (many do it voluntarily anyway). But I don’t have a way to validate it, so I’ve kept that aspect outside of this evaluation in good faith that any subsequent promotion of the website by winners or bloggers who go featured there is voluntary.
I have excluded directory services such as Indianbloggers.org that list every blog for this study. I have also excluded lists published by some bloggers/individuals on say language specific travel bloggers etc.

So here we go- my list of top 13 websites to refer to for top travel blogger lists!
Rank
Website
List Announced
1 How good is the site on its own
2 Identity & Credibility of people behind the site
3 Rankings
4 Process followed to select disclosed?
Overall score
1
 Holidify.com
 Very Good (5/5)
 Very High (5/5)
 Alexa India 2600
15k likes
2500 followers
(4/5)
 Yes
(4/5)
 18/20
2
 quikrpost.com
 Good
(5/5)
Good
Names available, detailed profile not available
(3/5)
 Alexa India 25000
858 likes
70 followers
 (3/5)
 Yes
(5/5)
 16/20
3
 thrillophilia
Very Good (5/5)
 Very High (5/5)
 Alexa India 790
90k likes
7900 followers
(5/5)
 No
(0/5)
 15/20
4
 polkacafe.com
 Very Good
(5/5)
 Very High
(5/5)
  Alexa India 7200
21k likes
681 followers
(4/5)
 NA, appears to be personal choice
(1/5)
 15/20
5
 Theculturetrip .com/

 Very Good
(5/5)
 Very High
(5/5)
 Alexa US 18500
216k likes
42500 followers
(5/5)
 NA,
(0/5)
 15/20
6
 Baggout

 Average
(shopping on home page + blog full of top lists)
(2/5)
 Very High (5/5)
 Alexa India 2800
17k likes
 (3/5)
 Yes
(5/5)
 15/20
7
 tripoto.com
 Very Good
(5/5)
High
(profiles not listed on sit  but could figure out profiles from linked in
(4/5)
  Alexa India 1500
228k likes
3200 followers
(5/5)
 NA
(0/5)
 14/20
8
 travel.india .com/
Good (5/5)
 Poor
Profiles of key people couldn’t be seen
1/5
 India Rank 98
1800 likes
110 followers
(4/5)
 No
(0/5)
 10/20
9
 Padhaaro. com
Pretty decent
 (4/5)
  NA
Team details couldn’t be seen, but few contributor details profiled
(2/5)
 Alexa India 12500
2800 likes
1000+ followers
 (3/5)
 NA
(0/5)
9/20
10
 Hoparoundindia .com
 Average. Blog last updated in Sep 2014
(2/5)
 Poor (some generic text, no names or profile
(1/5)
 Alexa India 21000
12k likes
985 followers
 (4/5)
 Partial
(2/5)
 9/20
11
why.travel
 Decent (last updated March 2015)
(4/5)
 Poor
(1/5)
 Alexa Global 1.1 million
357 likes
86 followers
(1/5)
 Partial
Scoring is given, rational not disclosed
3/5
 9/20
12
 Travelfriendz .com
 Average
Blog last updated in Feb. Not much action on home page
(2/5)
 NA
(0/5)
 Global rank 3.6 million
624 likes
9 followers
(1/5)
 Yes- Short list criteria not known but Questions were rolled out
(4/5)
 7/20
13
 Myoksha
 NA
No active content on site
(0/5)
 NA
No details available
(0/5)
 Alexa India 38000
750 likes
116 followers
(2/5)
 Partial (admits it is not complete list

(2/5)
 4/20

Did I miss out on any important lists? What are your thoughts? I think I should roll out a badge these sites can publish on their side bar stating "eNidhi India certified top site to list top bloggers'.. what say?

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Early morning drive to Chorla Ghat, Goa

Chorla ghat is a scenic road that connects Goa to Belagavi (Belgaum). While majority of the traffic goes through Ponda, Mollem, Londa, Chorla ghat is the more scenic one, though a bit narrow.

On one of the morning, we simply drove till Karnataka border from Goa and came back (because our rented self drive car didn't have permit to cross over- Karnataka police didn't have any problem, it is Goa check post who had some problem. (more about Carzonrent Goa experience here)

None the less, the drive was fun. As it was early morning, we got good fog during initial hours, Only later it became a little clear.

Some photos for you...


 Amona Bridge

There're lots of small streams that form by the road during monsoon. Road will be pretty clear in the morning and driving is super fun too.

So if you're in Goa and have a car at disposal, ditch the beaches, head to Chorla for a memorable drive.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Photography in monsoon and camera protection

It is monsoon time and many of us are planning road trips not withstanding heavy rains. It is a completely different experience to drive around during rains- No need for AC- roll down the windows and let the bliss sprinkle in.

Rains are as much joy to travel in, but photography during monsoon is another story. Most of our cameras do not really like rains. Camera electronics can suffer permanent damage if exposed to water.  Add to this, there’ll be much less sunlight and lots of fog during monsoons, compromising clarity of the scene.

In this post I am sharing some of my experiences and tips for photography during monsoon

GoPro has been my best bet: While DSLRs are water shy, GoPro has no such fear. It comes in a waterproof casing and can withstand rain, can be clicked under water and is overall a brilliant choice for rainy day photography. I use it extensively during rain.  Keep cleaning water deposit if any, on the lens before clicking. GoPro gets you a pretty wide angle photo, but doesn’t have too much settings like a DSLR and not good during low light conditions.

Waterproof cover for Cameras: Online stores sell many variants of waterproof covers for DSLRs. You put your camera inside it, seal it and can comfortably take it out in the rain. I have tried few of them- they work, but add lots of inconvenience while operating- such as clicking is not very convenient, can’t use view finder, lens movement could be restricted etc.

Click from inside the vehicle: Take your photo from the inside of the vehicle, eliminating any need for exposing the camera to rain outside. Safest way.

Have a buddy to hold an umbrella for you: This traditional method is best for light rain conditions. Your DSLR can withstand few accidental drops of water. So you can ask your buddy to hold an umbrella and you can click around normally. Wipe the camera clean with dry cloths after returning to the car.

Water resistant mobile phones: Many high end mobile phones these days come with water resistance capability. They can be used without any fear during rains. Panasonic also has a waterproof camera, such as Lumix FT3

Below are some photographs of Goa I clicked in August last year amidst rains.
 
It is also advisable to seek professional help for Photography in Goa if you’re looking for stunning photographs for commercial use.

Elephant Parade- A brand that works towards Asian elephant conservation!

While we were being given a guided tour of Tang Mall inside Suntec city, Singapore, we were introduced to a unique brand called Elephant Parade. Elephant parade sells elephant idols and souvenirs of various size, shape and colours.


Unlike other brands that bear animal names but run on pure commercial motive, Elephant Parade is one brand that is dedicated to well being and conservation of elephants.

History of elephant parade goes back by 8 years- to Thailand. In 2007, a 9 year old female baby elephant Mosha lost one of her legs in a deadly landmine blast. She was taken to an elephant hospital in Thailand. There Marc and Mike Spits saw Mosha and wanted to help her recover. They designed an artificial leg for Mosha (keep in mind the weight of an elephant- designing an artificial leg is not easy). Besides helping Mosha, father and son duo wanted to pick up the larger cause of elephant conservation, so they started this brand Elephant Parade, which works towards fund raising, awareness building and other essentials related to elephant well being.
A replica of Mosha's artificial leg, on display at Tang mall and the photo of real one being fitted on to Mosha- I downloaded right hand side photo from facebook as it accidentally came on my timeline. Exact photographer name not known. Rest of the photo are mine.
These elephants are made in Chiang Mai, Thailand and hand painted by artists. As these are hand made, each piece is unique. Even then, only limited editions of each design is produced. If you buy one, you also get a certificate of originality, with artist's name and other technical details of the work. Prices start from SGD 65 onwards, depending on size, design etc. Part of the sales goes towards elephant conservation activities. While you get a unique piece of art to showcase, an elephant somewhere gets a better life. You can also order online on Tang's website
Another favorite activity at Elephant parade is to buy a plain white elephant and paint it in various colours and design on your own. This makes an ideal gift and fun activity for kids.
If I happen to go to Chiang Mai, Thailand again, I want to visit that elephant hospital.

Elephant Parade shop is located in the basement of Tang Mall, in Suntec city, Singapore

Similar: Elephant Sanctuary, Sakrebailu * Elephant ride uphill Amer Fort * K Gudi Elephant bathing * Elephant show at Sri Racha zoo, Thailand * Book review- Elephant catchers  * Surviving an elephant attack *

Drive a Ferrari in Singapore. Rs 15000 for 15 mins

ABCDF: Any body can drive Ferrari!

In India, we can drive BMW and Mercedes for hourly/daily rental under self-drive scheme. But Myles/Zoom haven’t added a Ferrari/Lamborghini yet to their fleet. On my Day 1 at Singapore, I went to check out Ace Drive SG, who have a fleet of luxury cars for rental. More about them in a separate post. Subsequently, I spotted that another agency called Ultimate Drive has a Ferrari and Lamborghini on 15/30/60 minute rentals. (Dhananjay Murthy and few other facebook friends also tipped me on this) This post gives more details about renting the Ferrari/Lamborghini from Ultimate Drive and why I resisted my temptation to rent one. Another company called Dream Drive also offers similar supercar rental schemes.

If you have 15000 INR to spare, you can ride a Ferrari or Lamborghini in Singapore for 15 minutes. At various places- such as Marina Bay Sands, Suntech Mall etc there’re counters offering this dream ride for a fee.

Before we go into commercials, let us take a close look at the car- Ferrari F430 F1 Spider

The interiors of Ferrari F430 F1 Spider
4.3 litre V8 engine that generates 480 horses and can push the car to 100kmph in less about 4 seconds, while hitting top speed of 310kmph (assuming not electronically limited to a lower speed)

Notice that registration number has model number in it  430.. but 430 F instead of 430G would have been more apt
We saw these cars on offer- once at Suntec mall and again at Marina Bay Sands. The cost of ride were as follows (below rate is when you book on Ultimate Drive's website. Spot booking costs about 15 dollar more.
If you (and say your friend) book both Ferrari and Lambo for an hour each together, you get to swap the cars halfway and get to experience both cars. But you can't book for an hour and share with four friends for 15 mins each. If you don't want to drive and just want to be driven, it is a bit cheaper, but then which car enthusiast would opt to sit in co-passenger seat when he/she can drive it for a few dollars more. As long as you have a driving license written in English, of any country, you can drive in Singapore. Apart from this, you can also buy t shirts, miniature cars and other merchandise.

It was very tempting and I seriously evaluated giving the topless ferrari a try, but held back because of  following reason:
  • There is no dedicated F1 track in Singapore on which we can drive this cars at their true potential. We need to drive them in regular traffic, which gets a signal every few kms. There're speed limits in Singapore- 50 or 60 kmph in city, 80 or 90 on highways. Essentially we can't even reach one third of car's top speed legally. If caught above this speed limit, there will be a fine ranging from 130 to 200 SGD (Even Singapore grand prix happens on regular roads, which are of F1 standards, by closing them for traffic)
  • If I am spending 15000 Rs for 15 minutes, the best time of the day would be early morning, say 6AM, when traffic is very less. But these guys (Ultimate Drive) open only at 9 AM and close at 10 PM. So I can't take advantage of off peak hours.
  • These cars have only 2 seats. If you sit in one, another seat is taken by the staff. So your friends/family can not enjoy the ride.

There're many super car owners in Singapore who are frustrated at not being able to drive their supercars at high speeds. Unlike Europe where there're umpteen number of highways and autobahns to cruise around, Singapore feels like a confined space. I feel it will be good if city administration can identify say 10km of straight road and declare it as super car lane, at least for some part of the day where high end car owners can enjoy a high speed ride.
This time only pose.. next time I am going to drive this for sure. Clicked by DesiTraveler
It was a tough decision NOT to book on the spot and go for a quick ride. If I could extract full potential of the car, I would have probably booked and driven it. But didn't want to spend knowing above limitations. But may be next time or some other day/some other city, I will be driving the Ferrari for sure.

I appreciate this initiative where everyone car drive their dream car. Try it out next time when you visit Singapore.

Similar: Audi R8 V10 * Nissan GT Academy- RacingDriverWanted *

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