Check Out This Moodle “Armor Bundle” Of Plugins

Check Out This Moodle With the diversity that characterizes the Moodle plugins to solve even the issues you don’t realize you have, the process of selecting and evaluating can become taxing. Some special editions, like Moodlerooms or CLAMP’s LAE represent possible pathways, but they do not consider themselves encompassing “armor” for Moodle to endure battle for knowledge.

That is why this selection by Halden Ingwersen at Capterra raised my eyebrows in delight. I believe there is a place for Moodle technology curators. They could work within, along or independent from Moodle Partners, and help organizations select the best arrangement of plugins for their unique situations.

Although generally purposed, this list is an attempt to outline complementary services for Moodle. The truth is no two organizations have the exact same quests for they do not cater to one homogeneous alumni. It, however, takes into consideration problems and situations faced by the majority. Chances are Ingwersen interests you in at least one of the plugins.

It is not needless to remind you that download and install of these plugins is completely free, as they are Open Source licensed. The 15 Moodle plugins are:

  1. Badges.
    See our coverage on Badges.
  2. Badge Awarder.
    Moodle Plugin page.
  3. Checklist.
    Moodle Plugin page.
    See our coverage on Checklist.
  4. Configurable Reports.
    Moodle Plugin page.
  5. Essential Theme.
    See our coverage on Essential.
  6. Heatmap.
    See our coverage on Heatmap.
  7. Level Up!
    Moodle Plugin page.
  8. Link Crawler.
    See our coverage on Link Crawler.
  9. Office 365 Repository.
    Moodle Plugin page.
    See our coverage on Office.
  10. Questionnaire.
    Moodle Plugin page.
    See our coverage on Questionnaire.
  11. Question Trends.
    Moodle Plugin page.
  12. Ranking.
    Moodle Plugin page.
  13. Social Wall Format.
    Moodle Plugin page.
  14. Training Sessions.
    Moodle Plugin page.
  15. xAPI Launch Link.
    Moodle Plugin page.
    See our coverage on xAPI.

It might just be my projecting, but I forecast more “Moodle plugin concierge” services will crop up to fill out the evident market gap.

Read Ingwersen’s post at


Would you be interested in becoming a Moodle tech concierge? Give us your pitch in the comments or in our social media presence!



PluginPhantom Android Malware Uses Novel Approach to Hide Malicious Behavior

Android malware

Security researchers have discovered a new Android trojan that uses the DroidPlugin framework to split malicious behavior across multiple plugins, making detection much harder.

Nicknamed PluginPhantom by Palo Alto Networks security researchers, this newly discovered trojan employs a novel technique not seen in other Android malware families until now.

Trojan abuses DroidPlugin framework

The trojan abuses DroidPlugin, which is a virtualization framework for Android apps. DroidPlugin allows Android developers to create apps that can load plugins from local or remote files in real-time, without users needing to “approve” the loading (installation) process.

While used for nefarious actions by the PluginPhantom malware, the DroidPlugin framework is normally used for legitimate purposes as keeping an app’s size down, enabling multi-account support for social media apps, and for hot-patching (real-time updates that don’t go through the Google Play Store).

The way PluginPhantom uses DroidPlugin is by splitting the trojan into a host app that when analyzed, doesn’t feature any malicious behavior except the ability to load plugins.

The malicious behavior is contained in these plugins, which are simple APK files stored inside the host app’s resources. The DroidPlugin framework allows the host app to load these APK files without the user’s approval.

PluginPhatom architecture
PluginPhatom architecture (Source: Palo Alto Networks)

Currently, the PluginPhatom malware includes nine plugins, three for basic operations and six for malicious actions. The three plugins for basic operations are:

Online plugin – Handles communications with the C&C server, exfiltrates data, and retrieves new instructions.
Task plugin – Relays operations from the C&C server to the other six malicious plugins and initiates the data exfiltration operation to the C&C server.
Update plugin – Used to update and relaunch existing plugins, and even to download new APKs (plugins).

The six plugins used for malicious actions are:

File plugin – Scans a specific directory and retrieves information such as file name, file type, file size, create time, edit time, file path, canonical path and read state. Can scan external media as well, and download or delete specific files. Uses rooting exploit when necessary by downloading an APK from the C&C server (behavior not reproduced in test environments, currently unconfirmed).
Location plugin – Exfiltrates geolocation data. Plugin acquires geolocation data from WiFi and GPS on Android 4.4, and mobile data connections on Android 5.
Contact plugin – Steals call logs, device IDs and contacts info, from both SIM and device contact lists. It can also intercept incoming SMS messages and phone calls from specific phone numbers.
Camera plugin – Stealthily takes pictures through the front or back camera, or takes a screengrab of the user’s phone.
Radio plugin – Records background noise when instructed by the C&C server, and all incoming calls.
WiFi plugin – Steals WiFi information such as SSID, password, IP address and MAC address. It also steals system information (PID, process name, app name, app resource path, app data path, timestamp), user data (browser visiting history and bookmarks), and info on local software (app name, version, last update time, is system app).

Palo Alto researchers believe PlugiPhantom to be an evolution of a malware family detected by TrustLook security researchers under the name of Android.Trojan.Ihide.


PluginPhantom trojan expoits Android plugins to snoop

Researchers at Palo Alto Network’s Unit 42 threat intelligence team spotted a new Google Android trojan named “PluginPhantom” which is capable of leveraging Android’s DroidPlugin technology to steal user information.

DroidPlugin allows an app to dynamically launch any app as a plugin without installing them in the system and PluginPhantom exploits this feature by implementing each element of malicious functionality as a plugin and utilizing a host app to control the plugins, according to a Nov. 30 blog post.

PluginPhantom is capable of taking pictures, capturing screenshots, recording audios, intercepting and sending SMS messages through file, location contact, camera, radio, and Wi-Fi plugins.The trojan is also capable of stealing location data, contacts and Wi-Fi information as well as logging keyboard input by the Android accessibility service, acting as a keylogger.

PluginPhantom is a new class of Google Android Trojan as it is the first to abuse Android “DroidPlugin” technology to enable updating and to evade static detection a Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 Intelligence Director Ryan Olson told SC Media.

“PluginPhantom implements malicious functionality as plugins that are loaded by the controlling host app,” Olson said. “Abusing plugin technology gives malware authors more flexibility: they can update malicious modules without reinstalling apps enabling them to refine and improve their malware on the device.”

He went on to say that it also enables the malware to evade static detection by hiding malicious behaviors in plugins that are later loaded. The trojan doesn’t exploit any particular vulnerabilities as the victim has to install the host app which once installed, will download the malicious plugins as needed.

Olson said others will likely adopt this technique for malware in the future given the advantages this technique affords hackers.


Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh lashes out newspaper for ‘fabricated’ news about trafficking

Virbhadra Singh, Virbhadra, Himachal Pradesh CM, Virbhadra trafficking, Virbhadra fabricated news, india news, latest news, indian expressHimachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh today lashed out at local newspaper for “fabricated and frivolous” series of news reports about trafficking of girls in Sirmaur district of the state and sought an apology from the paper for “unethical” reporting. His remarks came close on the heels of statements by BJP MLA Baldev Singh Tomar and senior Congress leader Harshvardhan who also condemned the vernacular newspaper for publishing defamatory and objectionable news reports.

“The manner in which the vernacular paper is publishing fabricated and frivolous series of news regarding alleged trafficking of girls of Shillai area of district Sirmaur is highly objectionable and defamatory and has hurt the sentiments of the people,” he said.

Virbhadra said headlines like “Trafficking of girls in the name of marriage” was totally deceptive and the news has deeply hurt women, especially in Shillai and Transgiri areas.

The Chairperson of Women Commission visited the area and found no truth in the allegations and in fact some marriages have taken place in normal course over a period of time outside Himachal Pradesh and those involved in the conspiracy have no right to ask why the girls of the state, including those of Sirmour, were marrying outside the state, he said.

Meanwhile, sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), Shillai, Vikas Shukla, who got conducted the controversial survey of girls from Shillai and trans-Giri areas married outside the state, has been shifted to Arki, official sources said.

The residents of Shillai and Paonta areas today held protests outside SDM office against the Hindi daily.

They were demanding stringent action against the newspaper for “deliberately maligning the image of the residents of Shillai area and causing irreparable loss to the reputation of the daughters of the region.”

In a memorandum submitted to the SDM, the protesters demanded that circulation of the paper be suspended in the area.

Similar protests were held in Paonta town also and people raised slogans against the paper and burnt the effigy of the editor.

When contacted, Shukla said a series of reports published by a Hindi daily has deeply hurt the sentiments of the residents of Shillai area and he has decided to summon the editor of the newspaper as per the legal provisions.

A statement issued by the Deputy Commissioner, Sirmour, B C Badalia, late this evening, also condemned the campaign ‘Girls in Shillai area on sale’.

The allegations regarding ‘sale of girls’ and ‘girls dropouts in Shillai area’ made in the newspaper were examined by the district administration and it was found that all these allegations were false and there was no truth in them, he said.


Cuba: Crowds pay last respects to Fidel Castro in Santiago

Cuban President Raul Castro has led final tributes to his brother Fidel at an event in the city of Santiago.

Tens of thousands of Cubans attended the ceremony, as well as world leaders.

Raul Castro vowed to honour the socialist principles and goals of the revolution led by Fidel, who died on 25 November aged 90.

He also announced that Cuba would ban naming any monuments or roads after Fidel Castro, at the request of the late leader.

“The leader of the revolution strongly opposed any manifestation of cult of personality,” said Raul Castro.

No statues or busts of Fidel will be erected in Cuba, he said.

Media captionCubans say goodbye to their revolutionary leader Fidel Castro

The urn with his ashes will be interred on Sunday in Santiago, known as the birthplace as the Cuban Revolution.

It arrived on Saturday in Santiago, after a four-day journey from the capital, Havana.

Large crowds shouting ‘Long live Fidel!” and “I am Fidel!” greeted his funeral cortege through the streets of Santiago.

‘A father to us’

The leaders of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have attended the ceremony.

Image captionRaul Castro (right) welcomed ex-Brazilian Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to the ceremony
Image captionFidel Castro stepped down in 2006
Image caption“I am Fidel,” chanted many Cubans as the funeral cortege went through the streets of Santiago
Image captionFidel Castro’s ashes will be interred in Santiago on Sunday

“All of us who love Fidel, who is a father to us. He cleared a path for us and the people will follow him,” Tania Maria Jimenez told Reuters.

She was among thousands of Cubans watching as the urn with Mr Castro’s ashes was driven past the historic Moncada barracks in Santiago.

  • A hero and a tyrant
  • What now for US-Cuba relations?
  • Fidel Castro: A life in pictures

Fidel Castro was part of the small group of revolutionaries who launched an attack on the barracks on 26 July 1953.

The attacked failed, but it was considered the first act of the revolution that would depose the US-backed government of Fulgencio Batista on 1 January 1959.

Opinion on Fidel Castro, who ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost half a century, remains divided.

Supporters say he returned Cuba to the people and praise him for some of his social programmes, such as public health and education.

But critics call him a dictator, who led a government that did not tolerate opposition and dissent.

Raul Castro took over when his brother’s health deteriorated in 2006.

Fidel Castro’s ashes will be placed in the Ifigenia Cemetery, where Cuban independence hero Jose Marti is buried.


Fidel Castro’s ashes buried in Santiago de Cuba

Fidel Castro’s ashes have been laid to rest in the eastern Cuban city of Santiago, nine days after his death at the age of 90.

Crowds lined the streets to see the cortege heading to the Santa Ifigenia cemetery for a private ceremony.

“There were no speeches. It was very simple,” French Environment Minister Segolene Royal said afterwards.

On Saturday Fidel’s brother, Cuban President Raul Castro, promised “to defend the fatherland and socialism”.

In a family ceremony, Fidel Castro’s ashes were interred next to those of the 19th Century Cuban independence hero, Jose Marti.

Santiago is known as the birthplace of the Cuban Revolution.

The funeral brings an end to nine days of national mourning across Cuba.

  • A hero and a tyrant
  • What now for US-Cuba relations?
  • Fidel Castro: A life in picturesHis remains arrived in Saturday in Santiago after a four-day journey from the capital, Havana.

    “All of us who love Fidel, who is a father to us. He cleared a path for us and the people will follow him,” Tania Maria Jimenez told Reuters news agency.

    Fidel Castro was part of the small group of revolutionaries who launched an attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago on 26 July 1953.

    The attacked failed, but it was considered the first act of the revolution that would depose the US-backed government of Fulgencio Batista on 1 January 1959.

    Opinion on Fidel Castro, who ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost half a century, remains divided.

    Supporters say he returned Cuba to the people and praise him for some of his social programmes, such as public health and education.

    But critics call him a dictator, who led a government that repressed opposition and dissent.

    Raul Castro took over when his brother’s health deteriorated in 2006.

    He has announced that Cuba will ban naming any monuments or roads after Fidel Castro, at the request of the late leader who “strongly opposed any manifestation of cult of personality”.

    Vietnamese veteran Nguyen Van Hai, 70, cries as he speaks of his feelings after paying tribute to the Cuban leader Fidel Castro at the Cuban embassy in Hanoi on December 4, 2016.


Cowboys News: “The 2016 Cowboys Laugh At Logic.”

Going on the road, losing the turnover battle, getting out-gained in total yards and time of possession and having double-digit penalties … well that just screams a big fat L.

But not this team, and not this time.

This team isn’t average anymore. And they’ve surpassed good. This is the best team in the NFL and it’s not even close.

If Thursday’s win proved anything, it’s the Cowboys can win ugly. They can roll up their sleeves and grind out a victory even though all of the stats are against them. That’s when talent usually prevails. It prevailed here Thursday night, giving the Cowboys one of their toughest wins of the season. We’re pretty sure the competition will be better down the road. But after 12 games, I think it’s an even safer assumption to think the Cowboys will be better as well.

VIDEO: Jason Garrett Speech After Minnesota Victory – Dallas Cowboys
Watch this video of Jason Garrett addressing the team following the win in Minnesota. You won’t regret it.

“It was a hell of a win. It might be my favorite win out of the 11 we’ve had this year. We scratch. We claw. We FIGHT.”

“Damn good job. Damn good job.”

The difference with Bryant over the last month has been noticeable. Prescott has been far better targeting Bryant over the past four games compared to his first five games of the season.

With his receiving touchdown, Bryant tied Michael Irvin for second place on the Cowboys’ all-time receiving touchdown list, despite playing in 66 fewer games, and is now six away from tying the legendary “Bullet” Bob Hayes for most in franchise history.

OG La’el Collins not ready for return yet, but Jerry Jones hopeful – Charean Williams, The Star-Telegram
Doctor Jones is in the house and ready to make broad, sweeping statements about the health of his players, one of which is guard La’el Collins, who had toe surgery Oct. 4 and has been on injured reserve since.

“Yes, I do,” Jones said on his radio show on 105.3 The Fan when asked if he expected the Cowboys to use their designated to return from injured reserve on Collins.

“I think from here on out, we’ll be watching it. He’ll be improving. But he gives us the best chance and we learned from [Ron] Leary even though we’ve looked long with numbers there, when we bring La’el back, we’ve learned that boy, you drop one man out of that offensive front, and you can really compromise it. So that gives us depth going into the playoffs. We’ve got the quarterbacks. We’ve got our offensive line. I think we had a big contribution from a lot of our front seven last night, and that’s going to get better. This 10 days looks good. This thing looks good.”

NFL Ratings Hit Near-Record High On ‘Thursday Night Football’ – Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
Sagging ratings? Cowboys to the rescue!

The game posted a 14.1 overnight rating, making it the second-highest-rated broadcast in the history of TNF, according to NFL PR exec Greg Aiello. It was ever-so-slightly behind the 14.3 that the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs posted in Week 2 of the 2015 season. The game even posted a better overnight rating than last Sunday night’s game between the Broncos and Chiefs, which posted an 11.8.

The Cowboys, of course, just proved that NFL fans are still willing to watch Thursday night games if they are good matchups with two popular franchises. Dallas right now has the luxury of being both the league’s most valuable franchise and best team in terms of win-loss record. There won’t be record ratings every Thursday night, but Dallas’ success won’t do anything but justify the league’s apparent plans to keep TNF around.

Investing in an offensive line pays off in the NFL. Just ask the Cowboys and Raiders. – Mark Maske, The Washington Post
Dallas used draft picks. Oakland devoted salary cap space. The results have been dramatic.

It is a lesson that is clear when studying some of the league’s best and most surprising teams this season: Devoting resources to the offensive line can pay off handsomely. It has worked to make the Cowboys and Oakland Raiders two of the NFL’s elite teams in 2016, and to make the Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins relevant once more as playoff contenders.

No one has done it better than the Cowboys. They used a first-round pick on left tackle Tyron Smith in 2011. They used a first-rounder on center Travis Frederick in 2013. They went with Martin over Manziel in 2014, with Jones’s son and Cowboys executive Stephen Jones intervening to help keep his father from taking Manziel, and made Martin a starter at guard.

Smith, Martin and Frederick have been selected to a combined seven Pro Bowls, a number that is certain to grow this season, and the Cowboys have an offensive line that could be remembered as one of the sport’s all-time greats.

Minnesota Vikings: Team upset about non-calls on TNF – Staff,
The Vikings and their fans are complaining about the refs in general, and specifically about the non-call on the two-point try, when defensive tackle Cedric Thornton hit Bradford in the helmet.

Lots of headlines about that non-call, but it’s also cute how everyone is ignoring the blatant false start by the Vikings left tackle on that very same play.

Cowboys’ Rolando McClain suspended indefinitely – Staff,
Almost certainly the end of McClain’s football career.

McClain has been suspended indefinitely without pay for violating the league’s policy on substances of abuse. His previous 10-game suspension ended on Nov. 21 following the conclusion of Week 11.

NFL playoff picture, 2017: Dallas Cowboys could have home field advantage clinching scenario in Week 14 – David Fucillo, Niners Nation
Don’t you love reading Cowboys clinching scenarios on a blog for a team that is 1-10? I certainly do, and sat on my couch with a smug grin as a read what the 49ers SB Nation blog had to write about the Cowboys.

First off, the Cowboys can clinch a playoff spot this week with a loss by either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Washington on Sunday. Additionally, with the win they move to three games ahead of the 7-3-1 Seattle Seahawks atop the NFC and 2.5 games ahead of the New York Giants in the NFC East. The Giants travel to face the Steelers in Week 13, while the Seahawks are home against the Carolina Panthers.

The Steelers are a six-point favorite over the Giants. If the Steelers win that game and the Giants fall to three games back of the Cowboys, Week 14 presents a divisional clinching scenario for Dallas. Sunday Night Football next week features the Cowboys vs. the Giants at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The Giants beat the Cowboys to open the season, and considering the subsequent win streak, it makes that game hugely interesting.

Defiant Giants on hot Cowboys : ‘They haven’t won NFC East yet’ – Howie Kussoy, New York Post
No kidding. But the Giants haven’t won in Pittsburgh yet either.

For the second straight week, the Giants (8-3) enter their game already knowing they can’t make up any ground on the Cowboys (11-1). But with a loss at Pittsburgh — which would put the Giants three games back with four games to play — next week’s long-circled matchup won’t mean quite so much.

“They won and are still on a hot streak, so that’s pretty impressive,” linebacker Keenan Robinson said. “It hasn’t changed our goals at what we can still accomplish. We have to handle our duties in the game against the Steelers and worry about them next week.

“They haven’t won the NFC East yet, so there is still an opportunity available for us.”

Eagles draft pick improved, thanks to Cowboys – Jeff Kerr,
This one hurts a little bit.

The Philadelphia Eagles can thank the Dallas Cowboys for improving their first-round draft status. Philadelphia earned its first-round pick back thanks to the Minnesota Vikings giving the Eagles that pick for Sam Bradford.

The Eagles need to hope Minnesota continues to struggle as they fall out of the NFC playoff picture.


5 Business-Blogging Mistakes — and How to Fix Them

5 Business-Blogging Mistakes -- and How to Fix Them

The year was 2008, and I had just launched an independent financial-planning firm. As a new business owner, I had determined that my number one goal was to stand out. But, how?

Related: 17 Tips for Entrepreneurs Who Blog

Eventually, I stumbled on the concept of blogging. I didn’t know how to blog or how to get started, yet I quickly recognized the inherent value of reaching out to potential clients on their home turf — the internet.

After figuring out how to launch my website, Good Financial Cents, I dove into the various strategies that might help me succeed. I learned everything I could about search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing and creation of content that would be appealing to everyday readers to reach my goal of creating the best financial-lanning blog on the web.

Flash-forward to today: The number of financial-planning blogs has exploded, a testament to what I knew back then: Blogging is a smart way to connect with existing clients and cultivate relationships with new ones.

Further, I’ve learned a lot about blogging, exploring how other industries use the web to reach their potential clients. On the flip side, I’ve seen business blogs that are an absolute disaster — ineffective, generic or simply unable to reach their potential. Here are those lessons and the common mistakes that hold businesses back.

Mistake 1: You don’t even have a blog.

These days, it takes some effort if you want your business to stand out on the web. A fancy website design and professional photography look nice, but is that all you have? Unless you also have a voice, your website is nothing more than an online business card. You aren’t speaking to your customers if all they can read is sales copy.

To separate yourself from your competitors, it’s crucial to write fun and informative content. Not only does this allow clients and customers to learn more about you and your business, but it gives people insight into what you’re about.

Remember, customers want to work with people, to know who you are. The more personal you can make your business, the more successful you’ll become.

Related: Use These Tips From 6 Successful Bloggers to Blog Your Way to Riches

Mistake 2: You don’t bother with SEO.

As a business owner, you’re probably busier than most people you know. That doesn’t get you a free pass from learning about SEO, or search engine optimization. While some people think of SEO as the black magic of online marketing, SEO in reality is what helps potential clients actually see your stuff. And if you’re going to bother having a blog, you should make sure people see it, right?

“Maximizing your content to be SEO-friendly means including a common keyword that is utilized throughout the title, images, header, and body of the blog,” SEO expert Tom Harness of Harness Digital Marketing told me. “It’s not rocket science, but it’s extremely important.”

When I first started blogging, I had a goal of ranking for the term “financial planner in Illinois.” Since I didn’t want to pay for a proper SEO strategy, I came up with a game plan to rank for this term on my own. First, I made sure I had “financial planner in Illinois” throughout my website — and even that small change made a huge difference. From there, I created a specific landing page, what I called the “SEO Targeted Landing Page,” whose primary mission was to rank for that keyword.

Oftentimes, I see small businesses that want to rank for a specific term but don’t even mention it on their sites. If you don’t want to pay an SEO expert to create a strategy for you, the least you can do is make sure the best terms to describe your business are featured prominently and, better yet, on a specific landing page.
Related Book: Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Website by Jon Rognerud

Mistake 3: You’re not gathering emails.

During my first two years blogging, I failed to recognize the importance of capturing emails. Over time, however, I realized that what many email marketers say is true — the money is in your list.

Once that lightbulb went off for me, my ability to nurture leads and prospects became a lot easier once I had potential clients’ contact information. I also realized that, when I wanted to promote certain events, webinars and trainings, I could access my readership much more easily via email.

Depending on your type of online business, you may also offer special promotions on products you sell. What better way to advertise those specials than with a dedicated list of emails from people who have actually signed up?

“Building an email list is the single most valuable thing you can do to control the future opportunities in your business,” Nathan Barry, the founder of ConvertKit, told me. “Every day you spend without an email list is a missed opportunity. Every email subscriber you gain is a potential future customer, so get started now and treat each person like they’re the key to growing your business. Because they are.”

Remember, people don’t hand over their emails without a prompt. You have to ask.

Mistake 4: You don’t have a lead magnet.

Once I figured out the value of an email list, I did what a lot of newbie bloggers do and invited people to join my list out of the kindness of their hearts: “Hey guys, sign up for my email list to get my newsletter and free updates!”

Free updates on what?

At first, I didn’t bother explaining what people would receive, or why they might want to give out their precious email addresses in the first place. What was I offering in return? At the time, even I couldn’t answer that question.

That’s changed. Nowadays, I have a lead magnet — a free “gift” that rewards people for signing up. Right now, my lead magnet is my “Money Dominating Toolkit,” which includes various pdfs and two chapters of my book, Soldier of Finance.

Once I began offering this lead magnet, my email subscriber base increased more than two-and-a-half times overnight. My biggest regret is that it took me two years to figure this out. Just think of how much bigger my list might be now if I had started offering an incentive earlier.

Mistake 5: You forget about your story.

While a business blog should be professional, it’s not a place for generic and boring content. Ghost-written articles can work but only if they resonate with your readers. And if you’re just copying and pasting in press releases, they won’t help you build traffic or loyalty, either.

For your business blog to be successful, you need to incorporate a story or some sort of narrative. By telling your story, you’ll build trust and become much more relatable.

You definitely want to showcase your expertise, but you should do so in a way that engages your readers. Donald Miller, founder of StoryBrand, espouses the virtues of building brands through storytelling on his website. “If you want to write a book about physics, you’ll have to know a lot about physics,” Miller has written on his site. “And the same goes for psychology and botany. But to write a humane book, be it fiction or memoir, all you really need to know is your own story.”

The idea behind your business blog should run in the same vein. If you want your business to have a human component, you need to show your humanity. The best way to do that is to share your life and your experiences.

Final thoughts

Blogging isn’t hard, but it does require a huge investment of your time. Blogging also requires guts — and the fortitude to put yourself out there whether anyone is reading or not.

And like it or not, blogging is the future of business. Why? Because your customers and clients are on the internet, and if you want them to find you, you have to be there, too.

When I created my online course for financial advisors, the idea that blogging was no longer optional was one of the biggest lessons I hoped to convey.

Related: 6 Strategies for Launching a Successful Blog

When it comes to blogging, you too can either dive in and learn or stand on the sidelines and watch others succeed. It’s not enough to have an online business card these days; you need an interactive element that shows who you are.


After Buying Penthouse Founder’s Archives, Jerrick Media Launches a Blogging Platform ‘Vocal’ will pay writers with niche interests By Sami Main

Schwartz believes you should be paid for your time and effort, and he realizes that’s a novel idea in this start-up, free-content world.

Jerrick Media, the company he founded with Jeremy Frommer, today will announce the launch of six blogging verticals that combine completely vetted, user-submitted content with Jerrick’s SEO and monetization powers under the name “Vocal.”

Jerrick’s owners joined forces in 2013 to purchase Penthouse founder Bob Guccione’s vast print and photo collection. The media company made a name for itself by reviving some of Guccione’s vintage content for today’s digital space, on topics like sci-fi and the theories behind extending your life expectancy.

Fans started submitting content based on their own niche interests. Now, enter Vocal.

Vocal will be a content distribution platform designed to act “as a hub for in-depth yet digestible stories,” the company said. Additionally, creators will actually get paid for what they produce, unlike other blogging platforms.

Users can submit posts under six verticals: OMNI is the science, technology and sci-fi vertical that draws inspiration from the vintage magazine; Geeks is all things pop and gaming culture; Longevity will focus on health and wellness; Journal covers everything about your work life; Filthy is for people interested in discussing sex and sexuality; and Potent will center on cannabis culture.

For now.

“This can scale quickly,” said Schwartz. “Vocal is a place for voices who want to be heard. If we needed to, we could create a new vertical within a day to fill that need.”

Vocal says its page and image load time is quick and mobile-focused. Vocal

After submitting a post, paid moderators will assess the piece for relevance and quality. If the post is accepted, it’ll be tracked for performance.

Page views will determine how much content creators are paid for their work, more or less.

Based on a set of fancy algorithms, Vocal and Jerrick will judge how a post is performing based on time spent on the post and how users are scrolling, clicking and interacting on the page.

The content managment system was custom-created for Vocal by Thinkmill and includes a way to embed your personal products for sale (say, an e-book or album you’ve released) in addition to an easy-to-use interface.

Vocal will be supported by branded content and partnerships for now and will expand into Facebook-style ads once users are comfortable with using Vocal, according to Justin Maury, the head of product, creative and design for Jerrick.

Vocal is also developing a self-serve native platform to be released next year that will “allow brands to create advertisements via Vocal in the vein of Reddit and Facebook,” said Schwartz.

“This new [ad] platform will allow brands to target our engaged communities by interest and to track their campaign’s success via our reporting dashboard,” he said.

One of Vocal’s brand partners—for the Potent vertical—is Willie Nelson’s cannabis-centric company, Willie’s Reserve.

“When we work with brands to create branded content, we want to make sure we’re talking about things in the right way,” said Maury. “Not just listicles.”

With so many cannabis brands out there, making it potentially one of the fastest “growing” industries, Vocal doesn’t want to bombard its readers and users with just any kind of content.

“Vocal combines the ease of Facebook, scope of Reddit and commerce of Amazon, all into one rich ecosystem, optimized for content and commerce,” said Schwartz in a statement.

Maury explained that the moderators of Vocal will send notes on ways to improve your content if your piece is rejected.

“It’s been fun to see our beta testers and writers improve and learn as they go,” he said.

You can track how much money you earn in real-time before cashing out with a secure Stripe connection. Vocal

 “We already have a very targeted and niche audience,” said Maury. “An ad that runs on Vice, for example, might not perform as well if it hits a lot of demos that might not be as interested. We have an engaged community, based on the nature of the platform.”

Schwartz pointed out that the SEO tools Vocal teaches its bloggers, by sending notes and feedback when posts are rejected, could help bloggers get paid for years down the line.

“This could be invaluable to your personal brand and business,” he said.


Is Jerusalem ready to host the biggest travel blogging event in the world?

Jerusalem, Israel — Last November, 21 travel bloggers from Europe and Asia & Pacific were brought to Jerusalem in the hopes of eradicating the negative connotations of the world about Israel. The city of Jerusalem recently won the bid of hosting the biggest travel blogging event in the world called Travel Blog Exchange Conference (TBEX) which will be happening in March 2017.

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TBEX is the largest conference and networking event for travel bloggers, online travel journalists, new media content creators, travel brands and industry professionals. Each year, TBEX partners with fantastic host destinations in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific to bring the travel industry’s most creative minds together to learn, network and do business.

From the ramparts of the old city to the best culinary experiences in the famous Machne Yehuda Market, the 21 travel bloggers who attended the pre-trip were able to have a tangible and firsthand experience of the best of the best of Jerusalem. Pre-trips are made in order for travel bloggers to have a feel of what the host city will be like. For a country as misunderstood as Israel, they need all the powers of the travel blogosphere in order for their TBEX hosting to succeed. These bloggers were expected to market through their social media platforms, hoping that their fellows will find the reasons to attend the conference in Jeruse. However, is Jerusalem really ready to host something this big?

Jerusalem as a travel destination

There is no question about Jerusalem as one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. Travel Bloggers are very open-minded when it comes to choosing the places they travel to. The challenge, the hype and the endless curiosity is what leads us to visit challenging places like Israel.

Jerusalem first-timer Olga Rabo of The Russian Abroad said the city didn’t have to put so much effort to impress. “It has everything for you to work with history, the colours, the food, the atmosphere — Jerusalem, and Israel as a whole has a lot of touristic potential despite the small size. I was happy to get a sneak peak into the Israeli culture to educate myself a little, and of course, to meet all the amazing people that were on the trip with me.

In the media, Israel as a whole is portrayed as very “dangerous” and “religious.” Travel blogger Sarah Richard of Coffee and A Slice of Life has been traveling Israel since October and have clearly stated that both of those words (dangerous and religious) are very far from what she saw while she was freely roaming around the country.

Travel blogging as a full-time job

I was working in one of my favourite cafes in Tel Aviv when a man sitting next to my desk started talking: “Look around. This place is full of people on their computers. It seems like Israel has really advanced itself in the location independence scene.”

“Yeah, I noticed that too. Everyone seems to be doing different things here. Almost nobody is in the office. Welcome to the 21st century, I guess?” I replied. It always takes me a lot of time to explain what I do. Believe it or not, even though Israel has one of the most advanced technologies in the world, to earn a living from social media and blogging is very unimaginable for Israelis.

Who would pay you money to post on the blog? Or on social media? That’s how their faces look like as this is also a country who is very careful in delegating their finances. In financial reports (and in everyday activities), they will count even a single cent. I have never been in any business meetings/transactions where the issue about money has not been raised. “How much will we spend in that project” and “how much will we get in return” have been an element of every agenda.

As a travel blogger myself, who chose Israel to be my base for the time being, I discovered a lot of hardships in surviving here with the nature of work that I do. Yes, you are reading it right. And you might be one of those Israelis who can’t grasp how I can make blogging as a full-time job. However, it is still very unimaginable for me to be in one of the biggest start-up nations in the world that don’t understand the value of new media as opposed to trad media.

Jerusalem (and Israel as a whole) as a non-blogging country

The nature of working with influencers is changing very rapidly and Israel is one of the countries that are behind. There are a larger number of us now with bigger numbers, larger reach and influence and more professionalism. All these can be proved with a documented return on investment. Blogging has taken over traditional media in terms of having the most organic and genuine audiences because we are real people. Today’s audiences would rather hear a story from a true person than a byline that doesn’t have a face. There have been a huge number of bloggers who have proven themselves to bring results to specific brand campaigns.

When the travel blogging community learned I am using Israel as my base, I became the go-to person with all things Israel. Every day, I have a message in my inbox complaining about the absurdity of responses travel bloggers receive from Israeli hotels, tour companies or anything related to tourism.

“They wanted me to pay 50% for an overnight stay in exchange for a review on my blog, a tweet, 2 Instagram posts and Pinterest post and a Facebook post.” One of my close blogger friends said.

I had the same experience when one organiser from an event in Tel Aviv wanted my services but didn’t want to pay. Although I was really interested in the project, he was asking for too much that I demanded a fee. When I did, his mood changed and went crazy on me.

“I am very uncomfortable when I am caught up in this kind of situation. You know, when you underestimate the power of blogging and online media is not cool to me. People like me are good at what they do and you need to understand that while we might get things for free, we also work hard for it. I don’t deal with people who talk to me like this but I want to be respectful. Good luck with your project and may the force be with you.” **walks away**

Just to emphasize, Israel is one of the least blogger friendly countries just because they think blogs are school projects or a daily “Dear Diary” kind of thing. Whenever I am caught up with mad questions from my fellow bloggers about how Israel responds to “people like us,” I also try to understand it two way. Since I am here for a longer time, I the dynamics of tourism companies have been clear. In a less political and understandable way, I always try my best to tell the bloggers to understand the current situation in Israel.

This Israeli behaviour is a by-product of the 50-day war between Gaza and Israel in 2014…

Again, I don’t want to discuss anything political but this conflict 2 years ago shrunk the tourism percentage of Israel. Hotels almost went bankrupt. All their reservations within that time period were cancelled, hence, no income. Tourists who were stuck in the country didn’t want to do anything touristic. Tour companies had nothing for days. The industry lost a lot of money and up until today, some are still paying for that loss. This is the part where I understood why they are very particular with all the media requests coming their way. And why on most days, they don’t reply to any inquiry at all.

Another factor that affects this blogger-company relationship in Israel is trust. Bloggers, note that every human being in this country went to the army. I’m sure you know how army people are: very very very particular, not so trusting, attentive to details and true to their word. I’ve been told by some companies that they worked with bloggers who did not comply with the deal (blog posts, social media promotions etc). I told them they did not tap the right bloggers for the job. I definitely have a lot of friends in the travel blogosphere that are very trusted and are very good at what they do.

However, there are Israeli companies that are working with bloggers on a regular basis. Abraham Hostels is one of the great Israeli brands that understand the value of working with bloggers. Since their blogging program started, they have hosted 100 bloggers in all their properties all over Israel which gave them the best marketing that money can’t buy — word of mouth.

In the travel blogging world, when Israel is mentioned or brought about in any conversations, Abraham Hostels name would always come up. They needed not invest money in order for them to be the biggest and strongest hostels in the country. They only needed to make extraordinary allies in the travel blogging world. Jerusalem will really need a lot of time and effort to host people like travel bloggers whom, most are doing it full time. Mike Huxley of Bemused Backpacker said, “Travel blogging is a real profession now, and those of us who work hard at it are very good at what we do. We know our audiences, know our styles and know how to market destinations to them. We are not tourists out for a few freebies. By listening to us, listening to what we need to do our jobs and giving us the time to do it, brands, DMOs and tourism boards can maximise the potential exposure they get from us, and they can learn that investing in travel bloggers as marketing professionals can give them far greater ROI than any traditional media can.”

Franzi Reichel of Coconut Sports Blog clearly stated: “Israel is not Mallorca or any other regular holiday destination. Be prepared for critical questions, be honest and try to explain as much as possible instead of asking people to only write positive things about Jerusalem“.

And she is correct. Not only that Israel is hard to market but travel bloggers have the most convincing tool and powers in order for more people not just to come to Israel but to attend the TBEX Conference. Not only that they will come but the conference and the participants will help in adding extra boost to Jerusalem’s tourism.
At present, over 25 travel blogging groups on Facebook are making a buzz about the difficulties in working with Israeli brands. Bad publicity is also publicity so it won’t hurt that Jerusalem is making a name as the TBEX 2017 host. However, will this buzz, negative or positive, help them gather more participants to come to the conference? For hosting an event as travel blogging specific as TBEX, Jerusalem has to know the ins and outs of working with this kind of people. Will they have enough time to do so? Will they be able to cope? Furthermore, are they willing to learn to embrace new media and try new things? I guess we have three (3) months to find out.

True. In a month that I was here, I met a dance therapist, a guy who grows hair and sells it to Chinese factories, a dog whisperer, a party starter, and many other radical jobs. The occupations here are something I’ve never heard before. People are really doing what they love here.” he said.

There was a short pause and I knew he would ask what he asked: “How about you? What do you do?”

“Hmmmm. I’m a travel blogger?” I responded with a wink.