Wednesday 28 August 2013

Interview with the SORCERER | Indian Blogger Award Winner | Hardware BBQ In news

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself? Your blog, and your aspirations and your hobbies!!
Just another guy born and brought up from Bandra West- plain and simple. I am not much of a guy with aspirations, but PC Gaming is more or less like my hobby. I prefer to be known and called as The Sorcerer. 

2. How you first got involved in with blogging, are you an imaginative person?
No, I am not an imaginative person at all!

How did I get into blogging? aah, where should I start?
Credits to a lot of people encouraging me into reviewing. The list is too long, but special mention: Harshal Tank and Saptarshi Ghosh. Also,Brendon Fernandes and Moksh Mridul who spent a lot of their time in also reviewing hardware as much as possible. Also, 'Sir' Shatul Durlabjhi aka Toolius who runs a company called Comp Kraft. If I don't have the resources or stuck with something I couldn't proceed unless I have the right tools, he's the best!

I got involved with blogging not by choice. I used to contribute reviews for Indian Tech forums such as Techenclave, Think Digit, Chip (forum now de-activated) and Tech2 (before the database was flushed down no thanks to the admins), but then an Indian tech site called TechArena ripped my content.
I managed to force them to take down 3 motherboard reviews that they've copied from me while I have to put up with the moderator's 'mightier than thou' attitude. Fearing that my content would be an easy target for plagiarism, I started a Blogspot site and got the domain 'Hardware BBQ' 2 days later. Then I started using the name/logo 'Hardware BBQ' as a watermark but use free hosting sites to upload my pictures so that admins and mods won't troll me out saying that I am leeching traffic. I guess you could say that I used to post about 2-4 reviews in an average in 3-4 forums. Hardware BBQ was initially made to be nothing more than an archive for my reviews to be in one place, and initially the website was set not to be indexed in search engines as well.
But then, eventually 4 became 2 and then it stopped because I was being bullied/trolled by some people who owned/moderated the sites. Suffice to say all hell broke loose because it seemed that 'I was making a brand name out of their forum's expense' or whatever. One of the senior moderators of one of the forums also said that my contribution to their forum was bad for their SEO, while its sad because people who contributed reviews in that same forum also post the same work in other forums. It was no different from what a well known multi-forum contributor 'Windwithme' does, except the difference is that my maximum limit is 4, whereas withwithme's limit is A LOT of forums.
One of the Chip Magazine employees who is also an admin of the forum (I was a moderator in that forum) basically said 'indirectly' that I am biased towards a Tier 1 motherboard manufacturing company called 'Gigabyte'. Arguments started in the staff section, one of my former best friend supported what he said and I gave up my moderator rights in the forum, got banned temporarily, eventually got the idea and left.
Tech2 was more or less a dead forum that I tried to contribute, but then Tech2 and Chip forums were going to be merged (they're owned by the same company) but then all hell breaks loose, so they flushed down all the threads, content- except the member base. It's practically a ghost town now.
I was trolled out of Techenclave forum. It's was the toughest because this is where I started from, one of the 2 forums which made me feel appreciated and I wouldn't have thought of running a PC component review. Long story made short, this is what happened. But I am happy that some people defended me.
2 more forums trolled me as well and tried to damage my credibility so that I can get stop getting review samples, but nothing worthy to say.
But my standing with ThinkDigit forums is still very healthy and strong (touchwood), mostly because of the community moderators and admin. That's the only forum where I advice people from time to time, but after series of trolling and plagiarism attempts, I was discouraged to contribute towards tech forums. Hardware BBQ was made to be indexed by search engines, eventually shifted to shared hosting+ Wordpress CMS+ a premium theme and so far I haven't looked back.
Somewhat ironic: A guy who hates most of the content put up by Indian tech bloggers actually has a tech blog :P. But now that I think about, with the exception of people who followed by work in the forums and a lot of people in ThinkDigit forums, having your own platform has its usefulness.

3. What do you find most challenging about blogging about your topic?
#1 issue which resolves other issues? Balancing resources. Note: I used the word 'balance' and not 'lack'.
When it comes to PC Reviewing, Indian tech media is not known to have proper and real world testing method which people can relate the benchmarks with the activities that they do on the system. I read a lot of International review sites like Anandtech, Toms' Hardware, Hardware Secrets, TweakTown, X-bit labs, RW Labs, so you get the vibe and understand in a way how they try to relate their testing method with their readers.
I also used to read a lot of International tech forums, try to understand and have testing method accordingly. It was very difficult initially because of the lack of resources and support. One thing lead to another, and so far pretty ok. You need money for testing method as well. Some benchmark software cost good money, and if you don't get hardware support from a neutral source, you end up spending money for it. Balance is important, because the lack of resources is something everyone faces.

4. Tell me about some of the people you have met while working on your blog?
The list became HUGE ever since Computex 2012 trip which I won in a contest from TweakTown. Too many names. But it ranges from reviewers, site owners, extreme overclockers, reporters, PR and marketing managers, heads, even engineers too. I met Anand Shimpi of Anandtech for the second time- and THE FIRST TIME on the Computex floor!

5. How would (someone) describe your blogging style?
I just go with the flow. Few people say that I am decent, some people say I am better than a lot of reviews from Indian sources, but a PR agency which handles 2 Tier 1 brand names in PC components and accessories describes my reviews as 'brand bashing' and 'mischief monger' only when the review didn't really favour them because the cons I highlight in their product which wasn't really good compared to the alternates mentioned in the reviews didn't 'make them look good'.

6. What do you do when you are not working on your blog?
I either sleep, go down and do stuff. Most of the time I am testing and preparing content, so my day starts at 8-11 in the morning and a nap time in the evening, then from 8 o clock in the night to 3-5 in the morning.

7. Where do you see yourself blogging wise in the next 6 months, and 5 years down the road?
If all things go well, I plan to shift to VPS hosting by December and along with Wordpress CMS+ new theme and review rating system, I would be starting a forum as well, only this time I will be calling the shots and use my horrible experience in Indian tech forums to make sure Hardware BBQ doesn't end up like the rest.

8. What networking do you do that you feel helps your blogging business?
Mostly, online on Facebook. But I try to go to relevant press conferences and launches, end user meets, very handful of meetings, etc.

9. How do you keep coming up with material/content for your blog? Many people struggle with coming up with different articles/posts and they only have one blog.
PC component reviewing is not as easy as it looks, mostly because its important to relate your reviews and testing methodology with the activity a particular type of end user (general user, gamer, Hardware fan or enthusiast, etc.) does with his system and make a review keeping limited resources at hand.

10. Whats your strategy with your blog in general?
No strategy. I just do what I feel is right. One thing leads to another.

11. Any specific tips you have for newbie bloggers who want to make it in the blogosphere?
Not really, but I can give some tips to forum contributors and those who start a blog with the purpose of having a review site.
If you are going to review any tech component- or maybe even mobiles and tablets, nothing is more important than testing methodology and ensuring that an end user can relate with it. It's going to be extremely difficult since there will be stuff that are either good or bad- and some company's intentions who prefer to have their brand 'look good' over collecting feedbacks and improving their product. Reviewers are not PR tools. Its true that like many reviewers, columnists need to be in contact with companies, but also note that if you are preparing a content to satisfy a brand, someone's hard earned money will be wasted. You lose credibility, you lose traffic, you lose loyal readers and gain haters, eventually you'll end up shutting down, being clueless why did this ever happen!
You may come in a situation where you'll be forced to shut down or stop thinking of having a review site, but you rather shut down a site due to lack of interest from brands/sites and readers rather than shutting down because of the series of events which started ever since you've compromised yourself. In this line of work, frauds eventually get trolled or discouraged when caught. If you cannot do it, don't do it. It's easy to become excited and do it because you're getting things you normally wouldn't get in your hands and compare them, but that usually dies and you end up being very objective. Don't be a sellout. Don't be a proxy salesman. Don't be a walking talking billboard.
It takes a lot of time. Hardware BBQ may have started in 2010, but I've been in tech forums for a VERY long time. Being in a country like India has one advantage that there are not a lot of proper review sites so you have a leverage as long as you have ROI and loyal readerbase/'rep'.

......and contrary to the popular belief, reviewers don't get to keep the media samples. At times you get to keep some stuff, but you end up using it as your test bench to review other stuff. But if you get to keep some stuff, it's best if you work on something and not just keep it around. I am saying this because I get a lot of people asking this, so I am setting the record straight.
Example? Like, if you get a solid state drive and at times when companies release a new firmware, it's best if you benchmark it and update your graph database so that people will know that the performance values are updated regularly. Same goes for graphic cards. Also at times do memory compatibility checks. Like if you get a memory kit and you also have a series of motherboards, it's not going to take a lot of time to see if a memory kit works on a particular motherboard. You can always share this incompatibility/bug report to the respected companies. They'll use it to release a new bios or work on it, or at least let people know of certain incompatibility issue for whatever reason.
What are you getting out of it? Well, one of the things maybe companies will know that you are doing is at the end of the day is beneficial for them. You gain credibility, maybe even end up meeting people who engineer such stuff- and maybe even exclusives. Anything can happen. If you're honest, hardworking, stay updated and quick on your feet, things can happen. You cannot be ignored for a lot more than ROI or whatever. You just need to sacrifice a lot of time, patience, resisting from become arrogant and develop a 'mightier than thou' attitude.
And contrary to the popular beliefs, reviewers do not and should not charge money per product review. I've seen a lot of tech bloggers in India even mentioning this in their blog. Seriously? It's just a way of saying 'I am selling away my loyal reader base and kissing your shaft for $50-$500 per product review'.
You get stuff to review on behalf of your readers and even gain a lot of traffic. In exchange, depending on how you do things, they get exposure, feedback to improve the cons, appreciation if the product is genuinely good, get to understand users, especially when they read comments. It's a cycle, respect it and maintain it. Your primary source of income? Advertisements and maybe referral codes to Amazon. But it's you who will have to make sure that things come together the way they should.  
Also, I think it's best if tech bloggers who do 'reviews' which are nothing more than writing technical specifications in a paragraph format should stop doing that. You're making it worse for yourself and destroying your credibility- or whatever is left of it.
Yeah, what I am saying is probably opposite from those bloggers who post content about 'how to earn money from doing reviews?'.

12. What would you prioritize? Content? SEO? Traffic? Readers?
Mostly content in my opinion, followed by average time on site, pages turned by a user in an average and bounce rate.

13. What's the best thing a blogger can give to his readers?
Honesty- and a disclaimer if you're saying it as your personal opinion. I guess a giveaway every now and then could be fun! :P. Give whatever you want, except cakes!

14. A lot of people are interested in blogging for the money earning potential. What are some tips for people interesting in making money from blogging? What are some realistic expectations in regards to what can be made?
Best way to earn money is to keep the purpose of earning money as secondary, at least in my opinion for this type of work. A lot of successful bloggers who earn probably started by starting websites with no real intention to earn. Knowledge and Reader base is power. Credibility is a shield and a double edged sword.

15. What motivates you most in life?
Haters, morons, newbie who claim to know 'everything' and flash their degrees online, 'tech' bloggers who don't know what they're saying but get appreciated by people is one list, and another list is people like Anand Shimpi. I know I can't be him and it will take a lot of effort of my side to be as good as many international review sites.

16. What has been your strategy for creating visibility to yourself and your blog?
Be upfront and honest, but make sure you know what you're saying. If you make a mistake, don't hesitate to admit it. If you don't know about something, be honest. People will appreciate you for that.

17 What was the most challenging moment in your blog content development process and why?
Answered in point #3.

18. Everyone has a favorite/least favorite post. Name yours and why?
I didn't give a lot of thought about that to be honest.

19. Name some of the bloggers whom you look up to and why?
Reviewers like Anand Shimpi. The dude started from Geocities ever since 15 years of age and now he's one of THE most credible names in this line of work, even expertise matching or even surpassing technical knowledge that inhouse engineers of even tier 1 manufacturers posses, but makes it easier enough for people to understand as long as they spend time in reading. I remember one senior manager I bump into, we were talking about him, and he told me that 'I remember when he was 15, and he flew from his hometown to another city with his mom for a company meeting'. Yes- FROM THAT LEVEL!!
You can be all technical and throw technical jargons, but as a reviewer if you can't make it easy enough for a lot of people to understand as much as possible, then you need to work a lot in how to make presentations. He started off by assembling systems for free with the condition that he gets to work with it so that he can review and post content, to which at most count didn't seem to mind.

20. What is the story behind the name of the blog?
Well, everyone started a tech blog with the prefix 'tech', and it was annoying. It was either this or another name I can't remember, but pretty sure it had a prefix 'tech'.

21. Your connection with any Blogger Network like Indi blogger or Writeupcafe or any other and the experience?
Indiblogger, but I left in the middle, deleting my old profile. I came back for the award. But in all honesty they really need to change the layout of the site.

22. Which genre do you feel gets the raw deal?
Its more on the writer than the genre. I can't speak about other genres because I don't know about that...

23. Which one plug-in would you suggest all bloggers to have?
eh... I don't know. Maybe one of those SEO plugins? I don't know about all that.

24. Five adjectives that describe you.
I'll get back to you on that one.

25. What book would you say has made the biggest impact good or bad on you? not much of a reader, despite the fact that I am in a family that owns a book store.

26. Do you get easily provoked by positive/negative comments??
If it doesn't make sense and its more of a hate/senseless garbage, yeah. I'll not delete it unless its spam or pulling others in a fight, but probably give a piece of my mind.

27. Do you plan to write a book, as every bloggers dream it is?
Nope. But I would like to do something where I can have review/product overview/initial impression of certain PC Hardware components on YouTube.

28. Are you a judgmental person, do you prefer to take sides instead of standing neutral?
I try to be neutral.

29. Your collaboration with other bloggers, are you much into social networking, tell us 
everything about it?
Nah, not many. Certain types of end users, friends from forums, power users, very few journalists, reviewers, people like that.

30. What genre attracts you the most and which genre you avoid?
I don't read a lot of other blogs. Maybe few posts, but that's it. I hate those type of bloggers who provoke a particular group of people to gain reader base. They should stop blogging and probably get a proper day job.

31. Your Views on Contests and increasing plagiarism?
Contests are more of a tradeoff or exchange- you do something for something and in exchange you get something- exposure or buzz. If you're a writer who don't get to write a lot, you get something to write on and in exchange they get exposure or buzz. Ethics or morality behind it is in your hands. How you balance it, is more of an art or a skill. I don't have that. I've participated in one and felt guilty about it, so I've deleted that and decided not to participate in any contests unless its neutral, like ThinkDigit's contest where they've given NAS devices to people for review and they can keep, and the ones who they feel did the best gets an upgraded version. I got 3rd prize, but on the bright side, I got a NAS storage drive and 1TB drive, so it's not bad.
About plagiarism:
The only plagiarism you can stop are the ones who dumb enough to copy your content and think they can get away with it- and unfortunately most of them are real humans and not some crude aggregating bot programs, including the image hotlink. Then there are those who crop your watermark from the image- and who use their own watermarks on your image.

The slightly more clever ones change sentence construction and certain words. 
Rest are the ones who use auto blogging software which I think aggregates content from multiple sources and makes a content.
The worst ones are those who rip genuine online content and publish it in magazines and newspapers. Some editors don't check- either they're too lazy, trust a journalist/writer or the fact that they can't check each and everything and have to rely on the writers' honesty- I guess something that happens with newspaper? It's even worse and practically impossible if its written in a different language.
What I am saying is: Like piracy, you can only fight plagiarism on a surface level with certain occasional 'cracks' to the core/level of plagiarism.
Some of the mechanism to prevent plagiarism I guess helps with certain type of plagiarists with limited knowledge, and even maybe auto blogging softwares (there's a similar software for generating content in discussion boards/forums). Rest of it depends if you or others happen to read it. I am not saying to let it go. What I am saying is, keeping aside the types where you can confront them and force them to take down the stolen content or report to the hosting company, Google or file a DMCA takedown, you will not be able to a lot of things.
The way I see things, having your content being as visible to the relevant reader base as much as possible has its usefulness, and one of them is that if a clever and aware reader catches someone, he can either point it out- or let you know about it. If you have an original content, you either make sure a lot of people who have interest in your genre of writing be aware that it's your content. If you can't, write it in a book and keep it with you till the time you could publish it provided that you get the credits and the loyalty from it.
If your content is based on opinions/facts put up in other websites, there's no harm in mentioning those sources and even backlinking it. Even the most tier 1 websites/writers give credits to fellow writers. Contrary to the myth, it makes you look good because in a way it shows that you are doing active research! ;-). Being honesty is the best. Being dishonest is more of a drag and works with limited scenario in life, writing isn't really one of them. You need to make a back-story, and a back up back story and have an alibi and you eventually get caught.

32. Words for me and my blog.!

33. On winning the Award/s?
About time The Sorcerer won something :P. Amit Aggarwal doesn't even include me in his Indian bloggers directory, LOL! :p  

Rahul Miglani : well the Interview was fantastic ,and yes the interviews are always unedited and will always stay live forever on the blog , For sorcerer : He is a guy we all look upto for suggestions.Period.This is one of the most comprehensive interviews I have ever read and he is the one I admire.

PS : Blogger Interviews is GLAD to have you here .


  1. nice to see interview of good bloggers...keep going... :)

  2. Loved this interview Rahul. The Sorcerer is the real deal.

  3. Good interview. You did not ask him if his blogging supports his life style. I mean does he earn enough to sustain himself. I would have liked to know that too. Thank you.