Do You know who is “Google PanDa” ?

Content quality comes up more and more in the SEO context. Focusing on content quality was the winning underutilised SEO tactic in our expert roundup, and low value content is one of the major causes of manual and algorithmic Google penalties, notably Google Panda.

Google Panda is a series of on-going algorithm updates and data refreshes for the Google search engine that the company rolls out to help refine its search algorithm to improve the value of search query results for users.

Panda is a special “filter” designed to de-rank low quality content, and since 2016, it’s a part of the search engine’s core ranking algorithm. This means that Panda updates are now rolled out faster and more frequently than ever before, with more sites affected by the update.

But the question is, what is “content quality”, exactly? How do you improve it, grow your rankings, and keep Panda away? Here are the 6 essential steps to audit your content against poor quality and fix the issues you find. But before we start.

How does Panda work?

The Panda algorithm (named after Google engineer Navneet Panda) is designed to help Google improve the quality of search results by down-ranking low quality content. The basic principle here is that Google assigns a particular quality score to each website in its index (the score is assigned site-wide, not to separate pages.)
Initially, Panda functioned as a filter applied to a pack of search results that Google considered relevant to a search query. The Panda score was re-ordering them, pushing down the low-scorers, and giving a boost to the highest scored content.
Now, as Panda signals are “baked” into Google’s core ranking algorithm, they no longer re-order the results, but form them together with Google’s other ranking signals.

How does Panda identify high quality content?

Sure thing, there’s no “gut feeling” that helps Panda identify real quality. Panda is only an algorithm that checks your website for a number of factors that Google assumes are features of a high quality website. Then, by applying some math, it gives the site a specific quality score based on the results of this check.

The good news is, if your site’s quality score is based on a number of separate factors, you can influence those factors to improve the score.

The bad news is… Google won’t disclose the exact quality factors it takes into account to calculate the score. So the list of Panda-prone issues below is an educated guess, based on what Google has said on site quality, and what trackable factors it can use to determine it.

6 steps to a Panda-proof content audit

So, we know that Panda is used to assign your website a particular score depending on its “quality” — now let’s think of the factors that may be involved in the assessment.

Step 1. Crawl your website to get a full list of its pages

Unsurprisingly, the first step in completing a content audit is to… find all your content.

And since the Panda score is assigned site-wide, it is not enough to audit just the most important pages — you need to check your entire site to make sure no low quality content is dragging your overall website quality score down.

How to check

  • Launch WebSite Auditor and create a new project for your website.
  • Enter your website’s URL and hit Next.
  • Now, give WebSite Auditor a couple of minutes (depending on the size of your website) to collect and list your site’s pages.
  • When the crawl is complete, switch to the Pages dashboard to view all your pages.

The optimal way to deal with problematic content largely depends on the size of your site.

  • For a small website (>100 pages), removing low quality content is something you can not afford. Your key strategy is to improve on every problematic page, rather than delete it.
  • For a medium-sized site (100-1000 pages), removing some of the low quality content is possible. But your main focus will be on improving content at least for the most important pages.
  • For a large website (>1000 pages), improving all problematic pages is a huge piece of work, so your focus would be to “weed out” and remove the unnecessary and low quality content.

Step 2. Check for thin content

Imagine you have a category page with only a few lines of meaningless text and hundreds of links to products. This is what’s generally called thin content. Google’s been focusing on combating thin content a lot lately, with both Panda and Fred.

Search engines use content to determine the relevancy of a page to a query. And if you barely provide any information that’s accessible to them, how are they to understand what the page is about?

How to check

1.In your WebSite Auditor workspace, locate the Word count column. If it’s not there, right-click on the header of any column to enter the workspace editing mode, and add the Word count column to your active columns.

2.Back to your WebSite Auditor workspace, sort the pages by their content length by clicking on the newly added Word count column.

Panda advice

Surely, quality is not all about word count, since there are cases when you can deliver value in a few hundred words. That is why there’s no “minimum word count” threshold that triggers a low Panda quality score. More to that, sometimes pages with a little over a hundred words do exceptionally well on Google and even get included into its rich answers.

But having too many thin content pages will very likely get you into trouble — so on average, word count under 250 words is a good indicator to locate problematic spots across your site.

Step 3. Check for duplicated/very similar content

Another factor that could be a signal of your site’s low quality is duplicated or very similar content across multiple pages.

How to check

1.In WebSite Auditor, switch to the Site Audit dashboard and locate the Duplicate titles and Duplicate meta descriptions factors under the On-page section.

2.If any of these have an Error status, click on the problematic factor to get a full list of pages where duplication occurs.

Panda advice

Very often, bigger sites have to deal with a huge amount of pages that need to be filled with content. And many of them resort to an easy way to fill out those gaps — by writing boilerplate text that’s the same on each page except for a few variables. This is what Google considers automated, low quality content.

So, besides weeding out the word-by-word duplicated content, pay attention to the similar-looking pieces (say, your page titles are absolutely identical in structure and differ only in a product name) that may be a sign of content automation.

Step 4. Check for aggregated content/plagiarism

What’s also synonymous with quality in Google’s eyes is the “uniqueness” of your content. As Google wants your content to add value and not simply repeat what’s already been said, having non-unique content on your website (e.g. plagiarized content, product descriptions duplicated in feeds used on other channels like Amazon, shopping comparison sites and eBay) is an easy way to get under Google’s Panda filter.

How to check

If you suspect that some of your pages may be duplicated externally on other online resources, a good idea would be to check them with Copyscape.

Copyscape gives some of its data for free (for instance, comparing two specific URLs), but for a comprehensive check you may need a paid Premium account.

Panda advice

Even though Google tries to identify the original source of content, experiments show that in many cases they are unable to tell the stolen content from the original.

So, to make sure content thieves don’t hurt your Panda quality score, take appropriate action if you notice someone’s using your content on their sites — either by contacting the webmaster to ask them to remove the copied content, or using this content removal form from Google.

Step 5. Check for proper keyword usage

Keywords and keyword targeting are the most basic and longest-running concepts in SEO. And if you’ve been in the search industry for quite some time, you may remember the days when SEO meant just having the right words in your meta keywords tag.

Sure, these times have passed: search engines now try to detect and punish websites deliberately using too many keywords in their content.

However, whether Google will admit it or not, their algorithms are still built upon keywords. And having a keyword in your title tag does improve your page’s rankings, meaning you simply can’t afford not optimizing pages for keywords.

So, the only ticklish question here is, “How many is too many?” And one of the ways to check this is by looking at top ranking competitors (because the sites that rank in top 10 are the sites that pass Google quality test with an A+.)

How to check

1. In your WebSite Auditor project, go to the Content Analysis module and select the page you’d like to analyze.

2. Enter the keywords you’ve been optimising this page for and let the tool analyse your page along with your top ranking competitors.

3. What you will see now is the average keyword usage stats, both on your page and competitors’ pages. Ideally, all content-related SEO factors should have a green Correct status. For any factors that don’t, click on them one by one and pay particular attention to the Keyword stuffing column.

4. If you’d like to go the extra mile and see how well your page is optimised for all topically relevant keywords (and not just the ones you specified), switch to the TF-IDF dashboard. Here, you’ll see the terms and phrases that your top ranking competitors commonly use in their content. Pay attention to the Recommendation column to find out which terms you may want to add or use less of.

5. Now switch to the Content Editor module to add or remove extra keywords and see your on-page stats recalculate for you as you type.

6. When you’re done, hit the Save button to save the optimized HTML to your computer, ready for upload to your site.

Panda advice

Remember the Hummingbird algorithm update? The one with which Google learned to recognize the meaning behind a search query and give a common answer to a number of “different-in-keywords” but “same-in-meaning” queries?

This update changed the way SEOs optimize pages — now we no longer think “single keyword optimization“, but try to make our pages comprehensive and relevant for a whole group of synonyms and related terms. So, utilizing synonyms and related terms will help you improve your pages’ relevance, rankings and avoid the keyword stuffing issues.

Step 6. Check for user engagement metrics

Though Google generally states that user experience signals are not included into their search ranking algorithm, real-life experiments show the opposite. And one of the metrics SEOs suspect Google to use is bounce rates.

Think about it — as Google tries to bring users the best search experience, it obviously wants them to find what they were looking for with the first search result they click on. The best search experience is one that immediately lands the searcher on a page that has all the information they need, so that they don’t hit the back button to return to the SERP and look for other alternatives.

Bouncing off pages quickly to return to the SERP and look for other results is called pogo-sticking, and it can be easily measured in terms of bounce rates.

How to check

1. In WebSite Auditor’s Pages dashboard, go the Traffic coming to pages tab.

2. Select all pages in this view, and hit Update Pages. From the list of factors to update, only select Page Traffic.

Panda advice

The thing to remember when analyzing your bounce rates is that “it’s all about user intent”. If the searcher is looking for a very quick answer (think “What’s the capital of Australia?”) — then, quite obviously, they will leave the page as soon as they get the information they need.

If the high-bounce pages you see on your site are of this kind — giving users the immediate answers they were looking for — then they are not something to worry about. In other cases, try to improve your content and user experience to lower the bounce rates.

Other Things To Consider:

1. Check for user-generated content issues.
User-generated content and how it affects Panda has been a hot topic recently, and it has gotten to the point where many SEOs are recommending to get rid of all user-generated content, claiming that Google sees it as a signal of poor site quality.

This is far from true, because we’re still seeing lots of websites based purely on user-generated content (think Quora) that are doing well on Google.

However, user-generated spam — for instance, irrelevant comments on your blog or poorly moderated forum pages — can put your site into trouble.

So if your website features user-generated content, make sure improving your moderation strategy is a priority.

2. Check for grammar mistakes.
Bad spelling and grammar can both impede user experience and lower the trustworthiness of your content in Google’s eyes, so don’t tempt the fate by leaving obvious grammar errors on your pages. You may want to use a specialized grammar tool like Grammarly, or simply copy your pages’ content and paste it into a word processor. This should highlight the spelling mistakes so you can update the content.

3. Check for intrusive ads.
Sure thing, Panda is not the reason to stop using ads on your site. As long as your ads don’t get obtrusive, that is. Not only do excessive and disruptive ads (pop-ups, above-the-fold ads, and so on) annoy visitors, they apparently get on Google’s nerves just as well. Remember, this kind of advertisements can also trigger the Fred update — another reason to say no to intrusive ads.

Want to learn Digital Marketing?

Gardmore Abbey 5E rerun – Session 4

This session started with an interesting fight in a wizard’s tower. It turned out the wizard was both undead and quite mad, wanting to preserve everything for eternity by freezing it. So the group was hit with a lot of ice magic which hindered their movement, while battling the wizard and his 4 icy mummies. But the group prevailed and scored another card from the deck of many things, which had been frozen in a block of ice together with a Barlgura demon. That caused quite some concern on how to get to the card without being attacked by the demon, however it turned out that the demon didn’t wake up at all and just got banished back to the abyss by defrosting him.

So the group moved on to the garrison, having found both possible ways to open the door there, a scroll from the wizard’s tower and the sword of the lost paladin. But there was another Barlgura demon in the garrison, together with some specters, and this time the demon was alive. I had the demon use his disguise spell to assume the same form as the specters, so the group didn’t immediately know where the main threat was. But otherwise the combat went without major events, and the group found the brazier, one of the three objects they were searching for Sir Oakley.

So they returned to Sir Oakley and rested in the temple. Then they decided to take the stairs in the temple leading down to a dungeon, where they encountered a band of gnolls. The group attacked immediately, while the gnolls tried to retreat. Most of the gnolls made it to the next room and barred the door, but the barbarian just crashed through that door with an exceptional strength check. So the group fought the gnolls from both rooms at once, which was a tough fight. After the fight we decided to stop for this session.

Best GPS running watches (December 2017)

There are plenty of great fitness trackers on the market right now, each of which cater to different users with different needs. Just need to keep an eye on your daily activity levels? Maybe the Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin vívosport will suit your needs. Looking for something even cheaper than that? Garmin’s vívofit 3 or Xiaomi’s Mi Band 2 might do the trick. But if you’re a more serious athlete that needs something a bit more powerful—something that can track your long runs and not skimp on the handy watch features—what are your options? Today, we’re going to walk you through our list of the best GPS running watches on the market.

Related: The best fitness trackers | Which Fitbit is right for you?

If you’re a serious runner and need something that will accurately track your routes, has a big, easy-to-read screen, a built-in heart rate monitor, and of course, a GPS, this list is for you. Some of the options on here are a bit pricey, but that’s par for the course in this segment of wearables.

Without any further delay, let’s get started!

Editor’s Note: We will update this list as more devices hit the market.

Best GPS running watch

Garmin fenix 5

Garmin’s fenix 5 lineup is finally here, and these are the best GPS running watches on the market right now.

All three fenix 5 models come with preloaded multisport functionality for running, hiking, swimming, biking, and more. They all feature Garmin’s impressive Elevate heart rate trackers, built-in GPS (of course), water resistance up to 100 meters, as well as navigation features with a 3-axis compass, gyroscope, and barometric altimeter.

They all also feature a variety of connected features that make these devices true smartwatches. Users can get call, text and email smartphone notifications. All Sapphire models are also Wi-Fi enabled, so users will be able to connect with their home network and upload statistics even if their smartphones aren’t around.

Not crazy about the regular fenix 5? The smaller fenix 5S might be for you. It has all the same specs as the fenix 5, though it’s built for people with smaller wrists and has a slightly smaller battery. Looking for something even more beefy than the fenix 5? The fenix 5X is much larger and comes with preloaded with TOPO U.S. mapping, routable cycling maps and other navigation features like Round Trip Run and Round Trip Ride. The 5X will even display guidance cues for upcoming turns.

Read more

  • Garmin fenix 5 review
  • Wrists-on with Garmin’s new fenix 5 line at CES 2017
Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from Garmin

Runner-up

Garmin vívoactive 3

best fitness trackers

Garmin’s vívoactive 3 is a huge step up from its predecessor, the vívoactive HR.

For starters, the vívoactive 3 actually looks like a watch this time around, and it will look nice on your wrist whether you’re at the gym or the office. It’s comfortable too, and has a bright, colorful touchscreen display.

There are a total of 15 activity tracking profiles built in, so most athletes will be covered here. It also has a super accurate GPS and heart rate monitor, a battery that will last around five days on a single charge, and plenty of great smartwatch features built in.

If you don’t mind spending close to $249 on a GPS running watch, you should definitely consider the vívoactive 3.

Read more

  • Garmin vívoactive 3 review
Buy now from Amazon

Honorable mention

TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music

TomTom’s Spark 3 Cardio + Music is a great option if you aren’t interested in the Garmin vívoactive HR.

It has everything you need in a GPS running watch – an accurate heart rate monitor, a built-in GPS (of course) and support for a ton of different running applications. Plus, this model comes with a Route Exploration feature that not only lets you track where you’ve run, but also lets you get routes from any website and upload them to your watch if you’re interested in trying out a new route.

It’s worth noting there are a few different models in the Spark 3 lineup: the TomTom Spark 3, Spark 3 Music, Spark 3 Cardio and our pick, the Spark 3 Cardio + Music. Though less expensive, the Spark 3 and Spark 3 Music unfortunately don’t offer a heart rate monitor. The Spark 3 Cardio certainly offers a lot for the money, though we believe the onboard music storage and pair of Bluetooth headphones that come with the Spark 3 Cardio + Music provide a better value overall. The Cardio + Music model only costs $60 more.

Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from TomTom

Also read: The dark side of fitness trackers: how to avoid common mistakes that could hurt your fitness goals

Best budget GPS running watch

Polar M200

If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with the Polar M200.

This is a waterproof running watch with a built-in heart rate sensor and GPS that will track your speed, distance and route during a run, and will also keep tabs on your daily activity, steps, calories burned, sleep time and quality. This is also a sleek-looking device. In our opinion, it’s much better looking than its predecessor, the Polar M400.

Plus, this device also comes with Polar’s Running Index, which will show you how your running performance is improving overtime. In the Polar Flow app, you’ll get a Running Index score that’s automatically calculated after every run, based on your heart rate and speed data.

Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from Polar

Best smartwatch for running

Polar M600

See more Polar M600 photos

Polar’s M600 sport watch is by far the best GPS running smartwatch on the market.

With a built-in GPS, IPX8 water resistance rating, optical heart rate monitor and 4GB of on-board storage, the M600 is quite the feature-packed watch. It also comes with support for Polar’s wonderful Flow app, allowing you to track just about any activity you can think of – rowing, skiing, hiking and much more. You’ll also be able to squeeze about two days of battery life out of this thing, which is impressive for an Android Wear watch.

You can certainly find Android Wear devices for less than the $300 asking price, but the M600 provides much more than other devices.

Read more

  • Polar M600 review
  • Polar M600 specs, price release date and everything else you should know
Buy now from Amazon
Buy now from Polar

So there you have it – our list of the best GPS running watches on the market! Did we miss anything? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Next: How to use your fitness tracker to actually get fit – a comprehensive guide

Charles Sykes, Anti-Trump Conservative, Looks for Common Ground with the Left

Some conservatives are just as horrified as progressives.

Charles J. Sykes is among the more reasonable conservative voices in America now. Formerly a popular conservative talk radio host in Wisconsin, he once specialized in the sort of invective that drives ratings and barroom rants: The Census Bureau was a “bully”; Bill Clinton’s Justice Department was not unlike the Nazis; and so on. In the words of Milwaukee Magazine, he lived in “a Chicken Little reality where the sky is always falling and every public figure is forever running for cover.”

Then came Trump. During the 2016 campaign, Sykes broke ranks with Republicans over the candidacy of the oft-bankrupted real estate mogul. Sykes wrote a book titled How the Right Lost Its Mind. He became a regular contributor to the New York Times and a cogent critic of Trumpism. 

When I spotted Sykes at the Miami Book Fair, I had to ask him a question many people are asking: Can the left and right unite to get rid of Trump?

Here’s our conversation, edited for length.

Jefferson Morley: The country is in an emergency situation with Trump, and I think every possible solution should be considered, even things that haven’t been tried before, like the left working with the right. What could the left learn from the right at this moment when we have an incompetent, ignorant, impulsive, deceptive president?

Charles J. Sykes: First of all, I agree with every way you just described him, so let’s start with that. We have some commonality. If there is a Venn diagram between left and right, there’s not a lot of overlap these days, but there is some overlap, and that overlap is crucial on things like the truth ought to matter. Facts ought to matter. Rule of law ought to matter. Let’s find that common ground.

I find it interesting that people on the left are now suddenly very interested in the whole idea of checks and balances, and that’s OK because this is now an emergency, so let’s talk about it.

People on the right have to come to grips with, have we become a post-intellectual, post-knowledge movement? I think that’s important.

The one suggestion I would make [to the left], no political conversation can begin by people saying, “Will you confess now that you are a bigot and you’ve always been a bigot?”

Also recognize that there are conservatives who are as horrified, if not more horrified than you are, by what’s happened.

JM: What was the moment for you in the last few years when you realized what was coming? Was there an ‘aha’ moment?

CJS: No, there wasn’t one moment. It was this long, soul-crushing slog where I kept thinking, “This can’t happen. This won’t happen,” and then the growing recognition that the conservative movement was much more broken than I had thought. I thought I understood what [the movement] was about. I thought I understood who we were. And then I started to realize, this can’t be happening, if I was right.

There were two phases of this, both of which had their own soul-crushing qualities. The first was Trump’s rise to the nomination over other much more acceptable candidates, and the way the Republican electorate was voting for this man who was so manifestly unfit, so obviously a con man.

It wasn’t that the information was not available. And this was helped by the capitulation of much of the conservative media. To watch Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and others play this disingenuous, sick game of enabling him, I don’t know what game they were playing, but it had disastrous consequences.

The second phase, which was just as disillusioning, was watching all the people who… understood who Trump was—and in Wisconsin we voted against him overwhelmingly—fall in line behind him, one by one, because it was a binary choice, tribal politics. No matter how awful or terrible he was, no matter how many women he sexually assaulted, no matter how many disabled reporters he mocked, at least he wasn’t as hateful as Hillary Clinton.

I don’t think I was naïve about how partisan we’ve become, but the power of that tribalism was really on display there.

JM: You talk about being surprised. I think people on the left would say there’s a straight line from George W. Bush to Donald Trump, and that’s what set the stage for this. So you can’t exempt yourself from blame.

CJS: I don’t. I went back and I said, OK, I had been wrong about some things that I obviously did not fully understand, and I may have participated in myself. As you go back, you start to realize, wow, here are some warning signs I should have seen…

But there is a discontinuity between the party that used to listen to William F. Buckley and now listens to Sean Hannity; that used to read Edmund Burke and now reads Ann Coulter. So some things are not a straight line.

JM: Did you have a favorite among the Republican candidates?

CJS: I expected all along I was going to support Marco Rubio or someone like Marco Rubio. But he didn’t even last long enough to get to Wisconsin.

JM: Now we live in a social media world. We have the Facebook behemoth. Can we ever get back to having credible sources of information that are not immediately impugned and sidelined because of people’s preconceived notions?

CJS: That is an urgent question. That may be the most urgent question. You ask, was there an ‘aha’ moment for me? I think it was sometime in the middle of 2016 when I realized that I was no longer able to push back against fake news. So with people I had known for 20 years, I could not penetrate this alternative reality silo. They were immune. Nothing outside that bubble was credible to them. That was the ‘oh shit’ moment: where they had succeeded in delegitimizing everything on the outside. I don’t know how we put that back together.

JM: Is Robert Mueller our savior? How do you think about the Russia investigation?

CJS: It is immensely important. This is one of the most disillusioning parts of what’s happening: the failure on the part of conservatives to recognize that this is a fundamental issue of our democracy, if we had the Russians trying to undermine our democracy, this is very big and deep.

Having grown up in the era of Ronald Reagan to hear Republicans say, “It’s not that bad.”… I had a caller on the CSPAN show I just did who was defending Vladimir Putin, saying, “Putin stands up for his people just like Donald Trump.”

Obviously, this is a serious investigation. Don’t expect the Trump base to be moved because the battlefield has been prepped already: “this is biased, this is a witch hunt.” I actually believe if we had this media environment in the 1970s, Richard Nixon would have survived Watergate. I’m not kidding. Imagine if he had a Hannity and a Breitbart News and a Fox News.

On the other hand, I think that this is like turning over a rock. You are going to find so many things besides just the Russian collusion. We say that Donald Trump is a con man and a fraud, but that’s the way he’s done business for years. Now suddenly you have a guy [Mueller] who is going to get everything.

… I think if Trump tries to fire Mueller, I think you will have a full-fledged constitutional crisis.

JM: I feel like that’s inevitable: He will fire Mueller.

CJS: I think that anything that is conceivable, is perhaps likely. So, going back to your original question, that’s when you have to have Democrats and principled Republicans voting together. That’s when you are going to need conservative Republicans to say we’re going to draw the line.

It has already begun to a certain extent. Don’t underestimate the significance of John McCain, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, and to a lesser extent Ben Sasse. They’re not running for reelection, so that’s a downside. The upside is that they speak for a lot of Republicans who are not willing to speak out. So there’s a residual potential there—unless you scare them off.

JM: So if you’re a congressman from Wisconsin and somebody says here’s an article of impeachment, are you ready to vote for that?

CJS: Now? No, it’s premature. This is one of the rare moments where I think Nancy Pelosi is the real voice of political savvy. She understands: Keep your powder dry. Don’t burn it all until the real stuff comes down. To talk about impeachment at this point, all it does is reinforce the instinct to circle the wagons.

You know more stuff is coming. Wait until you get it. Don’t cry wolf.

JM: Do you think Trump will survive his term?

CJS: I assume he will, yes. But the issue of the women [he groped or assaulted] is going to come back…. You have this massive cultural shift and it’s inevitable that his accusers are going to get their moment. You have this contrast between all of these other men whose careers have been annihilated. And here you have the president of the United States who has never apologized, who has paid no price for this whatsoever. Republicans are going to have to answer: Do you believe these women or do you not believe these women? That is coming.

 

 

Is Sea of Thieves an MMORPG?

Sea of Thieves wasn’t high on my radar until its release this week. But the headlines of servers crashing due to too many players strongly reminded me of, well, every MMORPG launch ever. So I was wondering whether the description of “multiplayer action adventure” meant that it was something completely different than a MMORPG, or whether Sea of Thieves basically is a MMORPG and they just changed the label because MMORPG isn’t fashionable any more.

I am wondering if this is something I should buy. However the game is not on Steam, and as we all know, PC games that are not on Steam basically aren’t real. 🙂 And buying a game at full price at release when everybody is complaining about overloaded servers and lack of content doesn’t feel like a good idea. I’d really like to have a better idea about the gameplay first: How necessary is PvP? How twitchy is the gameplay? Et cetera, et cetera.

Anybody here playing who can give me advice?

Working with Adobe After Effects


About :

Adobe After Effects is a software program that allows its users to create animation and other special effects for graphic-related projects. Graphic designers use it to provide their projects with layer-based animation. After Effects is part of the Adobe family of software and is compatible with other Adobe software.

Index

1. Creating a New Composition and Importing Files

2. Building a Composition with Layers

3. Adding Animations, Effects, and Preset

4. Previewing and Rendering Your Composition 



1. Creating a New Composition and Importing Files



I. Make and set up a new composition. 

Projects in Adobe After Effects are called compositions, or comps. At the Welcome screen, locate and click on the “New Composition” button in the right column. If you already have the program open, you may either click on the “Composition” tab and select “New Composition” or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+N. Every time you create a new composition, a “Composition Settings” window will appear on your screen.

  1. Locate “Preset” and click on the drop-down menu. The menu is divided up into four sections, respectively: web settings, standard definition broadcast settings (NTSC and PAL), HD settings (the most commonly used), and film settings. Select the top HD preset: “HDV/HDTV 720 29.97.” This selection with automatically set the width, height, and frame rate.
  2. In the second row, locate “Start Timecode” and “Duration.” Leave the “Start Timecode” at 0. “Duration” refers to the total length of the project, from start to end. Set the “Duration” to the required length for your composition.
II. Save your composition. 

Before you begin to work on the composition, you should always name and save the project. Click on the “File” tab at the top of the screen. When you select “Save,” a “Save As” window will appear. 
At the top of the window, type in the name of your composition. Select a location to save this file to and click the “Save” button at the bottom of the screen. The saved composition will appear in the “Project” tab to the left of the screen.
While you may save this file in any location, it is recommended that you save your composition near your “Footage” file. This file is located within the “Exercise Files” folder.

III. Import files into Adobe After Effects. 

In order to create a composition, you need material to manipulate and animate. 
Select File>Import>File or double click on the “Project” tab. Select all of the files you wish to import and hit “Open.” The imported files will appear in the “Project” tab.
 Alternative methods include:

  • Double click anywhere on the “Project” tab.
  • Strike “Command + I.”
  • Drag images directly into the “Project” tab.



2. Building a Composition with Layers


I. Add files to your composition. 

A composition is a composite graphic, or a composite of layers. Each individual layer of your composition is made up of a file. All of the layers combined form a composite graphic. There are several ways to add a file to your composition.

You may drag and drop files from the “Project” tab into the “Timeline” tab (located at the bottom right of the window), the “Composition” window (located to the right of the “Project” tab), or the “Layer” tab (located directly below the “Project” tab.)

II. Organize and edit the layers. 



Once the files appear in the “Layer” tab, you may begin to manipulate the files. From this tab, you may alter the order of the files and edit the appearance of a file.
To adjust the hierarchy of the layers, drag a file up or down the list. The order of the files will alter the appearance of the composition (see the “Composition” window.) Files at the top of the layer list will appear over files at the bottom of the layer list.

To alter the appearance of a file, click on the sideways triangle next to the layer’s number. This will open up a “Transform” menu. From this menu, you may alter the following properties: anchor point, position, scale, rotation, and/or opacity.

III. Generate a timeline for your composite graphic. 



The “Timeline” function allows you to animate the graphic—it controls when each layer is or is not visible. The “Timeline” is located to the right of the “Layer” list. Each layer has it own life bar within the timeline, which you can trim, extend, or group with other layers as desired.

IV. Trim your layers.



Select a layer from the list. Move your cursor over the line dividing the list and the timeline so that a double arrow appears. Click and drag the double arrow across the timeline to produce a translucent grey box (this indicates that a clip is trimmed.) Stop once you reach the moment you would like the layer to appear.


The red line with the Blue tab indicates your current time known as play head. You can use this line to help you automatically trim layers. Select the layer you wish to trim. Drag the red line to your desired starting or ending point for the layer. Strike  ”
Command + [ ” to automatically trim a layer to the right of the red line, strike ” Command ] “.


V.Transform your 2D layers. 



When you work within the “Composition” window, you may manually position, or transform, the layers. Select a layer from the list. Move your cursor over the “Composition” window and zoom, or scroll, out. A set of handles will appear around the composition. This indicates the the layer may be transformed, or positioned.
  1. To shrink or expand the layer, click on the handle, press ⇧ Shift, and drag your cursor towards the inside or outside of the window.
  2. To rotate an element, press Ctrl+W. This will activate the rotation tool.
  3. To move a layer on a 2-D plane, click on the element you want to move and drag it to its new position.

VI. Create 3D layers. 




To create a 3D layer, return to the “Layer” tab. The column directly under this icon controls the 3D settings for each layer. To activate this feature, check the layer’s blank space in this column. Return to the “Composition” window—if you activated the 3D property, a Y, X, and Z handle will appear on the layer’s anchor.

VII. Transform your 3D layers. 




To move a 3D layer, press CTRL+W to activate the rotation tool. Hover your cursor over the X or the Y axis. Click on the axis and drag your cursor to the left and right or up and down. The Z axis should always remain at “0.”

VIII. Apply the parent function to your layers. 



The parent function allows you to tie your layers together. One layer, the parent, will drive the actions of another layer, the child. The child layer, can still move independently of the parent.

  • Select the child layer (the layer that you want to apply the keyframes to)—this layer will become the child.
  • Locate the “Parent” category in the layer tab.
  • In the “Parent” column for this layer, locate the curly-q shaped icon in the child’s row. Click on the icon and draw a black line from the icon to the “Layer Name” section of parent. Through this process, the child will become tied to the parent.


3. Adding Animations, Effects, and Presets

I. Set up keyframes. 


Keyframes mark exact points in time when changes are to occur to a layer’s properties. This function, which is represented by a little stopwatch, allows you to animate your composite graphics.

  1. Move your red “Current Time Indicator” line to the moment at which you would like to activate a keyframe.
  2. Select a layer from the “List” tab.
  3. Expand the layer’s “Transform” or “Contents” tab.
  4. Click on the stopwatch icon next to the property you wish to alter. This will record a keyframe at the current time indicator. A yellow dot or a greater than/less than symbols will appear on the timeline to mark the keyframe.
  5. To see your keyframes on the timeline, lasso the layers you wish to view and press “U.”
  6. To move a keyframe, select a keyframe symbol on the timeline by lassoing it and then drag it to its new location. You may also copy and paste keyframes.

II. Animate keyframes. 



Keyframes allow you to animate your project. You may alter any of the properties listed under the “Transform” or “Contents” tab. There are two basic forms of animation: with ease or linear. If a layer in animated with ease, the layer will ease into and out of the motion. If a layer is linearly animated, the layer will start and stop moving abruptly and it will also move at the same rate the entire time. Altering a layer’s position is an example of linear animation.

  1. Click on the stopwatch next to “Position.”
  2. Move the red line to the point at which you would like the layer to be off the screen.
  3. Click on the layer’s anchor point.
  4. Hold down “Shift” as you drag the layer completely off of the screen. The motion path will appear as a purple dotted line and each related keyframe will appear as a purple square. To preview your animation, scrub the red line over the timeline.

III. Include effects and presets. 


Click on “Window” and “Effects and Presets.” You will see a list of various animations and effects that are available for application to your project. Simply drag and drop the effect or animation selection onto the layer to which you’d like to apply it. You should see the change immediately.

  • Effects include 3D, color correction, and various camera views.
  • Transition options include wipe, fade and checkerboard.
  • You may remove selections by dragging them off your projects.


4. Previewing and Rendering Your Composition


I. Preview your project. 

Select “Windows.” From here, click on “Time Controls.” A preview pane will pop up where you can select “Play” to see a rough draft of your project. If you wish to see a more finished version, click on “Ram Render Play.” If your project is especially long or requires a large amount of memory, adjust the resolution before you preview it. After clicking to play it, the video will run continually until you click on the screen to stop it.

II. Export your composition to Render Queue. 



If you need to produce and deliver a high-quality composition, export your project to the Render Queue. The Render Queue is built into Adobe After Effects.
Click on “File” at the top of the window. Select “Export” followed by “Add to Render Queue.” Instead of “File,” you may click on “Composition” and select “Add to Render Queue.”
In your Render Queue, locate “Output Module” and click on the linked text to the left of this section. A dialogue box will appear on your screen. From this screen, you can change the video and audio output settings. Click “Ok” when finished.

In your Render Queue, locate “Output To” and click on the linked text next to the left of this section. Another dialogue box will appear on your screen. The screen you prompt you to select a location to save your rendered composition. Click “Ok” when done.
Click on “Render” to export the composition.









III. Export your composition to Adobe Media Encoder. 


The Adobe Media Encoder will produce a compressed version of your composition. The Media Encoder will also export files that are compatible with specific web platforms. While your project is rendering in the Media Encoder, you may continue to work in Adobe After Effects.
Click on “File” at the top of the window. Select “Export” followed by “Add to Adobe Media Encoder Queue.” You may also select “Composition” followed by “Add to Adobe Media Encoder Queue” or drag the file directly into the “Adobe Media Encoder Queue” tab.
Locate the “Preset Browser.” Select the format for your composition. Drag this preset from the browser onto the file in the “Adobe Media Encoder Queue.”
In the queue, locate “Output To” and click on the linked text next to the left of this section. A dialogue box will appear on your screen and prompt you to select a location to save your rendered composition. Click “Ok” when done.
Click on the green play button to begin the export.

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Not Just Inauguration Protesters: Medics, Observers and a Journalist Face 50 Years in Prison

The prosecution somehow saw medics’ bringing of first aid gear to the January 20 protest as being “prepared for war” and “aiding and abetting the riot.”

Final arguments are underway today in Washington, D.C., in a case that could shape the future of free speech and the right to protest in the United States: the first trial of the nearly 200 people arrested during President Donald Trump’s inauguration. As demonstrators, journalists and observers gathered in Northwest D.C. after the inauguration on January 20, some separated from the group and vandalized nearby businesses and vehicles. Police officers then swept hundreds of people in the vicinity into a blockaded corner in a process known as “kettling,” where they carried out mass arrests of everyone in the area. The first so-called J20 trial could go to a jury as early as today, and involves six people, including one journalist, Alexei Wood, a freelance photojournalist. The defendants face multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including multiple counts of destruction of property. Evidence against the defendants has been scant. We get an update from Jude Ortiz, a member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee chair for the National Lawyers Guild. He’s been in court throughout the first J20 trial.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with an update on a case that could shape the future of free speech and the right to protest in the United States. Final arguments are underway today in Washington, D.C., for the first trial of the nearly 200 people arrested during President Trump’s inauguration. As demonstrators, journalists and observers gathered in Northwest D.C. after the inauguration, on January 20th, some separated from the group and broke windows of nearby businesses and damaged cars. Police officers then swept hundreds of people in the vicinity into a blockaded corner in a process known as “kettling,” where they carried out mass arrests of everyone in the area.

The first so-called J20 trial could go to a jury as early as today, and involves six people, including one journalist, Alexei Wood, a freelance photojournalist. The defendants face multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including multiple counts of destruction of property. Evidence against the defendants has been scant from the moment of their arrest. Earlier this week, Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz threw out the felony charge of inciting a riot for the six people on trial now, meaning they now face up to 50 years in prison instead of up to 60.

This comes as police conduct on Inauguration Day has come under scrutiny by the ACLU, and the chief detective in this case is a police union official who tweeted that police showed great restraint during the inauguration.

Well, for more, we go to Washington, D.C. We’re joined by Jude Ortiz, a member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee chair for National Lawyers Guild. He’s been in court throughout this first J20 trial.

Jude, welcome back to Democracy Now! Explain what has happened so far and the significance of the judge throwing out the charge.

JUDE ORTIZ: Right. Thank you so much for having me on again.

So, since I was on last, the prosecutor has rested their entire case with all the so-called evidence against the defendants, and then the defense has also put on their witnesses to—like as part of their right to have witnesses come and testify on their behalf. That process for the defense was very short, about only about half a day in court. And then, now it’s into the like final arguments stage. So the prosecutors had their argument first, and then each of the defense attorneys for the defendants are putting on their arguments. This morning at 9:30, there will be the final two defendants, will have their closing arguments, and then the prosecutor will do a rebuttal. Then there will be some more kind of like legal housekeeping to do, before it goes to the jury.

So, the judge throwing out the inciting a riot charge was a huge development in the case. It’s something that after the prosecutor rests their case, defense attorneys will almost always file a motion to have the charges dismissed. In D.C., it’s called a motion for judgment of acquittal. And it’s a formality, for the most part. It’s rarely ever successful. So it was really notable that one of the most significant charges against the defendants, not only in this trial bloc, but also in the case as a whole, was found, in this case, at least, to have no evidentiary basis at all. So, basically, the judge said that the state did not meet the burden of proof, and that charge therefore was dismissed, and the jury will not have to deliberate on that one at all.

AMY GOODMAN: So, but explain what that means, because we’re talking about numerous cases that will follow this one. Does this judge preside over all of these cases if the inciting to riot remains in the other cases?

JUDE ORTIZ: At this point, the judge is assigned to all the other cases. It’s important to note that there’s another case that is scheduled for this coming Monday for seven defendants, but that one probably will not be happening on Monday, because the jury will still be deliberating on this case. So, it’s unclear when the second trial will begin. It’s looking like it might be in January. And then, on March 5th of next year, all the way through October of next year, are all the remaining trials. And starting in May, there’s a trial scheduled for every single week. But the judge has indicated that her rotation, her job assignment, is switching from criminal court to family court as of January 2nd, so there will be a new judge or judges beginning in 2018.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you see this case as so significant for free speech in the United States?

JUDE ORTIZ: So, on January 20th, the police rounded up everyone who they can get a hold of in this vicinity. The police commander who testified at the beginning of the trial, or towards the beginning of trial, was very clear, both in his testimony as well as recordings from the police radio, that they were interested in the protest—it was an anti-fascist, anti-capitalist march—and they responded to that kind of preemptively by having around a hundred riot cops and their like lieutenants and sergeants, whatnot, there at Logan Circle, where the protest was scheduled to depart from and begin. And that commander said that rather than doing what is typical in D.C., where they do rolling road closures to facilitate the exercise of free speech, instead they showed up with numerous vans full of riot police, and then they followed the march and began, pretty much immediately, to start to crack down on the march. That commander repeatedly used the word “anarchist” to describe everybody who was there. And that officer—or, that commander and other officers talked about everybody being like one group with nefarious intent.

So, from the outset, because of the alleged politics of the march and of the people who were there, the police responded in this very heavy-handed manner that culminated in them rounding everybody up and mass-arresting people. And the prosecutor has continued that by going forward with these charges against everyone. So, when that is the kind of method of operations, for the police going hand in hand with the prosecutor, that sends a very chilling message to anybody who’s interested in going out in the streets and voicing dissent, especially dissent to Trump, dissent to the rise of fascism, dissent to white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, like all these other like very devastating systems of oppression.

AMY GOODMAN: Jude, Assistant U.S. Attorney Qureshi, the second-ranking prosecutor, who made closing arguments, said, in those arguments, a street medic was guilty by being present, and asked, “What do you need a medic with gauze for? She was aiding and abetting the riot. That was her role,” Qureshi said. Respond to that.

JUDE ORTIZ: So, that’s an entirely ludicrous claim. Medics have been at protests across the country for decades to be able to provide first aid type of care to people who are injured in various ways. One of the most notable ways people get injured at protests, as your listeners and viewers know, is by actions from the police. On January 20th, there was a massive amount of pepper spray deployed by police on people, sometimes directly in the face, sometimes on the side or from behind. And we saw this in trial through body cam—body-worn camera videos. There’s also a lot of body-worn camera videos of police knocking people down from behind with their batons. One of the officers who testified ran his bike directly into a protester. And so, there’s all these different ways that the people who are out there like in the streets can get injured very easily. There’s also the elements to deal with. In January, it was very cold, for the January 20th inauguration protest. Lots of different reasons why you’d have medics there in order to like render aid to people who get injured.

That prosecutor said that the supplies that were there kind of show that the medics, in general, were kind of like prepared for war, which is a—it’s as insulting as it is ludicrous to say that people who were out there in the streets were prepared for war, especially when you saw the Department of Homeland Security helicopter video showing all the police operations that were happening there on Inauguration Day, how the police took this like paramilitary approach, that was also supported by the National Guard in order to like corral people and use chemical and projectile weapons against people. So, if there was any kind of warlike conditions, that was coming from the police and from the government, and not from people who were there to render aid.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about some of the videos submitted as evidence in this case by federal prosecutors. This includes video by the Canadian YouTuber Lauren Southern, who the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as, quote, “tiptoe[ing] at the precipice of outright white nationalism.” Southern was there on January 20th, Inauguration Day, and was kettled during the protest, but was allowed to leave without being arrested. Prosecutors also submitted video evidence from the right-wing militia group Oath Keepers, who infiltrated protest planning meetings and secretly recorded them. Prosecutors also presented video from the discredited far-right group Project Veritas, just one day after The Washington Post reported Project Veritas had tried to dupe them with a false story of sexual misconduct by a woman undercover pretending to be a victim of Roy Moore. Go into this and why this matters, Jude Ortiz.

JUDE ORTIZ: It’s appalling to see so much of the state’s—the prosecution’s case and their so-called like evidence coming from overtly far-right sources. So, the Project Veritas video that you mention, it did come out in the courtroom as like a main piece of evidence, exactly like one day after that story broke. And one would think that that would kind of discredit or like cast into doubt like the kind of truthfulness or the usefulness of that evidence. The prosecutor and the police officer who was testifying about it gave no indication that the source of it was at all even a question mark or some cause of concern. The state, through various witnesses, the detectives who like testified about the video and whatnot, admitted that they did no kind of forensic investigation or examination of the tape to make sure that it wasn’t doctored in some way. Project Veritas, of course, is notorious for doctoring in the editing of their videos. And they were presented to the jury as one of their main pieces of evidence, and especially with the idea of conspiracy.

And so, when so much of the so-called evidence against these defendants and the defendants at large depends on this kind of so-called like investigative work of far-right actors, it really shows how the state itself, but with their police investigators, undercover cops infiltrating political protest planning meetings, the undercover and plainclothes police who were present on the march and like in the streets that day—all of these different like state actors were not able to find the evidence that would substantiate the charges the prosecutor has been so ferociously pursuing, and so they have to supplement that and really kind of create the evidentiary base through drawing on the far right.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the main detective working full time on the J20 case, Greggory Pemberton. On Inauguration Day, January 20th, he tweeted D.C. police officers used a, quote, “inspiring amount of restraint” and showed “professionalism.” Last November, he also tweeted about, quote, “disingenuous ‘activists’ who peddle lies and falsehood.” During the J20 trial, defense lawyers played this clip of an interview Pemberton gave to the far-right media outlet One America News Network, praising President Trump.

GREGGORY PEMBERTON: He certainly has a message of law and order, and he really is appealing to a lot of police officers. … Police officers want to hear that someone is going to come in and not allow this divisive, vitriolic rhetoric of this false narrative that all police officers are inherently criminal racists that are out here committing crimes against the citizens, and that they’re going to come in and put a stop to that.

AMY GOODMAN: Jude Ortiz, as we wrap up, can you respond to the significance of his involvement with the case and what he’s saying here?

JUDE ORTIZ: Yes. The detective, Pemberton, has claimed that he has looked through hundreds of hours of videos, hundreds of times, since January 21st. It’s been his full-time job, his only assignment. He was able, through that review, to present various compilation boards of photographs, as well as videos and PowerPoints, to give to the jury for their deliberations, that claims to have documentation of the location of each of the defendants all throughout the march, and presenting this as if that’s something that, like, being present like in the streets is a sign of guilt and is evidence of guilt of all these charges.

So it’s a tremendous amount of work that is like put in for these like very politically motivated way—or, reasons. And those political motivations are pretty clear when you look at his Twitter feed, with all of the far-right and pro-Trump things that he has promoted, like through retweets and through likes and through his own comments on Twitter. He claimed on the stand that that was only in the kind of exercise of his position as a board member of the police union. But whether that’s true or whether it’s his own personal opinions, those opinions that are put forward are very much in favor of like right-wing causes and very much against liberal or progressive, like radical-left causes and movements. And he’s even done very inflammatory and insulting things, like saying “black lies matter”—L-I-E-S—instead of “Black Lives Matter,” and discounting that entire movement, that has been so prominent in responding to police violence and brutality across the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, shortly after winning the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump tweeted his thoughts on dissent. He tweeted, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag–if they do, there must be consequences–perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” Your final comment, Jude Ortiz?

JUDE ORTIZ: I think comments like that show the kind of concerted effort and nature of repression of social movements in the United States. I want to clarify that: I mean like left social movements. The right social movements, that have become more prominent and public under Trump, have been facilitated by the state. We’re seeing that in places like Charlottesville. We’re seeing that in places like St. Louis and all across the country. People need to recognize like how things are shifting, and be ready to be out in resistance, to dissent and to not be scared away. And this case is a very important part of that.

AMY GOODMAN: Jude Ortiz, I want to thank you for being with us, member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee chair for the National Lawyers Guild. He’s been in court throughout this first J20 trial. And we’ll keep you updated on this and other trials as they go on.

 

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15 Minutes of Fame

Google Analytics sent me an automated mail telling me that this blog had 1.7k visitors last month. That is less than I used to get in a single day a decade ago. The good news for Google / Blogger is that I don’t blame them for the decline, and won’t be showing up at their HQ with a gun. I am pretty certain that the loss of readers can be explained by the following factors:

  • I am writing much less now, 1-2 posts per week instead of per day.
  • I am not writing about a single topic, MMORPGs, any more, but about a variety of different things, which interest different people.
  • The original MMORPG topic of my blog isn’t of great interest any more.
  • Blogging, and hanging out on blogs, isn’t the medium of choice any more.

So basically I had my 15 minutes of fame, with highlights like being invited to a Blizzcon with a press pass around my neck and allowed to interview a Blizzard developer. Or getting free “review copies” of games (all of them disclosed on the blog) and stuff. I even got a few hundred dollars as donations over the years.

Blogging never was more than a hobby to me, it was obvious that quitting my day job for internet fame would have been an extremely bad idea. And then I am part of a generation that still believes that they are responsible for their own success or failure. My impression of younger generations is that they more often believe that success is owed to them, and that any of their failures must be due to evil acts from others. Now combine that with the fact that a YouTuber today can be a *lot* more famous than a blogger from a decade ago, and make a lot more money; and then you get closer to understanding why somebody might take a decline of internet fame so serious that she starts shooting people.

The internet has dramatically lowered the barrier of entry to self-publication and possibly fame. But that isn’t just true for you, it is true for everybody else as well. Thus fame is getting more and more fickle and short-lived. Being “internet famous” can be fun, but it appears that it can also be dangerous.

Which phone manufacturer had the best year in 2017? [Poll of the Week]

Last week’s poll summary: Out of almost 23,800 total votes, 25.1% of our readers said the Galaxy Note 8 is the best Android smartphone of 2017. 18.9% voted for the OnePlus 5T, 18.2% voted Pixel 2 XL, and 11.3% said the Huawei Mate 10 Pro is the top device of the year.

2017 brought us some of the best smartphones we’ve ever seen. It was also the year that we saw many Android OEMs come into their own.

Samsung had a particularly tough year, as it not only had to recover from the Galaxy Note 7 recall, it also had to win the trust back of consumers. Samsung worked hard to bring trust back to its brand, which resulted in the Galaxy S8 and Note 8— two of the best Android smartphones ever made.

OnePlus has also stepped things up this year, particularly with the launch of the OnePlus 5T. The OnePlus 5 felt a little stuck in the past, but the 5T brought an improved camera experience and a fantastic 18:9 OLED display. OnePlus continues to make improvements every year. It’s crazy to think this is the same company that had so many weird missteps a few years back.

See also

Huawei made some huge strides in 2017 with the launch of the Mate 10 Pro. Not only did that phone win our Best of Android 2017 competition, it feels like Huawei is becoming more original than ever before. Some might complain of Huawei’s software being too aggressive in some areas, but the improvements on the design/build front cannot be overstated.

I’d also like to mention HMD Global, the proud owners of the Nokia brand name. The Nokia 8, the company’s 2017 flagship, holds its own against the other competitors on the market. Android Authority actually named HMD Global as the best smartphone brand of 2017.

In your opinion, which smartphone manufacturer had the best year? Cast your vote in the poll below, and speak up in the comments if there’s anything you’d like to add.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

How to get into great shape with a fitness tracker in just 7 minutes… a day

For many, the reality of owning a fitness tracker doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Maybe it just quietly counts your steps without actually having impact on your fitness. Maybe you stopped wearing it after the first couple of weeks. They say “that which is measured, improves,” but in my experience you also have to actually do something in order to see results.

The problem is not lack of will or a poor metabolism. It comes down to time. You’re busy. We all are!

Fortunately, I’m the Android guy who believes he can get anything done in just 7 minutes. And I can. Just ask my wife.

Here’s how to get in shape by using your fitness tracker for just 7 minutes (per day).

The theory

Fitness trackers are much more than just step counters. They can carefully monitor athletic performance, health and fitness, and feed you the raw data you need to transform your physique. This kind of technology was once the reserved for professional athletes, so it’s almost criminal not to use it to its fullest.

This kind of technology was once the reserve of professional athletes

First, it’s important to define our goals. My promise here was that you would be able to “get into great shape.” By that, I mean fitter and healthier, leaner, and more athletic. Lofty aims for 7 minutes, but I’m sure we can achieve it.

Next we need to create an athletic profile based on your current stats, so we know what to aim for. This is where the use of technology will first come in very handy.

Editor’s Pick

We are going to work on your ‘lactate inflection point’ or ‘lactate threshold’ (essentially, your anaerobic threshold). This is the point at which your body switches to an anaerobic state, where you tax your body so much that your aerobic system can’t deliver energy fast enough. In other words, burning fat and bringing it to the muscle is taking too long and so your body has no option other than to burn sugar from elsewhere. During anaerobic exercise we switch to the lactic acid system, which uses blood sugar and glycolysis to provide us with usable energy (ATP).

This is the central concept behind High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT uses short bursts of intense activity, followed by short periods of relative recovery. That could mean sprinting for a minute, then jogging slowly for a minute, then sprinting for a minute again. This forces the body to switch between its aerobic and its anaerobic systems, so that one moment you are burning fat and the next moment you are burning glucose from your blood.

Fitbit Ionic review

Switching to an anaerobic state is highly beneficial for weight loss and performance because it removes the stored glucose in your muscles and blood, forcing your body to subsequently burn more fat. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘afterburn effect’ and studies show it results in greater fat loss over time.

The lactate inflection point is also the point at which your body starts to increase in acidity (due to an increase in hydrogen ions), resulting in the ‘burn’. This is what keeps you from remaining in an anaerobic state and forces you back to the ‘cleaner’ aerobic state.

“Anaerobic threshold training” will help you to increase your threshold and your body’s ability to use lactate as a fuel source, so you can run faster and longer. It can even improve your tolerance in this state, allowing you to go all out for longer. A highly trained athlete may be able to sustain activity at 90 percent of their maximum heart rate.

See also: Best GPS running watches | Garmin vívosport review

HIIT also has a host of other benefits. It increases your VO2 Max, the volume of oxygen you can use during a workout, which in turn can be used to predict athletic performance; mitochondrial density, the number of energy producing units in your cells; and brain power. Some recent studies even suggest it can help to turn back the clock and rejuvenate damaged cells.

Some recent studies even suggest that HIIT workouts can help to turn back the clock and rejuvenate damaged cells.

A lot of people use HIIT but don’t actually enter an anaerobic state, so they aren’t getting the most out of it. It’s kind of the whole point of HIIT. By using your fitness tracker to calculate and then monitor your state this way though, it’s possible to maximize the results from a much shorter workout.

A 7 minute workout, in fact.

You’ll get all those benefits, including increased weight loss, better athletic performance, and anti-aging, in just that short amount of time.

The 30 minute test

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Grab your Fitbit, Garmin, or whatever else, and get ready for the 30 minute test. Ideally, you want the most accurate heart rate tracking possible, so I recommend using an external heart rate monitor from a brand like Polar. If you haven’t got one, a wrist worn tracker will do for now.

The 30 minute test involves running, cycling or anything else aerobic as fast as possible for a full, uninterrupted 30 minutes. Yes, it’s pretty brutal. Make sure to set the lap button on your tracking device to 10 minutes and then stop after 30 minutes.

The average heart rate for the last 20 minutes is going to be your LTHR, or your Lactate Threshold Heart Rate. This is your heart rate at the lactate inflection point. It’s the most you can sustain for a prolonged period. Therefore, this is the heart rate you are aiming for during your training.

It’s not a perfect test, but many trainers use it to decent effect. You’ll need to make sure that you re-measure about once every 6 weeks as your threshold improves.

Keep in mind this is a tough workout and it’s only advisable for those that already have a base level of fitness. If you have any concerns about your health, consult a doctor first. If you just don’t want to go through the test, you can roughly estimate your lactate threshold at around 70 or 80 percent of your MHR, depending on your fitness level.

The 7 minute workout

With this in mind, we can now begin our 7 minute workout. The aim is to spend as much time as possible above our lactate threshold.

I recommend choosing a form of ‘resistance cardio’ to use for your exercise. Running can be counterproductive for this, as it takes 7 minutes just to put on your shoes and leave the house. What’s more, choosing resistance cardio (a form of cardio where you’re pushing or pulling against resistance) will tone and firm up muscle while burning fat. This will lead to greater fat burning in the long term, seeing as muscle is more metabolically active than fat. Toning is as important as fat burning – if not more – when it comes to body recomposition.

Not only that, but using resistance allows you to reach your anaerobic threshold quicker, because it takes more energy to complete the movements. Finally, it will protect your muscles against being cannibalized for fuel (BCAAs can help with that too).

More: How to use your fitness tracker to get fit – a comprehensive guide

A great option is to use battle ropes. These are heavy ropes which you can beat against the ground in order to tone muscle in the shoulders and arms while burning fat. Kettlebell swings are also fantastic and will help to build your posterior chain for explosive power. Switching between the two could give more of a full-body workout, and make the heart work harder too.

This is the routine you will follow to begin with:

  • 30 second warm up
  • 1 minute fast
  • 30 seconds recovery
  • 30 seconds fast
  • 1 minute recovery
  • 30 seconds fast
  • 1 minute recovery
  • 30 seconds fast
  • 1 minute recovery
  • 30 second cool down

Constantly check your fitness tracker to make sure you’re really hitting that zone and going above it (most people can sustain effort above their LTHR for about 20-40 seconds). You can watch your wrist to ensure you’re actually reaching that point and set heart rate zones on many devices in order to be alerted when entering and exiting that state.

This workout will change over time, and you’ll spend more and more time in your LTHR. As you get more confident, you can also reduce your recovery periods. It’s worth retesting your LTHR about once every 6 weeks.

Don’t worry if you don’t like my workout, there are plenty of HIIT workouts out there – in fact there are plenty of 7 minute HIIT workouts right on the Play Store.

For those with more than 7 minutes to train, this form of exercise works excellently at the end of your regular routine. You can use it at the end of a workout in order to add cardio benefit and lean up without damaging muscle gains.

If you don’t like my workout, there are plenty of other HIIT workouts out there – in fact there are plenty of 7 minute HIIT workouts right on the Play Store. It’s down to you to ensure you’re working hard enough.

Losing weight

This routine is all well and good, but doesn’t guarantee weight loss. Calories in and out are a huge factor in this. If you consume more calories than you burn (called a calorie ‘surplus’), you gain weight. If you burn more than you consume (called a ‘deficit’), you lose weight.

If you use this 7 minute HIIT workout daily but you also increase the amount you eat threefold, then it’s not going to help you lose weight. If you make sure that you are eating less than you burn during the day—taking the HIIT into account—you’ll lose weight.

There are other strategies to this, like fasting to ramp up your metabolism, but the easiest and most practical strategy is just to lower your food intake.

Fortunately, the device on your wrist can keep track of precisely how many calories you are burning and the one in your pocket for can keep track of how many you are taking in. That way you can ensure all the hard work pays off in the abs department.

You have a device on your wrist that you can use in order to know precisely how many calories you are burning and one in your pocket for how many you are taking in

My Fitness Pal will allow you to log all the calories you consume simply by scanning bar codes or entering the values manually (found on the back of the packaging). Regular items will be available from a handy list so you don’t need to keep scanning them. Once you’ve used it for a few days, it gets much quicker. Quick tip: dieting is a lot easier when you maintain somewhat consistent eating habits. This way, there are fewer confounding variables.

Syncing My Fitness Pal with Garmin Connect, S Health, or other apps will help you see a log of all the calories going in and coming out. If your 7 minute workout was intense enough, you might find that you manage to maintain that deficit without making any drastic lifestyle changes. Otherwise, walk a little extra, eat a little less, and use your devices to keep tabs on it all.

Wrapping up

A fitness tracker can be much more than just a fancy pedometer. Let me know in the comments down below how you’ve been using yours to stay in shape.