Trending February 2024 # Is Stumbleupon Worth Another Look? # Suggested March 2024 # Top 4 Popular

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What is Stumbleupon and what are its benefits?

StumbleUpon is another way of finding & consuming content online, just as Twitter, LinkedIn news, Facebook sharing / likes & Google do.

Since web users are likely to use a number of tools as way of finding and sharing information, StumbleUpon may be worth a look. [Editors note: by chance as we published this, a new report suggested that StumbleUpon sends more traffic to US websites than Facebook. I’d have to say treat this caution – this is only for sites with Statcounter installed, which won’t be representative of larger sites].

If your audience is active on StumbleUpon, then it makes sense that your business is active on StumbleUpon. During this blog post I’ll cover, what StumbleUpon is, who uses it, why & how your business can be active on the service.

Here’s an intro to the scale of StumbleUpon which shows its scale

What is StumbleUpon?

The users of StumbleUpon

Taking a look at stats from the Google AdPlanner shows a fairly balanced range of demographics, suggesting it may be applicable for a range of companies.

Advantages of StumbleUpon

The part I like most about StumbleUpon is how it uses :

Your interests (initially what you tell it and then over time by what you read & share)

Your peers interests

Popularity of content within its network

to deliver content you will find interesting. For a long time now it has said it has “humanised” the internet. This is certainly its attraction, but at the same time it’s open to abuse by businesses people & businesses.

Very USA orientated (for now)

My experience with traffic from StumbleUpon is that it has very high bounce rates

Its another service to manage / find content like Google, Twitter, RSS managers, Facebook can all perform similar services, I (personally) don’t see an edge

If you don’t connect / follow the peers the recommendations tend to be weak (this means your friends have to use it as well to get the most from it)

Does StumbleUpon help SEO efforts?

It will play a small part yes. Only because:

It will improve your “social score” as you are active in a large & credible social network

It increases links to your website (this is the smaller of the two benefits & almost negligible)

However, to make the most of StumpleUpon from a search perspective you need to make sure you are feeding it amazing content that people share & like otherwise it is likely to fail from both a traffic referring & SEO enhancing point of view. StumbleUpon is like similar forms of inbound links in the sense that it proves to Google your business is alive & active which is key but it also forces you to consider how you are going to create amazing content to share which is what Google (& other search engines) are actually after.

How would you use StumbleUpon as a business?

Brand building, traffic growth & new inbound links

To find related content to share with users (be of value to your customers) or create your own content from

1. Brand building…

StumbleUpon creates another way to share content & therefore create new traffic opportunities. Though ensure you consider that the better & more relevant the content the:

More likely it will be viewed (brand exposure)

More likely it will generate traffic to your website

More likely it will be to be shared & liked (influencing the two items above & your social score in search engines such as Google)

2. Find content

If you have configured StumbleUpon properly & you are following brands, people & topics each time you login you should see a lot of new relevant pieces of content. This generates two opportunities, if you deem it useful, valuable or entertaining you should share it with your user base through any tools relevant (StumbleUpon, Twitter, LinkedIn, email). You have instantly been valuable to that user base & helps keep / boost your relationship with them. The second thing you could do is create a similar piece of content for your own web properties with your spin on it, or with additional information etc. As long as you don’t copy it like for like its a good way to find inspiration for you own content.

3. To find partners for business

With a system giving you content based on your preferences and that of your peers it will become a great source for finding some of the best online partners for your business. The sites you are presented with are deemed the most relevant to you and have been “voted” by your peers as good sources. With the right thought & filtering a lot of the sources could be turned into new business opportunities for your business. This could be that you could feature as a guest writer on their website or vice versa. It may even open up opportunities for websites to become affiliates for your business etc.

Advertising in StumbleUpon

Users stumble the best of the web, finding sites that reflect their interests and friends by simply hitting a button in their browsers or on their mobile devices. With Paid Discovery, your URL becomes part of that stream. The user is eager to engage with new and exciting content, making your product’s discovery a welcome experience in the eyes of a Stumbler.

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Is A Vpn Worth Getting?

Privacy is increasingly a concern for everyone. You may think that the sites you visit, the products and services you buy and what you watch and download are all private. But they’re not. Your internet service provider knows where you go online and in some countries, particularly the US, this information can even be sold for marketing purposes.

It doesn’t have to be like this, though. A VPN makes your web browsing private (unlike the ‘private’ mode in your web browser) by using encryption so your ISP, the government and anyone else cannot know what you’re up to.

These days, VPNs are seen as an essential security tool which will – along with antivirus – help to protect you.

Why it’s worth getting a VPN 1. A VPN helps stop trackers

Using a VPN hides your IP address. This is a bit like your physical address, but for your internet connection, and it allows those website trackers to do their job.

When you connect to a VPN, your real IP address is replaced by one belonging to the service, making it much more challenging to track your activity.

2. A VPN stops your ISP from selling your data

Normally when you connect to the internet, your data goes via your internet service provider in a readable format. Not all data, but things such as your web searches, the URLs of the websites you visit and more.

When you connect via a VPN that information is encrypted so your ISP cannot read it, which means it cannot be sold on to companies which will then try to sell products and services to you.

3. A VPN gives extra security online

The same encryption gives you extra security online which your antivirus software doesn’t deal with. It helps to prevent hackers from stealing your login details, and other confidential data.

4. A VPN lets you access blocked websites and videos

One of the most popular uses for a VPN service is to get around regional blocks. Let’s say you want to watch BBC iPlayer but you don’t live in the UK. Even if you register for an account, you’ll just get an error when you try and watch anything saying that iPlayer is only for UK residents.

But if you connect to a VPN server in the UK, your IP address is replaced with one from the UK and you can watch content as if you were physically in the UK.

5. A VPN adds security to public Wi-Fi

If you’ve ever connected to free Wi-Fi on public transport, at a hotel or in a café, you might not have had to enter a password. That’s nice and convenient, but very bad for security.

When Wi-Fi isn’t password protected, there’s no encryption, and this means emails and messages you send could be seen by others. Again, a VPN adds that layer of encryption which stops criminals from stealing your identity and other sensitive information.

6. Most VPNs can be used on multiple devices

Aside from a minority of services, VPN providers allow you to connect several devices to the service at the same time. This is ideal for families, or simply anyone who wants to use a VPN a lot.

What a VPN cannot do

It doesn’t make you anonymous online

Contrary to the claims that some VPN services make, a VPN doesn’t necessarily hide your identity. Despite changing your IP address and encrypting your data, if you log into a website with your username and password, that site will know who you are. If you log into Facebook and post something, this information will be linked to you, regardless of whether you use a VPN or not.

Similarly, if you use Google search while signed in to your Google account (or signed in to Chrome) then Google knows who you are and what you’re searching for.

VPNs don’t stop malware

Although some VPNs have ‘antimalware’ features, these don’t replace proper antivirus. They usually warn you of dangerous websites, but don’t actively protect your device from attacks.

Be wary of free VPNs

Yes, free VPN services exist. But in general they are very limited in their capabilities and in some cases are gathering and selling your data. They can do this because when your data reaches the VPN server it is decrypted in order to be sent on to the website you want to visit.

Therefore it’s crucial you use a trustworthy VPN service, as it has access to your data.

Recommended VPN services

Though we have rounded up a handful of free VPN services, we would still recommend paying for one. This is primarily because of the limitations of free services, but also because you can pick a trustworthy provider that operates secure servers that will keep your data safe.

And since you’re still reading, you probably want to know which VPN service is best.

Currently, NordVPN is at the top of our list of the best VPN services. It offers a great all-round package which doesn’t cost much per month and offers thousands of servers around the world along with excellent speeds. It has also been audited twice to show that its no-logs policy works and that it doesn’t collect or store any information about its users on its servers.

Another option is Surfshark, which is cheaper still. Like NordVPN, it offers WireGuard as one of the encryption methods, and this makes it one of the quickest VPN services around. The last thing you want is for your internet connection to run slowly because you’re using a VPN.

Both services offer apps for all popular devices and operating systems including Windows, macOS, Android, iPhone, iPad, Amazon Fire TV and more. They’re also reliable at unblocking popular streaming services such as iPlayer, Netflix, Disney+ and others.

Related articles for further reading

Is Buying Instagram Followers Worth It?

Is buying Instagram followers worth it?

The prevalence of social media pressures its users to be follower-driven.

For instance, the idea of being popular on Instagram (given the opportunities it presents) can pressure people to grow their followers in all ways and means.

This may include methods like purchasing fake followers from various websites and services.

However, is buying Instagram followers worth the money or is it just a scam?

This article explores the ins and outs on fake followers for you to determine whether you should buy them or not.

Without further ado, let’s get right into the answer.

Table of Contents

1. Is buying Instagram followers worth it?

3. What happens when you buy Instagram followers?

4. Advantages of buying Instagram followers

5. How much do Instagram followers cost?

6. Alternative to buying Instagram followers

7. Follow for follow restrictions

8. Final thoughts

Is buying Instagram followers worth it?

The short answer is ⁠— no, buying Instagram followers is not worth it in the long run.

Here’s why.

Buying Instagram followers is not only unsafe, but it also kills your engagement rates.

Buying Instagram followers literally means that you’re accepting fake followers into your account.

So don’t be persuaded by websites and services that tell you about all the positive things about purchasing followers because they are untrue.

Hence, if you’re looking to purchase fake followers; think again because you’ll definitely regret it in the future.

Buying Instagram followers will stir up a lot of problems in your account (in the present and the future).

So if you’re thinking of buying them on impulse, stop and read the next few pointers!

Buying Instagram followers kills your engagement rates

Buying Instagram followers will decrease your engagement rate by a chunk (depending on the number of fake followers you have).

This is because fake followers do not engage on your posts.

Here’s an example.

Prior to purchasing followers, an account has 1,000 followers and a 10% engagement rate.

After purchasing 1,000 followers, the account now has 2,000 followers.

This means that the account’s engagement rate is now diluted to 5%.

Engagement rate is the most important metric on Instagram and purchasing fake followers will negatively affect it.

You can have a ton of followers; but if your post has little to no engagement, your account is worthless.

Any service that claims they sell ‘real’ followers or provide ‘organic’ growth is a fraud. Do not trust them!

There are countless of people getting scammed by these websites and services because what they claim isn’t true.

You’re not going to get real followers and organic, sustainable growth. Instead, you’re going to get fake followers and a customer support team that doesn’t respond to your queries.

Do keep this in mind if you’re looking to buy followers for your account.

Fake followers are very obvious

It’s very easy to tell if someone bought fake followers on Instagram.

Firstly, fake accounts do not have a profile picture.

Secondly, the username of a fake account is either a random mix of letters and numbers which does not make any sense.

Lastly, a fake account have little to no posts on their feed.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of an account with real followers vs an account with fake followers.

Real Followers vs Fake Followers

As you can see in the picture, it’s very easy to tell between real Instagram accounts and fake ones.

So, the next time you see someone’s followers dominated with accounts with no profile pictures, senseless usernames, and doesn’t have a single post on their feed, then you know that they bought followers.

Buying followers is also a drastic solution to boost your self-esteem on Instagram.

It may work well in the beginning, but people tend to be very inquisitive on Instagram and they will find out that you bought fake followers based on your follower list or engagement rate soon enough.

It violates Instagram’s Community Guidelines and Terms of Use

Since the early days of Instagram, fake accounts are consistently being removed so this does not come as a surprise.

In fact, Instagram is consistently improving their AI so that it detects fake accounts better. Sooner or later, fake accounts might be a thing of the past.

So before you consider buying fake followers, you’ll have to be prepared to lose whatever that you bought.

In other words, buying followers is a waste of money because they will eventually be removed from your account.

Moreover, your account might be permanently suspended from Instagram.

Brands will not want to work with you

Brands will not want to collaborate with you if you bought fake followers.

This is because your engagement rate is either really low or fake.

If you bought followers, they might suspect you of buying likes as well. This will negatively affect your credibility.

No brand will want you to endorse their product or service because your audience is a bunch of fake followers.

So, if you’re looking to become an influencer on Instagram, buying fake followers is out of the question.

What happens when you buy Instagram followers?

If you’re curious about what happens after you buy Instagram followers, this section is for you.

Here is a compiled list of reviews from real people that have purchased fake followers from various websites and services.

These reviews are adapted from TrustPilot.

1. Upleap

These are the reviews from real people who tried Upleap (an Instagram growth service operated in Malaysia).

Absolute Scam! I’m with my lawyer now. They lie about everything, they don’t even send proof if the social media guys actually exist. They even fake numbers on the dashboard. STAY AWAY. Even on the internet, you can find articles that this is a SCAM! Every good rating here is a fake. They fake the ratings. 

Source: TrustPilot

Terrible, I was skeptical at first so I tried out the free trial. I was kicked out of my account immediately and they changed my password. I had to contact Instagram for ages and I tried to contact Upleap but had no reply whatsoever.

Source: TrustPilot

These guys are scammers. I signed up and nothing happened. Apparently, my account manager Cayley Wong has been assigned to my account and will personally help grow my Instagram account. Please, stay away from this mob. It’s a waste of time and money. 

Source: TrustPilot

What happens if you purchased one of Upleap’s plans:

Firstly, you’ll get a dedicated account manager, which is not a real person. Secondly, the followers you’re going to be getting are very sketchy-looking (with no more than 3 posts, less than 150 followers, and a following of over 6,000).

Lastly, the numbers on the dashboard are fake, they might change your Instagram password and you will get zero engagement from the followers that you got.

2. Simplygram

Some of the most recent reviews from people who tried Simplygram (USA based service)

Waste of money and cause of embarrassment on social media. Almost all of the followers are bots or fake accounts with nasty pictures, looking like accounts from India or the rest of Asia. I ended up blocking thousands of them after noticing the garbage that I received as followers.

Source: TrustPilot

Signed up for a free trial. They claimed that they will not charge me after my trial ends. A week later, £164.20 is taken from my account. Stay clear of these people.

Source: TrustPilot

I normally do not write reviews like this, but this is incredibly bad. Their marketing is great, but the followers are not genuine. Also, I tried to email them five times to cancel my subscription but got NO replies. I also had to contact my bank as they said I have weird transactions, and I had to close my card details for new ones. Not sure if these two go hand in hand, but they very much could be. So do not give them your card details! Used this site expecting a real social media manager, but that’s not the case.

Source: TrustPilot

What happens if you purchased one of Simplygram’s plans:

Once you start your free trial, they will automatically charge you after it ends and there is no refund. The followers you’ll be getting are fake ones from Asia that will not give you any engagement.

To make matters worse, they will not reply to any of your emails.

3. Instazood

Here are the reviews from Instazood (an Instagram growth service based in Georgia).

It’s trash. When it worked it was great, but It only worked like 1/4 of the time. And that’s not something you want from a service you have to pay for. Their support is almost unreachable, and if they do respond, you’ll just get standard answers. It doesn’t support Paypal, and Credit card payment only works sometimes.

Source: TrustPilot

Really really useless. They kept sending me emails to add accounts but my account was always there. I sent so many emails with zero replies from them. Waste of time and money. Very complicated system too.

Source: TrustPilot

The product doesn’t work anymore. I’ve been waiting for a refund. I keep getting told that it’s coming because they are waiting for somebody to return to process it. They are happy to take your money but provide no service after. Don’t be tempted. It simply doesn’t work. They keep saying that my refund is one week away but I’ve been waiting 7 weeks. Liars.

Source: TrustPilot

What happens if you purchased one of Instazood’s plans:

Their product does not work because of the latest Instagram algorithm changes. Their customer service is poor and if you request a refund, they will not give it to you.

Additionally, your account may have a high chance of being suspended from Instagram as their algorithm is getting better and better.

Summary: What happens when you buy Instagram followers?

Here’s a quick timeline portraying what will happen when you buy Instagram followers.

1. After you’ve purchased Instagram followers, your followers will start to rise.

2. Consequently, your engagement rate will be diluted (e.g. from 10% to 5%).

3. A few days later, Instagram’s AI will remove the followers that you have bought.

4. Instagram will eventually remove all your fake followers.

5. You’re back to the same number followers as before.

Advantages of buying Instagram followers

After purchasing Instagram followers, your followers will rise, then fall dramatically in the next few days until you’re back to square one.

If you don’t care about your engagement rate, buying Instagram followers is for you.

Buying Instagram followers is not worth your time and money.

Not only are you diluting your engagement rate, but your account may be permanently suspended.

So the next time you’re thinking of buying Instagram followers, think twice.

How much do Instagram followers cost?

Here’s a compiled list of various websites/services selling fake followers.

WebsiteCostUpleap $39 to $99 monthlySimplygram $69 to $199 weeklyInstazood $11.99 monthlyKicksta $49 to $99 monthlyBuzzoid $12.99 for 1k followersFamoid$15.95 for 1k followersStormlikes$12.99 for 1k followersiDigic$12.95 for 1k followersViralrace$12.99 for 1k followersSkweezer$12.99 for 1k followersBuildmyplays $29.99 for 1k followersInstapromote$12.95 for 1k followersKrootez$19.99 for 1k followersMrinsta$40 for 1k followersInstaboostgram$12.75 for 1k followers

Price breakdown:

Buying followers cost approximately $13.00 for 1,000 followers. Other growth services charge anywhere between $40 to $199.

Based on the prices, buying fake followers and growth services are quite expensive.

It’s not worth your money because your followers will be removed by Instagram’s AI a few days after you made your purchase.

Alternative to buying Instagram followers

Instead of buying Instagram followers, you can utilize other alternatives like joining follow for follow groups.

Fundamentally, follow for follow groups are places where you can self-promote your Instagram link.

You can also find and follow others in your niche and send them a direct message on Instagram that you came from the respective community to get a follow back.

These groups are safe and does not violate Instagram’s Terms of Use or Community Guidelines.

You can grow 10 to 20 quality followers a day using one.

Here’s how:

Post your Instagram link on Followchain. Make sure to include a short description of yourself or the content that you post (this is to let others know your niche).

You’ll be able to know who followed you from Followchain by checking your direct messages on Instagram.

You can also find people and content to follow on the home page of Followchain.

Make sure to send them a direct message that you came from Followchain (otherwise they wouldn’t know)!

Once you’ve sent the direct message, the user will typically follow you back within 24 hours. If they don’t, just unfollow them.

Now that you followed someone in your niche, your engagement rate will increase because the user is more likely to be genuinely interested in your content.

It’s important to only follow people within your niche as it will not only increase your followers, but your engagement rate.

After all, engagement is the most important metric on Instagram.

Repeat this process as many times as you like to grow your Instagram audience.

Follow for follow restrictions

The only restriction to be aware is that you may get action blocked if you repetitively follow or direct message others.

To prevent being action blocked, make sure to follow and direct message others in intervals of 5 to 10 minutes.

In addition, you should not send the same direct message repeatedly because Instagram’s AI will think that you are a bot. Instead, send different variations of a direct message.

Here’s a full guide on how to fix and prevent the action block.

Final thoughts

Buying Instagram followers will decrease your engagement rate drastically. It also violates Instagram’s Terms of Service and Community Guidelines.

If you want to grow your Instagram followers, you’re better of trying to grow it organically or utilize follow for follow groups (which are free to join).

Author: Lim How Wei. Lim How Wei is the founder of Followchain, a community that simplifies growth and networking for Instagram users. Feel free to follow him on Instagram.

Why Astrophotography Is Worth The Trouble

Mixed Results

My first attempt at Jupiter [left] demonstrates why it’s a tricky first target–the brightness of the planet against the darkness of space casts a wide dynamic range for the novice to capture. But it’s possible, as a photo taken with the same camera provided by the SBIG folks shows [right].

Astrophotography is hard. Astronomically hard. Everything has to be perfect. Your telescope, with camera attached, must track your target in precise synchronization with the rotation of the Earth. It can’t shake. It can’t even vibrate. You have to nail your camera’s exposure settings or you’ll be rewarded with an incoherent mess. Your targets are often so dim you can’t even see them until after the image has been made, so focusing is a nightmare.

So why try? Because it makes the entities floating in the vastness of the universe much more real than any Hubble wallpaper on your computer desktop can.

Those images, as spectacular as they are, don’t capture personal experience. Marvelous photos have been made of Yosemite, Monument Valley, and the Grand Canyon, but people still trek to see them in person. Similarly, astronomy—for me—is best experienced first-hand. No shot of Saturn, Jupiter, the Orion Nebula, or the Whirlpool Galaxy from the Hubble can equal–intellectually or emotionally–my own experiences at the eyepiece. The scenes, when delivered by nothing more than a few layers of precision-ground glass, are reality. Saturn is an actual object, floating in the blackness of space. Star clusters sparkle like diamonds on black velvet. Everything has scale, depth, and context. They’re actual things, not abstractions. And far from making me feel like I’m an insignificant little nothing–unlike, say, watching an episode of Entourage–I actually feel like I’m part of something spectacular. Capturing images myself would be an extension of that first-person experience. I want to record these things, and share them, as I see them.

Astrophotography is a black art of the first order, and, frankly, I suck at it. Every one of my previous efforts over the last 10 or so years has ended in frustration, usually after sitting stock-still next to my scope for hours, shivering to death on fantastically cold nights. Fortunately, though, technology may finally be catching up with my own incompetence. The digital revolution swept amateur astrophotography a decade ago, and new cameras are more powerful and much easier to use than they were when CCD’s first crashed in from outer space back then. You can now shoot the universe with everything from consumer DSLR’s to $100 “planet cams” to ultra-sensitive, ultra-expensive CCD cameras that come with cooling fans, cryogenics, and finely tuned sensors. You also have exceptionally capable image-capturing and processing software that allows you to better control the camera and pull out the hidden details in these usually very dark shots. So with this in mind, I decided to finally commit myself to conquering my demon, to making an astro-image truly worth showing off.

My SBIG Camera

I turned to one of the leaders in the astro-photo biz, the Santa Barbara Instrument Group, or SBIG. They sent over an ST-4000XCM, a 4.2 megapixel color camera with an integrated cooling fan–this minimizes visual “noise” in your images that an overheated sensor can cause–and a built-in autoguider. This technology helps compensate for minor errors in your telescope’s alignment, which is critical when you start taking exposures longer than a minute or so. Essentially, the autoguider analyzes the view, locks on to specific stars, and makes constant adjustments to the telescope to keep everything in alignment. You won’t have images with stars burning streaks across the frame–they’ll remain fine points.

My Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope

Having been an avid telescope consumer my entire adult life–I have, like, nine–I had a good head start in terms of the rest of the basic equipment. One of my scopes happens to be great for astrophotography. It’s a computerized, 8-inch aperture Schmidt-Cassegrain from Celestron. (Schmidt-Cassegrains use a combination of mirrors and lenses to cram a lot of focal length and aperture into a compact tube. And the more aperture you have, the more light, and detail, you can bring in.) I’m able to align the motorized mount so that it can track smoothly, and I’ve got the super-sturdy mount option to minimize the shakes.

The Camera Mounted

One my first night, my target was Jupiter, which is positioned nicely in the sky right now–fairly low on the horizon and centered along the ecliptic in the early evening. After spending about an hour installing and experimenting with SBIG’s CCDOPS software, I wired everything up to the scope. The computer recognized the camera and began pulling in data about its temperature and various other parameters that I’ve yet to fully comprehend. Before I attached the camera, I’d centered the scope on the planet, and she looked beautiful through the eyepiece–three moons visible, nice detail in the cloud bands. When I took the eyepiece out and put the camera back in, the image on my laptop showed barely a hint of yellow blob. Since the eyepiece and camera focus at different points, the crisp view was long gone. The CCDOPS software solves this with a Focus function–it takes a steady stream of quick images so you can make adjustments between each shot. Within a few minutes, I was pleased to see a much more defined yellow blob. It was obviously overexposed, but I figured the camera would help me tame the shot in good time.

Finally, I started grabbing images. I tried exposures from 1/30th of a second down to 1/60th and up through a full second. Each time the image came back looking roughly the same. I also tried the software’s Planet Master function, in which the computer takes over and tries to grab the best shots in a rapid sequence. I had no better luck. This, however, I’d anticipated. It was my first night with an extremely sophisticated and complicated camera. I was just going to learn its rough functionality and then dive in with the manual once I’d had some degree of familiarity with it. So I packed it in, sent my shot to Michael Barber, an engineer at SBIG, and cracked open the book. Within a few minutes, Michael got back to me. I’d assumed that my shot was badly out of focus, but I was actually just being too ambitious. “That shot’s actually pretty well focused,” Barber told me. “The problem with planets is the great dynamic range and the brightness. The exposure is too long and the planet is saturated and burned out. You need to shorten the exposure time for Jupiter.”

A glob? No problem–globular clusters are among my favorite sights. These clusters of tens of thousands of stars are fascinating targets. You can stare at M13 in Hercules for hours and watch it unpack more and more individual stars as your eyes adapt to the sight. The next night, I went straight for Hercules.

My Shot of the M13 Cluster

My luck improved. I focused the camera and started experimenting with exposures. I tried three minutes, two minutes, 60 seconds, and 45 seconds. Each time, I got something that actually looked something like my view at the eyepiece. There are clearly still problems with my technique–the image still needs a few focus tweaks, and I suspect that there are settings I’m not familiar with that will help refine my shooting. But it’s my first successful, coherent astrophotograph. It’s a fine image, if I do say so myself–thanks to some contrast adjustments to darken the background–but it’s still a first try from a CCD novice, and it doesn’t quite capture the experience the way I want it to. Plus, I haven’t even scratched the surface of this camera’s capability–there are plenty of other features that can enhance my imaging, and plenty of ways I can tweak the image on the computer to get the best possible results.

Next, after some further schooling, I’ll go back to Jupiter, try M13 again, and then, hopefully, go intergalactic.

Is It Worth Investing In Semiconductor Stocks?

The global industry today is tied to the production of semiconductor components. Most importantly, this dependence will only grow. This applies to both complex solutions (computing systems, artificial intelligence) and more understandable ones. In the automotive industry, for example, this is the replacement of internal combustion engines with electric motors. In this article, we will consider the expediency of investing in semiconductor stocks.

Sector outlook

Let’s start with the fact that the semiconductor sector really has a huge potential for growth in the next tens or even hundreds of years. What is it connected with? The semiconductor market is in a stage of active development and growth right now. The volume of the market today is more than $50 billion and its growth potential to several trillion in the next 10-20 years.

The fact is that for smartphones, computers, data centers, home appliances, and cars, the number of which is increasing, semiconductors are required. But it’s not enough just to produce semiconductors to make a phone or car control unit smarter, faster, and more efficient. For this purpose, there is a need for faster processors, RAM, graphics adapters, and other semiconductor products.

Accordingly, semiconductors are goods of regular demand, which require constant updating and the demand will only grow. This industry can be compared with oil production 50-70 years ago, when there were fewer cars, planes, and steamships and the world needed the growth of the oil industry.

With semiconductors, in the same way, the world lacks the manufacturing capacity to meet all the demand in the market.

About the sector

The semiconductor market can be divided into several main segments by demand:

Mobile devices

The largest segment of the semiconductor market. Its growth is spurred on by the war on the world stage, between Apple and its competitors for the most popular and productive smartphone.

Computers

This segment is in second place and there is also an active war for technology on the market.

Home appliances

Anything can be attributed to them. TVs, washing machines, microwave ovens, etc. The intensity of passions is simpler here, but manufacturers are also fighting for the first place.

Cars

The car has a lot of auxiliary control systems and driver assistants, from multimedia to autopilot. In fact, any electronic unit of a car requires a processor or memory. Cars are on the rise, technology is on the rise, and they are also fueling strong demand for semiconductors. In 2023 and 2023, due to the shortage of semiconductors, Tesla, GM, and VW experienced huge difficulties in the production of cars precisely because of the shortage of semiconductors.

You have probably heard about companies such as Nvidia, TSMC, Qualcomm, and AMD, which are considered semiconductor manufacturers, but this is a huge misconception. Not all companies actually have their own production facilities.

In this regard, the semiconductor market can be divided into 3 categories:

Category 1. Real semiconductor manufacturers (companies have their own production facilities and produce semiconductors for themselves or contract manufacturing for customers).

Category 2. Brand holders. These companies have a big name, brand, marketing, their own market, and even architecture. But the semiconductors for them are produced by the companies from the first category.

Category 3. Suppliers of components. This is the backstage of the industry. Companies in this category do not produce semiconductors and do not have their own brands. But they supply manufacturers with production equipment and various testing services. A distinctive feature of this category is independence. That is, they do not care who will be the leader in this industry, TSMC, Intel, or Samsung, they only care that the market is growing, and they are growing with it.

The biggest companies to invest

It’s time to look at the biggest players in each category we have just considered.

Manufacturers:

1. Taiwan Semiconductor (TSM);

2. Intel (INTC);

3. Samsung (SMS);

4. NXP Semiconductor (NXPI);

5. ON Semiconductor (ON);

6. Texas Instruments (TXN);

7. Analog Devices  (ADI);

8. Micron Technology  (MU);

9. Microchip (MCHP);

10. Tower Semiconductor (TSEM).

In fact, there are a few more manufacturers, but some of them are inaccessible to ordinary private investors, and the other part is not so attractive in terms of investment.

Brand holders:

1. Nvidia (NVDA);

2. AMD (AMD);

3. Broadcom  (AVGO);

4. Qualcomm (QCOM).

These companies launch high-demand end products such as video cards, processors, network adapters, processors for smartphones, RAM, and flash memory under their own brand and with their own architecture. But they are produced on the basis of TSMC, Samsung, Intel, and other companies from the 1st category.

Component suppliers:

1. Applied Materials (AMAT);

2. ASML Holdings  (ASML);

3. Entegris (ENTG);

4. IPG Fotonics Corporation (IPGP);

5. KLIA Corporation  (KLAC);

6. Lam Research (LRCX);

7. Universal Display (OLED);

8. Teradyne (TER);

9. Cadence Design Systems (CDNS).

This category of companies does not produce semiconductors at all and is not a brand holder. They are equipment suppliers and provide test services, circuit designs, and software. The main plus is that there is less competition between them, and in fact, it doesn’t matter who will be the market leader of manufacturers, TSMC or Intel. For this category, it is important that the semiconductor market develops, and all manufacturers will still come to Lam Research or Teradyne for equipment or testing.

How to choose the company to invest in?

It all depends on the risks you are willing to take. The market for manufacturers and brand holders is more competitive and they depend on the mood of the crowd, any negative news can collapse the value of shares. Semiconductor suppliers are more relaxed, but also show growth in the hundreds and thousands of percent. It is recommended to have stocks of all 3 categories in the portfolio.

The risks in semiconductor stocks

Experts expect that in the next few years the semiconductor industry will grow year by year by 15-20%. The industry leaders will be manufacturers of memory chips (for example, Samsung). Companies that make semiconductors for cars or embedded microprocessors will be somewhat behind.

The introduction of 5G and the development of cloud technologies are important growth drivers. Semiconductor manufacturers and their stocks are the beneficiaries of any innovation. No innovation today can be imagined without microcircuits and chips.

The main risks associated with investing in this industry are:

1. Revaluation of individual issuers by the market.

2. The likelihood of new manufacturers coming to the fore. For example, within the framework of the development program for the production of semiconductor components in the EU. It assumes that by 2030 these countries should account for 20% of sales. By the beginning of 2023, this figure was only 10%.

3. The recession period that occurs in any cyclical production. For example, in the semiconductor industry, there was a moment when it turned out to be unprofitable to mine bitcoin (2024). As a result, a large supply of used video cards has formed on the market. The fall in demand for these products and for the chips used to manufacture them has affected the entire industry. It is beyond the power of a private investor to predict at what point the recession will occur.

Final thoughts

The semiconductor industry and the stocks of the companies producing them are promising investments. It is hardly worth expecting that this area will become less relevant in the foreseeable future. If you are interested in investing in semiconductor stocks and looking for a good platform to manage your financial goals, pay attention to Gainy.

Is Envato Elements Worth It? (Complete Review)

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, digital artist, web developer, or videographer, I’m sure you’ve heard about Envato Elements at one time or another; but is it worth it? With a monthly or annual subscription, it might appear as just another expense to your creative budget. However, once you learn the true capabilities of Envato Elements, you may be surprised by how valuable it can be across all your creative endeavors.

Envato Elements is a subscription service for designers that offers a wide array of design assets. Things such as graphics, fonts, stock photos, stock videos, product mock-ups, and more. The subscription also includes educational resources and business management tools to streamline your skills.

Despite knowing the general purpose of Envato Elements, you are probably left wondering if it’s worth it. More specifically, is it worth it for YOUR designs and creative projects? Well, in this post, I’m going to help you with exactly that, sharing everything you need to know about Envato Elements. Better yet, I’ll share some of my personal experiences using Envato Elements across dozens of projects.

What Is Envato Elements?

Envato Elements is a design service that offers you every type of digital asset under the sun. From fonts, stock-video, stock photos, motion graphics, mock-ups, overlays, brushes, and more. If you are looking for an asset of some type, Envato (more than likely) has it.

How Does Envato Elements Work?

Envato Elements works by offering subscribers access to over 54 million designs created for Envato. Each design is developed and published by an individual designer, who gets a commission from your download. What that means for you is an incredible amount of design options all in one place.

When you’re ready to use Envato Elements, you can begin to narrow your search using any of the category options available.

For each download, you will need to add it to a project. This works to keep downloaded assets organized on your profile and allows Envato to license your download to specific projects. More on that later.

What Can You Use Envato Elements For?

You can use Envato Elements for literally any creative endeavor you have. Need to design a logo? Create a product mock-up? Make a business presentation? Get motion graphics and stock video for a youtube video? Envato Elements can help you with all of that and more. To better understand how you can use it, let’s break down what types of assets the platform offers.

Envato Elements includes a surprisingly broad font library perfect for any of your font needs. There are plenty of styles to choose from Serif, San-Serif, Handwritten & Script, and Decorative. In addition, most fonts can be downloaded as OTF, TTF, WOFF, and WOFF2 files, so they are highly compatible.

Although this collection of stock images is smaller than regular stock photo sites, it’s a great library considering the other assets available with Envato Elements.

To move your story along or enhance your dialogue with visuals, Envato Elements has a broad library of high-quality stock videos. These stock clips come in 1080p and 4K resolutions with a variety of framerates. If you have yet to subscribe to Envato Elements, you can download video previews to see how the real clip would fit in your projects.

Besides stock videos, there are also motion graphics available within this category.

For any video or presentation you need music for, Envato Elements has you covered. Better yet, you can create youtube videos with any of these songs without the fear of getting demonetized! You can quickly sort the music library via a variety of genres, moods, and instrument filters. This way, you can narrow down the perfect song despite there being thousands upon thousands of options.

Alongside music, there are also sound effects available. These are great to enhance the visuals in your video projects or even use in a podcast to keep your listeners more engaged. Similar to the music, these sound effects are easy to filter and download!

This category has a ton of items available, including:

18,000+ vector illustrations

65,000+ graphic templates, e.g. logos, product mockups, print templates, etc.

30,000+ 3D objects

2,000+ add-ons, such as Photoshop actions, Lightroom Presets, brushes, and layer styles

Plus thousands of backgrounds, textures, icons, patterns, and more!

For just about any graphic design need you have, you’ll find it here. I use graphic templates all the time in photo manipulations and my website design. In fact, you may see some of the assets found in the Envato Elements graphic library on this website you’re reading right now!

Whether you use PowerPoint, Keynote, or Google Slides, Envato Elements has a variety of templates to help you nail your presentation. From straight-laced corporate designs to fun and casual, there are template styles suited for any presentation.

If you’re running a website or blog, there’s a good chance you’re using WordPress. To make a website truly yours, website design is crucial. Envato Elements makes it easy by providing thousands of plug-and-play themes that will quickly transform your site. Once your design is dialed in, you can find a variety of unique plugins to enhance your user experience!

The Envato Elements User Experience

Let’s say I am looking for a stock video clip to put into a youtube video. More specifically, I’m looking for someone playing pond hockey on a snowy lake. So I’ll filter my search to stock video in the search bar, then type in the video I am looking for. Of course, the same thing applies to any other asset you’re looking for in Envato Elements.

A results page will come up with all the closest related items to your search. When there are a lot of items to display, you can further refine your search with the filter bar on the left-hand side. Otherwise, scroll through the assets available and see which one suits your needs. For example, the very first stock video is exactly what I was looking for!

A window will appear asking you to license your download to a specific project. For example, since I am using this for a youtube video, I’ll license it under my youtube project. From there, the download will automatically begin.

Here you will find all your downloaded assets along with the license for each one. If you need to redownload an asset, you can easily do so from this page.

What’s Included In The Envato Elements Subscription

With Envato Elements, there aren’t any tiers to the subscription. Instead, one price unlocks everything available on the website. This is a nice perk, considering how many other online subscriptions seem to cost more and more if you want “all” the features.

Is Envato Elements Royalty Free?

Yes, Envato Elements is royalty-free. All item licenses you download are on a non-exclusive, commercial, worldwide, and revocable basis, for one single use per registration.

Let’s break down what you can and can’t do with Envato Element assets to make the license clear. You can also read their full licensing terms here.

How Envato Elements Liscencing Works

Here are some things you can do with the Envato Elements License:

Use any asset for personal and commercial use.

Have the same lisence for the lifetime of your asset.

Usage rights can be granted to clients under the Limited Sublisence mentioned in clause 6.

Keep your lisences for exisiting assets even after your subscription ends.

Now here are some things you can’t do under the license:

Use existing assets for new projects that they aren’t registered to. This is more applicable to after your subscription ends.

You cannot redistribute items as stock, in a tool or template, or the original source file.

You cannot use the assets in applications where clients can use drag and drop templates to create something (ie. a website builder)

You cannot merchendise the assets if the original asset is the core design of the merchandise. Significant value must be added to alter it.

You cannot claim trademark or service mark rights over any items.

Their licensing agreement is pretty straightforward and can be figured out with some common sense. It may be worth taking a read-through if you plan to use the assets for merchandising purposes. However, for just about any other application of the items, you are free to do what you want, as long as value is added to the original asset. That means you don’t just use the asset in its original state. It is altered to suit the needs of your specific project.

The Cost Of Envato Elements

The monthly subscription contract to Envato Elements is $33 per month. However, you can save 50% of that by purchasing the annual subscription for $198/year which works out to $16.50/month for an individual user.

All of the subscription fees are in US Dollars which is worth noting if you’re from somewhere else in the world. With both the monthly and yearly subscriptions, you get access to all of the same files. The difference is simply that your contract can end after a single month rather than a whole year. For one-off projects, the monthly subscription can prove to be a better option to use.

If you are a student, you can save 30% off the annual subscription, which works out to $11.50 per month. For students to be eligible, you must be enrolled in an accredited educational institution and have a student email. Your student email will be what’s used to verify your eligibility to unlock this discount.

Another great way to save on the price of Envato Elements is with a Teams Subscription. This subscription saves 35% off the annual subscription for two or more members. The best part about this is that you can have multiple people working under the same subscription while having all downloaded located in a single place. No more confusion trying to figure out which account you downloaded your asset with.

Does Envato Elements Have A Free Trial?

No, there isn’t a free trial of Envato Elements. However, you can create an account for free and download up to 12 free assets per month with this account. Of course, this doesn’t give you download access to the whole library, but it does give you a starting point without paying a cent!

What Happens If I Cancel My Envato Elements Subscription?

After canceling your Envato Elements subscription, you will still have the single-use license for the items you downloaded for a specific project. You may continue to use these assets for your existing projects, but you cannot use them in new ones.

If you have a bunch of assets already used throughout your projects, you don’t need to worry. These can still be used, and your licenses can be found under your Envato profile even after your subscription is canceled.

The caveat is that you can no longer use all of the assets you previously downloaded in future projects. So, for example, if you had a font from Envato Elements, you would need to uninstall it to prevent future unlicensed use on another project.

In a nutshell, any previously registered project while your subscription was active can still use your downloaded assets. However, any project that you create after your subscription has ended is not allowed.

The Pros VS Cons

Now to fully understand if Envato Elements is worth it to you, let’s compare some of the pros and cons.

Pros: Cons:

Each item needs to be relisenced for each download or project.

Every subscriber has access to the same files making similar projects possible.

Overall Envato Elements doesn’t really have any downsides that give it red flags. The pros far outweigh the cons. Comparing Envato Elements to other competitors like Storyblocks or Motion Array, you can’t beat its price. Storyblocks starts at $39.99/month, while Motion Array begins at $29.99/month. The Envato Elements annual subscription comes in at half the price of these other options while providing a more diverse media library.

Is Envato Elements Worth It?

For web designers, digital artists, entrepreneurs, and videographers, Envato Elements is absolutely worth it. With so many assets under a single subscription, it’s difficult to find anything else that compares at a $16.50/month price point.

I have been using Envato Elements a ton for my youtube channel and throughout my website. Everything can be found in one place rather than scouring the internet to find certain assets across multiple site subscriptions. The convenience factor Envato Elements offers to creators of all kinds is unparalleled.

Although other options offer more stock video, stock photos, and animated graphics, the Envato Elements library is still nothing to scoff at. There are over 1 million stock photos to choose from, along with over 800,00 stock videos. Alongside these vast numbers, you still have access to millions of other assets as well. This is something the main competitors do not offer.

Happy Creating!

Brendan 🙂

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