365 Days of Inspiration: Our Readers’ Favorite Stories on Writing and Building Community

We’ve shared more than 900 posts on Discover in 2017 — from Editors’ Picks spanning dozens of topics and niches to in-depth interviews with writers and artists. Looking at the posts our readers clicked with (and clicked on) the most, we see one theme emerging: you love listening to bloggers speak about what matters most to them, whether it’s writing, finding an audience, or making a connection with others.

Below are our 10 most popular Discover features of 2017. We share them here as a celebration of the diverse voices that make up our community, and also as a resource for months and years to come. If you’re ever in need of a nudge to create, to speak up, or to tell the world about your passions and struggles, be sure to revisit this list.

Find the right WordPress.com plan for you and give your site a boost in 2018 with a custom domain, a wide selection of beautiful premium themes, and advanced sharing tools.

10. Interaction and Community: How a Lifestyle Blogger Doubled Her Weekly Views

We all love hands-on, concrete advice — and even more so when a blogger takes the time to educate others who are still finding their way. It couldn’t hurt that Kaylee Marie Huey’s tips delivered, offering readers many solid ideas to experiment with as they develop their online presence.

9. Falling Half in Love with Strangers: What’s the Word for That?

So much of our online life revolves around connecting with people we don’t know very well in our “real” life, and negotiating these authentic-yet-fragile connections.This post by Quinn, the blogger behind When Do I Get The Manual?, touches on similar themes, and talks about the hard-to-define feeling of not-quite-love we sometimes experience moments after meeting someone for the first time.

An illustration of Ernest Shackleton’s voyage, by Alice at Owl Station.

8. Five Writers on What It Means to Be a Friend

This roundup, which we published back in July in honor of International Day of Friendship, includes a wide range of takes on a perennially fascinating topic: how our closest relationships evolve, overcome challenges, and — sometimes — fail.

7. “Brave and Reckless” Advice: Five Tips for New Bloggers from Christine Ray

For more hands-on advice, check out our website-design series.

Bloggers are generous: it’s always heartwarming to see so many people passing on the insights they’ve gleaned to newcomers. In Christine Ray’s case, readers found particular value in the advice she shared. Christine was still relatively fresh in the world of online publishing, and wrote from the perspective of someone who’d already figured out some things, but knew she had a few more to learn, too.

An ink drawing by Q. Rumbley at Carve & Draw.

6. Stop Talking About That Book You’re Writing

This post, highlighting novelist Euny Hong’s thought-provoking article at Quartz, inspired dozens of you to share your own perspective on the craft of writing — and the challenges of meeting self-imposed goals and deadlines.

5. How Do You Say “I Love You”?

A simple question often generates some of the most complex and moving answers. In this case, one blogger’s thank-you post to his community sparked a lively conversation about the numerous ways we can show love and appreciation to others.

4. “I Learned How to Write From My Heart”

Paul, from A Captain’s Speech, published his reflections after four years of prolific blogging. The sense of self-liberation he talks about in his post clearly hit a nerve: “I imagined that everything that was holding me back from being completely honest in my writing, was all stuck in my shoulders. So I shook my arms until I could feel the words exit through my fingertips.”

A garden-inspired watercolor painting by Cynthia Maniglia at Salt and Moon.

3. A Veteran Blogger’s Advice on Growing Traffic and Finding Community

The best part of belonging to a community is that you can always lean on the wisdom of its more experienced members. In this post, we highlighted some of the insights Susie Lindau had shared with her followers on the occasion of her sixth blogiversary.

2. Is One Really the Loneliest Number? Five Bloggers on the Virtues of Solitude

We published this roundup on Valentine’s Day, when you’d normally expect paeans to romance. But the counterintuitive timing, paired with the diverse voices we included, resonated with many of you. The comments on this feature turned into a celebration of quiet, autonomy, and self-sufficiency.

1. “I Write Because…”: Six Bloggers on Finding Inspiration for Their Sites

No two people publish for the exact same reason. But one common denominator we keep seeing again and again — including in more than 200 comments readers left in response to this roundup — has to do with human connection. As one of the featured writers put it, her blogging gave her “the ability to reach people on a real and fundamental level that I can’t do in my everyday life.”

To our readers and commenters, featured writers and creators: thank you for being part of Discover and the broader WordPress.com community. Here’s to an exciting 2018.

365 Days, 52 Weeks: Bloggers on Posting Daily or Weekly in 2015


Many of you challenge yourselves with long-term blog projects, from daily urban sketches to a weekly short story series. As we say goodbye to 2015, let’s look at how a sketcher, a poet, a short story writer, and an essayist have met their daily and weekly goals.

Olena Bodnarchuk: a sketch a day

Olena Bodnarchuk is a sketcher from Ukraine and is currently studying graphic design in Germany.

My sketch-a-day project was a spontaneous idea that felt so good and inspiring that I couldn’t ignore it. A passenger on a train saw me sketching and asked, “You’re making one drawing a day, aren’t you?” The next moment, I knew what I’d be managing in the next 365 days.

I get my inspiration from daily life. I notice beauty in ordinary situations and watch people on buses or on the subway. At any moment, I can take out a sketchbook and start creating. And you don’t need special conditions to be an urban sketcher! (Although it’s good to be really mobile.)

It’s easy to keep myself on track because sketching brings me so much joy. What I love about this habit is that quantity becomes quality. It feels like a tiny step I make each day, which then leads to my development in the long term.

Yi-Ching Lin: 3 bite-sized posts a day

Yi-Ching Lin is a writer, poet, and photographer in New York City.

Image by Yi-Ching Lin
Image by Yi-Ching Lin

What do escaping a party, vacuuming on the holidays, taking on daylight saving time, and realizing you’ve run out of toilet paper on Monday morning all have in common?

It happens to all of us.

Writing is a good kind of stressful. Every morning, I wake up, and writing hangs over my head as I make breakfast and sit down to write. I am constantly three posts away from heading out the door — one photo, a list of five randomly selected words, and a piece of writing. While the first two arrive more easily, it’s the third that can keep me stuck to my chair. In fact, it’s sometimes the photo and the threewordsaday that help to get the juices flowing. You can call them my “tricks.”

The other “trick” to writing and posting daily is observation. Imagine collecting all the little things that happen in a day and binding them together as a coloring book, so when you sit down, you can flip open a page in your mind and color it in. Inspiration becomes turnkey.

Writer’s block is a real fake thing. It immobilizes, but doesn’t have to paralyze. Some words are just slower to come.

I write because Writing is a box under the category Creativity under the listHappiness that I have the luxury of checking off every morning. For nearly six years, I committed to writing and posting daily because on the days I didn’t write, I felt an itch of discontentment, and sooner or later, I realized it was because I hadn’t created something.

Writing with readers is better than writing without readers. To be honest, after I’ve checked the Writing box, I’m good to go — literally and spiritually. But, it’s the readers who somehow magically keep me connected. They are neither my motivation nor my inspiration, but they breathe new life into the words, and for that, I am enlightened and grateful.

I try to catch and respond to every comment. I don’t stress about “capturing the momentum” on well-read days, only about writing daily and appreciating those who take the time to comment.

Finally, writer’s block is a real fake thing. It immobilizes, but doesn’t have to paralyze. Some words are just slower to come. I write other words for the time being.

Andy Townend: a story every Thursday

Andy Townend, a blogger with a love of photography, writing, and poetry, is currently living in Brussels.

Image by Andy Townend
Image by Andy Townend

Photography is my passion. I launched belgradestreets to share my perspective on life in Belgrade. Its sibling, belgianstreets, followed three years later. In each case, I aspired to share my story.

I created andytownend.com as a third space to experiment with writing and photography. I’m fascinated by the craft but considered creative writing a bridge too far. Encouraged by friends on WordPress.com, I signed up for Blogging U.’s Writing 201: Poetry, and subsequently, Writing 101. The camaraderie, engendered by the course organizers and my fellow participants, inspired me to let go and just write.

I set myself a tough challenge: I would write a serial story, dark | side | thursday. Each Thursday, I publish a new episode of exactly 500 words, accompanied by one of my photographs. The story is dark. It allows me to shine a light on some challenging issues to see a different perspective. I’m more than halfway through a 52-week writing project that I kicked off in May. It’s a liberating and inspiring experience.

While I’m using great writing tools to help me organize, plot, and collate my ideas, each new episode is often “shot from the hip,” a little like my photographic style. The characters, and the world in which they live, are fictitious, although I often hold a mirror up to real events, recent and from the past, when describing a place or emotion.

The story’s not over.

Michelle Ardillo: an essay a week

Michelle Blanchard Ardillo is a writer, Louisiana native, and language arts teacher in Washington, DC.

Startup Stock Photos
“Cajun Girl in a Kilt” is a nickname my husband gave me, born of my unique blend of personality traits stemming from having a Cajun dad and a Scottish mom. My sitecame about because in spite of wanting to be a writer, I had no idea how to actually become one. Even as a little girl I dreamed of being a writer, asking Santa for a typewriter one year. For 20 years I wrote legal documents, mostly lease agreements for tenants of shopping centers and malls, but the impetus for my “essay a week for one year” project came from a career change and eight years of teaching literature and writing to middle school students, making me want to focus on my own creative writing. A self-imposed deadline of midnight on Sunday was enough to awaken my competitive spirit, and I am proud to say that even during the most trying times of my father’s illness and death, I never missed a week.

A self-imposed deadline of midnight on Sunday was enough to awaken my competitive spirit . . .

On December 27, Michelle published her final essay of her yearlong series. “Am I a writer now, 52 weeks later?” she asks. Read her reflection on the experience.

Many of my essays focus on the culture, food, faith, and people of my Louisiana upbringing, but I also write about some of my lifelong obsessions like reading, the performing arts, and the British Royal Family, as well as more recent obsessions like making jam and poetry. My cast of characters includes my husband, two daughters, and my dog Puccini, but for inspiration I sometimes draw upon my most widely available resource: the developing minds and personalities of the pre-teens and teenagers I teach.

Hailey Baldwin and Justin Bieber Got Cuddly at Both Church AND the Club This Weekend

Hailey Baldwin and Justin Bieber

Getty Images

A single-and-happy-to-be-so Justin Bieber was spotted getting close to his ex and recently-back-on friend Hailey Baldwin this weekend in Miami. The two attended Vous Church Conference, sitting together during the service. Bieber at one point had an arm wrapped around the back of her chair…and later, at LIV nightclub, he wrapped an arm around her. They’re flirty gestures to say the least:

Baldwin and Bieber, of course, were close friends before dating briefly in early 2016.

They reportedly started talking again at the end of last year. TMZ reported in December that Bieber contacted Baldwin, trying to “clear the air” over their brief relationship and bad breakup, per sources “connected to” Bieber’s church Hillsong. He told his then-girlfriend Selena Gomez he did that because he wanted to be transparent, and Gomez did not take the idea of Bieber and Baldwin talking well. Jelena ended up allegedly going to couple’s therapy because of it. Bieber and Gomez’s renewed relationship would last a couple months more, until early March, before they took a break-turned-breakup.

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Baldwin, meanwhile, was rumored to be dating Shawn Mendes in May; the two attended the Met Gala together and were super coupley on the red carpet.

Getty Images

In a late-May interview with The Times UK, Baldwin made it clear they’re just pals: “We hang out and he’s super-lovely and a very, very nice young gentleman,” she said. “But I am single. The dating pool is small. It’s rare to find somebody that has the same ideas and morals as me. I have found people like that before, though, which is refreshing.”

Baldwin also opened up in that interview about the effect her and Bieber’s failed romance had on their friendship: “Justin and I were friends for a long time,” she started. “I met him when I was really young and he was one of my best friends. Everybody knows that at a certain point in time that turned into something else, but that just happens when you’re 18, 19. It was what it was. We went through a long period of time when we weren’t friends. We didn’t speak for quite some time and there was a lot of weirdness that went on. We’ve moved past that.”

Dating Bieber publicly was “weird. I’d never been through [a high-profile relationship] like that,” she said. “But it brought both of us to the realization that we just work much better as friends. He’s somebody I really cherish. Now it’s a very mature situation. It’s good.”

Bieber and Baldwin’s friendly PDA may be a temporary sight: a source told E! at the end of May that Bieber isn’t focused on love right now. “He is in a really good place since splitting with Selena and is enjoying the single life. He has a lot coming up and is working on new music, and isn’t focused on dating right now.”

What Your Wedding Will Be Like, According to Your Zodiac Sign

Getty ImagesDesign by Mia Feitel

They say when you know, you know, right? The chemistry may be spot-on between you and your S.O. and gushing “YES!” to that proposal is a no-brainer. But planning the wedding? That’s where things can get complicated fast. Will you invite your entire friend circle for a destination extravaganza in Tulum or keep it low-key with an intimate, family-only affair? When faced with a perplexing pile of choices—not to mention, pressure from every friend and relative trying to live out HER fantasy through YOUR wedding—a little guidance from the stars never hurts. We tapped our resident astrologers, The AstroTwins, to play matchmaker between your sign and your bridal style. Now, on with the planning!

ARIES: Rare Beauty

You’re fearless when it comes to, well, just about everything, Aries, and your wedding will be no exception to the rule. Give your guests something to talk about. How does an old firehouse sound for the venue? Or maybe an outdoor fairground with a giant Wonder Wheel and plenty of playtime for your motley crew of guests? And let’s be honest, you might need to create some diversions for the fiery souls you attract…or pick as your family! Finding the ideal garb could be the biggest challenge, since you hate anything cookie-cutter. Who can forget Aries Mariah Carey’s 27-foot train when she wed Tommy Mottola in 1993…or the $250K Valentino she burned on camera for the never-to-be nuptials with James Packer? Like your #OOTDs, the wedding of your dreams will be one for the ages, maximalist chic and utterly one-of-a-kind.


TAURUS: Old-Fashioned Opulence

Classic luxury is the M.O. for Taurus, the the zodiac’s unapologetic traditionalist. But basic is never boring when you get involved in the creative process. From the floral arrangements to the place settings, your wedding will be a first-class affair—heck, you’ve probably been scrapbooking for this moment since you spied your first copy of Town and Country. Visualize this: a century-old winery—and you, walking the aisle in a clean-lined dress that evokes Bull babe Audrey Hepburn’s “wedding” scene in Funny Face. You may keep the bridesmaid attire simple and neutral-toned, too. Not only will your GFFs thank you for not forcing them to drop a paycheck on some frilly frock, but years from now, you’ll look back at the photos and give yourself props for pulling off a timelessly elegant affair.

GEMINI: Not-So-Garden Variety

For mercurial Gemini, picking a single theme might be an impossible task. Opt for a fairy-tale fusion of the many things you j’adore—from Latin dancing to Art Deco to film noir. Somehow, you will weave them into a hybrid! Kick aside the rules of convention: White dresses are so not de rigueur at a Gemini wedding. Even if you don’t veer off spectrum, your gown could be a layered homage of creamy lace and fringe a la sartorial signmate Stevie Nicks. (Rock on, Gold Dust Wedding!) At the reception, you might just grab the mic from the live mambo singer to read a feminist love stanza to your newly-minted spouse. The biggest challenge? Paring down the guest list. Trim the budget for décor and floral arrangements to so you can share your magic moment with the people who make your world go ’round.

CANCER: Cozy and Chic

Private Cancers are the ultimate “blushing brides,” which is why a small, intimate ceremony is your cup of Earl Grey. You want to be free to gush and get teary, and that might only be possible when you’re swaddled by your closest friends and family. (Cancer Princess Diana was memorably so nervous during her televised nuptials that she mixed up Charles’ full name while taking vows!) As the zodiac’s homebody and sentimentalist, you may marry at your parents’ countryside home or on the gorgeous grounds where your family vacationed during your childhood. Many Cancers are classically femme. Think: a blush bouquet and dress with ruffles and poufy sleeves, like Di’s. As for the ring that you’ll wear for eternity on that finger? In the unlikely case that you don’t score a family heirloom, opt for an antique sparkler engraved with a private sentiment that only you and your beloved really understand.

LEO: Regal Affair

Spotlight’s on you, Leo (and when is it not?) and even if you have epic jitters, you love being the center of attention for the day. Spare no expense on a dress designer and wedding photographer with a truly artistic eye. You’ll want those portraits blown up and framed ASAP! Your dream nuptials could be as grand as a royal wedding, with plenty of pre-ceremony fanfare—a fantasy that came true for lioness Meghan Markle-Windsor in 2018. Marrying in an actual castle might be your jam, but if practical considerations force you to bridal-ball on a budget, there is never a cap on your creativity. You may wed in the lobby of a vintage theater with crushed-velvet drapes and chandeliers overhead. Or, lean into your jungle royal pedigree and take the affair outdoors. This could go Cirque du Soleil with fire-spinners, aerial silk performers and a candle-lighting ceremony as you say your vows. And how about sparklers on that cake just to get in all the fire sign action that you can?


VIRGO: Rustic Charm

So, you made it through the dating game and found someone who ticks 95% of the boxes on your *very specific* list. Might as well get married to showcase your everlasting love and your event-planning superpowers! For emo moments, your modest sign needs privacy, like Virgo Beyoncé. Maybe you’ll trade vows with “family only,” then throw a major party. But feel free to release a stream of envy-inducing ‘grams as you go! Anyone who tries to put a ring on it better know your preferences, which might require the talents of a custom jeweler and the secret input from your BFFs. Style-wise, you’re a classic bride, opting for a sleek a chignon and column dress or a strapless beauty that shows off your curves. As an earth sign, a nature-based venue, like a botanical garden, winery or a beautiful park, can do no wrong. The reception will feature healthy fare—farm-to-table or even vegan.

LIBRA: Lavish Shindig

Your heart beats wildly for all the mushy stuff, Libra, and when you marry, you will be shouting your love from the rooftops. Like scale-sister Kim Kardashian-West, you may go for grand, opulent (and maybe televised) for your walk down the aisle. If you don’t have KKW’s estimated $30M for a wedding budget—or her haus-cred at Givenchy—you’ll still throw a luxe and elegant affair. As the zodiac’s arts-appreciator, you might wed at a gallery and amp up the elegance with a string quartet and a cake that looks like a MoMA installation. As the sign of the scales, you love playing with balance and can swing from “wildly femme” to “sexy androgynous.” Try a matte silk dress or white tuxedo with a plunging neckline. You may need multiple photographers (and videographers) to capture the event—and make sure to get a close-up of your ring, which has got to be a stunner. Words mean everything to you so take your time to pen the perfect, poetic vows.

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SCORPIO: Midnight Soiree

A beach wedding is a no-brainer for water sign Scorpio, and as a nocturnal creature, a night wedding would be epic. After saying “I do” on a starlit shore, you’ll dance to a carefully chosen DJ until well past the witching hour. As the zodiac’s mystic, you might use crystals in your décor and hire a tarot card reader for guests. Vixen vibes inform your wedding garb, which should be sexy, yet simple and understated. (You’re already counting down the minutes until the honeymoon when you can peel that sucker off!) Don’t get hung up on white; a noir palette might be more your thing. Ultra-private Scorpios may prefer to elope or exchange vows with only bae, your witness and the officiant present. (You don’t need any toxic relatives showing up and spoiling the magic!) What matters most is that your special day commemorates a merging of souls. Like Scorpio Julia Roberts, if you’re going to tie the knot, you won’t settle for less than a twin flame!

SAGITTARIUS: Bohemian Rhapsody


Independent Archers are more likely to dream of bachelorette living than fantasize about being a bride. But when you fall, you go hard. Your romantic history may include at least one trip to a Vegas chapel, a la drunk-in-love Sagittarius Britney Spears. In some ways, a shotgun wedding suits your impulsive (and impatient!) sign. But when you hitch your wagon to the right co-star, you want to celebrate with your vast network of friends. As the zodiac’s traveler, a destination wedding would be your jam, maybe somewhere boho-chic like Bali…or Burning Man! Since you’re more of a visionary than a project manager, enlist a wedding planner and a really organized M.O.H. to ensure that all your innovative ideas come to fruition. (The drag-king MC! A Mariachi band!) No-fuss Archers could marry barefoot in a breezy dress—maybe one with a daringly high hemline. Even if you throw a fancy shindig, keep ceremony short and the party long. Be sure to serve an eclectic menu from your favorite regions of the globe!

CAPRICORN: A Family Affair

Black tie or semi-formal, a Capricorn wedding is sure to be a classy shindig. You’re unwaveringly traditional when it comes to ceremonies—whether your ritual-of-choice is a Mendhi hand tattoo, a pagan hand-fastening or a simple trading of rings. Like signmate Kate Middleton, you’ll be the picture of sophistication and elegance as you pose for the requisite portraits. The merging of “dynasties” is the real purpose of most Capricorn weddings, and you will ensure that relatives from both sides are well-included in the proceedings. From the vows to the speeches, aim for touching without veering into TMI terrain. (As if!) With the mythical sea goat as your spirit animal, your ideal venue could be a breathtaking mountain lodge or a seaside villa built into the cliffs. Couple that with the high-end architectural features you adore, and you’ll hit all the right notes for the sophisticated day of your dreams.

AQUARIUS: Friendly Get-Together

Weddings can present a paradox for quirky Water Bearers. While your communal sign thrills at any chance to party with your ever-extending friend group you’re not exactly a fan of gushing in public…or following traditions! Do what you do best and rock that Love Boat. How about an informal reception at an amusement park—or a planetarium? (Perfect for the zodiac’s cosmonaut.) Teamwork makes the Aquarius dream work so get your squad involved in the planning. Leave the music up to your bestie’s cover band and the décor in the hands of the crafting queen in your crew. (Hey, maybe these side gigs can be their wedding presents to you.) When choosing a dress, you’re likely to stray from sartorial traditions, walking the aisle (or bungee-jumping from above?) in a 60s-mod mini-or a deconstructed dress, like Aquarius Alicia Keys’ one-shouldered gown. Even your honeymoon could turn into a group travel adventure—an extended triple-date with other couples who want to get away!

PISCES: Wedding Wonderland


Okay, get the tissues ready. You’re the zodiac’s hopeless romantic and your love story is one that legends are made of. Before you’re halfway down the aisle, guests will be sobbing in heartfelt connection with your magic moment. Draw inspiration from Old Hollywood glamour—or choose a setting such as a museum filled with costumes and antiques. Guests can walk around for a dose of history and have plenty to discuss with whomever is seated at their tables. Or, how about getting married at a gorgeous aquarium as an homage to your ruler Neptune? Music is a Pisces obsession and you may personally curate a playlist for the ceremony—and maybe hop over to the DJ table and spin a short set during the reception. For dinnerware, flowers, and other décor, create a dreamy atmosphere with ocean hues like seafoam green, turquoise and lavender. (Just try not to go overboard on the Pinterest kitsch!) You might opt for a “mermaid style” dress—strapless, long, lacy and crystal embellished—like Pisces Carrie Underwood. And obviously, don’t forget the amazing shoes!

I Hosted Anthony Bourdain in Saudi Arabia. He Changed How We Were Seen by the World.

Travel Channel

We are from God and to Him we return. That’s what we say as Muslims when people die. It helps ease the pain of loss to realize this world is fleeting, and that feeling of loss is magnified today as the world mourns the death of Anthony Bourdain.

I met Tony in 2008 when he came to film an episode of No Reservations, his rollicking travel and culinary show, in my home country of Saudi Arabia. He was very different from his TV persona—still funny, but also sweet, kind and shy. I remember being told he was intimidated by me — I’m still not sure why — and when I asked him about it he looked down shyly and confirmed he was. This was not the cocky man portrayed on TV.

anthony bourdain no reservations saudi arabia
The Travel Channel

The episode he filmed was part of a Fan-atic competition that I won, and I invited him to come to Jeddah to show him around. His daughter, Ariane, was recently born and he was very reluctant to leave New York because he didn’t want to miss a single moment with her. He did decide to come in the end, and my family and friends greeted him with open arms.

Saudi Arabia did not have the best reputation at the time. The only news was about terrorism, or the fact that women couldn’t drive, or some other one-dimensional story that didn’t accurately represent the country. As a filmmaker myself, storytelling is very important to me and I was excited to be able to show Tony a more authentic view of my home.

I spent about a week with Tony showing him around Jeddah. We laughed a lot, and of course ate. He was always very open and warm. He shared experiences about his life, his travels, his addiction, his family. We even talked about our pets, while driving to locations or waiting to set up the cameras.

I think, despite all his travels, in some ways he was still surprised by things here. When my brother-in-law made a joke about one of the dishes being camel toe soup, Tony looked around not sure what to make of it until he saw me roll my eyes and everyone started laughing. He experienced everything with an open mind and an open heart and relayed it very beautifully in the episode.

People were hungry for real stories from Saudi Arabia, about real Saudis, and Tony finally gave us a voice.

I remember him telling me not to read the comments when the show aired; he felt people are cruel in general when commenting from behind the safety of a computer screen. But when the episode went live, the response was overwhelming positive. People from all over the world would recognize me because of my voice, my laugh, the way I used my hand to eat. I was approached frequently when traveling and thanked by people for showing a side of Saudi Arabia most don’t get to see. To this day, 10 years later, I’m still told by people I meet that the only good thing they see online about Saudi Arabia is the episode of No Reservations. I was informed that it was the highest viewed episode of any show on the Travel Channel at the time. People were hungry for real stories from Saudi Arabia, about real Saudis, and Tony finally gave us a voice.

Saudis aren’t the only people to whom Tony gave a platform. Throughout his 142 episodes of No Reservations, and 89 episodes of Parts Unknown, Tony approached storytelling with boundless empathy and an appreciation for humanity that is rare in our increasingly divided world. People from different countries and backgrounds—some of whom have been fundamentally at odds for centuries—shared a mutual respect for his honest portrayals of the cultures they loved. He was able to toggle between reverence and irreverence in a single sentence; he was an expert at identifying what was important, and what was not. He knew food was about telling a story, and he let the food, and the people who made it, speak for themselves.

I’m blessed to have had the time I did with Tony. And I’m more thankful to him than he will ever know for sharing our story with the world.

Danya Alhamrani is a Saudi-American filmmaker and a managing partner of Eggdancer Productions, an independent television production company based in Jeddah. Her recent work includes Ramadan Online, a collection of videos of people from all over the world discussing what Ramadan means to them. You can watch her No Reservations episode below.

WATERFORD — Police said a mother and child were struck by a car Monday

WATERFORD — Police said a mother and child were struck by a car Monday afternoon. Waterford police said the two victims were sent to the hospital were they are being treated for serious injuries. The accident took place on Greentree Drive and the road is closed at this time. Police said one man is in custody.…

via Mother, child struck by car in Waterford; 1 person in custody — FOX 61

What is Vodafone Analytics?

Vodafone Analytics helps organisations make better decisions by providing valuable insights into movement and usage patterns.

It isn’t about individuals – it’s about overall patterns, rather than any one person. Vodafone Analytics doesn’t identify you, or give anyone information which would enable them to contact you.

An example would be a local authority trying to work out the best way to expand the transport network. Being able to reliably understand how this network is used will enable the authority to make a better-informed decision.

Or, if you wanted to open a shop, we could combine demographic summaries with movement patterns to help you decide which end of town has the passing trade you want.

What are we doing?

We collect data from our network and our customer base to produce reports for third parties. This helps them make better decisions. Vodafone Analytics uses two categories of data.

  • Anonymised aggregated location information – this helps us and third-party partners to understand movement patterns along transport routes and in areas where people congregate.

    As phones move around our network and connect to different transmitters, we’re able to measure their journeys between places – for example, the number of phones that travelled between Newport and Cardiff on the M4.

  • Anonymised demographic data – such as age range, gender and handset type.

The data is only used in anonymised and aggregated form – the Vodafone Analytics team can’t tell who you are from it.

‘Anonymised’ means that we don’t use data that allows you to be located or contacted, and ‘aggregated’ means that our reports don’t contain information about individuals, even in anonymised form.

For example, someone might want to know how many people walking past their shop used Android devices. We wouldn’t tell them who used an Android device, but we could say that 50% of passers-by were using them, of which 70% were male.

We’re sometimes asked to help on projects that need more information, such as browsing behaviour or data in non-aggregated form. In this case we, or our third-party partners, will ask your permission first, often in exchange for a discount offer or other benefit.

Sample analysis of movement patterns across the transport network in South Wales, and a commuter heat map in London.

South Wales – traffic flow

South Wales – traffic flow

Vodafone HQ - Visitor usage of the coffee shop

London – commuter heat map

Who uses Vodafone Analytics?

Vodafone Analytics helps organisations make better decisions. Here are some examples of how it’s used.

  • Planning large infrastructure projects – Vodafone Analytics reports can be used in the planning of highway and public transport networks by enabling the movement patterns of phones across wide areas to be understood.
  • Effective roadworks planning – a local council has made a decision on the basis of someone, possibly with a clipboard, counting cars or cyclists. This could mean that roadworks take place at busy times or cycle lanes get added on one road but not another. Vodafone Analytics reports can simplify this process by giving them more accurate traffic flows helping them to plan roadworks more effectively.
  • Getting around London faster – we’re working with a partner to improve and balance the flow of traffic in London by analysing movement on the different types of transport.
  • Delivering better shopping experiences – our data helps a partner to boost the experience in major shopping centres and city centres.
  • Helping businesses to be greener – we’re developing a product to manage commercial properties and make better use of the working environment. This means operational and energy costs are reduced by only powering areas that are in use.

Is my personal information safe?

All customer data is subject to best practice security standards to keep it anonymous and secure.

When we work with third parties, they’re contractually bound to use the same strict security standards. We’ll also check to make sure they meet the security requirements we’ve set.

Can I opt out of Vodafone Analytics?

You can’t be contacted or identified through Vodafone Analytics. It’s your choice whether you’re included.

  • You can opt out at any time by texting OPT OUT to 68808 from your Vodafone device. This will remove you from future Vodafone Analytics activity and analysis
  • To re-join Vodafone Analytics, text OPT IN to 68808 from your Vodafone device

If you have more than one SIM, you’ll need to send the relevant text from each of your Vodafone devices.

All texts are free of charge when you text from the UK.