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Scrapbooking Made Easy

Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
October 25, 2010 Deadline
December 2010 Issue

Scrapbooking Made Easy

Scrapbooking is a serious hobby for some people. Two of my cousins create beautiful works of art using special acid-free art papers, rubber stamps, decals and photos. Scrapbooking is an art form in the hands of serious “scrappers.”

Then, there are people like me. I can’t cut a decent trim using Fiskar scissors and don’t even allow me near glue. I’m more likely to glue the photos to myself than the pages. Yet, there is hope for those of us with scrapbook impairments.

Digital scrapping, also known as DigiScrappin or digiscrap, enables us to use computer software to create virtual scrapbooks that can also be printed.

There are several specialized software packages available for scrapbooking. These applications sell for less than $40. Broderbund and Nova also sell special editions of their scrapbooking applications for weddings. The wedding editions include clipart and fonts appropriate to …

Online Communities Temporary at Best

The word "community" is overused in academic fields, but it is the best word for what it on my mind today. I closed a Web server this week on which I had created a Drupal and MediaWiki site on special education. The site was functional for about two years, which is an eternity online. The reality is that online communities come and go so rapidly that what was popular a year or two ago is often "inactive" now. There are dozens of Yahoo groups that are dedicated to special education. Most of these were active five years ago, but have since fallen out of favor with users. Just as the Usenet groups and most "listservs" have faded away in the last five years, so have many online forums. The Internet has accelerated the speed with which a community grows, propers, and then declines. The timeline of the Internet is punctuated by technologies and business ideas that were "hot" for a moment. When is the last time you used IRC or read a newsgroup? Remembe…

Dramatica vs. Contour vs. 'Me'

I am a believer in outlining and planning before, during, and after the drafting process for most long forms of creative writing. Generally, I'm always searching for a way to better organize my thoughts. As a writer, this means I experiment with various outlining and "story plotting" tools.

Two popular story plotting applications are Dramatica (B000H774K0) and Contour (B002ABL3IK). In addition to my thoughts on these tools, you can read reviews on Amazon and various writing-focused forums.

Bluntly, Dramatica Pro 4.1 is too precise and Contour 1.2 is not precise enough.

Contour guides you through a serious of basic questions based on a single "Blockbuster" template for screenplays and novels. There is one, and only one, Contour story structure. You can create a basic story outline in a few hours, assuming you follow the model.

Contour could be great. It looks a lot better than Dramatica, but the beauty is only skin deep.

The Contour application does nothing m…

Building a Business via Social Networks

Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
October 4, 2010 Deadline
November 2010 Issue

Building a Business via Social Networks

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a myriad of social networking Internet technologies are reshaping how businesses develop and maintain customer relationships. Just as a Web presence became a standard marketing tool by the late 1990s, a “social network” identity is becoming an essential part of brand development.

Writers, musicians and actors have to be good at self-promotion. Celebrity Twitter feeds are read by millions of loyal fans. Many celebrities also maintain blogs and public accounts on Facebook or MySpace. We can learn from the examples of celebrities, both what to do and what not to do with the power of social networking.

One local mystery writer has turned social networking into an effective promotional tool. Marilyn Meredith, a Springville resident, writes a blog entry almost daily. These entries are on both the business and craft of writing. To see how this Val…