Blog Archives

Adult Education Course Update

My Introduction to Macintosh and Social Networking for Professionals classes start next week, and I have a few updates for you.

  1. The final day to sign up has passed, but if you really want in, we still have a few slots open. Don’t contact me or the school to register at this point! Talk to the Adult Ed coordinator, Kandy Aleksich, directly. She can be reached at 406/446-1676 or 406/425-0855.
  2. Both classes will now be held in the computer lab at the middle school, not the high school.
  3. The Intro to Macintosh class will be Thursday nights from March 8 through April 12.
  4. The Social Networking class will be Monday nights from March 5 through April 16, with no class on April 9.
  5. At the first class, I’ll give out instructions for getting my class notes online.
  6. If you are signed up for my Social Networking class and you are already on any of the more popular social networks, please send me a friend request on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, and/or make me a contact on LinkedIn. If you aren’t using any of them now, don’t worry about it. That’s what the class is for. We’ll get you signed up.
  7. You do not need to bring your own computer to the class — there are plenty in the lab.

See you next week!

Social Networking Adult Ed Class

I will be teaching an adult education class called Social Networking for Professionals and Business Owners in the Red Lodge High School computer lab starting later this month. It will be on Monday nights from 7:00 to 9:00, beginning March 5 and running through April 9 — a total of six sessions.

This is not a class for teenagers! Attendees will learn about social networking for professionals and business owners, covering today’s three biggest networks: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Subjects will include building profiles, advertising, building business pages, customizing the look of your pages, and more.

WEEK 1: Social Networking — not just for wasting time

Social networking websites are a great place to waste time, post pictures of your cat, share what you had for dinner, and keep track of what your kids are up to. But they serve a much more important function for professionals and business owners. Using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn, you can market yourself and your business, find jobs, promote events, and do business online. In the first session, we’ll go over the most-used networks, explore how they differ, and set up a profile on Facebook using the new Timeline format, complete with photos and events.

WEEK 2: Facebook — the 500 pound gorilla

This session will center around Facebook for businesses. We will set up a business page, examine the difference between “friends,” “likes,” and “subscriptions,” and build an online presence. You will learn how to set up administrators for pages, adjust privacy settings, upload photos and videos, and tag images. We will then look at metrics and analysis tools and set up a Facebook advertising campaign from scratch: building an ad, setting a budget, fine-tuning the target audience, and evaluating results. We’ll have a couple of real-life case studies, including a look at how I used Facebook for all of my interviews for a magazine article.

WEEK 3: Twitter — short, sweet, and powerful

Twitter is amazingly powerful, yet surprisingly easy to use. In the third session, we will set up a Twitter account, build the profile, customize its look, find people to follow, and look at the structure of a tweet. You will learn to use hashtags, send direct messages, retweet, respond, and include links and photos. Once all of the basics are covered, we’ll move into more advanced subjects like setting up TweetDeck and managing Twitter campaigns.

WEEK 4: LinkedIn — serious networking for professionals

Facebook and Twitter are great places to publicize your business, but what about promoting yourself as a professional? LinkedIn is all business: no photos of the family or discussion of last night’s party. When you are looking for work, establishing new business connections, or negotiating a deal, professionals will look for your profile on LinkedIn. In this session, we will set up a LinkedIn profile, looking at all of the different components. We’ll then examine how “connections” on LinkedIn differ from “friends” on Facebook or “followers” on Twitter.

WEEK 5: Using social media to promote events

Whether it’s an open house, a big sale, a concert, or a grand opening, you need to get the word out to people about your event. In this session, we’ll create an event on Facebook and look at the different ways to promote it. We will also build a calendar on Google, load it with some events, and share it through social networking.

WEEK 6: Tying it all together

The course will wrap up with a look at how to make social networking effective and efficient across the board. We’ll look at ways to make your presence consistent online, how to post to multiple networks simultaneously, and talk about some of the other social networks that you might want to use, like Google+, WordPress, Constant Contact, and MySpace.


I like to keep my classes very informal, very hands-on, and highly customized. Feel free to bring in real-life examples of social networking questions and problems and I’ll do my best to help you solve them. To sign up for classes, contact Red Lodge High School at 406/446-1903. The cost is a paltry $15.00 for the entire six-week program. See you there!

Facebook: A tool for journalists?

Facebook logoAsk anyone what Facebook is, and they’re likely to give the same short, sweet answer: it’s a social networking site. Indeed, that’s its primary use for me these days (once I have all of the games filtered out and ignore the politics and religion), but that’s not its only use.

As an example, I’m working on an article about closed captioning for the Journal of Court Reporting. I needed some interviews for the article, so I sat down to compile a list of people to talk to. I had my email program open on one of my screens, and Facebook open on the other, and it got me thinking. I’ve been fairly diligent about sorting my friends into lists, and I just happen to have a list for friends who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or work with deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

I went through the list, saying “oh, I need to talk to her” and “I wonder what he’d say about this issue.” I fired off a quick private message to each of the people I wanted to talk to, and started scheduling interview times. In the past, I’ve done a lot of telephone interviews, and a lot of email interviews. I have also done interviews using a variety of chat systems, ranging from CompuServe and IRC online to TDDs (telecommunication devices for the deaf) online, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve done online chat interviews.

Just for kicks, I decided to see how much of the communication for this article I can do using Facebook, just to see how it works out. Obviously, this limited my base of potential interviewees to people I know (or can find) on Facebook. It also slows things down a bit, as typed conversations are slower than oral ones. Here are a few comments, observations, and tips on the process:

  1. Having a verbatim transcript of the interview is handy. During phone interviews, I’m often scrambling to take notes as we talk, and doing it on Facebook chat means I can just cut and paste quotes into the article (however, see #4 below).
  2. The process is much more interactive than an email interview, allowing each question to be tailored based on previous responses. Trying to replicate this in email could stretch the process out for days.
  3. Being able to insert links in the chat is a big help if you want to show the interviewee something and get comments on it.
  4. Using chat introduces an interesting journalistic dilemma. Even careful writers have a tendency to use chat abbreviations (e.g., BTW, OTOH, IIRC) and not worry much about punctuation. When quoting them in the article, should you leave their text as-is, or write it out and re-punctuate it as you would for a phone interview? Hmmm. I think I’ll ask that question on a couple of message boards — or maybe bounce it around on Facebook. I’ll follow up here later.
  5. This could work just as well on Google+, except for the paucity of people on G+ compared to Facebook.
  6. This would be an annoying process on Twitter, worrying all the time about hitting that maximum character count. Some of the Facebook responses were quite long.
  7. The partially-synchronous nature of chat leads to some interesting responses. Often, both of you are typing at the same time (Facebook tries to tell you when the other person’s typing, but that is often flaky). Several times, I typed questions as the interviewees were typing comments that answered my questions. Reading the transcript, it looks like they answered my questions before I asked them!
  8. Sometimes it’s hard to hang back and wait for the other person to finish their thoughts before asking something else, but it pays off if you do!

So, is Facebook a social networking site? Certainly it is. But it’s a lot more these days, too.

Once the article appears in print, I’ll put a copy of it online so you can judge how well the process worked out.

UPDATE: Here it is.

Mexican spam. And I’m not talking about food!

We had a lovely trip to Mexico last year (see my obligatory “sunset and palm tree in La Paz picture” at right). Since I’m not much of a “lay around in the sun” kind of guy, when Kathy parked in the sun I signed up for the hotel’s Internet access and parked in the shade with my iPad.

Short term, that was a good idea. Facebook is a lot cheaper way to keep in touch with the kids than international cellphone calls, and it let me read my favorite blogs while enjoying the scenery (and even an e-book or two). Long term, that didn’t work out quite so well.

Before I even got home, the influx of spam began. Yeah, I goofed. I used my real email address when I signed up for the hotel’s Internet access, instead of creating a throwaway email address. A year later, I’m still getting spam emails in Spanish. Often, I can’t even tell what they’re trying to sell me. They don’t include an “I don’t speak Spanish; don’t ever email me again” button. If they did, I wouldn’t trust it.

How do you avoid making my mistake?

Create a special email address just for the spammers. If you have your own domain, it’s easy. If not, use Google or Yahoo or any of the 14 zillion other free email services out there. Make it easy to remember (e.g., and use it any time you sign up for anything that requires an email address. Immediately before using it, delete the entire inbox, then go through their signup and confirmation process. Afterward, go back to ignoring the email address.

I shall now attempt to forget the mental picture that the title of this post created: spam tacos. Although, with some lime and cilantro, they might not be that bad…

Just for kicks, here are the last three Mexican spams I received:


I’m guessing this is for a seminar that will make me taller. I’m tall enough already, so I’ll skip it.

Daca esti in cautarea unei metode de invatare a limbii engleze in mod rapid, usor si eficient, acest site este solutia potrivita pentru cerintele tale.
Poti invata limba engleza folosind cursurile noastre complete si usor de inteles pentru toate varstele.

Invata sa vorbesti, sa scrii si sa citesti in limba engleza in doar 20 de zile, 50 minute pe zi.

If I’m reading this right, they want to teach me to speak English. Hmmm. Buy a list of people who filled out a form IN ENGLISH on a tourist hotel’s website and send them spam offering to teach them to speak English. These are some clever spammers!

¡Esta es la oportunidad que estabas esperando!

Really? It is? Then how come I don’t see a “shut up and leave me the hell alone” button? That’s the opportunity I’m really waiting for.

11 MORE book signing tips for authors

11 More signing tips for authors

It seems like I’ve been writing a lot about book signings lately, most likely because my mini-book tour has made me think about events more. While on the road, I’ve been jotting down more ideas that aren’t in my 14 book signing tips for authors, and I’ve already done one blog post from the road about making a classic mistake at an event.

Rather than go back and add a bunch of material to the old post, I decided to do another tip post, and add some material I’ve gleaned from some other good blogs. Sandra Beckwith, for example, wrote a great set of book signing tips on the “Selling Books” blog (I love the post title, “Read this if you’re not Sarah Palin“).

  1. Hand people your book. This is an old bookseller’s technique. If people are holding a copy of the book in their hands, they are much more likely to buy it.
  2. Develop a “look.” You want to be memorable. This doesn’t mean you should wear something silly, but you need to look unique. If you wrote a cookbook, wear an apron. If you wrote a children’s book, make a T-shirt with the book’s logo. Make your own nametag. If you write mysteries set in Hawaii, wear an Aloha shirt. Don’t look like every other author out there.

    The t-shirt looks like the book cover.

  3. Don’t just sign; personalize. When I’m signing the store’s stock after the event (tip #14 from my previous list), I just write my name. But when I’m signing a book for someone, I write their name and some appropriate saying. Who Pooped signatureWith my Who Pooped in the Park? books, for example, I usually write “Watch where you step.”
    Do remember, however, that once you develop a characteristic autograph, people will come to expect it. I remember talking to Tippi Hedren (the actress from The Birds) at one of her book signings. She drew three little birds above her name, and told me that people actually complained if their book had no birds, or had only two of them.
  4. Bring a pen that dries quickly. Especially if your book is printed on glossy paper, you don’t want to close the cover and have the signature smear or transfer to the previous page. If the paper is thinner, make sure your pen doesn’t bleed through.
  5. Don’t limit yourself to only bookstores. I’m a huge advocate of bookstores (after all, I own one), but sometimes gift shops, fairs, and other venues can actually work better. My two best signings (in terms of books sold) were at a trade association’s annual conference, and in the lobby of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone Park.
  6. Use props. I’ve had cookbook authors at my store bring along cookies or other treats. When signing Who Pooped in the Park? books, I often bring along sample of animal scat cast in Lucite blocks. Anything you have that grabs attention is good.
  7. Make your own sign. Some stores provide really nice signs, but that’s rare. If you can’t talk your publisher into making one, then do it yourself. If you don’t have strong graphic design skills, get a designer to help you. Most stores will have some kind of easel or stand, but you might want to carry your own fold-up easel if you can.

    Sign for book events

    The sign makes it pretty obvious what’s going on at my table.

  8. Bring giveaways and promote them. I still have a couple of boxes of my first book, which is old, out-of-print, and not so useful (a 15-year-old Internet book). I took five of them along to a Closed Captioning Handbook book signing at a trade show. I sent a Tweet with the event’s Twitter hash tag that said, “the first person to mention this Tweet to me gets a free book.” I did the same thing on Facebook. It was interesting to see how many professional people were sitting in business meetings and educational sessions checking their Twitter feeds!
    You can also use drawings as a way to collect names. Have people drop their names or business cards in a fishbowl or basket, and then draw one every hour and give away something.
  9. Make sure your business cards have the book title on them. I actually have different cards depending on whether the event focuses on my technical books or my children’s books. The cards have the book cover right on them.
    Also make sure you get an easy-to-remember username on Facebook and Twitter (e.g., “” or ““), and print that on the cards.
  10. Take a camera. If you have a friend or family member along, have them take pictures. If not, ask someone at the store to do it for you. Then use the pictures on your blog, Facebook page, website, and newsletter. If someone else takes a good picture of you, give them a card and ask them to email it to you or post it on one of your social networking sites.
  11. NEVER complain or blame the store if you don’t have good sales. Smile about it. Make a joke. Tell them you’ve done worse. Offer to try again sometime. But nobody likes a complainer. If you gripe about it, you’re not likely to get invited back.


book signing book banner

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