How to Make Author Events Effective

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When starting out, many authors wonder how they should promote their books, and many are disappointed when they hold a book signing and no one shows up. An author might sign books at a bookstore in his or her hometown and have a dozen or so friends and family come, but then the second book signing in a neighboring town might be a flop with only one or two books sold at the most. For a long time, book marketing experts have said that a bookstore is the worst place to sell a book. I don’t think that’s true-over time, authors sell the majority of their books in bookstores-but a book signing in a bookstore usually is a colossal failure for most authors.

What makes an author event effective? Participation by the author in terms of spreading word about the event is a large factor. You can’t rely on the bookstore or organization to promote your event. You still may not get a crowd of people if you do, but the more effort you put into advertising the event yourself, the more likely you will attract a crowd. Here are just a few ways you can help to promote your event:

  • Send out invitations via Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Media.
  • Send out an email invitation to your email list-remember not everyone is on Facebook, and not all your Facebook friends are on your email list so cover your bases both ways (and don’t discriminate and fail to invite friends in other states or across the country-they may not come, but they may cheer you on from afar and the positive energy helps a lot-it’s also a reminder to them to order your book.)
  • Send out postcards to people on your snail mail list-especially your older readers who may not be on Facebook or even have email.
  • Post the scheduled event on a prominent place on your website.
  • Make up posters and distribute them around the area-grocery stores, libraries, restaurants, anywhere there’s a bulletin board or a door where you can tape something-always ask the manager’s permission before doing so (and invite him or her and the staff to the event while you’re at it). Be sure to give some posters to the event planner, bookstore owner, etc. to distribute.
  • Send out an event listing, or even a press release, to local media-many television stations and newspapers have community events calendars. And you never know when the newspaper might write up the event, or the TV station might come to cover it.

Promoting your event yourself can be a lot of work, but it gives you a better chance of having an audience and selling your book than if you don’t promote it. Making posters might especially seem like a waste of time and money, especially if you can’t place them all, so I recommend making up a generic poster for all your events and then leaving a place where you can list the time, place, and location details for each specific event. Then you can later print up stickers or just handwrite that information on the posters so you always have posters available and don’t end up throwing any away.

Making an event effective also has to do with how you “sell” it to your prospective audience. Saying “John Smith will sign his new book on X day at X place” may not excite too many people, especially if they can always get the book at that place any other day of the week and don’t care if it’s signed. But spicing up the event can help a lot. Here are a few additional ways to give that bonus reason for why people should attend your author event:

  • Invite fellow authors to attend. They are not your competition. They are your greatest resource. If you get other authors to do the event with you, they can help you to promote it, and their fan base will show up and discover your book as well. People are also more likely to show up for six authors than one author. You might have to spend a little more time coordinating the event with everyone, but it also extends your chance of making the event a success, and if no one does show up, at least you’ll have other people to talk with, and network with-slow author events are often where you can get some of your best ideas for marketing your book just by talking to the other participants.
  • Have a contest or giveaway. Have a drawing-sell tickets, or give away a ticket for everyone who buys a book-you can give away free books, or it can even be non-book related items. You might even want to find a sponsor, someone who will donate an attractive or desirable item as a prize for the event-a great way to advertise for the sponsor. Don’t be afraid to get creative. I know of one author who held a contest for the chance to be named as a character in the author’s next book.
  • Entertain your audience. People may not be willing to show up just so they can buy a book, but they may show up if you are going to give a talk on a topic that interests them. If you have five or six authors, make up a schedule and each of you can give a twenty minute talk during the event. If you know anyone musical, it doesn’t hurt to have someone sing during the event or play an instrument. You can also show a short film or your book video. People want to be entertained, and they like free entertainment. Entertain them and they’ll be more likely to buy your book. And even if you don’t sell books, you planted a seed, so they might later buy the book as a Christmas gift for someone else.

No matter how hard you work, some events are going to end up being failures. But even if an event is a flop, if you are invited back to participate in the event the next year, give it a second try, and analyze what you could have done better to promote the event so you have a better chance the second time. If it still flops, then perhaps you might reconsider not participating in the future-especially if you are busy or could spend that time writing or doing something more fruitful-but if you have the time and want to keep going, the worst that can happen is you spend your time, and you never know who might show up the third time around.

Eventually, you might end up deciding not to attend certain events any longer, but also remember that sometimes it just takes the one right person showing up to make the event worthwhile. For example, I know an author who held a book signing and only one person showed up for it, but that person was the right person. She was the head of the library book club, and she liked the author and his book so much that she got the book club to read the book. The author spent two hours at the book signing and only sold one book, but it resulted in the other sixteen members of that book club buying his book a couple of months later. Not only that, but the book club invited him to their book club meeting, which included a free dinner and they paid him to come and talk. I’d say those are pretty good results from a book signing where only one person showed up.

Author events can be a success if authors are willing to make the effort and be a little creative to bring in the crowd. Don’t just show up for an event. Create the event, own the event, be the event. Then your author event can be a success.

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How To Care For Your Mudcloth

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The African mud cloth is an intriguing piece of artwork that has been made for centuries. Originally from the nation of Mali, the cotton-based fabric is a cultural treasure, and the unique designs that adorn it are handmade by African artisans.

Once the cotton strips are sewn together on a loom, they are then stitched together by a professional tailor, so that the cloth becomes large enough to suit various functions, such as for curtains, furniture covers, or clothing.

The delicate process of making and painting a mudcloth involves many coats of using fermented mud which was gathered from local African rivers. The artists use this mud to create the darker portions of their designs, and then use a caustic solution to bleach the areas that are not covered with mud.

Thus, whenever you find yourself with a mudcloth, whether you bought it, are borrowing it, or are just caring for it, you need to keep in mind that it is fundamentally made of cotton– which is a perishable material– and mud, which can be washed off significantly if the cleaning process is too harsh. This is a fabric that needs extra special attention and care to last long. And, if you’re an interior designer, you might be interested in a long-lasting African mud cloth from Acaciawood.

So, the first step in caring for the mud cloth is pre-washing it. This is a simple step used to prepare the cloth for the various crafts or sewing that you might use it for. This pre-washing will remove any excess dirt or dye that still might be in the material. After this stage, the fabric will become softer and smoother to the touch.

Before doing the pre-wash, or any kind of washing of the mudcloth, it is best to test a small piece of any part of the fabric to make sure the cleaning agent and/or detergent works properly. If you have never cleaned a mudcloth before with a certain kind of detergent, it is best to test it. But, once you know that a detergent works well, you can use it on future mudcloths.

Most detergents will work well, but it is best to take the extra precaution. Avoid using the harsher kinds of detergents and soaps as you can never be quite sure of the chemical reaction that might take place with the dyes of the fabric and the cleaning agent.

The precise method of cleaning can be by machine washing, or by hand washing. If you decide that you will clean your mudcloth in a washing machine, the best thing for you to do is place the fabric in a lingerie bag and wash it in cold water. You also want to use a gentle cycle with not too much agitation, and a mild detergent without extra chemicals (as mentioned above). Avoid the warm water and harsher cycles on your machine as this may cause extra wear on the fabric and cause the colors to fade.

Also note that in the washing the water may turn a dark color initially due to the presence of the mud dyes. This is normal, but your washing machine may require an extra rinse before you wash other clothes. To dry, hang it up in the sun, or lay it out flat to dry. The mudcloth can be ironed with a steam-iron if you so desire, although keep in mind that too much steam will wear out the fabric in the long-term. Use the “cotton” setting on the iron or a cooler setting.

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Ancient Philosophy On The Internet Can Change How We Think

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Here I am again sitting at my computer, my job is to write about the positive aspects of the Internet. I’d like to think of myself as a bit of a novice philosopher as well as writer. The other day in poetry class at university my lecturer mentioned a quote from a guy who I had already read and enjoyed, Baruch/Benedictus Spinoza. The quote mentioned was quite a simple one, and in my opinion simplicity is the best form of communication (and everything else for that matter). Spinoza once said, “Reality is perfection.” I feel this idea is quite a powerful one indeed, in relation to all aspects of life, including the Internet.

Where do you go these days when you want to find out about anything? Church? School? Parents? No, you go to the Internet. The Internet is the collective pool of unconscious, sub consciousness, and conscious ideas, beliefs, knowledge and wisdom of humanity from the past to the present. There has never been such a tool available for us. Of course there is a perfectly imperfect amount of crap out there to sift through as well, but that is intrinsic in this perfectly balanced reality that has always existed.

So, if reality has always been perfect, why is the existence of the Internet anything special? The truth is, it is only as special as anything else in life. Now, you have to ask yourself, “Is life special?” I think you know the answer to that one…then again there’s that perfect paradoxical balance. Why the Internet then? Well, my younger brother once said, and I don’t know where he pulled this little tidbit of wisdom, “The only constant in the Universe is that everything is in constant transition.” The Internet exists because of a natural progression in human thinking; it’s an evolution of our collective minds. It is a constructed idea formed through the process of eternal change.

Human beings have a huge history spanning at least half a million years. As well as the magic feeling of love there has always been the balancing emotion of fear. It seems that over time societies go through different stages where one of these feelings dominates and then permeates general actions by the community. At the moment many people would find it hard to disagree with the fact that we are in a period of fear. With war, hatred and segregation prevalent in reality as well as the ‘reality’ presented by the   media  news and  TV /film, fear is reigning supreme in many of our daily interactions.

This relates to the use of the Internet because it looks as though people are afraid to get on the Web. I used to be afraid for Pete’s sake! To tell you the truth I still have some irrational fears when it comes to researching a paper for school. I often think, “Will I find the ‘right’ information?” The answer of course is that there is always a possibility of things going wrong, that’s this perfection of reality. Life would be stale, stagnant and sterile otherwise. The key lies in our belief in this perfection. The Internet has eliminated the need to go to libraries and carry around huge books just to read small sections of each. There is also less need to get to a science library and then sociology, mathematics etc. So much information is now available to people in our own homes.

Whether you are researching seventeenth century philosophers’ ways of thinking for personal or professional reasons, or even just looking up information on how to make your own chai tea, or on how to change the oil on your car; the Internet is a source for so many areas of interest it is simply mind boggling. It is truly the most perfect form of reality’s perfection in modern contemporary society. That’s why they call this the Information age right? The only problem has to deal with the perfectly imperfect amount of pornography that constitutes more than half of all websites on the Web. What does this say about our current moral disposition in our changing perception’s construct of reality? I’ll leave you with that one to ponder…

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6 Characteristics of the Lion to Consider For Your Own Leadership

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As a leader, there are certain qualities and characteristics of lions that you might find useful to consider – for yourself and your “pride.” Let us just take a few minutes to explore these and as with all metaphors, we aren’t going to beat this one to death.

1. Protective

You don’t have to watch very many Discovery Channel shows about lions to see how very protective they are – of territory, themselves, their young, and so forth. As far as being more lion-like, what do you need to be protective of? Protective of yourself? Your money? Your children? Your partner? Your spouse? Your business? Your colleagues? Your position? Your beliefs? So, exactly what do you need to be protective of?

2. Brave

Being lion-like means you are brave and courageous. Naturally, you choose when and where to be brave vs. timid, courageous vs. cowardly. We all make choices every day. Look for opportunities today and every day where you can be brave. It does make a difference, both for you and for others.

3. Willing to fight

Hmm…we know that lions will fight when need be. They don’t pick fights but because they are willing to protect their food, their mates, their territory and so forth, they will fight if necessary. What is the one thing you are willing to fight for?

Many readers are parents and my guess is that many parents would be willing to fight for their children. Or maybe you are a professor who is willing to fight when you see other faculty members being bullied. Maybe you are a teacher who is fighting for particular students who need your “protection.”

What is it for you? Really. What are you willing to fight for? The one thing?

4. Hunters

LOTS of people are concerned right now about financial issues. Someone wrote to me recently that she had overheard middle school girls in the bathroom at a movie talking about how they needed to come up some ways to earn money because after the legislature was over, their parents weren’t going to be able to give them money for the movies any longer. You might be one of the people who is “hunting” for money. You might be hunting for it for your own personal situation or you are hunting money for projects at work or for community needs and the like.

But what else do us lion-like folks hunt for? You might describe it thus:

  • Bravery to find what really makes me happy
  • Bravery to ignore what others feel is successful and find my own success
  • Bravery to dare to make dramatic changes in the path of my career that will also change my personal life…and vice versa

What are you hunting? And just like a lion on the Savannah, you may or may not find it, but you hunt regardless.

5. Group members (part of a pride)

6. Loners in the big scheme of things

The last two – being part of a group (i.e., a pride) and also being somewhat loners in the big scheme of things – let’s think about these together.

As a person who is seeking ways of staying positive, no matter how crazy things are around us, we need both to see ourselves as being part of a pride – a team – a family – a group – an association – a community – or whatever you might call it. We have to deliberately assemble our group – small or large – that will assist us in our – if I can use this word – survival. Lions aren’t part of prides for no reason. There’s a reason. You need a “pride” of your own if you are to “survive” in your positive place.

And, here’s the other part (at least as my little brain considers this), we are also loners in the bigger scheme of things. What I mean by that is, just as lions are not hanging out with all the other animals but rather hang out – sometimes completely alone – but certainly mostly just with a few other lions, we also may need to separate ourselves sometimes.

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The Media: Are Films Better Than The Mainstream Media When It Comes To Conditioning People?

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For quite some time now, there has been one source that people look towards to be informed and another when they want to be entertained. This is not to say that someone thinks about one of these sources when they want to be informed/entertained, as it is likely to be something that just happens.

Over The Years

There is the chance that one has been exposed to these sources from a very young age, and this is why they want need to consciously think about them. Instead, they can simply look into what is taking place in the world, or see what films are out, for instance.

If, on the other hand, they needed to think about how they can find out what is taking place or how they can amuse themselves, they would need to use more energy. Once one of these needs arises, they can soon come into contact with what they desire.

One Experience

This could mean that one spends about as much time learning about what is taking place in the world as they do being distracted from it. In this case, one could have a reasonable understanding when it comes to what is going on, and when it comes to films, they might be fairly up to date.

One way of looking at this would be to say that they have a fairly balanced approach to it all. Therefore, if someone was to talk about something that has just taken place or a film that has just come out, they might be able to have a conversation with them.

Another Way

Alternatively, one could be in a position where they have the tendency to focus more on what is going on around them. They might watch films from time to time, but that could be as far as it goes.

Yet, if this is not how they experience life, it could show that they spend more time watching films. When it comes to what is taking place in the world, it could be seen as something they haven’t got time for.

The Odd Occasion

At the same time, even if one experienced life in this way, it doesn’t mean that they will always behave in this way. There could be moments when they will take a step back from what they would usually do.

For example, if they are going through a tough time, they might feel the need to watch more films; this can then be a way to deal with the pain/stress that they are experiencing. If something catastrophic is taking place in the world, it could cause them to sit up and take notice, and to forget about being entertained for a little while.

Omnipresent

When it comes to the technology that is available in today’s world, it is not going to be difficult for one to fulfil these two needs. The only thing they will need in order for this to take place will be to have some kind of device.

Through going online with a Smartphone/tablet, they will be able to find all the news they desire and as much entertainment as they can handle. Some of this will be free, and there can be times when they will have to pay.

Two Sides

On one side, there is going to be how this benefits the average person; With them no longer having to put in as much effort to come into contact with what they need. A lot of the time they would have spent looking for the news or going to buy a DVD, for instance, can now be used in other ways.

And on the other side, there is going to be the effect this has on the mainstream media and the film companies. The first source no longer needs people to come to them; they can deliver the news to them directly.

Online

This can take through posting articles on social media, and so as long as someone ‘likes’ or ‘follows’ them, they will be able to stay up to date. Or, they can simply go onto a search engine and find out that way.

When it comes to entertainment, one can join a website that will allow them to watch a film or a series whenever they want to. It is then going to be possible for them to get their productions right in front of people.

Direct Access

In the past, the primary way for these sources to gain people’s attention was for them to watch TV. This gave the people behind these sources a lot of control over people, and it could be said that the latest technology has given them even more.

However, although the mainstream media defined how people saw the world in the past, this is no longer the case. For one thing, they can now look towards the alternative media, and this has taken a lot of their power away.

Its Over

When it came to what this source of information said in the past, it would have been difficult for people to know if it was true or not. Nowadays, they can look towards other sources to see if there is more to it.

Through being able to do this, it has been shown that the mainstream media don’t simply exist to inform people. It might be more accurate to say that their main purpose is to condition people to see the world in a certain way.

It’s not over

Even so, while the mainstream media no longer has the same amount of control as it used to have, the same can’t be said when it comes to entertainment industry. It can be normal for someone to be critical of what they hear from the mainstream media, but when they watch something they can simply take it all in.

But if they believe that films are only made to entertain people, there is going to be no reason for them to take a step back. Thus, when it comes to conditioning people, it could be said that films are going to be the best option.

Conclusion

Now, clearly there are lot of people who no longer listen to the mainstream media, but there are still plenty of people who do. And while there is an alternative when it comes to being informed, the same can’t be said when it comes to being entertainment.

After a hard day at work, one can end up sitting back and allowing everything they see to enter their mind. On the surface, they can be watching something that has been created to entertain them, but at a deeper level, there can be far more to it.

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Windows Media Video Compression Using Adobe Premiere Pro

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I’ve written this tutorial for anyone who uses adobe premiere pro and wants to find out the best way to compress a video using “Windows Media Video”.

I cover things like what bitrate to use with what resolution and frame rate as well as what a few of the different settings do and mean. Find out for yourself and take a read…

(not you will need to copy and paste image url’s in to your browser)

Getting to Adobe Media Encoder

1. Render all unrendered footage if you haven’t done so already in premiere pro

2. Now go, File >> Export >> Adobe Media Encoder

3. Select “Windows Media” from the format drop down list

4. Then, from the preset drop down list, select something like “WMV9 720 25p” (doesn’t really matter what you choose)

Video Settings

1. Select “Video” on the left hand side of the Adobe Media Encoder

2. Under Video, make sure…

  • Select “Windows Media Video 9” as the codec
  • Leave “Allow Interlaced Processing” Unticked
  • Under Bitrate Settings, Select “Two” encoding passes and make sure the mode is “Variable Constrained”. This offers way better results compared to a single encoding pass

Image: fullvoltage.com.au/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=333.0;id=29;image

Audio Settings

1. Select “Audio” on the left hand side of the Adobe Media Encoder

2. Under Audio, make sure…

  • Select “Windows Media Audio 9.1” as the audio codec
  • Under Bitrate Settings, Select “Two” encoding passes and make sure the mode is “Constant”. This will make sure the audio quality stays the same the whole way through the video

Image: fullvoltage.com.au/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=333.0;id=30;image

Audience Settings

1. Select “Audiences” on the left hand side of the Adobe Media Encoder

2. Audiences is the most important part as this is where you actually set the quality and the file size

3. Now, select your desired frame rate, it’s usually best to keep it at its original level. But, say you’re original level is 50 frames a second, reduce it to 25. If you’re going for a really small file, then you’d want to bring your fps down to 20 or 15, but 25 will always enhance the footage as it will appear a lot smoother.

4. For Pixel Aspect Ratio, set it to however you’re original footage is set. If you’re editing footage shot on the computer, then square pixels will give you the best results.

5. Frame Width and Frame Height is a big factor for when considering image quality with file size. You kind of need to match them both up. In theory, for simple scenes like a close up of a human face “1 bit” per 200 pixels will offer good results,you may even want to try 250 pixels per bit. But with a more complex scene which includes maybe scenery and shrubs or a fast action video.etc, you’d want to aim around “1 bit” per 100 pixels (no where over 140 pixels per bit). To work this out, simply look at all the scenes in your video. If your scenes vary a lot in terms of colour and complexity, then you want lesser pixels per bit, this will increase file size (or reduce image size) but will offer way better results otherwise. On the other hand, if you’re video contains long interviews with a still background. Then the compressor will be able to produce good results with a high pixel per bit rate.

6. Now, moving down to the basic audio settings, if you’re video contains a lot of sound and the sound is really important in the video. Then you wont want to go under 96kb/s, but I usually prefer to use 160kb/s or 128kb/s as if you compare the 160kb/s bitrate of the audio to the say 5000 bitrate of the video, you can see that the audio isn’t going to effect file size much in this case. The higher your video bitrate, the lesser the impact the audio will have on the filesize. Use CBR audio, not (A/V) CBR audio. Use stereo if your sound differs from channel to channel (most music does).

7. Back to the Video now, Set Decoder Complexity to Auto

8. For key frame interval, if you have a high action video with complex scenes, set this to about 1 or 2. On the other hand, if you have not so complex scenes like an interview with a still background, then you can raise this up to about 10.

9. Leave buffer size as default

10. Now, here is the good bit. Because earlier on, we set a Video Encoding mode to a Two pass encode with a variable but constrained bitrate. This means we can now give a maximum and average bitrate. It will use the maximum bitrate in the more complex scenes and will use the average bitrate for normal scenes. Now, setting your bitrate is important. This is basically, where we shove all our resolution and other data, in to a tightly packaged file. If you package your file to tight, bits of data start oozing out the corners which is why it’s important to package your video tight, but not too tight. Let’s say we have a rather complex video which is fairly fast paced with lots of different colours and scenes. We set our resolution to 1024×768 with a frame rate of 25 and we want excellent quality, but a small file size.

Ok, let’s put what we learnt in to play. Ok, 1024 multiplied by 768 gives us 786000 pixels. That means that every single frame will contain 786000 pixels. If our video is running at 25fps, that’s 19.2 million pixels a second. The way compressors work, is they look for similarities across multiple frames and they try and share the data. Sometimes, when you set the bitrate too low, it just can’t deal with that data so it needs to throw away some pixels. The lower the bitrate, the more pixels get thrown around or ripped up.

11. Now, we need to set the bitrate. So, seeing our scene is fairly complex, and we want good quality, I think 130 pixels per bit will be fine. So, lets divide 786000 by 130. This gives us 6040 bits. So, 6000 bits a second is what we need. We’ll set 6000 as the peak and 5000 as the average. Now, 5000 bits a second will produce a fairly large file in terms of the internet, but remember, we are using a resolution of 1024×768 which is very big in terms of the net, but we want viewers to see “all” the work we have put in to it.

12. Now, once the bitrate is set, we have our buffer size, the larger your bit rate, the larger you want your buffer size. In this case, a buffer of 20/25 will be fine (buffer usually doesn’t effect anything).

Image: fullvoltage.com.au/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=333.0;id=31;image

Saving

1. Now, save the preset buy hitting the floppy disk icon up the top of the Adobe Encoder Window. But, before you do that, place a comment for the preset if you want.

2. Now, hit OK at the bottom of the window which will then prompt you for a location to save it. It will also give an estimated file size based on your video length and you’re peak data rate (for both the video and audio). But seeing we are using a variable bit rate, this estimate is usually higher than the end result.

3. Let it render out, then enjoy.

Tips

  • It’s usually good to set your work area to a length of 5 seconds over a complex part of your video, that way, you can do test renders to find the best bit rate
  • If you get errors while exporting and you use a hyperthreading processor or a dual core processor, visit this site to fix the problem. If you don’t get this problem, it may still be a good idea to visit the site and get the new adobe media encoder.

    [http://www.adobe.com/support/techdocs/330380.html]

I hope you learnt something from this tutorial Smiley

Cheers!

[http://www.fullvoltage.com.au]

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Novel Ideas – Six Unique Ways to Introduce a New Novel to Your Class

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There is nothing more exciting than introducing students to a great piece of literature. Conversely, there is nothing more disappointing than students’ lack of enthusiasm about a book you truly love. Unfortunately, your fervor about a novel does not always translate into cheers and applause on the part of your students. Reading a novel requires a lot of investment. Even novels with high-action plots take a while to build momentum. How can you quickly bolster students’ interest at the start of a new book? Below are six sure-fire ways to get your class excited about a new novel.

PLOT PIECES. Divide students into groups. Assign each group one page from a different part of the novel. After they have read the page, ask students to compose a paragraph that outlines the plot of the novel. To do this, students will have to use context clues gleaned from their excerpt. Ask students to elect a representative from each group to present their plot summaries. Compare plot summaries and revisit these summaries at the end of the novel. Asking students to conjecture the plot of the novel will pique their interest in the book and help them extract information from context clues.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS. Ask students to read the first page of text silently. Next, ask for a volunteer to read the first page aloud. Then, ask students to write down as many things as possible that they have learned from the first page. Next, ask students to write down three questions they have based on their reading of the first page. This activity will help students read context clues and it will teach them to site text evidence when making generalizations about a novel.

COVER UP. Read a summary of the novel from the back cover, from the inside flaps, or from an Internet source. If you prefer to leave the novel a mystery, read an excerpt from a select part of the book. You can also print out this summary or excerpt so that students can refer to it. Next, ask students to design a cover based on information gleaned from the summary or excerpt. Allow students to explain their cover design. If you are reading a novel that is divided into parts, have students design a cover at the end of each part of the novel. Revisit cover designs at the completion of the novel and ask students to write a paragraph discussing their various understandings of the novel. This activity will help students chart the ways their understanding developed throughout the reading.

FRONT MATTER. Though students read novels throughout their schooling, very few are taught the importance of the title, copyright, and acknowledgments. The pages that contain this information are called the “front matter.” In small groups, ask students to explore the front matter of the novel. Instruct students to list 10 things they learned from these pages. In a more open-ended version of this activity, you can ask students to answer the following questions: What does the front matter tell you about what will and what will not be in this novel? What does the front matter tell you about the novel’s plot and themes? A good explanation of front matter can be found at Vox Clarus Press’ website. Just search “Vox Clarus Front Matter.”

LAST LINES. Instruct students to read the last sentence or the last paragraph of the novel silently. Next, ask someone to read these last lines aloud. From these last lines, ask students to draw a comic strip that shows the plot of the novel. Each frame of the comic strip should contain narrative and dialogue. The last frame of the comic strip should be based on information gleaned from the novel’s last lines. Thinking about the ending of the novel will whet students’ appetite for the actual plot.

BEGINNING AND ENDING. Ask students to read both the first sentence and the last sentence of the novel. Next, ask the students to construct a poem, paragraph, or short story using the first and last sentences of the novel as the first and last sentences for their writing. Your students’ writing should summarize what they think will be the plot of the novel. Revisit these summaries at the middle and at the end of the reading. In a reflective paragraph, ask students to compare their initial impressions to the novel’s actual plot and themes.

When beginning a new novel, consider using one of the above activities in your classroom. These activities provide a new lens through which to view your new novel. Starting the study of your novel in a unique and unpredictable way will bolster your students’ interest and engagement.

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Impact of Social Media on Society

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“Do you have Facebook?”

“Yes, of course. But I don’t think you can find me, as there are too many people who have the same name as me. Try searching with my surname as well.”

“Hey, you celebrated your birthday in K-Box, right? I saw the photos in your Facebook.”

“Bro, I saw your comments about the YouTube video that I’ve posted in my blog. I’m happy that you are also deeply moved by the ‘Dancing Peacock Man’ as well.”

Social media or “social networking” has almost become part of our daily lives and being tossed around over the past few years. It is like any other media such as newspaper, radio and television but it is far more than just about sharing information and ideas. Social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Blogs have facilitated creation and exchange of ideas so quickly and widely than the conventional media. The power of define and control a brand is shifting from corporations and institutions to individuals and communities. It is no longer on the 5Cs (e.g. condominium, credit cards and car) that Singaporeans once talked about. Today, it is about the brand new Cs: creativity, communication, connection, creation (of new ideas and products), community (of shared interests), collaboration and (changing the game of) competition.

In January 2010, InSites Consulting has conducted an online survey with 2,884 consumers from over 14 countries between the ages of 18 to 55 years old on social networking. More than 90% of participants know at least 1 social networking site and 72% of participants are members of at least 1 social networking site. On the average, people have about 195 friends and they log in twice a day to social networking sites. However, 55% of the users cannot access their social network websites at work. In the past, not many adults were able to make more than 500 friends, but with social media, even a child or teenager can get to know more than 500 people in a few days by just clicking the mouse. Social media has devalued the traditional definition of “friend” where it means trust, support, compatible values, etc. Although we get to know more people, we are not able to build strong bond with all the people whom we met as our available time is limited. Hence, there is an upcoming social trend of people with wider social circles, but weaker ties (people we don’t know very well but who provide us with useful information and ideas).

Social media also influences people’s buying behaviours. Digital Influence Group reported that 91% of the people say consumer reviews are the #1 aid to buying decisions and 87% trust a friend’s recommendation over critic’s review. It is thrice more likely to trust peer opinions over advertising for purchasing decisions. 1 word-of-mouth conversation has an impact of 200 TV ads. With the prevalence use of social media, there is numerous news related to it from the most viewed YouTube video on “Armless pianist wins ‘China’s Got Talent'” to Web-assisted suicide cases (e.g. New Jersey college student who killed himself after video of him in a sexual encounter with another man was posted online). Thus, does social networking make us better or worse off as a society?

Positive Effects of Social Media

Besides having opportunity to know a lot of people in a fast and easy way, social media also helped teenagers who have social or physical mobility restrictions to build and maintain relationships with their friends and families. Children who go overseas to study can still stay in meaningful contact with their parents. To a greater extend, there is anecdotal evidence of positive outcomes from these technologies.

In 2008, President-elected Obama won the election through the effective use of social media to reach millions of audience or voters. The Obama campaign had generated and distributed huge amount of contents and messages across email, SMS, social media platforms and their websites. Obama and his campaign team fully understood the fundamental social need that everyone shares – the need of being “who we are”. Therefore, the campaign sent the message as “Because It’s about YOU” and chose the right form of media to connect with individuals, call for actions and create community for a social movement. They encouraged citizens to share their voices, hold discussion parties in houses and run their own campaign meetings. It truly changed the delivery of political message.

Obama campaign had made 5 million “friends” on more than 15 social networking sites (3 million friends on Facebook itself) and posted nearly 2,000 YouTube videos which were watched over 80 million times. At its peak, their website, MyBarackObama.com, had 8.5 million monthly visitors and produced 400,000 blog posts. In order to ensure that their contents were found by people, the Obama campaign spent $3.5 million on Google search in October alone, $600,000 on Advertising.com, $467,000 on Facebook in 2008, etc. Currently, Obama’s Twitter account has close to 6 million followers.

In 2010, after the earthquake happened in Haiti, many of the official communication lines were down. The rest of the world was not able to grasp the full picture of the situation there. To facilitate the sharing of information and make up for the lack of information, social media came in very handy to report the news about the affected area on what happened and what help was needed. Tweets from many people provided an impressive overview of the ongoing events from the earthquake. BBC covered the event by combining tweets from the work of its reporter Matthew Price in Port-au-Prince at the ground. Guardian’s live blog also used social media together with the information from other news organisations to report about the rescue mission.

It has been two years since CNN officially launched iReport as a section of its website where people can upload video material, with contact information. During the Haiti crisis, CNN had published a range of social media material but not all the materials were verified. The editorial staff would vet the reports from the citizen journalists and labeled them differently compared to unverified contents. On Facebook, a group, named “Earthquake Haiti”, was formed to show support and share updates and news. It had more than 14,000 members and some users even pleaded for assistance to the injured Haitians in the group. Using email, Twitter and social networking sites like Facebook, thousands of volunteers as part of Project Ushahidi were able to map reports sent by people from Haiti.

The most impressive part of the social media’s impact on Haiti is the charity text-message donations that soared to over $10 million for the victims in Haiti. People interested in helping the victims are encouraged to text, tweet and publicize their support using various social networking sites. The Global Philanthropy Group had also started a campaign to ask wealthy people and celebrities, like Ben Stiller and John Legend to use Twitter and Facebook to encourage others to give to UNICEF. An aid worker, Saundra Schimmelpfennig, allowed the advice from other aid workers and donors to post on her blog regarding to choosing which charitable organisations to support. In the meantime, donors were asking questions in Twitter, Facebook and blogs about their donations and endorsements of their favourite charities. After every crisis, the social media for social cause becomes a more effective medium to spread the word.

Negative Effects of Social Media

There are always two sides of every coin. Social media is just a tool or mean for people to use. It is still up to the users on how to use this tool (just like a knife, can help you to cut food or hurt others). Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a study on “The Future of Online Socializing” from the highly engaged, diverse set of respondents to an online, opt-in survey consisted of 895 technology stakeholders and critics. The negative effects presented by the respondents included time spent online robs time from important face-to-face relationships; the internet fosters mostly shallow relationships; the act of leveraging the internet to engage in social connection exposes private information; the internet allows people to silo themselves, limiting their exposure to new ideas; and the internet is being used to engender intolerance.

Some respondents also highlighted that there will be development of some new psychological and medical syndromes that will be “variations of depression caused by the lack of meaningful quality relationships”, and a “new world society”. The term, “Social Networking”, has begun to deceive the users to believe they are social creatures. For instance, spending a couple of hours using Farmville and chatting with friends concurrently does not convert into social skills. People become dependent on the technology and forget how to socialise in face-to-face context. The online personality of a person might be totally different from his/her offline character, causing chaos when the two personalities meet. It is apparent in online dating when the couple gets together in face-to-face for the first time. Their written profiles do not clearly represent their real-life characters. It is more enticing for people to type something that others want to hear than saying the truth.

Besides the “friendship”, creators of social networking sites and users redefine the term, “privacy” in the Internet as well. The challenge in data privacy is to share data while protecting personally identifiable information. Almost any information posted on social networking sites is permanent. Whenever someone posts pictures or videos on the web, it becomes viral. When the user deletes a video from his/her social network, someone might have kept it and then posted it onto other sites like YouTube already. People post photographs and video files on social networking sites without thinking and the files can reappear at the worst possible time. In 2008, a video of a group of ACJC students hazing a female student in school on her birthday was circulated and another video of a SCDF recruit being “welcomed” (was hosed with water and tarred with shoe polish) to a local fire station made its way online.

Much news has been reported about online privacy breach in Facebook and Facebook is constantly revising their privacy policy and changing their privacy controls for the users. Interestingly, even when users delete their personal information and deactivate their Facebook account, Facebook will still keep that information and will continue to use it for data mining. A reporter asked whether the data will at least be anonymized. The Facebook representative declined to comment.

In the corporate world, human resource managers can access Facebook or MySpace to get to know about a candidate’s true colours, especially when job seekers do not set their profiles to private. Research has found that almost half of employers have rejected a potential worker after finding incriminating material on their Facebook pages. Some employers have also checked the candidates’ online details in Facebook pages to see if they are lying about their qualifications. Nowadays, younger generations have a complete disregard for their own privacy, opening doors to unwelcome predators or stalkers.

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Microsoft – Drinks Chivas, Drives Volvo

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Microsoft Corp. is facing an increasing competition in the online video realm. To boot, MSN video is currently the sixth place video destination in the United States and that spot is far behind Google’s YouTube, AOL’s Time Warner, and News Corp.’s MySpace. This is why the software giant is expanding affiliations to cover the wine maker Chivas Brothers Ltd. and the Swedish automaker Volvo Cars.

Microsoft has signed deals with Chivas and Volvo to support two new web series from Reveille, the company behind “The Office” and the “Ugly Betty” television shows. The two new shows include the “Driving School” which would be coming as a comedy about a driving instructor who shares life lessons to his students. The show will be hosted by actor Craig Robinson, who plays Darryl on NBC’s The Office.

The other show titled “This is the Life,” is about travel and adventure linked to a Chivas Regal advertising campaign. The shows will arrive on MSN Web site in the next six months, Microsoft announced Tuesday at an advertising industry conference. Microsoft did not disclose the financial or product-placement arrangements of the deals.

Last month, 11.5 million people visited MSN video, and spent an average of five and a half minutes on the site as compared with the 45 million people who each spent about 41 minutes on YouTube, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

It could be recalled that after the acquisition of Google Inc. of YouTube, an online video Web site, the same has become a white-hot topic. Advertisers and ad brokers rushed to turn the trend of web equivalent TV ads into dollars. Since then, short spots before or after a video clip online became an instant success.

According to Gayle Troberman, the general manager of branded entertainment at Microsoft, those will remain a staple of Microsoft’s video advertising inventory. But advertisers are also experimenting with original series and user-generated videos as they venture to capture even deeper connections with online purchasers.

In 2006, Microsoft and Reveille produced a handful of MSN shows that fall somewhere between advertising and programming. Troberman touted “Chef to the Rescue,” which is sponsored by Kraft Foods Inc., as one remarkable success story from the Reveille partnership. The software giant said that after the cooking show’s launch in December, over 250,000 viewers printed out related recipes featuring Kraft products.

While it is tempting to label the shows advertorials and leave it at that, Ben Silverman, Reveille’s chief executive, said that he has tried to find more elegant ways to incorporate products and entertainment. “I don’t want to be in something where you’re ruining that content by stupid, clunky choices,” said Silverman.

Microsoft said it planned to expand its commitment to developing original content built around branded entertainment opportunities, announcing during an afternoon session at the company’s Strategic Accounts Summit (SAS) in Seattle, Wash., that it will extend its current relationship with the production firm Reveille while also launching several other new Web content projects.

“We are the leader of original content creation online,” said Joanne Bradford, the corporate vice president and the chief media officer for MSN, citing the 20 plus Web series the portal has launched in the past year. Among those original series is Chef to the Rescue, a result of a partnership between it and Reveille announced at the summit last year.

While others have speculated that MSN’s partnership with Reveille has been slow to yield success, Bradford said the two companies had agreed to extend their relationship, though she forgot to say the duration. During Tuesday’s presentation, Bradford ardently greeted Reveille CEO Ben Silverman – the brains behind the TV hits The Office and The Biggest Losers – with a pair of kisses before handing him the stage.

Volvo has signed on as that show’s charter sponsor. Through the shows, the Swedish automaker could flaunt Volvo master cylinder, safety features, and other milestone innovations. As such, it is expected for this trend to plague the entire Web. Silverman said that while he still believed that TV was a great brand builder, his company’s Web creations offer advertisers much deeper access that is unheard of in the TV business. “I’m always really annoyed that I’m kept out of those conversations [with TV advertisers],” he said. “[The networks] don’t get it yet.”

Silverman was not the only partner to share the moment at SAS. Allen Shapiro, the CEO of Dick Clark Productions and president of the Mosaic   Media  Group, discussed the success of a Golden Globes content program launched earlier this year with MSN – one that  TV  partner NBC was wary of. This year, his company – which owns the rights to many early TV performances of music stars like Prince and Madonna, is exploring launching a classic rock channel with MSN, along with a potential comedy network. “We’re now determined to step this up,” said Shapiro.

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4 Different Noises Your Chinchilla Makes and What They Mean

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If you have a little chinchilla then you probably know that they aren’t silent creatures. Some chins are quieter than others, but they all make a little noise at the very least. Chinchillas make a wide variety of sounds, and each chinchilla has a unique ‘voice’ just like people do. Aside from all the noise he might make in his cage at night while you’re trying to sleep, here are four common vocal noises that most chinchillas tend to make.

Barking

If you hear your chinchilla barking, it usually means he is stressed out about something and scared. If you just got your chin, he may bark at you when you try to pick him up, warning you that he doesn’t want to be touched yet. When you hear this noise, it’s usually a good idea to check on him to make sure he’s not caught in his cage somehow, or if you have other pets that they aren’t bothering him. However, if they bark every night and wake you up, your chin may be doing that just to get attention. As long as he’s safe and comfortable, you should probably ignore it so he will stop waking you up at night.

The Chinchilla Cry

When your chinchilla cries, it is usually not a pleasant sound and you’ll automatically know something is wrong. If you take good care of your chin and make sure he’s well protected, you may not ever hear this sound. But things do happen, and if he hurts himself or you step on his tail he may yelp in pain.

Cooing

This is the most enjoyable sound that your chinchilla will make. He may make this sound when he sees you come in the door or if he is greeting or communicating with another chin. As you spend time and get to know your chinchilla you will begin to recognize that this sound means he is happy. Another common occurrence of this noise is when you walk up to his cage and he knows it’s time to get out of his cage and play.

Chattering their teeth

They do this for a variety of reasons, after you get to know your chin you’ll probably be able to tell what the occasion is. They may chatter their teeth if they are in pain or anxious about something. Then on the other hand, they have also been observed doing this when they are happy, so this one will be up to you to figure out for your chin.

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