Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Right Gourd Tool for the Job

The right tool for the job really makes a difference. That phrase holds true for pretty much anything, but especially for crafting with gourds. As I become more skilled with each gourd project, the more precise I find I want to be with my cuts, carving, and shaping. I need the right tools. Ahhh tools.

Some tools that I use I purchase through woodworking supply houses, online gourd specialty stores and even the local hardware stores. If a tool works well for wood, it usually works well for the wood-like hard shells of gourds.

Sometimes though it’s hard to find exactly what I’m looking for, or I’m just too cheap to spend a ton of money on something that looks totally easy to make. In that case, I just build it.

The first tool I made (above) was a gourd clamp that holds the gourd while I’m working on it. It functions like a third hand to secure the gourd so I can use both my hands for other tasks. I have to admit that I saw the idea online but was too cheap to purchase the instruction booklet on how to make it so I just used a little Yankee ingenuity and made my own version based on pictures I found. If you’re more comfortable with specific instructions, The Caning Shop (Gourd Clamp) sells the instruction booklet by Jim Widess for $5.95 plus S&H.

The second tool I built (left) a horizontal scribe. I make a lot of gourd bowls and marking an even line across the top can sometimes be a challenge. The scribe lets me place the gourd on a flat surface to find it’s natural balance point, adjust the pencil to the height that I want and spin the gourd to mark the cut line. The beauty of this is that I don’t just get a straight line, but I get a line from the natural balance point on the bottom of the gourd so I don’t have to sand the bottom for a flat surface. This also is available online to purchase through the Caning Shop (Gourd Scribe) for $14.95 plus S&H but I made mine for a total of about $2, which was considerably less.

Whether I purchase or build my own, now I truly understand a man’s fascination with the tool isle at Home Depot. The right tool for the job really does make a difference.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Twitter for Beginners - A Six Step Guide

Everyone's talking about it. The world is atwitter with Twitter. Here's a quick beginners guide to getting started. You may as well jump in and see what all the hubbub is about, right? Come on in, the water is fine.

1. Get Started, Join Twitter

Go to Twitter.com to get started. Lots of folks use their own names for their profile as a sort of personal brand, but if you prefer to use a moniker, that’s also accepted. Twitter will ask for your email though, so if you’re truly interested in remaining private you may want to create an email account with that same alias.

2. Customize your Profile

Once you have an account, you’ll want to customize it and make it interesting and easy for others to follow. In the upper right hand corner you’ll notice your profile information. On top of the profile information you’ll find the navigation bar. Click on the Settings tab. There you can upload a photo, add a brief bio and include a link to your blog or website. That way, fellow Twitterers can get an immediate idea of who you are and what you’re likely to be Twittering about.

3. Start Tweeting

This is the fun part. Place your curser in the open box at the top and answer the question “What are you doing?” Don’t worry that you don’t have anything pithy to say right off the bat, inspiration will come in time. It can be as simple as “hey, I’m new here” to “All glory comes from daring to begin ~Anonymous.”

The key is to consistently add tweets, whether that is every day, every week or every month. The level of participation is up to you. Just as in everything else in life though, Twitter works best when you regularly contribute. The more you contribute, the more likely you are to find value in it.

Start with topics that interest you, but keep it brief. Twitter only allows 140 characters to get your point across. You can also add informational links that make your tweets even more interesting.

4. Find People with Similar Interests

Use the search bar your Twitter homepage or Twitter search to search on topics you find engaging and start following others with similar interests as you. Or check out Tweetbin to follow a number of topics at once. Follow people you think are intriguing.

5. Initiate Two-Way Conversations

Open a dialogue with other Twitterers. Reply to their Tweets using @username to identify who you’re Tweeting with. ReTweet something of interest using RT @username (RT = short for re-Tweet).

Remember to listen for the other side of the conversation. Search on your own Twitter name in the homepage search bar with either @username or username to see whose mentioning you. Conversations aren’t really conversations if you’re not exchanging messages. Be generous with your conversations. ReTweet frequently if you think the Tweet is valuable and always include the origin of the Tweet if it comes from another Twitterer.

6. Don’t Spam

Good manners apply on Twitter. Twitter is a social network, not a direct sales channel so sending repeated solicitation Tweets or Direct Mails tend annoy rather than attract people. Just like a cocktail party, a mention of an offer is usually ok, but sales pressure is sure to be rebuked.

Now that you have a voice in the Twitterverse, you’ll find a whole new world of information, resources, and social interaction sure to siphon the time from your day in an instantly gratifying, addictive, guilty pleasure.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Social Media – What’s The Big Deal?

The use of social media is skyrocketing. Online social networking sites are breaking records and crashing operating systems with the huge influx of users. “So what’s the big deal?” you might be thinking. "Why are online social media outlets so popular?"

My answer may surprise you. It’s the people. Granted, the technology is fun, but it still boils down to individuals. You, me and our need to connect.

Since the beginning of time people have gathered, mingled and interacted with others in the social culture of life. Then, just as now we learn, love and build relationships. We exchange ideas, share experiences, earn livings, and we seek and give guidance. We network, expand our circles, and cooperate for a greater good. In essence we live and express ourselves as individuals.

Social media helps us to do all those things but just on a larger and faster scale with more immediate results. When all is said and done though, it’s still all about people.

Let’s look at what are arguably the top social media outlets and how they relate to the people who use them.

Facebook – Mostly people you knew. It’s much like a reunion, with lots of old high-school and college classmates gathering and reconnecting.

LinkedIn – Mostly people you know. It’s like a Chamber of Commerce event with lots of current work colleagues, vendors, and clients.

Twitter – Mostly people you want to know. Similar to a cocktail party where you briefly exchange quips and small bits of information.

Blogs – A forum to express yourself and learn. You write about what interests you, what you think others will find interesting, and what will highlight your best features.

Social media satisfies our need to connect with people from the past, people from our current relationships, and people we’d like to know. It’s also a place to be heard, carve out a niche, and connect.

So, what’s the big deal? It’s no big deal really. It’s just people connecting in a different way.