Interesting…Our college (the Jane Addams College of Social Work) is now required by the U.S. Dept. of Education to put a “Gainful Employment Statement” on our Web site. The statement essentially says we charge tuition, grant degrees and prepare students for gainful employment in certain fields. I gather this is supposed to contrast this college from for-profit institutions like the University of Phoenix, which certainly charge tuition, but don’t always prepare students for getting a job.

Pearl River Blues

June 22nd, 2011

I have written more than 45 books, most of them about computers and the Internet. My best-known titles include Starting an Online Business for Dummies and How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business. I have also written books like Karma Kids and Literary Chicago. But the book I have always wanted to write is a novel about my Chinese ancestors called Pearl River Blues. Several posts on this blog will be devoted to background information about this story, the characters, and the setting. I welcome comments from any interested readers–and especially from literary agents and publishers who want to find out more or see the full manuscript. (You can read the first chapter of the book here.)

If you want to buy the full novel directly from me for $7 you can send funds to me via PayPal. I’ll email you a PDF.

Domain Names for the Rich

June 20th, 2011

I’ve often wondered how systems that start out being relatively democratic and equal turn out to be oriented toward corporations and moneyed elites. Here is an example of how it is done. ICANN, the body that (supposedly) regulates domain names, has just approved a system whereby anyone can make up a domain name, provided they can pay $185,000. The first ones to jump on this will be corporations looking to protect their brands. People like me won’t be able to create greg.holden or these sorts of domain names. Nor would I want to. Read more here.

Cargoh Comes Out of Beta

June 15th, 2011

Last year, I wrote an article for AuctionBytes about It’s a marketplace where artists can sell their creative work. It seeks to be an alternative to Etsy in a couple of ways:

  • –It’s curated; you have to have your work judged to get in.
  • It’s highly integrated with social networking sites.
  • Artists can post biographies on the site so people can get to know them better. has just come out of beta; have a look and see what you think.

I’m Moving–to the Cloud

June 14th, 2011

This is hardly cutting edge, but for me, it’s a big deal. I was about to copy a ton of music from my older Palm phone’s SD card to my new Thunderbird’s SD card. I copied it all to Dropbox and installed the Dropbox mobile app. So far, so good. I was about to copy from Dropbox to my phone when I realized I don’t have to do this. I can play all my music and view all my photos while they are still in the cloud thanks to the 4G connection. Much fuss is being made about iCloud being able to sync your files automatically to multiple devices, and that’s great, but why should I do this and consume hard disk space when I can access everything in the cloud?

Blame the meat!

June 9th, 2011

Why can’t the people in Germany who are blaming cucumbers and sprouts for the E.coli outbreak figure out what this doctor says so clearly?

Ray Bradbury is one of our heroes, and Dandelion Wine is one of my favorite books. In it, Bradbury lyrically describes growing up in Waukegan, Illinois. I wrote about Bradbury and his childhood home in my book Literary Chicago. Waukegan isn’t the idyllic place it once was, but to its credit, the town holds a Dandelion Wine arts festival every year. Lucy and the Academy of Irish Music were one of the entertainers.

Intuition and common sense. Are they any match for science, and supposed scientific data? Sure they are. This article posits a very plausible source for the deadly e.coli outbreak in Europe: factory farming.

E-Commerce Tip: Diversify

June 2nd, 2011

If you want to sell online, don’t try to sell everything to everyone. Try to sell one or two very specialized categories of merchandise to one or two select, targeted niche audiences. Selling to 50, 100, or 200 very devoted customers who are enthusiastic about what you have to offer is better than creating an eBay store and putting your wares before millions of people who are only interested in the lowest price. Not to mention that you’ll be competing with lots of bigger sellers who can cut profits to the bone, offer free shipping, etc.

For instance, go to Wild Spirit Gifts. Look at the list of separate stores operated by Skye Ryan-Evans. This wildlife photographer puts her work on T-shirts, posters, and a variety of other items. Rather than selling everything in one big store, she sells on CafePress, Zazzle,, and lots of specialty sites to get those committed collectors and niche customers. Once they’re familiar with her work, they come back for more and become loyal, returning customers. That should be your goal: to develop a group of return customers who love what you do, and cultivate steady business with them, rather than being everything to everybody.