The one thing I read in that article that I really don't see much benefit in anymore is submission to directory submissions ESPECIALLY DMOZ.
Thats commonly accepted at this point. But, my take which I believe is similar to deborah's is that if you work the directories correctly they are worth your efforts. You have to learn what to do and not to do. For example with dmoz, learn their standards once. Go ahead and submit and forget. That's all when it comes to dmoz. do it, it is worth it for link/etc if you do get included. If not, forget it. Takes minimal time/free.
Other directories have some other advantages. For example inclusion in bestoftheweb
costs 149/year. That might not make sense for your link strategy, but if you put together the directory submissions like Deb does - similar to your comments with virtual associations/groups - there can be golden nuggets to developing solid back links that are consistent and excellent quality.
Here is a google search of Deborah's articles at SEL
[site:searchengineland.com "Debra Mastaler"]
Read up on those pages for many more ideas, and in particular about directories and other tactics. The more you use, the better off you are in the long run. Deborah's a pro when it comes to that, including directories. Even link exchanges "can" be ok, at times.