Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Community Voice Mail in Second Life

Update: Jessica, who wrote this post, spoke about CVM's use of Second Life at the N2Y3 NetSquared conference earlier this may. Here's a video of her presentation.

Jessica Dally here at the Community Voice Mail National Office has been working on our presence in Second Life. Recognizing that many people don't know what Second Life is (aren't we all still trying to live our First Lives?), she's written this brief primer about Second Life and why CVM has a presence there:

What is Second Life (SL)?
Well… to quote from Second Life itself, it’s a "3D virtual world imagined and created entirely by its residents. " But really, that doesn’t explain it very well does it?

Think of Second Life kind of like a game. It’s a bit like The Sims, but instead of each person you interact with being a computer-generated character, each person you interact with in SL is a computer-generated manifestation of an actual person somewhere else in the world. In that way it’s a bit like a 3D Instant Message. A person downloads a computer program and runs it, just like any other “game,” but once in this game they can interact with other people all over the world, build stuff, program stuff… you name it.

Why is Community Voice Mail in Second Life?
While it’s easy to think of Second Life as a game, it’s really more like a whole new version of the internet or an incredibly intense social networking site. And just like having a website, more and more business, nonprofit communities and even funders are operating in this Virtual World. But unlike most websites, Second Life is free.

CVM National first established an office in Second Life at the Nonprofit Commons, an area set up specifically for nonprofits by Ashne Chung, the first person to earn 1 million real dollars in Second Life (as opposed to Lindens, the in-world SL currency) . Now our office has moved to the Nonprofit Commons 2 site, put on by Taking IT Global. This office gives us a bit more room to explain what we do and the space has allowed us to build an interactive exhibit to answer questions CVM is often asked, such as “how do clients access their voicemail?” or “why can’t clients just use cell phones?" It’s a place where people can come to check out what we do and learn more about our organization. It’s also a great way for us to meet with other nonprofits/NGOs around the world, to find partners and make connections.

To date we’ve found champions for our cause in many areas. People who are helping with Hurricane Ike, Military vets, people from the telecommunications industry and others have all been introduced to CVM thanks to the presence we’ve established in Second Life. We’ve found new agencies that want to provide free voice mail boxes to low-income and homeless people in their (real life) communities, and people who would like to volunteer in some way. While we have no real way of knowing what will come in the future from our presence in Second Life, thus far it has been time well spent.

Try it yourself! Once you’ve registered for Second Life and downloaded the client, and you can find our our office space at this SLurl (Second Life URL). Have fun, and see you in Second Life (or perhaps in First Life if you happen to be in the Seattle area).

Blog Action Day (focus on Poverty)

Here's a good idea. Ask bloggers of all stripes and from all countries to post about a single issue on one day of the year, to increase awareness and trigger conversation about the issue. This year, Blog Action Day is all about poverty. Through the posts of thousands of bloggers (and podcasters, and videocasters), a conversation about poverty will occur that hopefully will lead to new knowledge, new solutions and new collaborations. As of today, nearly 5,000 bloggers have registered, reaching at least 9.5 million of their readers.

If you blog, please consider participating on October 15. CVM is, and we look forward to reading your post about poverty. And please tell your friends (bloggers and otherwise).

Friday, September 19, 2008

Voice Mail for Hurricane Ike Evacuees

The story has all but disappeared from the National media, but the after effects of Hurricane Ike are still being felt acutely by people in Galveston and other coastal communities. Many people forced to evacuate have landed in other Texas cities like Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas, and many are without a reliable means to communicate with friends and loved ones. Some may not have arrived with their mobile phones, and many may not have had mobile phones to begin with. Arriving in a strange city with only the clothes on your back is scary enough; imagine not having a way for people to get in touch with you.

The Community Voice Mail programs in Austin and San Antonio are now working with other local charities and FEMA to make free voice mail boxes available to Ike evacuees in those cities. Not only will recipients be able to provide this number to their friends and loved ones, but they can also receive broadcast voice mail messages from our local CVM Managers providing them with accurate, timely information about available services, etc. Obtaining accurate information during and after an emergency is very difficult, and we hope these Community Voice Mail boxes will help.

Houston was also hit hard by Hurricane Ike, and while the Houston CVM office hasn't officially reopened for business, CVM clients in that city are still getting broadcast voice and email messages about emergency services from Scot More, the Houston CVM Manager. Take a look at the Houston CVM blog to see the information that Scot is making available to his clients and others in the city. (These blog postings reproduce information sent by broadcast voice and email messages to CVM clients in Houston).

Finally, if you want to see some amazing photos of Hurricane Ike, be sure to see the set of photos compiled by the Boston Globe. The photo above was taken from this archive. It shows a block in downtown Houston located approximately 6 blocks from the Houston CVM office. Wow. (Photo credit: AP Photo/David J. Phillip, Sept. 13, 2008)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Three New CVM Sites!

We're very happy to announce that Community Voice Mail is now being offered in Albuquerque (New Mexico) and South Florida, and will soon be offered in the Inland Empire of Southern California. Thousands of social service agencies in these areas will be able to provide Community Voice Mail numbers to their clients, and start broadcasting information about job opportunities, housing availability, local training events and other resources directly to them. Congratulations to the agencies hosting these new CVM programs, and thanks for showing leadership in your communities.

CVM Available Now in:
(You can read more about South Florida CVM on their blog).

CVM Available Soon in:
  • The Inland Empire of Southern California (Counties of San Bernardino, Riverside and parts of Los Angeles): Hosted by Inland Empire United Way

This the second Los Angeles-area CVM: read this for more about the program in Central Los Angeles. A complete list of the 43 CVM sites around the U.S. can be found here.