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).

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