Building Reputation Systems Online: Live-blogging from SF Online Community MeetUp

[cross-posted on TechSoup blog]

Guest blogger, Lauren Friedman (@lauren_hannah on Twitter) is a Community Manager, writer, blogger and photographer.

Randy Farmer photoThis month’s Online Community MeetUp featured facilitator, Bill Johnston, Online Community Manager for Dell and longtime online community expert, Randy Farmer, speaking about online reputation systems.

Online Reputations and the Misconceptions to Avoid: With the emergence of social media and the increase in brand participation on such mediums, reputation is just as (if not more) important than ever. While reputation is absolutely important to maintain and should be a focus when determining social media plans, there are several misconceptions of what a “reputation” really is.

1. It’s the People, Dummy: Reputation surrounds us. In everything we do, everything we see, every action we take, we’re surrounded by reputations. And our biggest question: Can we trust them? So, what is reputation? According to Randall Farmer, “Reputation is information used to make a value judgment about an object or a person.” It’s not just about “what is reputation;” we want to put that definition in a structure that we can apply to more than one situation. The structure: A source makes a claim about a topic — making a value judgment about an object or a person, and that value judgment is transferred and influences decisions made by others. Reputation isn’t just about people, it’s any information used to make a value judgment. Determining reputation is not just up to us. We can’t make all of these judgments by ourselves. We have to trust others, trust what they’re saying and how they feel about something in order to assist our decision-making. We just don’t have the time to make verifications of everything every day.

2. One Reputation to Rule Them All: For many users, social media priority number one is to be the best and to build the best reputation possible. There is no universal reputation. So how do you build yours? The ways we instinctually think of objects or brands are actually not quite as reliable on social media. Recommendations are proving to be risky, and FICO scores are not necessarily related to productivity. It takes time, patience, and perseverance to create a positive reputation. It’s more complex than “good guy, bad guy.” It’s even more complex than giving the Internet a “credit score.” All reputation is in context, the narrower the better — each “score” is applicable to only one context.

3. All I Need is Five Stars: Possibly the most common misconception on reputation and social media is that all you need is “likes.” Everything on the Internet has a “like/dislike” or a “thumbs up/thumbs down” creating ample opportunities to allow users to build your reputation for you. While the majority of interactions form a J-curve (starts low and slowly builds up forming a graph that looks like the letter “J”), the most beneficial graph actually looks like the letter “W”. Why? Because it’s the most consistent. When the community evaluates its own content, you can consistently track the negative feedback, add up the positive, and develop a steady rating. We should be making these inferences and only asking the community for what we really need — do we really need a thumbs down button or can you infer that information elsewhere? If no one is saying no, don’t ask them to. By providing the users with the ability to express what kinds of content they’d like to see more or less of, you’re inconspicuously creating incentive for the community to interact and help you build your reputation. And it all goes back to the fact that you can’t make all these inferences on your own.

4. Competition is Always Good: With the new and emerging social media and gaming industries, point systems and leader boards have taken precedence over many other tactics to garner participation. Why? Because competition drives a lot of behavior. In general, we trust high scores and we don’t trust low scores. Therefore, the objective is (obviously) to do whatever you can to raise your score. There are different levels of competition ranging from caring, to collaborative, to cordial, to competitive, to combative. The last thing you want are leader boards and competition between them. Competition is fine, if the context calls for it — World of Warcraft? Competition. But don’t assume there’s competition when there’s none. When Karma is involved, user reputation, it escalates the fastest. These different levels determine the general user experience and affect your overall reputation. But you’re not the only one with a reputation here.

5. “Negative Karma Will Kill Out the Bad Guys”: Assigning a public score to a user that says how good they are in some context is one way to manage and build up your reputation. By giving the users responsibility, you’re increasing interactions and the opportunity to only keep good content on your site. However, this provides some real challenges. There are two sides of this spectrum: we have the “good guys” who do positive things and the “bad guys” who do negative things. And it’s best to keep the tracking of these “good guys” and “bad guys” incognito. Avoid public karma. If you really want to know who your bad guys are, keep them private.

Yahoo! Answers Case Study User content moderation model: People would report a content item, and Yahoo! would hide the answers if enough people said it was bad. The simplest form of this model is a “three strikes, you’re out” mentality. If three users flag content as negative, it would be hidden. Of course, it became more complex than that as Yahoo! wanted the content to be removed within an hour of its publication. It ultimately evolved into a detailed, super-user, system. Yahoo! would track the people who accurately reported the most negative content and they would become “good reporters.” If a “good reporter” flagged content, it could potentially be removed immediately. This content moderation system feeds off the “Broken WIndows Hypothesis” — the community (or community managers” clean up the space, and the trolls leave. And as these trolls leave, your reputation increases.

You can find out more in Randy’s book: Building Web Reputation Systems and hear about upcoming online community speakers at the MeetUp group.

Written by: penguin kuhn

In the Social Media Kitchen with TechSoup Chefs at NSAC 2010

[cross-posted to TechSoup Blog]

As we mentioned on the blog, TechSoup’s online community staffers along with expert consultants presented at the NSAC (National Sexual Assault Conference) hosted by CALCASA (California Coalition Against Sexual Assault). The five of us social media “chefs” set up our TechSoup social media kitchen at the conference lounge, where folks could drop-in during the conference and get one-on-one help with their social media questions.

We kicked off our tech kitchen with a presentation Social Media: Listen First. Janet Fouts, Susan Tenby, and I discussed the most important part of any social media strategy: listening. Social media is all about joining in the conversation and just like a face-to-face conversation, you want to be an attentive listener for your supporters. Our resource list from the presentation has more information. In addition, Janet’s website has a terrific list of listening tools, as does Beth Kanter’s wiki.

Day 2 was a presentation from Jessica Dally, Evonne Heyning, Susan Tenby, and I on Multimedia Storytelling and Events where we explored the importance of telling your story in a compelling way to engage users with your cause. Evonne gave several examples of anti-violence groups, such as The Girl Effect and We End Violence that have effectively used video to tell their story in a compelling way. Many conference-goers noted the terrific posters on display from We End Violence that took a direct approach, with a touch of humor to bring attention to an important issue.

Helping out in the TechSoup kitchen was a terrific opportunity for us to meet with nonprofit workers in person and really get a sense of the kinds of issues that they are dealing with in their every day work. We addressed a range of questions from, “How do I get Twitter and Facebook to connect with one another?” to “Should you have a public Facebook page when privacy and confidentiality are big concerns?” to “What’s the best way to collaborate online with a group of people?” I also let folks know about a free resource they might not know about, the TechSoup forums, which is open to anyone to post technology questions anytime and get expert answers.

We also met some amazing, inspirational folks doing important work on sexual violence issues. Among them were Chai and Shannon of Hollaback DC, Ann Turner from National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL), and Shamra Goy of Family Support Center in Washington. You can view all of their video profiles here.

A big thanks to CALCASA for having us again this year!

What’s your biggest social media question? Post it here in the Emerging Technology forum and get expert answers.

Written by: penguin kuhn

Running Free: Seattle Free School at Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp

[Blog post written by Elliot Harmon and cross-posted on TechSoup Blog]


One thing I always enjoy about Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp is getting to know very small organizations. A lot of people stopped by our booth and told us about the challenges their one-or-two-person nonprofits are facing. It’s an important perspective, and a big part of TechSoup’s user base. Working with a tiny staff and budget brings a litany of challenges, but it brings some amazing opportunities too.

The low-budget ethos is encapsulated no better than in the Seattle Free School. SFS doesn’t accept donations and doesn’t apply for grants. Volunteers teach free classes in rooms donated by other local organizations. In two and a half years, SFS has grown from a simple idea into an impressive institution, with classes in topics ranging from crochet to Linux installation to getting Irish citizenship.

Founder Jessica Dally came down from Seattle to give a talk called Run Free: How to Transform Your Community Without Money. (Jessica is also a Nonprofit Commons member and NetSquared Local organizer.) In a one-hour presentation, Jessica took on the daunting task of convincing a room full of people trying to start and grow nonprofits to consider a no-budget model. She started with a simple question: What do you need to start an organization? People called out various budget items (a space, computers, staff, telephones) as well as intangibles (attention, a mission, passion). Next, she asked which items from the list you can’t get for free. We selected a handful of items from the list — publicity, computers, space, and a few others — and for each item we came up with, Jessica explained how SFS had gotten it for free or made do without it.

Publicity? Jessica explained that when she first started SFS, she’d spend a lot of money and time printing flyers and taking them to community centers and coffeeshops around Seattle. One day she realized that there was no way she’d get the fliers everywhere in Seattle; why not crowdsource the job? Now, she posts the flyers on Twitter and Facebook, asking followers to bring them to their own neighborhood spots. “It’s just one copy. You can even print it off at work if you don’t tell anyone,” she joked. But the publicity hasn’t stopped there. A no-budget organization is a compelling story, and it gets SFS a lot of publicity. The school has been featured in every major publication in Seattle, and many of those have been cover stories.

Computers? Jessica and the people who work with her use their own personal computers. This one gives me a small case of jitters: it’s become increasingly common for nonprofit staff to use their own computers at least some of the time, and that’s fine if it’s an understanding that all parties are comfortable with. For any organization doing this, I’d strongly recommend that you use remote backup tools and/or online collaboration tools like Google Docs, Zoho or Microsoft Office Web Apps.

Phones? Jessica explained that at first, she simply put her mobile phone number on SFS’s website. Once she started getting enough calls that it became a problem, she switched to Google Voice. That kind of ad hoc decision-making was a major theme in Jessica’s talk: you don’t need the fancy solution right away; just use the simplest solution that’ll work until it stops working.

Space? SFS began by holding all of its classes in meeting rooms at the library. But as the school got more attention, local organizations started actively courting SFS to hold classes at their offices, with the idea that it was good marketing for them. If SFS were a traditional nonprofit, it’s possible that other local organizations with their own budgetary woes wouldn’t have been so generous.

Finally, someone asked, “How do you support yourself?” Some were bemused by Jessica’s matter-of-fact reply, “I have a day job. Actually, I have three day jobs.” She said that she works about ten hours a week month for SFS, but that those ten hours are all spent on programs, not on fundraising and accounting. When I interviewed NOZA founder Craig Harris a few years ago, he told me that when people start nonprofits, they’re invariably surprised to learn that regardless of what the organization does, they’ll be spending most of their time fundraising. Looking at it that way, there’s something to say for foregoing the fundraising and just getting a day job.

Does a no-budget model make sense for every organization? Maybe not. But we can all learn something from organizations like the Seattle Free School about finding creative solutions and relying on our communities.

Update: See Jessica’s notes in the comments thread.

Microsoft and NOZA are TechSoup product donation partners.


Discuss This in Our Forums

What are the advantages of operating with no money? What are the drawbacks? What’s your secret to running your nonprofit on the cheap? Join this Emerging Technologies forum discussion.

Written by: penguin kuhn

Extra, Extra!: Ben Rigby talks micro-volunteering and community

Written by guest blogger, MeiMei Fox, @meimeifox and cross-posted to TechSoup blog.




Ben Rigby of the Extraordinaries spoke at the SF Online Community MeetUp and got the conversation rolling on micro-volunteering and building mobile communities.

Update: Ben Rigby’s presentation on SlideShare.

The Opportunity: Why don’t people volunteer?

They don’t have time. Or so we say. Yet we play hundreds of hours of solitaire. We watch 1 billion YouTube videos and spend 270 million hours on Facebook every day. With that time, we could build 40 Empire State Buildings every year. So we have spare time. We have instant internet access thanks to smart phones, and even in the developing world people have mobile phones. And surveys show that we want to help – so there is a desire.

The Solution: Micro-volunteering!

You can volunteer in minute moments, like when you’re standing in line at the post office- you don’t need to go anywhere. You can do it from your mobile phone- you don’t even need to be on a computer or have internet access. Obama raised $500 million, $80 at a time through crowdsourcing micro-donations. The Extraordinaries is doing the same thing for volunteering.

Here are a few examples:

Google image labeler is a technology where you see an image, and you write tags describing what you see. That meta-data makes the image accessible to search engines. So the Extraordinaries built an app whereby, as a volunteer, you could scroll through images and tag them for non-profits like the Smithsonian, which has archives of millions of photos that are untagged and therefore unsearchable.

One day after the Jan 12 earthquake in Haiti, the Extraordinaries turned this technology into a way to find missing persons. They brought images in from news agencies, then put together a survey asking their volunteers to identify what they saw: “Can you see a person in this photo? Age? Gender? Buildings nearby?” People would add meta-data to the photos, and the Extraordinaries created a search engine that allowed you to narrow down images from the news based on this info. You could type in, for example “young, female, pink shirt” and it would narrow down thousands of images to 50 photos. Then they pulled the missing persons feed from Google’s database, and had volunteers sift through one-by-one: Do you see the missing person in the photo on the right in this photo on the left? They found 24 missing persons in this way!

Another example of an Extraordinaries app was when they asked micro-volunteers to find defibrillators, take a picture, and tag them with mapping software. This generated a map of defibrillators everywhere, which is vital because emergency responders only have ten minutes to get to a defibrillator before a person dies from a heart attach.

The Extraordinaries is a for-profit company, in that it wants to generate enough revenue to be self-sustaining. Its original funding came from angel investors, and grants they won from Netsquared and the Knight Foundation. They tried selling their micro-volunteering services to non-profits, but it didn’t work—the non-profits all said no. So now the Extraordinaries offer their services to non-profits free of charge. But they’re selling their services to corporations. 92% of Fortune 500 companies have volunteering efforts, and The Extraordinaries allows them to add an online component to their existing programs.

Unlike VolunteerMatch or Idealist, the Extraodrinaries operates on a networked model. The key is many people doing many, small bits of work that add up to task completion.

The main problem the Extraordinaires is having at the moment is attrition. People register—the iPhone app has over 40,000 downloads—but then they get bored after four days and stop volunteering. So the company’s top priority is to figure out how to build community in order to keep people engaged. How can the Extraordinaries make micro-volunteering as exciting and fun as Farmville?

They know that people don’t like interacting in a vacuum. At first, people had no way of knowing who else was volunteering or, even more importantly, of sharing what they were accomplishing. So now the Extraordinaries has started to add community features, such as being able to Like a piece of advice that someone gives to a non-profit, or being able to share how many hours you’ve volunteered with your friends/team members. But they’re still looking for solutions to this issue – so please share your ideas with!

Written by: penguin kuhn

Free Online Event and Webinar with SL broadcast Feb. 18 : Straight Talk About Telecommunications for Your Organization

telecom equipment imageDon’t know your VoIP from your POTS or even what these acronyms mean? Scratching your head on all the phone system options out there? Then this event is for you.

Join us Thursday February 18 at 11 a.m. Pacific for an informative webinar and forums event to help you avoid the buzz-word marketing and get the real picture on telecommunications.

We’ll be joined by telecommunications expert and longtime TechSoup star and forums moderator, Chris Shipley of Nutmeg IT and Kevin Lo, Lead Technology Analyst for TechSoup Global. Our hosts will address the various voice communication options (VoIP, PBX hardware, voicemail, etc.) available and how these differ. We’ll explore the pros and cons of different solutions, cost considerations, and examine what kinds of organizations would best benefit from different systems.

This live webinar kicks off the official launch of TechSoup’s new Telecommunications discussion forum.  After the webinar, our hosts will continue the conversation in the asynchronous (not live) forums event. We’ve gotten the conversation rolling with topics like how telecommunications is changing nonprofit work, Google Voice, and what VoIP services organizations are using. Head on over and post your questions and get expert advice on your telecommunications needs!

Here are all the ways you can participate in the event! Feel free to take part on any and all of these channels:

If you have any questions, please email

Spread the word via Twitter and other social media sites by copying and pasting the following:

Join in free #techsoup forums event & webinar: Straight Talk about Telecommunications, 2/18: 

Image credit: Peter Kamaninski via Flickr

Written by: penguin kuhn

Member Spotlight: Layal Rabat aka Ninlil Xeltentat

Layal Rabat, otherwise known as Ninlil Xeltentat in Second Life is the Volunteer Manager for Nonprofit Commons in Second Life. I had a chance to chat with Layal about her nonprofit work in real and virtual worlds.

What organization do you work for?

I’m currently a student pursuing an MA in the Social Justice and Human Rights (MASJHR) program at Arizona State University. In addition to working with TechSoup and the Nonprofit Commons, I also work withNijel,an organization that seeks to help organizations tell their stories through maps.

How’d you hear about Second Life and the Nonprofit Commons?

I heard about nonprofits in Second Life through one of my professors here at ASU and through the Soul of the New Machine conference at UC Berkeley last May. I hear Susan Tenby speak about the Nonprofit Commons and that sparked my interest in getting involved.

How are you using Second Life to help achieve your goals and those of your organization?

I am using Second Life to help accomplish my personal mission of networking with people from all over the world, and learning together how to use technology to increase efficiency, and give a voice to the voiceless. I manage volunteers for the Nonprofit Commons and match them up with the roles that best fit their skills and interest.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve found using Second Life for nonprofit work?

My biggest challenge is holding people accountable for work they volunteer for. I also have a hard time explaining the usefulness of Second Life in less than a paragraph. I want Tweet-worthy (140 characters or less) justifications to pass along!

What benefits have you experienced?

So far, my biggest success was arranging to have Kyle Reis (Zazoom Zimminy in Second Life) to speak to my grant writing class. He brought his knowledge from the Ford Foundation into my classroom, and gave us a jaw dropping lecture on innovations that the Ford Foundation has been working on. We learned about streamlining the funds request process, the usefulness of social media, and how the Ford Foundation is adapting to the digital age. If it was not for Nonprofit Commons, Kyle and I would not have never met.

Your favorite quote?

“Yea, death and prison we mete out To small offenders of the laws,
While honor,wealth,and full respect On greater pirates we bestow.”

-Gibran Khalil Gibran.

What social media tools besides Second Life do you use?

I’m using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

How can others connect with you?

You can follow me on Twitter @layalzebub, and see more about and the NonprofitCommons on Facebook.

Written by: penguin kuhn

Virtual Haiti Relief: Special Nonprofit Commons meeting tomorrow

[post by In Kenzo @npsl @amoration]

Have you wandered around the grid & web and wondered how you can directly support the people of Haiti?

At our weekly Friday morning at 8:30AM PST/SLT, the Nonprofit Commons in Second Life will be hosting a dialogue with groups working on the ground & across the web to ship supplies, communicate with loved ones and begin the design process for rebuilding Haiti. Many avatars have come together to join international aid efforts through a coordinated virtual campaign.

SLurl to meeting location in Second Life:

From my colleague Joyce Bettencourt, aka Rhiannon Chatnoir of GlobalKids & Vesuvius:

“Virtual Haiti Relief is made up of a group of individuals, some affiliated with various social, cultural, nonprofit and other community groups, within the virtual world of Second Life.

We have come together to help in the relief efforts for those who have suffered in the Haiti earthquake disaster. Collectively we have named our group Virtual Haiti Relief and through this group we will conduct fundraising and promote events for Haiti relief, along with offering resources and cultural information on Haiti.”

We will do our best to aggregate relief efforts coordinated inworld and share them through these channels:

VHR Google group:
VHR Google calendar:…
inSL avatar: VirtualHaitiRelief Engineer (for direct donations)
inSL group: Virtual Haiti Relief

There are a handful of ways you can get involved:

  • Many fundraising events are being planned @npsl and beyond: benefit concerts, cultural celebrations, educational events within an integrated campaign available around the grid. Join the groups above if you’d like to get involved or share your fundraising event with the community and contact directly if you would like to host your event at the Nonprofit Commons.
  • A coordinated campaign will link your virtual items for donation/auction sale: please label all gift items to share with VirtualHaiti in the title. Common kiosks are being created to link events, donations and sales together with the coordinated site.
  • To vote on which charity to benefit visit — it is possible that we will do a one month campaign for one charity followed by a second month for a second NGO. Your votes will help us determine who will make the most of our virtual donation efforts.
  • Listen to people on the ground in Haiti share their experiences.

    From Kali, aka Jessica from Community Voicemail:

    “Here is a link to the podcast my coworker did about her organization. It details why her organization is able to get aid to smaller communities (and get aid in at all) when larger organizations are failing in this effort.”:

  • Get involved with Crisis Camps around the world to develop the technology and tools needed to respond rapidly in Haiti.
  • Stay in touch with great nonprofits working on the ground: some suggestions include Partners in Health, We Can Build An Orphanage, Architecture for Humanity — some of these groups need bulk donations of medical supplies, consumable materials, energy & water purification systems. Mobilize your friends to help!
  • If you are on Twitter, please spread the word by copying and pasting the below tweet:

    Join @npsl & @virtualhaiti in SL 4 coordinating #Haiti relief efforts @ Nonprofit Commons mtg. Fri. 8:30AM PST/SLT

Thanks for your willingness to help others in need — we look forward to exploring with you how invisible networks and virtual communities can coordinate efforts in times of crisis. See you tomorrow at Plush to continue this conversation together.

Written by: penguin kuhn

Design Software to Help Your Oraganization’s Work in Second Life

Once you get started with Second Life, you often find that having design software is really helpful when it comes to creating designs and textures in-world. And you may not be aware that TechSoup has some offerings that can help you out. If you use a Mac for design work, TechSoup has a Special Donation of Adobe products that you can take advantage of. These are available to the following types of organizations:

  • Schools and other educational
  • Health services
  • Cultural and historical
  • Community and inner city development
  • Youth and sports
  • Business and farming
  • Civil rights and legal aid

Products like CS Design Premium and Standard 3.3 for Mac and Photoshop CS 3.0 for Mac are among the listings available to more organizations than our regular Adobe donation program. So, even if you haven’t been eligible to receive Adobe donations from TechSoup in the past, your organization may be eligible for the special donation program. Quantities and titles are limited so get ’em while they’re hot!

Written by: penguin kuhn

TechSoup and Nonprofit Commons in the News!

Mixed reality panel at NetSquared conference

TechSoup’s own Susan Tenby, aka Glitteractica Cookie, wrote up a blog post about the Mixed Reality Health Panel Expo event that is featured on the Huffington Post. Part of TechSoup’s NetSquared Conference (N2y4), the mixed reality event highlighted nonprofits doing work in the virtual world of Second Life. including health expert panelists from organizations including Community Voicemail, Boomer Esiason Foundation, and Virtual Ability.

But that’s not all! The NetSquared Conference has gotten a number of press mentions. Huffington Post also featured an post from by longtime NetSquared supporter Allen Gunn: “NetSquared 2009: Making the Virtual Proximal”. “Lessons on Innovation from Nonprofits”, by columnist Chris O’Brien, also recently appeared in the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. And we were proud to see The Economist’s Technology Quarterly, showcasing five of NetSquared’s previous Featured Projects for their application of mapping tools for social benefit work

We are thrilled to see these fantastic individuals and social benefit organization getting press about their important work. If you’d like to see more you can check out wrap-up detailed coverage of the NetSquared conference and find text archive, pictures, and live-blogging of the Health Panel Expo event.

Written by: penguin kuhn

Blogging The Health Panel Expo

[Cross-posting from the NetSquared blog by BJ Wishinsky]

N2Y4 Mixed Reality Health Panel, Wed. May 27, 11:15 AM

My name is BJ Wishinsky (avatar name Biji Mornington), and I’m the Communities Program Manager at the nonprofit Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. I had so much fun live-blogging the mixed reality at last year’s NetSquared conference that I volunteered to do it again today. There are Health Panels all day today in Second Life, celebrating the launch of the new inworld Health Commons. The 11:15 panel on Mobile Health Information is mixed reality: Second Life and Real Life (here at Cisco’s Vineyard Conference Center in San Jose, CA). We’re about to begin, so stay tuned.

Seth Gonzales (Avatar Impeccably Peccable) is the Communities Manager for the Boomer Esiason Foundation in New York. They started their SecondLife presence with the long-term goal of starting an inworld community of Cystic Fibrosis (CF) patients. SecondLife can provide CF patients an opportunity to interact with each other without the risk of infection. They are also using SecondLife and mobile technology to engage donors. Donors can give via mobile up to four times a month. The text-to-donate program was launched this month because May is Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month. 263 million people in the U.S. have cell phones so they want to tap into this group. Seth is confident this will be a sustainable program that helps tremendously with fundraising. They just started it and are getting some good responses using promotional PSAs to get the word out.

Our multiple venues in real life and Second Life are starting to fill up, and Susan Tenby (whose avatar is named Glitteractica Cookie) is explaining the format for our new arrivals. Susan asks Seth about the unique opportunity of the Second Life environment for CF patients. CF patients usually are taking 10-20 pills a day and going through multiple treatments from nebulizers to vibrating vests to keep their lungs clear and stay alive. They often live very isolated lives, between treatments and the need to keep them from being exposed to other infectious diseases that can aggravate their CF and prove fatal. Second Life provides an opportunity for them to meet safely in Second Life and connect with other CF patients for support and socializing.

Their measure of success is getting CF patients acclimated (with a SecondLife 101 class) and familiarizing them with what they offer on Boomer Island.

Jessica Dally of Community Voicemail, works for a nonprofit that provides voice mailboxes to people who are homeless and don’t have their own home or cell. This allows those who are homeless to better keep in touch with their families and friends, and for those who care about them to be able to reach them. It also allows Community Voicemail to get important messages out to clients, for example, about the peanut butter recall, or an approaching hurricane. They are also partnering with in Second Life and using voicemail and mobile technology to help them disseminate information about HIV testing. In Second Life they partner with other organizations and help them set up voicemail programs with their communities. Second Life helps them spread the word about what they’re doing and partnering with other cities and agencies.

Ellehcim Fizzle (speaking from inworld) of is talking about the stigma of AIDS and the need to continue to pay attention to AIDS/HIV. One in five people who are infected with HIV are unaware of their status, which underscores the importance of Testing Day. They’re still determining all that they want to do in Second Life. They’re using mobile technology for the KNOWIT campaign where you can text 566948 (KNOWIT) with your zip code and receive information on an testing facility in your area. At the CDC Conference a few months ago she heard about how Community Voicemail was used to reach homeless people regarding the peanut recall and thought it would be a great way to reach the homeless community with information about HIV testing. They are also highlight videos created by partners like Kaiser Family Foundation, MTV and others to help promote testing day.

About 15 of the people here in the room with me are also currently present as avatars at the event in Second Life (SL). Our host, Cisco, has provided great support for all these people running the graphics-intensive Second Life application over the conference wireless. We’re starting some Q&A — microphone in the room, text chat in SL. Jessica (Kali Idziak in SL) notes there was a bit of a steep learning curve for her getting started in SL since she was not a gamer, but there are lots of people and resources to help you learn. She notes that you don’t have to be a techie to learn your way around in SL.

How do nonprofits get started? Come to the weekly inworld Nonprofits in Second Life meetings ( for info). There’s a meeting every Friday at 8:30 a.m. SLT (Second Life Time, which is Pacific Time).

Susan introduces Jeska Dzwigalski (avatar name Jessica Linden), Director of Communities at Linden Labs. Jessica says recommends telling your boss that IBM saved $320k in Second Life. She recommends also looking at some of the case studies at Some groups in Second Life where you can find help: Virtual Ability ( helps people with disabilities and Wiki Tecture helps people work on their 3D spaces.

The NetSquared Conference is a program of TechSoup, which also offers discounted technology to nonprofits through their TechSoup Stock program. TechSoup Stock is actively working to get more software partners to offer discounted products to health-related nonprofits.

Written by: penguin kuhn