Thursday, July 27, 2006

Second Life & NPO's - a critical look

I stumbled upon a terrific post on the Second Thoughts blog. It's a bit wordy (no offense) but is very worth the read as a counter-point/balance to all the wonderful press and blog activity surrounding Second Life Relay for Life. I have no idea who the blogger is other than he's someone who lives and works in SL.

I did read though all the comments - some good (and some not so good) stuff in there. I'm all about the discourse though.

Some of his more important point include:
  • Is much/all of charity work "part of the old reputation-enhancement game for which SL is famous?" To be honest, I have no idea - but even if it is, who cares- more awareness typically leads to more funds and services for patients. That's a good thing I think. If Linden wants to partner with charities to bring more users to SL - sign me up.
  • He points out the abundant media criticism (link can be found on this original post) surrounding large charities - and I think he's right. I learned my freshman year in college that perception is reality. If I say the sky is pink then it's pink! That said, big charities (all charities) need to work smart, but the public also needs to realize that effective business leadership is required to run large charities. Those leaders need salaries, training, travel budgets etc... It's a delicate balance and clearly, there are recent examples of abuse in the system. NPO's aren't the only ones that need to shape up though: how about a round of applause for Enron and Worldcom. Yes, more money (as much as possible) should go to fufull the mission... but the reality is that if NPO's don't hire the right folks to fundraising and execute the mission, nothing good happens.
  • The post also seems to be making a point about elitism within SL ("the community" is made up of the limited cadres of Linden lifers and FIC types and their stable of talented builders and scripters who work like mad against terrible odds). After I posted about my impressions of SL Relay for Life, I started to think about how we'd actually go about starting up something and was immediately stopped by the fact that I don't have a cadre of willing, technical volunteers, nor do I have the support and time from Linden or consulting companies who can help us understand how to build a successful virtual event.
I feel like I'm reviewing this post and that's not my intent... I'm very happy to see some sort of counterpoint to all the publicity around SLRFL - it validates some of my thinking that virtual fundraising is a lot harder that it appears to be and that the early returns will be small and hard to justify. That said, I also believe that "virtual fundraising" is about to happen at some substantial level. It's not too hard to imagine the virtual fundraising market to be well over $1 million a year within a few years (and even that number may be sandbagging it).

Before I close this post, I want to point out (again) my own observations that SL is in a very early adopter stage. The bandwidth, hardware and time requirements create a techno-elite environment - one that I believe will change over time (don't you remember when no one knew what a URL was or never heard of Google?). Just because we're not there yet... it's a good thing that ACS is doing/leading in opening up new fundraising venues because if I hear one more time about some unique idea for a charity walk I think I'll go mad.

Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Second Life Relay for Life Impressions

I spent some time in Second Life participating in Relay For Life and to be honest, I'm pretty blown away. I had read all about it before and thought I knew what was going on but was unaware at how comprehensive and complete the experience would be.

I jumped in via the SLURL and was impressed with the instructions and tools provided. I grabbed my HUD and started walking around the course. There have been plenty of write ups about what was built (different cities, environments etc) like NYC, Italy, Ireland etc... and once you are in SL, it becomes immediately apparent that the amount of work involved is incredible. The details, course layout and interactivity all stunned me. It seems as if they missed no details - integrated mission moments, appropriate ways to donate and lots of folks mingling around. Wow.

It's the grassroots organization and execution that is most amazing to me about this - way more than the $40k raised or any of the publicity garnered for ACS. From what I've read, ACS has put very little staff involvement into this, instead relying on SL volunteers to organize, develop and execute a massive (virtually speaking) event.

My own experiences within SL leave much to be desired because I don't have a gaggle of helpful, technical volunteers, nor do I have the staff or experience (or organizational approval) to do much of anything on my own.

I took a bunch of pics and posted them to flickr if you want to see!

(Who thought of this! I love that they have mission/cancer content that is interactive built in)

Linkage (more on SL Relay for Life)
Tags: , , ,

Friday, July 21, 2006

Mixed Reality Event - Impressions

As I mentioned earlier this week I had a very odd speaking engagement - a mixed reality event in Second Life for TechSoup. I spoke briefly about what The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is doing in SL (or what we intend to do) - which at this point, is pretty uncertain.

Before I jump in, I'd like to thank Beth and the folks at TechSoup for inviting me to speak at the event! They did an unreal job pulling off what appeared to be a tight rope walk to pull off the video, event planning and presentations.

Ok, here we go...

The Tech Stuff
First, from the technical side of things it is very apparent that SL continues to appeal to "early adopters" in a big way - the system (graphics, hardware) and bandwidth requirements are very steep - running SL on my 2.x Ghz Dell along with Skype slowed me down to a crawl at times. I'm unsure of what exactly happened, but when I streamed the audio and had skype running, my cable modem actually went offline. It's been best described to me as "packet collision" - a fancy way to say that my modem had some much data flowing through it that it got confused.

My impression in regards to the event itself from a technical perspective was... WOW. The amount of effort and work that went into this even was stunning.

It is amazing what is possible in SL (streaming live video, food objects, directories etc...) - the richness of the platform is pretty amazing and very powerful. I don't think people yet realize how powerful this is going to be. I read that soon you'll be able to use Firefox within SL which again opens up a ton of possibilties.

Because of this current technology barrier - there is a (very?) limited upside to SL type platforms in today's world. But once the web opens up to SL or the technology barrier goes away, the richness of the 3D world will finally be mainstream.

The Content
Because I couldn't get the video feed to work for the 1st half of the event, I missed much/all of the content. When I did finally get it to work, the sound was a bit muffled and hard to hear - I got very little of the presentations because of this unfortunately. To be brutually honest, I sort of felt like the content was 2nd fiddle to the cool technology of the evening - the fact that I was able to peer out of the virtual world into the real world was certainly neato, but didn't have any intrinsic value.

My personal experience was interesting as well... speaking blindly into a microphone was similar of course to doing a phone presentation, but because I could "see" avatars and video, I did have a similar feeling to presenting in real life. Walking up to the podium I had the same butterflies as in the real world. Calling it mixed reality is a pretty good term! That said, the feedback once you start talking is non-existent. I got no feel from the crowd, very little audio feedback and was distracted by all the chatter/chatting in both my skype window, and in SL... lots to be figured out here - it must be somewhat comparable to a stand up comedian performing his jokes alone in a big auditorium.

The other side of my personal experience was, frankly, explaning what I was doing at 10:30 PM to my wife. She's a terrific sanity check for me when it comes to making sure I haven't dropped off the uber geek cliff. She's not buying SL at all (yet) - which I think is important... because in the end, my job as a nonprofit marketer is to move people to action - and lots of them! SL isn't mainstream enough yet for a large NPO like us to move mountains and it remains to be seen how big SL will become and what alternatives will appear as the technology continues to improve.

(Check out this link to a blog post about SL growth/potential growth)

Other Stuff
I spent a few minutes before the event creating some unique LLS and Team In Training shirts/textures and dropped them in a freebie box at the event - hopefully people helped themselves. You can drop by our virtual chapter to get your own shirt and wristband.

In Summary...
I think SL and future 3D/Web platforms will transform how we meet, present and fundraise - but today it's limited by the technology and our own constituents presence within these worlds.

That said, now's the time to experiment. By finding volunteers within these worlds, we can beging to develop new models of advocacy, fundraising and patient services. I'll be looking for volunteers to help me build out our virtual chapter (if you want to help, contact me!!!) and will be thinking hard about how to pull off a virtual event that will not only raise money and awareness, but will be fun as well.

My top 5 takeaways:
  1. The tech barrier limits the scale of what a non-profit can do TODAY in SL
  2. Socialization with large groups of people (10+) within SL is hard/impossible given today's interfaces (this is an observation that I really need to research and blog more about)
  3. It's darn cool...
  4. But it's damn geeky
  5. My wife doesn't get it (yet)
Linkapalooza (all the links I've found from the event so far)
Tags: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Myspace Marketing Concepts

I've been thinking hard about how to continue to use myspace to help market our Team In Training program lately - and have spent some time trolling around and watching how movies, comedians and others have been using Myspace to market their ideas and products.

Our TNT profile a few days ago had 299 users (growing steadily)... I asked my marketing manager to let me know as soon as we got to #300 which happened earlier today. We've created a funny card for her, congratulating her (#300 on myspace, #1 in our hearts, that sort of cheese) and we're sending her some random LLS schwag. I think next time, we'll select a completely random number (#521!) and do the same thing. I'm hoping she blogs about her "gift" and it starts to build some excitement within our "friends" on myspace.

The next strategy builds on what several film profiles have done to build brand awareness... we're going to be asking our friend list put us in their "Top 8" and we'll randomly select a winner each month who will get yet more random LLS schwag.

I'm pretty excited about implementing these strategies within myspace and seeing what happens next...

Tags: , ,

Oddest Speaking Gig... Ever? Yet?

I'm "speaking" at a mixed-reality event tonight, sponsored by Tech Soup. I've created some new shirts (Team In Training and "Relentless" shirts - if you want one, find me in game and I'll be happy to give one to you! You can find me in Second Life as "Cram Doctorow."

I'll be speaking via Skype and chatting in-world about what we're doing in SL - and what we think about marketing our mission and our events in alternative worlds like SL.

Tags: , , , ,

Friday, July 07, 2006

Open Question

"Bono" asks on Yahoo! Questions:

"What can we do to make poverty history?"

I've never used Yahoo! Questions, but have thought about using it to build awareness or provide content to patients and caregivers... haven't really figured it out (or had Bono help by asking a question for us).

Unbelievably, there are more than 15,000 answers to Bono's question in less than 24 hours! That's amazing! I'm not naive though- Yahoo! has promoted this well by putting Bono's "profile" on the questions home page (and promoted it in Yahoo! mail - which is how I first noticed it).

This is a fascinating use of Yahoo! Questions I think... clearly they are not actually expecting the answer - but maybe, just maybe they are building additional awareness for the issue and allowing people to voice their opinions?

Let's see how it's working out... here are some selected answers:
  • Its impossible.
  • Maybe rich white uncle toms ought to look at the poverty crisis in THEIR OWN COUNTRY first before trying to solve unsolveable problems in other countries!
  • Maybe rich white singers in far off lands should sell their mansions, limos, and clothes, get off their narcissistic trip and give it all to the poor.
  • Dude. Hate to be a bubble burster but if you cannot do anything to erradicate poverty in your own country what the devil makes you think that you are going to do it anywhere else on this planet?
Hmm... maybe this is backfiring a bit? Let's try these slightly more constructive ones:
  • Share
  • Let's put 400% tax on luxurious items, such as sun glasses that costs over $50, leather jackets over $300, first class plane tickets, hotel's president's suites, etc, and put the tax money to fight poverty.
  • Follow in Bill Gates and Warren Buffetts footsteps, little by little.
  • create an international currency of cookies. Everyone loves cookies. Anyone can make cookies.
My favorite posts though are the ones written like a letter back to Bono (folks, Bono didn't actually pose or post the question!)

Geez - tough one - with a tough answer. What does poverty matter if dying is a reality through genocide and constant civil unrest?
Fun stuff. Meanwhile, Yahoo! has all these users posting content (free access to tons of user content) and rewards posters with points, levels and stats...

How does this affect a NPO? I searched for "leukemia" and found some fascinating things among the 506 responses:
  • How do you deal with your child possibly being diagnosed with leukemia? 20 answers
  • Can you have leukemia without having the typical bleeding and bruising that usually accompanies it? 5 answers
  • how do you know weather you've got leukemia? 20 answers
  • i found out that my friend has Leukemia.? 22 answers
Additionally, Lymphoma had 284 questions, Myeloma 59 and Team In Training had 4... I'm not saying that we should intervene or even put in our $.02, but clearly patients and caregivers are asking the questions - and others are providing answers...
Tags: , ,