GreenTech LogoIn April, TechSoup Global's GreenTech Initiative will be kicking off a TeleGreening Your Workplace campaign to help nonprofits and libraries discover ways to save money, reduce travel, and still be effective in your work. One way that nonprofits and libraries can reduce their travel carbon footprint are to try out some new tools for virtual meetings. And one of these tools is Second Life, the most prominent online 3D virtual world where users can meet and socialize using voice and text chat for free. We asked GreenTech volunteer Michael Hodges to sign up and try out different things in Second Life like find the Nonprofit Commons Island and befriend 'avatars' there.

Michael Hodges is a GreenTech volunteer, currently looking for work. Michael has a long history of volunteering, most recently as a 15-year veteran FIFA-registered soccer referee (ages 8 through 18). He also works with OWL, an environmental organization that builds owl houses, and advocates for the species. Here’s his story from his first venture into Second Life:

Nonprofit Commons in Second Life meeting I had been asked to create an avatar, take the avatar to a place called Second Life, perform a few tasks and then reflect on the experience, rather like Alice in Wonderland. This is the story of my avatar, JTR Arentire, and how he came into being without going-down the rabbit hole.

Typing a URL is always fun if you don't know what's at the other end and sure enough there it was; the opening splash page with all these products being offered. It was easy to get started (big arrow) and then "create" an avatar; I know later that I will be able to change my appearance to better reflect me. I wanted a heroic name but chose JTR because it takes up less space on a line and is easy to spell. The last name came from a list provided and together they have an alliterative feel: JTR Arentire. I felt the creation of a basic avatar was pretty easy and enjoyable since I got to reflect on who I wanted to be.

I felt that when selecting the community where I wanted to land my avatar, there was a lack of explanation. I chose London and wandered around looking but had no feeling of how to "do" anything. The great thing was that everyone was friendly and I spoke to several new creations and six others who were wandering around checking stuff out. I found a group-name called friends and became "friends" with an avatar called Ronson, but could not really tell what that meant, nor could he actually articulate how to do something. Again I am sure that I will get better but maybe a flying wizard tour guide might be helpful.

After moving around for a while I realized that I had lost my way and actually had to get to the Nonprofit Commons, complete some actions, and write a small paragraph about it. The Nonprofit Commons is a place where 65+ nonprofits provide a variety of services to other nonprofits in order to help each other achieve their respective missions. I had to figure out how to get my avatar there, obtain some information, and write up a paragraph to prove it.

As a normal guy, we figured that if I could do that then anyone else could as well, so it was a good test. I did some other things while there too; for example, I rode the Magic Carpet (couldn't figure out the horse-carriage ride); met a new "friend" Anika and exchanged words; subscribed to the By the Cup newsletter.

In all it was a great adventure for JTR (me). One thing I don't recommend is forgetting your password and having to talk to a non-avatar in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England to get them to help you. This is the beginning of the beginning!

A final note from Jim Lynch:

If this piques your interest in Second Life, check out the Nonprofit Commons site, which is a great source for blog posts and news from the world of nonprofit organizations organizing and educating in Second Life. It's a very active place.