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Online tools for online volunteers
30 November 2006
by Randy Tyler

In working with online volunteers, there are certain types of tasks where real

time voice communication can be an efficient way to solve a problem quickly.

When Canadian-based charitable organization Macdonald Youth Services (MYS) encounters

these types of situations, they reach

for Skype, a free cross-platform computer application that allows them to talk

to their online volunteer Skype users anywhere in the world for free.

MYS’s Online Volunteer Program developer Randy Tyler highlights how

the clarity of a real-time Skype voice conversation helped him advance

their video production.

“We are currently working on the production of a recruitment video and

during an hour long Skype conversation with the Indiana-based online volunteer

producer, I was able to move the project forward very quickly, commented Tyler.

Working out the video direction via e-mail

would have been possible but would have taken much longer,” continued


“Skype is a cost-effective tool that lends itself to conditions that

are best served by real-time communications across all points of the globe,” stated

Indiana-based online volunteer video producer, Kibben Miller.

“In media development, Brainstorming is a critical element to insure

objectives are addressed and creative solutions are explored. The

give and take between collaborators is vital to a project’s success and

Skype is a tool that allows this interaction without technology or a colleague’s location presenting additional barriers Miller addded.

Tyler also develops and maintains MYS’s Web site. Highly-skilled online

volunteers are an invaluable resource MYS uses to assist them to enhance their charitable organization’s

Web site. However, when using e-mail, testing changes in software can be a

protracted process. For

MYS’s Tyler, Skype was an effective and efficient tool in quickly arriving

at a solution when working Online Volunteer software developer Eugen Bodolak,

who is based in the Middle East.

“Instead of exchanging a number of e-mail messages, testing and replying,

we connected via Skype,” said Tyler. “Along with Skype’s

voice communication, we also used the application’s chat feature to exchange

code snippets and its file transfer ability to transfer finals, which resulted

in a quick fix to the Perl-based script,” added Tyler.

“Information is the key word, ‘information is power’, if

the power come’s free, why not to take advantage of it,” stated

MYS’s Middle East Online Volunteer Eugen Bodolak. “In comparison

with other softs, that serves the same purpose, the rate of used system resource

and quality

since to be in the advantage of the Skype,” added Bodolak.

As SkypeOut (meaning a call from a computer to a landline or mobile) is currently

free throughout North America to the end of December, Tyler also uses Skpe to call MYS online volunteers located in the US or Canada. To

ensure that online volunteers can connect with him or so that he can leave

a voice message for other MYS online volunteers using Skype, Tyler also subscribes

to Skype Voicemail. Although not free (it is about $20.00 Canadian a Year),

Tyler find the service invaluable.

“With Skype Voicemail, because my computer doesn’t have to left

on, I do not miss any messages,” stated Tyler. “Moreover, I can

leave a five

or ten minute voicemail message (and communicate my message more effectivelty)

for an online volunteer Skype user that would take me an

hour or more to type.” commented Tyler.