A lot of you know that I am a big fan of About.Me. Wendy, Mark, and even Oliver has a profile on it and every night I need to show Oliver his site after he asks for â€œOli-erâ€™s web pageâ€. Each page took under 5 minutes to create and I was suprised to find how useful mine has become, even after having jordoncooper.com online for over a decade now.
One of the things I have learned about homelessness is how disconnected our residents become from the rest of the world. Some of the staff who are reading this have worked Christmases at the Centre and at Mumford House and know how few phone calls come in for the guys who call this place home during the holidays. It puts a damper on a normally joyous day for a lot of them.
When I saw About.me, I realized this was a perfect for the clients to reconnect and be found. To make it happen, I needed a couple of things.
- A computer: Nathan, our IT guru got me a couple of Pentium 4â€™s running Windows XP. Not exactly cutting edge but cheap and they work well. My boss Captain Rhonda and the other managers authorized me spending some money on new monitors. We put the larger 19 inch monitors on some desktops and took their 17 inch monitors for the workstation. Some keyboards, new mice and I was almost set. Toss in a USB stick, a $10 webcam that takes photos and 640×480 video for Skype, a microphone, and some speakers and we are good to go.
- XS Cargo has $20 computer carts with wheels. Since we donâ€™t have the space for a permanent computer lab, portability is the key. Now the cart took me 3 long hours to assemble so there was some labour costs but I finally got it set up.
- Software: Ninite.com provided everything I needed. Firefox, Chrome, AVG, Open Office, Gimp, and Picassa. I know there are some commercial programs that would be useful but for the most part, this works for us.
- A camera. XS Cargo has some 10 megapixels point and shoots for sale we use for intake. We will use it for a while but I want to find something cheaper and simpler like this Vivitar. In addition to taking some photos for profile photos for About.me, Iâ€™ll use it to teach some digital photography.
So what does it accomplish? Well for guys who are looking for work, the workstation will provide them a chance to create or redo a professional looking resume for submission online or in print. It also also allows them to link to a space online, whether that be LinkedIn, About.me or another site so that employers can find and contact them. It also gives them some control over their Google rankings. For guys in the half-way house, a Google search for them may be damaging (and ignore the reality of rehabilitation), for others, they may never have been online at all and this lets them create and tell their story.
For others it allows people to find them. The front desk at the Centre gets a lot of phone calls from RCMP and police departments across the country looking for guys. A lot of them are here, they arenâ€™t missing in the traditional sense but the family has lost contact. A couple of weekends ago I was asking guys what they wanted to see here and a couple of them said, â€œSkypeâ€. Well Skype it is.
I need a couple of things. I am going to see if I can find some headset/microphones for guys talking online and I probably should put some games on the computer. Iâ€™ll check out the freeware game sites. I also need to create a start page with links to Gmail, Hotmail, The StarPhoenix, Kijiji, and SaskJobs but Iâ€™ll do that this weekend.
I have never been a big believer of those that say that technology is the answer as often times it is a scapegoat for not taking personal action, in this case technology isnâ€™t the answer but is a conduit for men and women who are ready to start connecting to their community and family again. Iâ€™m excited by the workstations and tools like About.me.