Making Your Haiti Donation Count

January 23, 2010

In a previous entry, I talked about ways to donate in a Techeap way. As the operations in Haiti continue, I though it would be worthwhile to touch upon some topics that I discussed there and add a few more tricks.

My best suggestion remains at This site has added a whole new section of ways that you can have your donation matched by a variety of corporations around the country. They’ve added a number of ways to get a matching donation to Haiti relief, so I recommend you check that out.

Another major trend that is new to this particular disaster is the use of text messaging to donate. Generally, this works by texting a particular word to a telephone number and the aid organization charging your cell phone provider. This donation will then appear on your phone bill.

The problem that I have with this method of donation is that it takes a long time for your chosen charity to get the money that has been donated. For this crisis, as the Wall Street Journal reported, the major cell phone carriers each elected to advance at least some money before the bill is actually paid. Normally, however, this is not the case and that is something I consider to be a major drawback in this method of donation.

With that said, if a text message is so convenient for you that it is the only way that you are going to donate, then the drawbacks may be worthwhile.

The last item I’ll mention is that there are a wide variety of kickbacks for donations to Haiti out there. From role-playing game PDFs to recordings of the Hope for Haiti telecast to Miami Heat tickets, lots of organization are offering kickbacks for your donation. If that makes your donation meaningful to you, I encourage you to take advantage of those offers.

In these economic times, giving your money away can be very difficult, but if you can afford to do it, there are a lot of people who can use the help right now.

Any other great offers to those who help Haiti? Let me know in the comments.

Give Voice to the Google-less

August 8, 2009

After a prolonged wait, I finally got my invitation to try out Google Voice. While not without its quirks, it offers a lot of functionality with relative ease of use.

Google Voice issues you a new phone number which you can attack to land line or cell phones. You can actually use the service to ring all of your phones at once if someone is trying to reach you. People can dial the Google Voice number and it will automatically forward the call. The next thing that happens is when the phone rings, Google Voice will try to ID the person who is calling you to see if you want to accept the call.

This is where one of those quirks comes in. I  found that you did not have a very long time to make a decision and find the number that coordinated with the option that you wanted. If you use the line a lot, you’ll get over that issue, but it will take some practice. If you elect to take the call at any time in the conversation you can hit the ‘4’ key and have it record the rest of the conversation. It will take this call and automatically forward the recording as an mp3 to the e-mail you have linked with your account, or you can change to setting to just let it live in the Google Voice account.

Next, if you don’t want to take the call, you can send it to voice mail. This time Google Voice will attempt a speech to text translation and e-mail that to you. Like all speech-to-text, it bungles a lot of it up, but it can give you a solid idea of what the person was trying to pass along. Just don’t count on it to get detail like addresses and phone numbers correct. The voicemail is also recorded and becomes downloadable as an mp3.

The last main feature is the calling and SMS feature. From the Google Voice page, you can initiate a free call between your Google Voice attached phone and any number in the US. I found the connection process was a bit slow, but once you were  connected the quality was surprisingly good. VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) has certainly come a long way from the old days. You are also supposed to be able to send SMS messages to any number, but I had some problems with this and a couple of my test messages never got through. Unlike a phone call, it’s hard to verify if texts have gone through, so you might use this feature with caution.

Overall, I’m very impressed with the service, especially considering that you get it all for free. However, to use it you have to get invited by Google and I had signed up over 6 months ago before finally getting my service recently. So if you are interested, get yourself on the list now, and you might get invited by Christmas.

Google has announced an automatic invitation service for members of the military. That is, people with .mil e-mail addresses. This is a nice touch and I think people in the military overseas can really use this to get audio messages from their friends and family members in this country.

I do have to mention that using this service could potentially give Google a lot of information about you. I would check out their privacy policy before you sign-up, just to make sure you are comfortable with how they are using your information.

Have you used the service? Think you might sign up? Let me know in the comments.