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LaMarcus Bolton on Communications Technologies for Evaluators

My name is LaMarcus Bolton, and I am the American Evaluation Association’s Technology Director, as well as a doctoral student in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. AEA’s Executive Director, Susan Kistler, is on vacation and I’m filling in with this Saturday’s staff post. Today, I wanted to discuss some of the great strides technology has made in terms of helping to improve communication, in particular focusing on quick, easy, and low-cost/no-cost tools that can help evaluators to keep their costs in check and maintain open communication with stakeholders and clients.

Rad Resource: Despite how far we have come in terms of communication mediums, the good ‘ol telephone is still often the medium of choice. Skype, allows one to make free calls to other Skype users, and has very competitive rates for both national and international calls for non-Skype users. Skype even allows one to create conference calls, although with a limited number of participants. However, if you do not want to rely on voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) technologies like Skype (which, by the way, typically are not as clear as traditional landlines), services such as FreeConferenceCall.com in the US may be worthwhile. I have used FreeConferenceCall.com on a few occasions and have always had pleasurable experiences.

Rad Resource: Although the wide availability of scanners and PDFs have made fax machines less popular, there is sometimes still the need to send or receive a fax. Services like eFax give users a free (though non-local) number that can accept faxes and send them directly to your email address. Unfortunately, to send faxes requires one to upgrade to their eFax Plus service. To address this, services like Fax Zero allows one to upload Microsoft Word and PDF files to send to any fax number in the country. Though these options are reliable, and environmentally friendly, I would caution against using them to send or receive sensitive information.

Rad Resource: If, like myself, you try to stay on the cutting-edge of technology, there have been great strides here as well. In addition to phone calls, Skype also allows for free video calls. This allows one to talk face-to-face with friends, family, and colleagues, by adding a small hint of personalization. Though, for quick and efficient communication, technologies like instant messaging (IM) are king. Though, the problem with instant messaging is that everyone seems to have a different preferred client. For example, popular here within the US are AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and Google Chat (Gchat), but internationally, Windows Messenger is often preferred. To address this, software like Trillian and Digsby for Windows, and Adium for Mac, allow one to combine all IM services into a single and easy-to-use interface.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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