10 Questions with Steven Kaplan.

Keith Torluemke and Steven Kaplan are junior Information Systems majors at Carnegie Mellon University. Steve is from Westport, CT and Keith is from Redondo Beach, CA. The two are involved in many activities on campus such as Cross Country, Track and Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Nickels For Katrina is a side project that they thought up in their dormitory.

[1] Paul: Who among the two of you actually came up with the whole idea of Nickelsforkatrina.org?
Steve: About a month ago I was listening to the This Week in Tech podcast and they were talking a lot about the Million Dollar Homepage. When I heard about this site, I went to it and saw that the guy had made a quarter of a million dollars over the course of four days. I then saw that there were a lot of copycats but none of them were successful. Since I am involved in many different community service activities, I thought that this would be a great way to raise money for a good cause. So did Keith.

So to answer your question, I came up with the idea, but that is not the important part. My partner on this project, Keith, has been critical in designing, creating and maintaining the site itself. Keith has much more experience than I in web design so he has been crucial to this project's success.

[2] Paul: Why nickels? Won't $100 makes more sense when it comes to helping out with the relief effort?
Steve: When we were developing the idea, one issue that came up was that we wanted this to be something easily accessible to not only large companies, but to individuals. On the Million Dollar Homepage the minimum donation is $100. For most people this is not necessarily an amount of money that they would be willing to just give away. By lowering the cost of pixels to $.05, it makes it economical for anyone to donate.

[3] Paul: From your weblog, you guys are pretty serious in your effect to help the victims of hurricane katrina, what's the schedule for the coming week like for you guys?
Steve: The trip that I have been blogging is one that I went on this past weekend with a group of Carnegie Mellon students. It was organized by Shernell Smith and Rowshawn Palmer in the Office of Student Affairs. This trip will be followed up in January by Alternative Break, a student organization that does service trips. In the coming weeks, we will be working on getting more traffic to the site. To date we have raised about $2250 but we are still aiming for $50,000. We have a long way to go and lots of work to do as far as spreading the word.

[4] Paul: Any appeal to organizations out there on how they can help the victims of Hurricane Katrina?
Steve: I would say that any socially-responsible organization should address the call by donating time and/or money to the cause. From what many authorities are saying, the best way to help is to make donations. There is so much planning involved in distributing relief that it is hard for them to simply coordinate millions of volunteers. By making donations, it is supporting the existing relief operations. If organizations want to go down to affected areas and spend time helping out hands-on, they should do so only after talking to higher authorities and finding out how they can be most effective in this.

[5] Paul: Alex is making loads of money from the whole milliondollarhomepage, when his original idea was to just pay for his university education. You guys are in university too, any plans to start some of the same sort for yourself? =)
Steve: No. From the outset, we decided that this would be a strictly, non-profit operation. Alex has been immensely successful but our project has a different focus. This site will be a good experience for us will help us in future projects we work on.

[6] Paul: The Nickels For Katrina had been in quite a few press coverage too, I guess that makes you guys famous! How does it feels to be 'rich' and famous! =p
Steve: Rich? Not exactly. We are not pocketing any of the money from this site and intend to give it all to the Red Cross. But being rich would probably feel nice! =p

The limited fame that we have gotten has felt good. It feels good to be noticed and to know that others like what you are doing.

[7] Paul: As both of you guys are majoring in information system , can we expect any exciting new ideas from you guys in the coming months?
Steve: We are always thinking up ideas. A few of them are on the drawing board right now. That's about all I can say though. Our first priority is academics and Carnegie Mellon makes it hard to get away from that. There is a lot of coursework. Although I hate to say that these ideas can wait, they are going to have to. We're not planning on dropping out any time soon.

[8] Paul: Any plans on what you guys are going to do after your graduation?
Steve: Graduation seems so far into the future but it's really only about one and a half years away. Neither of us are sure exactly where we want to be after we leave school but we both want to work in the technology field. I am particularly interested in the new media space. Keith has interests in technical project management and designing web-based systems.

[9] Paul: Where do you guys usually hang out online? Any favorite hunt?
Steve: We're both into the whole blogging scene. A few of our favorite sites are Gizmodo, Engadget, Lifehacker, Blog Maverick, Boing Boing, Digg, iLounge, PaidContent.org, The Joy of Tech, LetsRun, Facebook and of course Woot!.

[10] Paul: Lastly, describe to us in 4 words about yourself.
Steve: Steven is Driven, Ambitious, Open and Absorbed. Keith is Dedicated, Persistent, Thoughtful and Loyal.


10 Questions with Stacey Mulcahy.

For those out there who are involved in Flash Platform Development , you will be familiar with Stacey Mulcahy. Stacey Mulcahy is best known for his weblog, BitchWhoCodes where he write about his passion for Flash Development while juggling work at Teknision Inc. The guy is also a professor at Algonquin College where he teaches Interactive Multimedia and moonlight as a technical editor for several publications about my favorite technology.

[1] Paul: We have to ask this, what is with the name BitchWhoCodes?
Stacey: Bitchwhocodes is simply what is suggests - it's intended to suggest that you don't take yourself too literally. It came as a result of a former employeer calling me bitch as a nickname because I am pretty much anything but that, and I just adopted it as the 'bitch who codes'. Most people don't take it too seriously, although I have had some female opposition to it.

[2] Paul: We know that you worked at at Teknision Inc, care to describe to us, what is an average day at Teknision Inc like?
Stacey: Lately, my average day at Teknision has been something along these lines:

0800hrs - Stroll in with a coffee in hand, sit down and surf the aggregators and blogs to see what is new and exciting in the world of flash and development.

0930hrs - Follow the small herd into a morning meeting where we discuss projects, workloads, deadlines, last night's hockey games. Grab another coffee and settle in around to start attacking whatever maybe on my plate- client work, internal r & d etc. Intermittently get distracted by the blinking taskbar that is Steve messaging me via msn about some great site I have to check out that he found.

1200hrs - Like clockwork, mid-afternoon everyone's headphones come off to listen in on a spirited discussion Tony and I have about some aspect of development - typically I tend to play devil's advocate for pure entertainment value. The day itself, is merely a set amount of time for the collection and development of ideas, where they bounce off of each other, snowballing until we have something tangible that we need to define and file away for when there is a time and place to implement it. Everyone is involved in that process,- developers, designers, project managers. We try to fit in a couple of laughs too, usually at the expense of someone.

1700hrs - The foosball starts in the office.

1800hrs - Tony and I set aside the day's work to start collaborating on an internal project that we consider more of a playtime than anything else. You get caught up in the learning process and loose a grip on how much time has passed.

[3] Paul: Your bosses at Teknision Inc Tony MacDonell and Steve Mackenzie are pretty well known in the Flash Development arena. Describe to us in 5 words, what is it like working together with them?
Stacey: Continuously Consuming Vortex Of Ideas.

[4] Paul: You are involved in a quite a fair bit of flash development work yourself too, how did you get started?
Stacey: My start in Flash is a series of distractions. I got into multimedia thinking I'd use my university degree and be a scriptwriter and copy editor. That never truly happened because I got sidetracked by Director, becoming an ardent supporter and developer for 2 years. I learned Flash in college, but hadn't touched it. I had a bit of lag time at work, so I picked up Flash to make a game. An addiction of sorts ensued.

[5] Paul: What is your most treasured work so far?
Stacey: My most treasured projects to date - would be a toss up between an internal timetracking application and a madlibs based game for Centre for Consumer Freedom. The first uses asp to manage and maintain timetracking. The reason why I treasure it, is because we use it every day and is a tool that is simply indispensable at this point. The madlibs game was just a fun project to do overall, and really combined the technical with the creative.

[6] Paul: You should be right to person to answer this, what do you think is the best use for Flash?
Stacey: I can't possibly suggest one best use of Flash, which is the reason I love working with it. Some great experimental works have been done with Flash, some solid RIA's have been built with Flash, some interesting animated shorts have been done with Flash. My favorite uses of Flash typically involve the Flash Communication Server - I like the idea of creating environments where people are connected and those communications are described in abstract format.

[7] Paul: Now that you have made quite a name as a flash developer, what's next? Any exciting new projects in the near future?
Stacey: I'm most excited about the recently released Flex2 and AS3 from Macromedia. All of my extra time has been devoted to learning the new framework - we've been busy working on projects that showcase just how robust the technology is.

[8] Paul: Any advice for all the up and coming flash developers out there?
Stacey: If you don't love what you do, don't do it. Learn how to use resources. Learn to love the help files. Give yourself a project and realize it. You will learn much more by doing than you can any other way.

[9] Paul: Last two questions, we saw your name at Algonquin College, it stated that you are a Professor is it for real?
Stacey: Yes, I teach flash development at Algonquin College in the Interactive Multimedia program. Actually, everyone who works at Teknision Inc is an Algonquin graduate and 4 of us, at any given time throughout the year, teach in various programs and are a part of several advisory boards.

[10] Paul: Last question.How did you manage to know all the great guys are Northcode Inc and Flash Platform Developer Relations?
Stacey: Prior to working at Teknision Inc, I worked at Northcode Inc as a flash developer. Tim Goss actually gave me my first chance, for I hadn't really worked with Flash in a work environment, more on my own time, prior to that. He took me on knowing that I wasn't a guru of any sort but that I wanted to learn. He's also partly responsible for my nickname!

The Flash community is pretty supportive and social, so most of my acquantainces I have met through conferences, email conversations or even Halo on Xbox Live. So people like Flashguru, Jeff Conrad, Mike Chambers, Jesse Warden, Darron Schall, Chafic Kazoun, Greg Burch - I met through Xbox oddly enough. Some others I know from my days in Edmonton - like Grant Skinner, Phil Cheng, and Ryan Matiskas. And others through email correspondance - Kristin Henry, Josh Dura, Jen deHaan.

As a flash developer, we are really luckily to have such an open, active and supportive community that encourages learning and sharing information.