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.