Case Foundation & charity: water

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet | Posted on 09-12-2010


Some great folk from the Case Foundation visited our charity: water offices recently and wrote this great recap of our mission.

The Case Foundation is a really interesting social good organization established by AOL Founders Jean and Steve Case. They’re trying to use their funds and brain power to push the cause space forward online and drive more innovation in the non-profit sector. So a natural fit with charity: water.

They also filmed a video interview with yours truly, check it out:

Many thanks to the awesome team over at the Case Foundation, in particular my mates Sokunthea Sa Chhabra, Emily Yu and Allie Burns.

Instagram Makes iPhone Photos Purty

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Internet | Posted on 07-12-2010


Instagram is the coolest app on my iPhone right now. It’s a simple photo-sharing app that takes the photos on your iPhone, turns them into art, and makes it easy to share with your friends.

Here’s a photo of the Statue of Liberty I shot while on a bike ride Sunday morning:

Lady Liberty

It’s everything a great app should be:

  • Simple: a 4 year old could use it. You choose a snap (or take one), add a filter with a simple menu, then choose where to share it when you publish.
  • Does one thing well: Instagram is a photo sharing app. That’s it. You make your photos look cool, and you share ‘em.
  • Expands existing functionality: the iPhone takes great photos already, but it’s a bit of a chore to share them and they lack focus and bells and whistles.
  • Cool: the product makes your photos look cooler – further motivation to share, and thereby virally spreading the app
  • Integrated: Today Twitter announced support for Instagram, photos shared via the app will show up directly within the Twitter user interface

And here’s a before and after of a shot a rugby teammate sent from Afghanistan. His pic:


Then the same pic through an Instagram filter:

Sent by a mate in Afghanistan

Cool right? If you join Instagram be sure to look up paullyoung and follow me!

My name’s Paull, and I’m a Quora-holic

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Internet | Posted on 06-12-2010


There is one social media site I’m enjoying more than all others right now: Quora. And I’d love for you to connect with me there.

Quora is Yahoo Answers… if it was full of extremely talented people writing detailed, intelligent answers to deeply interesting questions.

I find one of the greatest battles in social media these days is signal-to-noise. As I scan through Facebook and Twitter there’s always a bunch of irrelevant or boring crap surrounding the interesting updates and links. Quora (at this stage) is different. You can choose which people and topics to follow which tailors the content. Because of this, I find that any time I dig into Quora I wind up opening multiple tabs and getting hooked on interesting info.

The biggest asset of the site right now (as with all social sites) is its people. I’m following stellar folks like Facebook heavy Andrew Bosworth, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, Flowtown founder Dan Martell, early Twitter investor and star angel investor Chris Sacca and even Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix!

My big question mark with Quora is if it will be able to maintain it’s signal ratio as it scales. As more and more people will surely flock to this service, will it be as common for questions and answers to be as interesting and valuable, or will it be consumed by the same crap that you’ll find on Yahoo Answers? This note I found on Quora via Amazon’s Ian McAllister does a great job of outlining this potential concern.

All in all, I really feel that Quora in its current position reminds me of the early days of Twitter. Most people haven’t heard of the service, there’s a small (but rapidly growing) audience heavy with intelligent early adopters, and every time I log in I find myself absorbed with great content.

If you’re a Quora user, I’d love to here your thoughts. If not, I hope you’ll join – we could use more smart people like you. And either way, I hope you’ll follow me so I can connect with your knowledge!

A September Thank You

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Life | Posted on 18-11-2010


I’ve written a lot here about the charity: water September campaign, and also the importance of saying thanks.

Back in September I shared an email I sent to close friends about the campaign, and I wanted to share another email I sent to my mates to thank them for their support.

The September campaign is a resounding success – we have nearly $1 million raised from our targeted campaigns and the lift in fundraising through the campaign has put us in a great position to fulfill our $1.7 million pledge to give access to clean water to all the Bayaka.

This note relates to my personal birthday campaign, and a thank you to those friends and family who helped me and my mates raise over $6,000.

And it’s not too late for you to join in – we’ve got two days left on our campaign and I’d love any extra contributions:

G’day G’day,

It’s a pleasure to be able to write this email to say thank you to you for your support of charity: water and the birthday campaign Alex Kallman, Shashi Khemlani and I put together for our September birthdays. We’re sending this email to all who donated or otherwise supported our efforts.

Our campaign closes in 3 days and thanks to your generous donations we CRUSHED our goal of $5,000:

To date we’ve raised $6,284 which will allow charity: water to bring clean and safe drinking water to 314 people in Central African Republic. Passing $5,000 (the average cost of a project) also means that we’ll have a water project with our names on it built over the next 12 months and we’ll be able to report back to you with GPS coordinates and photos of the well you helped us fund.

To see a detailed breakdown of where your money will go, check out the attached infographic. And to really understand the impact you have helped us make please visit and check out the 3 videos of the ‘live drill’ from the field in early September. My team at charity: water think it’s some of the most compelling content we’ve put together

If you’re a New Yorker, we hope you can attend the charity: ball on December 13 alongside the three of us. It’s a huge annual gala hosted by Adrian Grenier of Entourage. Also in attendance is Jim Hocking, the founder of our partner ICDI in Central African Republic, so you’ll be able to meet the guy you’re helping to fund.

Details and tickets for charity: ball here:

Again, on behalf of Shashi, Alex and I, thank you so much for helping us change the lives of several hundred people this September.


Paull Young

Computers: a bicycle for our minds

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Internet | Posted on 24-10-2010


I saw this quote attributed to Steve Jobs in Techcrunch today and found this great short video of a young Steve Jobs explaining how computers are ‘like a bicycle for our minds’

Humans as Infrastructure

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet, Life | Posted on 22-10-2010


Seth Godin raved about  Kevin Kelly’s new book What Technology Wants so I ordered it and got stuck into it today.

The book focuses on the benefits technology has brought society, and this paragraph from chapter 1 struck me deeply:

As Lynn White, historian of technology wrote,

“The chief glory of the later Middle Ages was not its cathedrals or its epics or its scholasticism: it was the building for the first time in history of a complex civilization which rested not on the backs of sweating slaves or coolies but primarily on non-human power.”

A beautiful sentiment, and it is great that technology has played a role in replacing man-labor and freeing up our time for higher level pursuits… well at least if you live in the developed world.

This statement couldn’t help but jar against what I read on blogging on water’s Blog Action Day post, Stop Using Girls as Infrastructure:

Stop using girls as infrastructure. When we create proper infrastructures – build roads, install electricity and clean watergirls won’t need to be used as infrastructure any longer. Today they function as the electric grid as they carry firewood, plumbing system as they carry water, childcare system, etc.

Couldn’t agree more. Too often around the world women and girls are used as water (and all too often wastewater) infrastructure instead of being given the opportunity to be educated and become productive members of society.

Technology is a beautiful thing. And we’re lucky we live in the part of the world where we can play Angry Birds to our hearts content, not the part where we have to send our women and children on grueling daily walks for water.

Blog Action Day: Water

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Current Affairs, Life | Posted on 15-10-2010


Today is Blog Action Day, an annual event where thousands of bloggers around the world lend their voice to one topic – and this year that topic is water.

Why Water? This is a question I frequently answer working with charity: water.

The stats are compelling:

  • 1 billion people don’t have access to clean and safe drinking water
  • 4,5000 children die every day due to lack of access to clean water and basic sanitation
  • More people die each year because of water and sanitation issues than all forms of violence, including war

But it’s hard to grasp these numbers. When people ask me why they should care, I try to show them something like this instead.

Please take a minute to watch this video my team filmed in Central African Republic last month with a Bayaka woman given the gift of clean water after previously losing a child in its absence.

Will you lend your voice to water today?

Delivering Happiness: Non-Profit Perspective

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Internet, Life, Marketing | Posted on 13-10-2010


I try not to read too many business books. I have a constant stream of business info heading my way via Google Reader and Twitter. And any time I’m reading a business book I always think I’m missing out on working through the classics or another piece of great fiction that might extend my world view.

So it’s rare I’ll really enjoy a business book. It’s even rarer one will instantly produce a significant shift in my thinking. Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh managed to do both.

Reading Tony Hsieh's 'Delivering Happiness' on the bus to work - seems fitting right @dhbus?

Tony Hsieh and Zappos are renowned for their approach to customer service and company culture. Delivering Happiness looks at both through the frame of Tony’s personal experience and outlines the core thinking that led to Zappos eventual billion dollar acquisition by Amazon.

As I read Tony’s story I found more and more similarities with my work at charity: water, and also got a glimpse of how our organization can take a Zappos approach to charity and change the world while we’re at it.

We deliver clean water to developing nations, Zappos delivers shoes to westerners – how could there be a link?

It boils down to this: all online shoe vendors are basically the same. It’s not a sexy business, nor groundbreaking. The point of differentiation for Zappos is in making customers go ‘WOW’ and sparking a deep relationship with the brand. In practice this looks like:

– Free shipping for deliveries AND returns
– A real person on the phone, every time
– Upgrades when possible to next day delivery
– Most importantly, a deeply held commitment to doing right by the customer

As a non-profit charity: water doesn’t necessarily have ‘customers’. And we don’t have a ‘customer service’ department. But we’ve got something even more important: donors, fundraisers and supporters.

The question for me is how can we build a culture that can deliver that WOW factor to all of them. What is the equivalent, for a non-profit, of free shipping and next day delivery of a pair of shoes?

In the case of charity: water – it’s reporting.

We already focus on this more than most – we send 100% of donations to the field and we’ve always marked every water project we’ve built on Google Maps to prove the impact. And it’s right here, the connection AFTER our donors have committed funds, when we can ‘deliver happiness’ to our supporters unlike any other cause, and in doing so turn them into lifelong fans.

The biggest adjustment for now: ‘reporting’ has moved to the core of our digital strategy (headlined with a phrase stolen from Zappos: ‘Deliver WOW through service’). And here is an example of how reporting can WOW – check out this video we made Will and Jada Smith to show them the well they funded (they’ve since become two of our biggest supporters).

For now, grab yourself a copy of Delivering Happiness and have a read. In the meantime, check out this video featuring the Delivering Happiness crew visiting our office at charity: water last month:

And for one final piece of happiness for you – leave a thoughtful comment and I’ve got a copy of Delivering Happiness on hand that I’d be most happy to send to my favorite commenter.

Social Media Week Panel on Entrepreneurship

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Events, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 30-09-2010


Last week I appeared on a video panel for Social Media Week hosted by the State Department. I joined Rachel Shechtman of TOMS Shoes and Oren Michels of Mashery to discuss entrepreneurship.

Video here, the sounds isn’t great but the content was pretty solid. Was a lot of fun – especially fielding questions from Argentina, Colombia and Benin thanks to the reach of the State Department.

Also, I’ve gotta take kudos for the set design – Rachel and I were locked in a storage cupboard at the Passport Office and had to wrangle together a backdrop out of what we could find in the room… hence the giant American Flag sitting behind us!

The Origin of Tweetups

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Internet | Posted on 24-09-2010


In this video my mate Steve Garfield discusses the history of ‘tweetups’ as well as my small part in the early ones and Scott Monty’s coining of the term.

Watch from the start or skip right to the 5 minute mark.

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