We've Moved

I took all the posts with me, over to http://www.daniellemorrill.com

That's where you can find me, as well as on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/DanielleMorrill


Updates about the DMo Blog

If you've followed my blog in the past, you probably know that I work for Pelago (the company that makes Whrrl) and that I often blog about exciting things happening with Whrrl. I'm now officially blogging for the Whrrl product blog so you won't see any more of that here.

If you're interested in following along with Whrrl you can also follow me on Twitter, where I am @DanielleMorrill, or friend me on Whrrl by sending an invite to danielleoclark(at)hotmail

Another update - This blog wasn't really intended to be permanently parked at this Blogger URL, since I own daniellemorrill.com, I've just gotten so busy with Whrrl work that I've been lazy about doing that. I'm committing to getting everything moved over to daniellemorrill.com and using Wordpress.


Sunny Mornings on the East Side

This morning I did something I've been needing to do for over a week now, I spent a solid two hours with my dog. Spending time with Rafe (who is four months old now) consists of cleaning up after him, scolding him for gnawing on my hands and arms, coaxing him to walk on a leash, protecting my coffee and face from slobbery kisses, and wrestling with him in the grass over a toy. I woke up to one of those rare mornings in the Pacific Northwest where the early morning sunshine is coming through the window in delicious golden beams, just beckoning me to get outdoors.

Spending time with my dog reminds me to slow down the pace of life sometimes, even on a weekday morning, and put my life and things that generate stress for me into perspective. It used to amaze me that much of a dog's life is spent anticipating the return of its master, but as I steal peeks at Rafe when he doesn't see me watching I actually noticed that he isn't waiting for me - he's doing dog things all by himself like sniffing, playing, and peeing. Ah, the life of a dog.


LiveBlog: Whrrl Tech Talk Tonight [Seattle]

I'll be live blogging the Whrrl tech talk tonight here and on Twitter from BluWater Bistro at Lake Union, starting around 5:30pm. There will be demos of the mobile applications on the iPhone, Blackberry, and others - as well as a demo of the website. There will also be a 20 minute talk from Jeff Holden, CEO of Pelago, on the future of the company and Whrrl.

Not familiar with Whrrl, check out this interview from the SummerMash party from Saturday, which was hosted by Mashable.

*Disclaimer - I work for Pelago, makers of Whrrl - and I'm biased. However, this is not the official company or product blog, and any opinions here are my own. *


Whrrl - DMo Interviews at SummerMash about Whrrl

Check out my interview with Mashable at SummerMash last Friday at Showbox Sodo, talking about Whrrl and our newly released iPhone application. Rate it up - and let me know what you think!

* Disclaimer: This is not the official Whrrl blog. That blog can be found here. *


Are you on Whrrl yet?

What an exciting day it has been for us here at Pelago, as the Apple app store launches on iTunes and people begin to discover Whrrl on their iPhones. I am personally excited because, as some of you already know, I have been without a phone for a couple of months and I will be ditching Verizon tonight and getting myself a brand-spanking-new iPhone 2.0

Come check out Whrrl and friend me! Even if you don't have an iPhone there are lots of other ways to take advantage of Whrrl. Whrrl supports a lot of phones, and if you navigate to m.whrrl.com in your mobile browser you can find out which version to download for yours (it will detect what kind of phone you have). Another option, if you're into texting, is to use SMS with Whrrl. And then there's the "old skool" approach, to use the website.

One reason I love the website (over the mobile and iPhone app) is that it really takes advantage of the screen real estate a larger monitor presents, and gives you a gorgeous map loaded with icons that are relevant to you.

For all the different ways to use Whrrl, I think the filter is just so powerful. The filter I like most is the ability to say "only show me places that are open in 1 hour" so I can make sure a place is still going to be open by the time I get there if I leave shortly, but I don't have to set a certain range of hours. I work on content acquisition so I'm damn proud of the fact that our ability to collect accurate business hours and happy hours is being exposed through this feature. The data team rocks! (just sayin')

And about privacy, because of course people have been talking about stalkers. There is a combination of rational concern about privacy, but also a fair amount of fear mongering and anti-technology talk out there that I have a hard time understanding. In response to the rational concerns, there are robust privacy features that work. Period. To the other people, I don't know what to tell them; I think a good first step is to take a good look at the Whrrl privacy policy and the security settings, because a lot of thought has gone into them. You will find that you completely control who sees your location in Whrrl.

The way I use the privacy settings in Whrrl is pretty simple: I only show my location to people I'd be willing to invite over to my house, and for my "internet friends" I just don't share. It's nice because it basically shows my friends all my other activities (reviews, meetups, notes and stuff) but it just leaves my checkins off their Whrrld feed. As I get to know people better, I can add them to the list of people who can see my location - and my goal is to get more and more people on that list because that means I'm making more and more real world friends. And, for me anyway, that's what this is ultimately about - reconnecting with the real world with the help of technology. That integration between being tech savvy and also having a social life, that seems so elusive sometimes.

* Lil Disclaimer: This isn't the official Whrrl blog or Pelago blog, this is just Danielle Morrill and all the opinions expressed herein are my own. I work for Pelago, the company bringing Whrrl to people everywhere, so I am biased. *


Before You Toss That Out...

I was thinking about some lifehacks yesterday, as I was about to throw out an old disposable electric tooth brush. Here are some ideas about what you should use an otherwise garbage-can-bound item for, before you toss it out.

Disposable Electric Toothbrush - scrub out the sinks, especially detailing around the drains. You'll never have this thing touch your teeth again, but it sure beats scrubbing mildew and grout with the manual type of toothbrush.

Sponges - cut them up into small strips, microwave them (to kill any bacteria) and use them to clean inside of wine glasses, where a normal sponge is just too big.

Cardboard Boxes - flatten them, and create a mat underneath your car to capture any liquids that might drip, including rainwater (which is usually loaded with oil and road grime), and will stain the floor of your garage or driveway.

Cardboard Tube Inside Paper Towel Roll - make your dog's day, give it to him as a toy but make sure to take it away before he decides to eat the mushy goodness. Skip this last step at your own peril.

Have more ideas about how to get just a little more functionality out of everything? Tell me!


What Independence Days Means To Me

One of the dangers of calling today's holiday simply "July Fourth" is that we drop the meaning, often with the result that children (and some adults) forget what is being celebrated. The name "Independence Day" captures the meaning; the day when our country became an independent sovereign nation. There is more to this holiday than parades, barbecues, sunburn, and fireworks.

The principle at stake during the battle for our independence as a nation was independence on the whole, individual independence and rights that make this the most free and greatest country on Earth. In the past few years, it has become frowned upon to be so proud of this fact - and some will try to tell you we are not actually as free as we claim - but in comparison to the rest of the countries in the world, we are the most free. Our freedoms have been infringed upon recently, both by outside attackers and by our own government. While I won't go into that here, I'm not unaware of it.

Washington and Jefferson fought a battle for a principle, and considering how apt people are to rail against principle on principle (how ironic and hypocritical), they fought more than just a battle of might and force - they fought a battle of the mind, for a philosophical principle so crucial to human life that it requires the live-or-death stakes of full out war to defend. These great men fought for our right to live as we see fit, and in turn enforced as the law the moral code requiring that we not infringe on this right in the lives of others. This is so crucial to how we live today in this country, as well as how we influence the countries and individuals in the rest of the world. Understanding independence, and how it makes the United States of America unique, is crucial to understanding the thinking and actions of other nations and individuals.

I'm preaching to the choir, I hope.

So today, I'm celebrating my right to do what I want. I'm drinking white wine, hanging out with my dog, I'm spending money on entertaining and other non-essentials, I'm being anti-social when I want to, and overtly social when I want to. I'm writing about history and philosophy, but I'm also sending vapid status updates into the void via Twitter. I'm working, playing, living and loving in our beautiful house with my beloved husband. There are places in the world today when one or more this simple things is forbidden, and I celebrate the fact that I am not living in one of those places.

I wish all the good people in the world could either live here, or could fight to have their home countries allow them the freedoms that I enjoy. There are a multitude of excellent private charities that support efforts to pursue freedom and justice around the world - but often they fail to correctly evaluate the premises of the culture in these countries, and so money goes to waste because it can't make it past corrupt hands or other barriers. For me, this is one of the most aggravating things of all. Here are in America, with our wealth and awareness of the problems in the world, we often we can't get our dollar to have nearly the impact we would expect it to. I'm always searching for skilled charities, if you know of them please recommend them.


Movie Night Tonight - come network and eat!

If you're thinking you don't have much going on tonight, and you want to meet some new people, come play with us tonight at the Cristalla condo building, in Belltown. We'll be cooking some BBQ, drinking, playing pool, socializing and watching a movie or two. There is also a nice patio so we can enjoy the good weather, and a hot tub for later on. If you're reading this then you probably are the kind of person we'd love to meet. The building is secured, so you will need to email me at morrilldanielle (at) gmail (dot) com to get on the concierge's list.


You Attract What You Are

"You attract what you are." - Warren Buffet

The first time I heard this quote was a couple years ago, in a lecture about Warren Buffet. It struck me as salient and I contemplated it, and since then it has come back to me over and over again in different forms, and has come to make much more sense to me than it originally did. There are many things I can say about it, but today's reflection has to do with relationships.

I think the people you love (date, marry, family, friends) are mirrors to your own soul, to the extent that you are close to them. They help you see yourself clearly, as a kind of sanity check to your own introspection, because they are close enough to you and your daily life to see you fully for who you truly are. If they are selfish (which most people are, at least to some extent) then it is in their own interest to see you objectively, and to help you to achieve the character you wish to possess. To the extent that they are selfish, and wish to be with someone they can admire, they will be more and more objective, and through (kind) feedback can help you shape your life and self to your design.

To some, this probably sounds really strange. You might not realize it, but you are shaping yourself every day. Why are self-help books so popular? Why do we read beauty magazines, or take classes, or exercise, or solicit feedback from coaches, mentors, and peers? We want to become something, someone, and we aren't there yet. In fact, we probably never "get there" - the people I know are always looking to improve their lives in some way. This aspiration to become more is a huge motivating factor in our lives. Sometimes I wonder if it is possible to go on living, or at least remain sane, without it.

What this all boils down to is that the purpose of our relationships is to find people who we admire, who help us to see ourselves clearly, and love what they see in us. My husband, immediate family, and closest friends do this for me - and I think it is the most powerful outside influence on my personal growth and ongoing endeavor to become more ME.


Generating Seed Content for Blogging

I've found a neat little trick for always having something to write about when I want to update my blog. Whenever I think of a new topic, but don't have time to write a full blown post and copy-edit it, I can just write up a quick draft and save it to use later as the starting point for a post. I have started to use the tagging feature along with this trick to accumulate a lot of topics I want to eventually post on but need to do research or more thinking on. Just a little thing, but I think over the long time it will lead to higher quality entries in my blog and hopefully more interesting topics as well.


Book Recommendation: Marley & Me

The author of the book Marley and Me, John Grogan, is definitely a kindred spirit. I started reading this book last night while winding down from hosting a BBQ at our house and before I knew it I was 160 pages in. I am a lover of dogs, and grew up with a succession of crazy labs, one bipolar sharpei, and blind and insane hound/mutt. Although the subtitle of the book is "Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog" it is clearly said with affection. Grogan and his wife, Jenny, start out very much like Kevin and I - newly married and ready to take on their first dependent. After reading about their adventures I feel less worried that we might accidentally kill off our "son" - they went through all sorts of nightmarish situations with their dog, many related to his fear of thunderstorms (which doesn't work out well in Florida).

Our dog, Rafe, is doing well. We have to exhaust him daily with long walks, wrestling, kicking around the soccer ball, and fetching at least a dozen different toys. Yesterday he met a bunch of other dogs in the neighborhood and also my nephew, Matthew, who is almost two years old.

To see more of my book recommendations, friend me at GoodReads


How to Be a Great Landlord

I have been renting out our condo for almost a year now on short term leases, with great success. I feel like there are a few things that I do that make my job much easier and make my tenants very happy as well. There is nothing like word-of-mouth to bring in the next tenant, and I genuinely care about give good "customer service" as a landlord. Here are some things that I do that I think have been part of my success:

Getting the Place Rented Out
  • Don't just rent to the first person who contacts you. You don't have to honor first-come, first-served, pick the tenant who you think you will like working with since you might end up seeing them a lot.
  • Use a standard contract for your state on Google Docs to collaborate with your tenant on the lease agreement. Each tenant will add more new stipulations, but you don't have to agree to them - just point out it is a standard contract and that you aren't interested in hangling over legalese.
  • Create a binder with all the information you went over in the walk through, down to the most detailed thing. Include the homeowner's association rules, any contact info, and a list of all amenities and how to they can take advantage of them. Include the building's emergency plan. Show this to all potential tenants.
  • If you have furniture in your place and you're moving out, consider renting furnished. Furnished places rent fast, and odds are good that your current furniture will not look as good in your new place.
Signing the Lease
  • Opt for people who are willing to pay both first and last month's rent up front, you know they can afford rent if they can part with this much money at one time.
  • Make the security deposit fully refundable. People always feel like deposits are a scam. If you want to make more money build it into the rent price, not the deposit.
Move In Day
  • Meet your tenant in person and do another walk through, especially if it has been more than a week since they signed the lease and took the tour.
  • Introduce your tenant to the concierge and any other staff and help them get set up with any orientation they might need, and arrange for the freight elevator on their behalf.
  • Leave the binder, a bottle of wine, extra keys and a handwritten note thanking them for being your tenant in the rental unit the night before they move in.
  • One week later send them $50 in fresh groceries using a delivery service like Safeway.com or Amazon Fresh.
Maintaining the Relationship
  • Always respond to their calls, messages, and emails within 4 hours and never make them wait 24 hours for you to take care of the problem.
  • Stop worrying about your place, it will be fine and if it isn't homeowner's insurance and will covere the damage and their deposit will cover your deductible.
  • Leave them in peace and quiet, to enjoy the space.

Life Without a Mobile Phone

For the past six weeks I have been living without a mobile phone, as I await my purchase of the 3G iPhone. When I tell people this, they react like I've been sleeping under a bridge - they can't believe I've lived without a device to keep me in touch with the world. The most common question I hear is, "Aren't you missing out on doing fun things with friends?" and the truth is that my social life has been excellent this entire time. Thanks to Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook it's still easy to coordinate.

I work for a company that builds software for mobile phones, so it really is a bit strange that I don't have one. Pelago released the new version of the mobile application Whrrl on Tuesday, and I can't wait to have it with me 24/7. At the same time, I am relishing these last few weeks before I go back to 24/7 connectivity. When I return to having a phone it will be vastly different than before, a huge upgrade from a Chocolate phone with Verizon... to basically a computer in my pocket all the time.

Even when I do have the phone I am not going to spend much money on a voice plan, all I really care about is data. I hate to answer my phone and I hate even more processing voicemail.


Contemplating BarCamp Seattle

I am seriously considering attending BarCamp and I imagine I could get away with going and not presenting, but I kind of want to. I want to put that pressure on myself to actual talk to people about the things I'm passionate about. It's a bit intimidating though, since I don't feel like I'm an expert in these things - but the website says I don't have to be, so I'm going to go with that.

Some ideas:

Things That Shape Us: Why Enterprise Software Matters

The New "Blue Collar" Worker - Defining the Future of Customer Service

Creative Uses for Call Centers & Outsourced Operations

Info Addicts: Share How You Get Your Info (blogs, news sources, forums, etc)

Personas: Who Uses My Stuff Anyway?

Hmmm, I could find a way to weave in location aware mobile tech... I'll have to think on that.


Puppy Has Consumed Life-Sleep-Sanity

As you might have noticed, since I blogged that the dog was coming home, over a week ago, there hasn't been another peep out of me. That's because this little ball of chocolaty goodness is a total time suck! I was expecting that, but I've got to drag myself kicking and screaming (well, not quite) back to the adult (and human) world. In this pic he's running around in our back yard with one of his many toys, keeping us very busy with his high-energy demands for pretty much constant play time.

I'm looking forward to eating at Branzino tonight, a new restaurant opening Belltown. Maybe in addition to scoring the first review on Whrrl, I'll get the first on Y*lp. We'll see.


Puppy Coming Home Saturday

I am so excited, because I am finally getting a puppy. He is 8 weeks old and I will be bringing him home on Saturday. He is a chocolate lab, and I'm naming him Rafe. Kevin has been out of town, which has left we with plenty of time to shop for pet supplies without him complaining. I am actually surprised by how stressed out I am about whether I will be a good Mom to this tiny little dog. I'm sure it will be fine, and I mainly just can't wait to get him and snuggle with him and pet him for hours on end. That's probably what I'll do all weekend, while I work with my Dad on building the gates in the backyard.

In other news, I just signed up for the Six Hour Startup Conference on May 31st. I'm looking forward to it on multiple levels. I haven't really gone to any kind of networking anything since I started working at Pelago, mostly because I've been so busy and when so much was under wraps it wasn't much fun not being able to talk to people about what we're doing. This conference will undoubtedly be more fun than the stuffy talks I attended for the Transportation Alliance, Port Authority, Seattle Chamber of Commerce, etc in previous work experiences. The speakers including Tony Wright, co-founder of RescueTime - who I have blogged about here, and whose product I still use daily. Most importantly, I am looking forward to meeting new people. I don't have a business idea to pitch, I am really more in information gathering and learning mode, so it will be interesting to soak as much in as possible and look to make meaningful contact with people that might be resources in the learning process or just interesting to befriend in general.

I promise, puppy pictures soon.


I Love My House

Its so important to like where you live, whenever possible. Here's where I live.
We moved here on Halloween last year. Kevin even went to Costco and got some king size candy bars (to match the size of the chimney?) but the kids never came by and we still have the candy bars somewhere.
I worked from home today, and it got me to reflect on how much I love my house and how happy I am to finally be living somewhere that is just so... me.


Mint.com - How Refreshing

Last night I finally got all of our household accounts updating in my Mint.com account and it was so easy!

I had been procrastinating really getting myself set up with Mint.com because, in my past experiences with Quicken and MS Money, the process could literally take days. Time spent digging up statements and account numbers and old balances, all in an effort to get everything organized enough to actually pull useful data. Then even more time spent categorizing all my transactions so that my trending and budgets would work.

There are many features that make Mint a joy to use, such as the ability to load multiple accounts at the same time. It is very accurate with the categorization of my expenses so I don't have to do much fixing, unless the credit card company or the vendor have something strange on my statement. My one complaint is the navigation of the site. When I deep dive into the details of a transaction from the trending graphs I can't use the back button to go back to the graph I was using before, which is usually a drill-down pie chart into one of the main categories. I have to go back through the "Trends" tab and drill down again. I find this to be time consuming and wasted clicks for me.

I got an email today from Mint.com offering me an RSVP for a private beta they will be doing soon that includes 401k, IRA, and other investment and savings accounts that they don't include right now. I'm looking forward to that. I also hope they will soon have more trending tools for the income side of the equation and not just the expenses. I'd like to be able to look at how our household income is trending over time.


Gift Cards Are The Way To Go

Today is mother's day and we gave my mom-in-law gift cards - and, as usual, she was thrilled! She has a very interesting gift-giving policy, which it has taken me about three years to finally begin to appreciate. Today I saw the light.

For every holiday, my mom-in-law tells all of us exactly what she wants as a gift. Not just an idea or a suggestion; no, she is expecting to get exactly the gift she has asked for no more, no less. If she doesn't get it, she isn't even that nice about it, and I've come to realize that this policy has existed in my husband's family for a long time and is seen as a rule. At first, I disliked it because I felt like it took everything that was personal and heartfelt out of selecting and giving gifts, not to mention fun. I mean, how many different ways are there to dress up an envelope containing a few pieces of symbolic plastic? Now, as I begin to accumulate well-intended clutter, I am beginning to see things from the other side more clearly.

Take Easter for example, where people often give cute bunny rabbit stuffed animals. Easter comes every year, without fail, and if someone gives me a stuffed bunny every year and I'm on of those insane people who feels like they can't throw anything away (read: my mom-in-law) then I am going to end up storing a lot of bunnies in my guest bedroom closet.

We've come into a culture of choice - where people like me can afford to buy their own luxury items and would prefer to do so. The best gifts I can think of are ones that are perishable like flowers, chocolates, food, and drink. Another great gift is experiences (movie/concert tickets, bed and breakfast gift certificates). These are the things that I don't tend to splurge on as much as I should with my hectic schedule.

So what does this mean? Why have we changed so much?


Go Play with Whrrl Right Now - New Features!!

This morning was like Christmas morning. I went to bed last night, but plenty of other people around the office were up all night working on the final touches of the latest and greatest version of Whrrl. I've settled in at my desk this morning and played with the new features, and I am so excited to tell all my friends to come on back and check it out all over again.

Don't miss these new details:

Quick and easy ways to indicate you have been to a place/event, or want to go. If someone says "I want to go to Red Door" and you view this note in your feed, you can indicate you also want to go in two clicks. From place detail pages, it is just one click.

7 new metro areas covered in that drop down menu on your profile page: Miami, Kansas City, Portland, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Columbus, and Denver

Tons of event data - movies, concerts, and more - as was mentioned in a press release earlier this week. I'm going to try and check out an event at the Seattle Public Library this afternoon for a little while, and maybe also go to a tasting at the Seattle Art Museum. I used to have to get the newspaper and go through it for worthwhile events, this is SO much better.

Disclaimer: I work for Pelago, the makers of Whrrl, so I am pretty proudly biased. Also, any opinions expressed in this blog are mine only and are not necessarily endorsed by Pelago. Check out the official Pelago blog


Cardinal Rule of Blogging - Don't Stop

This was going to be a meta-post about my own blog, and why I am so bad at keeping it up to date. Last night we cooked dinner with some friends and I made a comment that anyone who wanted their blog to be significant to the blogosphere had better be posting a least once a day, if not multiple times a day. I made this comment without a lot of thought, but then came to thinking "is that really true?"

What do we expect from the blogs we follow on a daily basis. For that matter, what is our expectation on status updates (micro-blogging) via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc?

On Whrrl, the product of the company I work for, I tend to update my status multiple times a day (often whenever I check in at a new location). This makes sense to me - I want to contextualize the other piece of information I am sharing about where I am. For example, if I check in at the office I am likely to update my status to "Danielle is whrrking" or if I check in at Purple Wine Bar I'm likely to say something like "Danielle is tipping back a great glass of claret". On Facebook, I update my status a couple of times each week on average. Although I check my Facebook profile for messages and updates nearly daily I don't remember to update my status unless I see someone else post an interesting status. Rarely do I go to Facebook explicitly to update my status - in fact I would say I never do.

Twitter is somewhere I text/go explicitly to update my status and answer the question "what are you doing right now?" because that is the point of the service (although people are using it for micro-blogging and posting links and whatnot now). It isn't hard to post an update to Twitter, sending a text to the shortcode is probably the easiest text command I use on my low-tech phone. Offer my "tweets" will come in sporadic bursts, maybe 6 in a day and then radio silence for the rest of the week. I don't feel much of a need to space them out though - I feel like it is expected that I will lifestream on Twitter in a way I don't do on Facebook or Whrrl.

This all culminates into the obnoxious noise that is my FriendFeed, loaded with so much crap even I don't want to read it. Who wants to see the long list of articles I've shared, changes I've made to profiles, status updates in multiple locations (which become annoying duplicate/cross posts when viewed in FriendFeed). It is just overload - and then on top of monitoring FriendFeed (which I'm not doing regularly, btw) I have email, GoogleReader, and stupid voicemail (for those people still stuck in the stone age, like my parents).

The thing is, sometimes I will have moments of "oh man, I should just disconnect all of this" but it isn't just an "online-life" anymore - it is my connection to people in the real world. Disconnecting online really does hinder my ability to keep in touch with my real world friends. Sounds like they have me hooked. I think this bodes well for Whrrl, but I've still got to figure out to manage all this information in my life. I can't wait for 5 years from now, with all the technology being developed around solving this problem.

If you actually update your status on LinkedIn I'd be interested to hear about what kind of things you write there. So far, I've been a bit baffled about how to use that feature in that context.


Southpark Last Night & the Internets

I'm not a regular Southpark viewer, but it came on after the Colbert Report last night and started out with all the characters (I don't know their names) being told by the Mom that they had a few more minutes on the internet before it was time for bed, much to their chagrin. I found this funny, and reminiscent of when I was growing up, other than the fact that there was a 1/1 ratio of people to computers (in my parents house the four of us shared one, 7 years ago). Then, the next morning the household woke in a panic because the internet was down and the family went to their neighbor's house to use theirs - where it was discovered that the outage extended to the entire community. So they rush to Starbucks (this begins to have a Great Depression run-on-the-bank feel), where there is no internet, and then consider going to the Mac store before finding out there isn't any internet their either. 9 days later, they decide to "head out Californy way..." to seek the internet in Silicon Valley. The story continues...

Anyway, the part I found most interesting was actually in the first few minutes when the wife comes into the room to tell the husband he only has a few more minutes on the internet and askes him to "just do one more thing" and then head to bed. After she walks out he says "just one thing?" and then, of course, turns to a quick view of some porn. However, this does make me think about just how much we multi-task when we use the internet. When are we ever doing just one thing? With a tabbed browser I usually have a queue of things to read, look at, look up or track.


What will you do with KML?

Today Google announced that they are giving the KML file format, originally developed by startup Keyhole who Google acquired, for geophysical data (maps) to the Open Geospatial Consortium.

I am curious to hear how different businesses intend to take advantage of this open standard - it seems like there must be a business opportunity here for services *other than Google maps* to do great things for consumers with user-generated mapping, especially now that the format will be so much more portable from one place to another. For example, a user of Gmaps could create a map there and then upload it somewhere else. Combine this with services that track where you are via GPS and there becomes an event more compelling story for what users might want to do with their location data as a timeline for their lives.

What would you do with the new KML standard if you could start a business today?


UPS Paperless Invoice

When I worked at Expeditors the arch-nemesis was UPS. Of course, the koolaid we all drank was that all our competitors were inferior, but at some point after the honeymoon period wore off I began to actually examine that claim. Of course, I quickly found the various "I hate UPS" website disgruntled employees and customers alike had created online (and didn't find any equivalent for Expeditors), but I kept seeing ads in business periodicals suggesting UPS is solving some of the problems nearest and dearest to customers' interests.

I picked up the April 21, 2008 edition of Forbes tonight, and on pages 14 and 15 there is a great ad. It shows a to do box piled with paper (drawn in the brown UPS white board pen of course) with a steaming cup of coffee next to it. Then it has a little post it note in the upper right hand corner (page 15) that says:

International shipping means lots of commercial invoices - in triplicate. But that paperwork could disappear when you sign up to use UPS Paperless Invoice, the industry's first electronic commercial invoice. It's just another way UPS simplifies international shipping.

Below that is a laptop with a steaming cup of coffee.

Even though I no longer work at Expeditors, I still have deep respect for the things they do for customers and I can't help but wonder what they have up their sleeve to respond to solutions like this one? So much of transportation today has less to do with moving physical freight efficiently from point a to point b (a lot of companies do that, and a handful do it really well) - and much more to do with efficiently moving the documentation of that freight. I wonder if there is an opportunity for a third party software-as-a-service business to step in and offer solutions to shippers that will help them streamline the amount of paper in the international shipping process and integrate with the big transportation services companies out there.


A Really Crummy Day

I'm sick and grumpy, and being sick makes me feel old for some reason.

I read a whole romance novel, ate chocolate, drank tea, and slept a bunch and I have been disconnected from the internets for a whole 6 hours straight. A-mazing!


People Who Blog About Their Dogs

I am so jealous of you people!

I have been plotting for my dog ownership for over a year now, reading about different breeds. I have come back around full circle and I am certain that I want a Chinese Shar Pei. Yes, they are those "cute" wrinkly faced dogs. I know a lot of people think these adorable guys are ugly, and I have no idea why. They look like little lions. I love them. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that my family had one when I was growing up and she was really attached to me.

Something like this:

Update: I found a great breeder in Sequim, WA and she sent me tons of pictures of her dogs. He next litter isn't for over a year, but I will be able to get on the list.

Cooking Accomplishments: Creme Brulee

Last night we had my parents over for dinner and I wanted to make something good for dessert, and I also wanted to use my little mini blowtorch and ramekins, so I decided to brave creme brulee. I'd heard all sorts of stories about it not working out, so I was prepared to screw it up.

Making any kind of custard is very challenging, because you have to have the temperature of the heavy cream at just right when you combine it with the egg yolk and sugar mixture, or it will begin to cook the yolks - and all is lost. You also have to make sure to strain out any skins from the simmering cream, or you can get a lumpy consistency. Once the mixture is complete and poured into the ramekins, you set them into a baking pan of scalding hot water and then place the whole thing into the oven. The water regulates the temperature of the ramekins so that the top and bottom won't cook faster than the center.

It is very important to take them out of the oven before they are entirely "done", meaning while the centers still jiggle like gelatin, because the ramekin will hold sufficient heat to continue the baking process after they have been removed from the heat. Once you have the consistency you want (you should be able to slide a knife down the side and pull it out clean) you set the ramekins in a bed of ice water to stop the cooking process. After they have cooled to room temperature, they go into the refrigerator. The recipe calls for 8 hours to 2 days to set, and I am sure it would be very yummy and firm like that - but we didn't have that kind of time. 3 hours later they came out of the oven, a thin coating of granulated sugar went on top, and we torched them to caramel perfection.

A note on the torch: you always want to keep that bad boy moving, or you get little parts that are burned instead of tasty.


General Gadget Excitement

Today I've been catching up with various "toys":

RescueTime - added their data collector to another machine, so now I won't have big gaps on the days where I work from home.

Time Machiner - sent various emails to myself in the future, and also to my husband for his birthday coming up. Haven't sent one 5 years in the future yet, but I probably will soon.

Mint - finally sat down to take a long hard look at this product, to decide if it might be how I want to manage our household finances going forward. The idea that it is always in sync (unlike Microsoft Money) is very compelling. So far, because we are Bank of American customers in Washington State (where they merged with Seafirst but never really merged their systems) this has sucked for me so far. This isn't Mint's fault, of course, but highlights how hard it is to create a quick set up experience.


Such a fun day at work! - Whrrl Release & WSJ Coverage

Today was a really great day at work - celebration of our latest release of Whrrl this morning.

First off, every single meal was brought to the office. There were Top Pot Donuts for breakfast to celebrate the release, pizza from a company we work with for lunch, the yummy weekly French picnic in the app shack (red wine) and cupcakes that Emily made (and even let me frost a few!) and then a happy hour (more red wine) to catch up with the folks who have been traveling this week. There is a cute picture on the Pelago blog of the picnic.

Second, it SNOWED today!! It was so pretty watching the flakes float down past the window for a few hours. It has been very strange weather this week.

Finally, but certainly not least - Whrrl was mentioned on Page A1 of the Wall Street Journal!!


Detail Orientation: Broken Windows, Broken Business

When I worked for Expeditors, a book circulating through management called Broken Windows Broken Business was very popular. It talks about how making sure to fix mistakes and problems at the detail level will lead to greater overall success, using the clean up of New York city as an example. Broken Windows is more than just a metaphor, in New York it was quite literal - areas with real broken windows invited break-ins, graffiti, and a rise in other sorts of crimes.

I am thinking about this today as I diligently work on fixing all sorts of little tiny data bugs. These are things that our beloved users might not even notice 95% of the time, but nevertheless I think it is just so important not to let these details slip. I look at local search service Citysearch, and see such a clear example of broken windows: listings for restaurants with data that has never been cleaned, or places that have closed years ago, and duplicate places. Another broken window is obnoxiously poor search relevance featuring paid ad placement. The site feels like a 1990s ghost town to me.

Fixing the little things can be tedious and time consuming, but I find myself so satisfied in knowing that I am helping (in my own small way) to create a user experience that doesn't have those broken windows so common of content-driven websites. Since I work on the data and content side of the product, and not in software development, I love any part of my job that can actually touch the end user experience (since so much of what we do is important, but behind the scenes). I think Wikipedia is extremely admirable, in that they are a site depending solely on user generated content, and still manage to resolve debates between authors and present clear, grammatically correct and factually accurate entries. I trust Wikipedia implicitly, because I know they have a strong process in place to avoid broken windows in their product. I believe tht by working hard to eliminate tiny data bugs, I am working towards creating this same implicit trust in our content, for users of Whrrl.

At Expeditors, "attention to detail" was one of the cultural attributes , and I think this goes hand in hand with integrity (another cultural attribute). There were people who I had the good fortunate to work with who were so incredible, so reliable, so diligent in so many levels of the organization. Whether it was manual labor in the warehouse, data entry in the branch offices, or management at the regional and corporate levels, they were people who had this "broken windows" mentality ingrained into their very souls. This is something I want to take with me to Pelago and continue to cultivate in myself; I think it is highly admirable attribute to possess. I think you can be highly productive and intelligent and not possess this attribute, because it truly is a skill. There are plenty of messy geniuses and I couldn't live without them, but I know that at least for me knowing the details are correct on a regular basis leads me to trust in myself and my judgment more completely and reduces my stress level significantly.

Buy this book at Amazon.com: Broken Windows, Broken Business: How the Smallest Remedies Reap the Biggest Rewards by Michael Levine


the Ongoing Organization of My Life

This has been an interesting weekend with a very strange rhythm. For example, last night I just didn't go to bed at all - I crawled into bed at 9am this morning when Kevin's alarm was going off to tell him we needed to go meet a friend for brunch. This isn't because of caffeine, or even because of insanely interesting content in GoogleReader - I was reading a few books I'm working through, and then researching more about potential dog breeds that might work for us, but I wasn't building the stuff I said I might this weekend (and still haven't touched that). Today I was thinking I would just check RescueTime to see exactly where all that time went, but then I realized I haven't set it up for this machine yet (doh!). Oh well, it was fun - I felt like I was pulling one of those high school "all nighters" but without the sense of urgency.

Kev and I have combined our offices into the bonus room so that we can get some exercise equipment and put it in the extra room off the master (where I used to work), which is nice since that way whether we're staying at the house or the condo we'll always have access to workout equipment. I love moving my desk and everything, it forces me to process and purge all the ad hoc ideas, sketches, notes, and random items that pile up on paper. Paper is the devil, and yet I can't ever seem to get enough notebooks with just the right texture of paper or pens with just the right width of the line. I'm trying out OneNote, where I can condense a lot of the career development, reading recommendations, tons of business ideas at various levels of development, reflections on the past, and more into one place. We'll see how that goes, I am still not convinced this will be the best tool for me. If I can hook it up with Jott then it might be better.

I'm also making a second pass through Getting Things Done by David Allen to see what else I can do to better streamline the workflow of the work and non-work information inflow that feels more like a deluge at times. I think aggregation of my email would be nice, in a different format than just mutliple inboxes in Outlook. I'm using Xobni, but so far I haven't found that it solves this problem for me. In fact, I don't feel like I'm getting the same experience as all those people who hyped it - I've minimized it. I already know I email my boss the most at work and my husband the most on my personal account, and that I need to email my long distance friends, colleagues, and casual acquaintances more regularly - but it doesn't actually get me to the point where there is no barrier to just taking action.

The search for great tools for personal organization and time management continue.


RescueTime I Love You - You Make My Life Better

I just was getting caught up with my other beloved new toy, Google Reader, and found out that RescueTime was part of Y Combinator day this week is funded by Y Combinator. For some reason, I had the impression RescueTime was much further along as a company - considering their product ROCKS MY WORLD and looks so polished. These guys are doing something for personal productivity and time management that is going to make a lot of us more aware of how much time we "waste" and how much value we are getting out of it. Frankly, I was actually proud to see how much work I was doing once I looked at this, it was like getting a pat on the back. I was also surprised to see that my Google Reader noshing isn't eating up nearly as much as I had feared.

I'm a pretty picky user, I send feedback and all that, and I have had such a great experience from beginning to end using RescueTime that I have been telling everyone I can about it. From a time management perspective it is amazing, I can tag the applications I use and sites I visit with things like "work", "email", "news", "social" and then I can also tell it how productive (or non-productive) each tag is.

I love graphs and charts and am a data head, so this has been love love LOVE (!!) at first sight. I can't say enough about it, and I am sure it will only get more amazing as they continue to develop it. Even if it didn't change a bit I think I would use it for a long time, I've never had a tool like this before!

They are in Seattle, just 3 owner/operators.

RescueTime Website: http://www.rescuetime.com/
RescueTime Blog: http://blog.rescuetime.com/


A Weekend of Food & Books

no more whrrk posts for awhile

Friday we had a really fun impromptu (as in - we started inviting people over less than 24 hours before) dinner party where I tried to recreate the excellent pork dish Emily and I made at her friend's house in San Francisco a few weeks ago for about 10 people. What makes this dish unique is the honey glace with dried apricots and cranberries that have been soaking in sherry cooking wine. It is simmered and reduced for about an hour and served atop of the pork loin steaks. Unfortunately, I entrusted the preparation of the meat to my Dad - and it ended up very overcooked - I think because pork isn't something he is used to making. Pork is hard to keep moist.

Regardless, we had enough risotto, asparagus, buttery rolls, and the glace (which is delish all on its own) to satisfy. Top that off with about 4 bottles of various red wine, carrot cake, and a few pots of French press coffee and we were set. We played boardgames until the early hours of the morning when our last guests were finally too tired to keep their eyes open.

Starting off the weekend like that certainly made it feel long. On Saturday we woke up late and enjoyed brunch at Denice's Place on 160th before shopping for some solar lights to try out in the yard and invitations for Tracy's baby shower. We went to Panera in Redmond for lunch because Kevin loves it, but it (as usually) disappointed me, this time with lukewarm soup. After some mandatory caffeine ingestion at Starbucks we went to the Macy's home store to look at couchs, and we were finally able to agree on one with a matching chair. My parent's gave us the gift of a furniture shopping budget for Christmas, so we've been meaning to use it since then. It is amazing to me (although I understand why) that it will take 10 weeks to have it delivered. Imagine how long people had to wait 200 years ago (it was probably made locally and took less time!). After that, we headed over to Whole Paycheck for dinner ingredients and I prepared some zesty fajitas using flank steak.

I was up until the wee hours again reading and Sunday morning I didn't crawl out of bed until about 11am. I took a brisk walk to the grocery store to pick up breakfast ingredients and then prepared a very traditional breakfast of eggs, hash browns, bacon and toast. Yay for cooking - and YAY for BACON! Today has been able more reading, writing, thinking, listening to music and re-charging for the week ahead.

So... that's a weekend in the life of the Morrills I guess.


Whrrl Team at Pelago Express Excitement About iPhone SDK

Pelago CEO Jeff Holden expressed the Whrrl team's excitement about the iPhone SDK, as well as the announcement that Pelago is the first portfolio company for Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers $100MM iFund.

Read the full blog entry at Whrrl's "Our Whrrld" blog.


Kleiner's iFund ($100MM) Money Goes to Services like Whrrl

KPCB announces iFund, Pelago Inc. (makers of Whrrl) among first recipients:



Possible Ecoterrorism nearby in Woodinville

Wow, I just read this article from CNN regarding a house on the Street of Dreams that is burning, where markings of ELF (Earth Liberation Front) have allegedly been found. This is just unbelievable that these people do this and it makes me so angry - THIS IS LESS THAN A MILE AWAY FROM US. Having just bought our first big beautiful home together after getting married, I can't imagine what it would be like to watch it burn to the ground (especially with my beloved piano inside).

The Street of Dreams is a luxury home and garden tour that is the most attended in the U.S. and every year we go to get ideas for our own residence and outdoor area. I think people go to tour these incredible houses because it is inspiring to see them and fun to imagine living in them, and I think it is sad to see places like this destroyed.


Whrrl - Noise Pop 2008 Official Web and Mobile Sponsor

In a press release this morning, it was announced that Whrrl.com is the official web and mobile sponsor for Noise Pop 2008. Noise Pop is a staple of the San Francisco indie music festival circuit each year, and this years performers include Minipop, Stellarstar, She & Him, and plenty more. For a full list check out the official Noise Pop 2008 website.

Whrrl Team on the Ground in San Francisco

Starting Tuesday (2/26), members of the Pelago staff (makers of Whrrl) will descend on San Francisco to promote their product at the various Noise Pop events. They will be giving away all sorts of merchandise, including sweatshirts, stickers, buttons and they are also rumored to be giving away some mobile devices as well. This street team is interesting, because they are not just hired guns for this event - they are the people who actually work on bringing the product into existence. Engineering, design, infrastructure and marketing staff will come together to evangelize their product at venues throughout the city.

I flew in last Friday and I've probably already logged 20 miles on foot even with the rain - what a cool place to explore. I'm Danielle Morrill (or Danielle M.) on Whrrl - let's be friends!!


Disclaimer: I work for Pelago, Inc. the company that is proudly bringing Whrrl to hipsters, soccer moms, students, and generally people everywhere. Anything posted here may be biased, self promoting, and quite proud. Anything I see here is my opinion only, not an official statement from Pelago, Inc.


Whrrl Introduces Events -

A quick heads up: I work for Pelago, makers of Whrrl, so this a shamelessly self-promoting, proud, and biased post - ENJOY!

Today Whrrl.com launched a new feature, which allows users to search for events in major cities across the United States. This means concerts, movies, gallery showings, and more - they are all on Whrrl and more importantly they are in your neighborhood, maybe even on your street, just waiting for you to discover them. So get onto to Whrrl, so you can get off the internet, and into the real world!!



Google vs. Microsoft - Antitrust Garbage

Things are definitely heating up over the Microsoft bid for Yahoo! and here I am on the east side (near Redmond, for non-locals) in the center of all this speculation - how can I not blog about it? My husband works for Microsoft, and what neither one of us can figure out is how this is really so much better for the company. True, they will increase their market share in the internet advertising space somewhat - but is taking on Yahoo! (a drifting ship of mediocre leaders at this point) really such a boon?

It has taken years for MSFT stock to rebound and it has been enjoying pretty decent market valuation lately, but attracting the attention of regulators (perverse as it is) isn't going to do wonders for legal expenses that are already through the roof.

It sounds like Google is positioning for a fight and has decided to take a legal angle, taking advantage of the public's previous concieved notion of Microsoft as an evil empire of monopolistic goons. Thanks guys! While Microsoft has openly waged war with Google on commercial grounds, I don't think this particular type of fighting is very commendable. I'd like to see the two duke it out in the open market - and although others don't seem to believe that market can be "open" once Microsoft acquires Yahoo! I beg to differ.

In this article from Fortune: http://techland.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2008/02/03/google-will-microsoft-monopolize-the-internet/ Google is calling for legal action against Microsoft on the grounds that they allegedly will "extend unfair practices from browsers and operating systems to the Internet" [sic] if they acquire Yahoo! As I write on Blogger, one of the many Google products I love, I find myself disgusted. Of course the word "openess" is getting bandied about as well. If people want a free and open internet then they won't buy Microsoft products. Google has a firm enough foothold in the market that they should be able to convince people of that.

Of course, all this follows speculation in the media and specifically in Silicon Valley that Microsoft's bid for Yahoo! might actually be a GOOD thing for the internet, freeing it from an impending "monopoly" by Google. All this sounds like a bunch of positioning and political nonsense - may the best products and services win in the open market. Let consumers decide.


When did Twittr become Twitter?

I just noticed the name changed. I can't even find a news story on this - every search says "did you mean Twitter" but I know they did that whole vowel dropping thing. What planet have I been on anyway? Well, I'm not a regular Twitter user... what with how busy I've been reviewing places and checking in at Whrrl

stand in blog

I'm not sure what I am going to do with this blog yet. I am starting to think it would be fun to have this blog contain some public content, whereas my other blog of 5 years is highly protected and way too personal to ever make public. I would enjoy commenting on current events and talk about the cool things happening at the company I work for.

We'll see... I'm just testing the waters. I think I am slowly getting sucked in more and more by Google - it is just so convenient to have everything managed on one platform with one login.