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 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.