Look what I made:

I just wrote a post on the Whrrl blog announcing a feature I recently built as part of my summer internship at Pelago, which lets you share the places you go with your followers on Twitter. Check it out!

You can also follow me and Whrrl on Twitter, if you’d like.


Deceptive Packaging

For the record, I disagree with Minute Maid’s decision to devote less than 0.3% of this carton’s area towards indicating that its contents are from concentrate.


If I’ve talked to you since I started working at Pelago last month, chances are that I’ve told you to go join Whrrl. Apart from not having an “i” in its name, Whrrl has many traits, which usually get condensed into the one-liner description of “location-based social network”. Unsurprisingly, that isn’t immediately interesting to most people, given the number of existing options, so I thought I’d use this space to showcase some of what makes Whrrl so unique and powerful.

Millions of places, and they’re all on a map

Google Maps was a revolution in 2005 because it took the useful-but-boring maps we were accustomed to on the web[](http://www.mapquest.com/) and made them fully interactive, allowing you to pan and zoom the map by simply moving your mouse. Whrrl takes that a huge step further, by putting every public place in America on the map itself. Instead of having to search for a particular place that you’ve already heard of, you can easily discover new places around you.

The map is yours

Of course, with all of those places to visit, you need a way of knowing which ones are interesting. Rather than showing you the general-purpose ratings and reviews you’ll find at Citysearch or Yelp, Whrrl tailors your map to the opinions of your friends, allowing you to make decisions based on the opinions of those you trust. The places on your map will be green if your friends have rated them highly, or red if they generally dislike a place. If you’re new to Whrrl, your map will be prepopulated with the opinions of Top Whrrlers, who are the most active users in your city. What’s more, if your friends choose to share their location with you, they’ll also show up on the map whenever they’re checked into a place.

Helping you discover new places and events

Apart from simply clicking on any one of those places, if you’re looking for something in particular, you can do really deep searches depending on your current mood and preferences. I’ve found that Whrrl’s location search is more powerful than any other site I’ve used before, and it’s in part because Pelago has a data team that’s on a mission to actually call every restaurant in America for accurate and relevant information. For example, it’s 1am in Seattle as I write this, and Whrrl can tell me about 300 places nearby that will still be open in an hour.

It’s at your fingertips

Not only is Whrrl on the web, it’s also accessible from every mobile phone via SMS, so you can discover places on the go. If that’s not enough, you can download full-featured Whrrl clients to many phones, including iPhone and Blackberry devices.

Sign up today!

Note: If it isn’t already obvious, even though I work for Pelago, there is no transitive relationship between this blog and the company. Read my full disclaimer here.


During my senior year of high school, I attended a weekly seminar on Media, Politics, and Public Speaking. Every week, we would have a politician from the Portland area, such as Brad Avakian or David Wu, speak to us for the first half of class. Not only did these interactions serve as great exposure to local politics, but our instructors used the time to help us become more media savvy by asking us to reflect upon and analyze what we heard after the speaker had left.

One of the tools we were given for analysis was a worksheet written by Aloha High School teaching legend James Barlow. It provides four pages detailing various categories of argumentation that a speaker might use to persuade his audience, such as “folksy appeal” or “tabloid thinking”. I found that using it just a few times really helped me to see through these tactics, which are ubiquitously used by public speakers, and also enabled me to better challenge their arguments.

I came across the document recently while sorting through some old papers, and thought that the world might benefit from its presence on the internet. All of the definitions don’t seem entirely accurate, but the content is all perfectly valid. There’s a pdf of all four pages available here, and a transcribed version is below the fold.

Speaker Analysis

Vagueness
Not clearly expressed or not with precise meaning. Use of words such as Freedom, Democracy, and Communism without clearly expressed meaning.

Ambiguity
Capable of being understood in two or more possible ways.

Shift of Meaning
Like making conclusions about the theory of Marxism and then shifting all of the remarks to apply to the Soviet Union.

Degrees & Titles
Reference to degrees and titles as if that means the speaker knows what he is talking about.

Repetition
As if repeating gives validity where none exists.

Slogans
An attention getting phrase; or a phrase used to express a characteristic position or stand with the implication that everyone should agree with it.

Appeal to Flattery
Excessive praise to influence the listener, which has nothing to do with the issue.

Appeal to Ridicule
To make fun of something in a negative way.

Appeal to Prestige
To give undue standing or high esteem, thus creating an illusion about a person’s importance.

Appeal to Prejudice
An appeal to an irrational attitude that the listener has, which tends to get in the way of logical judgement.

Folksy Appeal
Informal or casual, and in a manner that will cause the audience to react favorably from an emotional standpoint.

Join the Bandwagon Appeal
Join because everyone is joining. It is a movement that attracts people because of its timeliness, showmanship, or momentum, but not because of its logic.

Hasty Generalization
To derive or induce a general conception or principle from specific particulars, which generalization may not be applicable.

Faulty Analogy
Inference that if two or more things agree with one another in some respects they will probably agree in others. An example would be that if the United States has a Social Security Program and the Soviet Union has a similar program, they are both Socialist nations. You go from the specific to the general.

Name and Quote Dropper
Use names or quotes as if their use somehow gives credence to the argument.

Non Sequitur
The conclusion does not follow logically. An example would be: “Put an end to corruption, Vote Democratic.”

Disproving by Minor Point
Disprove a minor point and thus say the whole issue is false.

Ad Hominem
Appealing to a person’s feelings or prejudices rather than his intellect. Marked by an attack on a person’s character.

Leading Question
As in, “Don’t you believe that a man should be honest?” Then the speaker goes on as if an individual was not honest.

Attacking a Straw Man
Refers to a weak or imaginary person to be set up and then easily proven wrong. Such as a man speaking against abortion referring to a person who has had abortion by, “You know the kind of person who has an abortion.” The implication is negative, and the Straw-Man cannot defend himself against this negativism.

Begging the Question
Does not answer the question but talks around it.

Academic Detachment
The speaker says the question is too complicated or you wouldn’t understand it or talks around it in an intellectual fashion, but never gets to the issue. Sometimes it amounts to talking about both sides of an issue without centering on the question.

Conservatism, Radicalism, Moderateness
Speaker refers to a political position as if it is bad or ought to carry with it a negative emotional response.

Tabloid Thinking
Thinking in compressed or condensed scope which comes out in glaring headlines. An example would be, “The Civil War was caused by slavery.”

Casual Oversimplification
Expressing or indicating cause in oversimplified terms. Example would be, “Since the newspapers wrote about conditions in Cuba prior to 1898, they caused the Spanish American War.”

Commonality of Interests
Assumes that your commonality of interests lends standing to the argument.

Selective Data
The speaker selects only certain data and information to illustrate his point, leaving out data that would tend to discredit his position.

Simplistic Detachment
“We all know that…”

Either-Or
Which would you rather have your children do,
1) Attend a beer party, or
2) Go to church
(There could be other choices)

Appeal to Ignorance
A proposition is said to be true because it has not been disproved, or is said to be untrue because it has not been proved.

Technical Jargon
The use of technical language or unfamiliar words, whether contained in the dictionary or freshly coined, for the purpose of impressing people.


Everyday India

Kids at the Temple

Before and during my recent trip to India, many of my friends encouraged me to blog because they wanted to hear about what I was up to. It turns out that I didn’t do the best job of writing frequently and ended up with a grand total of three posts.

For those of you who are still curious, however, I found something much better! Yesterday morning, Boing Boing linked to a profile of Nehru Place on Our Delhi Struggle, an awesome blog written by two New Yorkers currently who are living and working in Delhi. The post on Nehru Place caught my interest because I happened to be there exactly one month ago on a mission to find a new power adapter for my laptop – the previous one died with dramatic sound effects due to a voltage spike which somehow made it past my precautionary surge protector.

Jenny and Dave do a great job of capturing everyday life and experiences (of Americans visiting or living) in India through brilliant writing and beautiful photography. They’ve covered topics ranging from infrastructure frustrations to development to healthcare to social norms to poverty, and most of their experiences, reactions, and insights mirror my own. I quickly found myself reading through their entire blog archive, and am sure that their posts will resonate with anyone who’s visited India in the past.

As for my travelblogging habits, I promise I’ll try to do better next time!


Last month, I visited Goonj, a Delhi-based NGO which began in 1998 with a focus on the reuse of clothing. Now a decade old, the organization distributes over 20,000 kilograms of material ranging from clothes to school supplies to computers throughout South Asia every month.

Though I was primarily there to evaluate the possibilities of partnering Ujaala’s efforts in the Pacific Northwest with Goonj, the feature of my visit was a tour of their sorting facilities, which turned out to be quite an impressive operation. What began as a small organization quite similar to Ujaala’s has visibly evolved into a well-planned and thoughtfully executed process of collecting, sorting, recycling, packaging, and distributing various material through a network of NGOs spread across the country.

For example, Ujaala’s clothing drive in Portland last year concentrated its efforts around clean and wearable clothing, due to limited resources like washing machines and volunteer hours available to sort and package the clothes. At Goonj, clothes are sorted based on type and condition, with torn or otherwise damaged clothing reused for other purposes including drawstrings, sanitary napkins, and other items. Lightly damaged clothes are repaired with sewing machines. Everything is finally made into sets which are tied together with a thin strip of salvaged cloth.

Apart from collection and processing, the organization’s mission was quite obviously applied in the other steps of its process. The sorting efforts described above were staffed by members of the local community, and used as an opportunity to provide incomes to individuals in need. At the other end of the chain, Goonj works with its partner NGOs to use the donated materials as incentives for positive behavior rather than simple charity, which could mean something as simple as giving the school supplies to attentive students. To top it all off, the organization does its own printing on the backsides of used paper.


In mid-April, our group decided to take a trip to Corbett National Park, which is a large and famous tiger reserve in southern Uttarakhand. Our visit was an incredible learning experience, as it not only provided an opportunity to view rare wildlife but also to consider some important issues regarding park management and ecotourism. While in the park, I noticed many tenuous issues, especially with regards to the park’s heavy regulation of tourist activity and its relationship with the surrounding community.

As we first drove into the park, I was immediately drawn to notice the contrast in access models between American national parks against Corbett’s strict limitations on vehicles and pedestrians within the park. I am accustomed to parks in the US with universal access provided by way of well-paved roads, large visitor centers, and recreational facilities including campgrounds and miles of hiking trails. The threat to visitors’ lives exists in both cases – put simply, here, it’s due to tigers and leopards, and there, bears and wolves. In cases where strict rules are absolutely necessary in the US, such as in extremely fragile alpine climates, regulation exists in the form of required permits and limited trails. Thus, I wonder how differences in access policy affect conservation efforts in parks, as I believe most human impact in these environments is caused by tourist activity.

My second thought was about the park’s history. Given India’s high population density, it was hard to imagine that the area within the park’s boundaries was previously uninhabited. I have since learned that upon the park’s creation, people were forced to move outside of its borders in order to provide a sanctuary for tigers and other wildlife. While this effort has resulted in measurable success to conserve India’s tiger population over the last few decades, it has undoubtedly had an impact upon the surrounding community.

We stayed at a dormitory residence in Dhikala, a small settlement in the center of the park, which is surrounded by a formidable electric fence. From there, we were able to explore the park via jeep and elephant safari every morning and afternoon. Since we stayed there for two nights, we had the opportunity to go out four times, and every trip resulted in sightings of elephants, deer, birds, and other wildlife. On top of all of that, we were able to get a glimpse of a tiger in the wild!

As we left the park, we had an opportunity to sit in on an seminar hosted by the International Ecotourism Society. Because the park attracts a significant number of visitors every year, tourism has become an important part of the economy in the surrounding areas, including the nearby towns of Ramnagar and Chhoti Haldwani. While we were there, Carolyn Wild, an ecotourism consultant from Canada, gave a well-attended talk on using indicators to assist in sustainable tourism development. While giving the presentation, she focused on leveraging tourism to provide benefits for the local community, while promoting sustainable development to attract more tourists in the future.

Along these lines, while she expressed the importance of sustainable tourism development, Wild did little to explain what measures could be taken to attain sustainability. Had she done so, the audience would have been better equipped to make tangible changes in their businesses and lifestyles to practice sustainable tourism development in the Corbett region. In addition, Wild did not discuss the education of tourists as a means for protection of the surrounding environment instead choosing to focus on the economic wealth brought to a region by tourists.

Judging by the audience present at the seminar, the impact of tourism has likely been largely positive due to increased tourism in the region. I am curious to know how the park’s creation has affected people who are not directly involved with tourism, as well as in other regions where park creation is similarly taking place today.

All in all, I was completely awed by the experience of staying in and exploring this vast wildlife reserve. Hopefully it will remain a successful endeavor to conserve nature and biodiversity for future generations.


This quarter, I’m studying abroad with the UW South Asia Center in India’s mountainous northern province of Uttarakhand. Along with 11 other students from Seattle, I will be studying forest ecology, sustainable development, and culture of the Kumaon region, over a span of ten weeks. In addition, we will be working closely with Chirag, a well-established non-governmental organization in Uttarakhand which works to promote development in the area.

Every time I travel to India, I begin to convince myself that I’ve become accustomed to the 20+ hour journey. However, every time I visit again, it becomes uncomfortably apparent that there’s no getting used to the long flights, extreme time difference, change of climate, and of food and water.

Since this is the first time I’ve visited India outside of the peak winter season, I was surprised to find that the 747 we boarded in Amsterdam was carrying less than a third of its capacity for passengers. Upon landing in New Delhi (after spending eight hours stretched out across multiple economy class seats), our group quickly cleared customs, picked up our baggage, and climbed aboard a chartered bus heading towards our hostel at Connaught Place.

We spent two days in Delhi – just enough time to decompress, orient ourselves in the city, and get some shopping out of the way – before escaping the heat with overnight accommodations on the northbound Ranikhet Express. The next morning, we arrived at the railhead in Kathgodam and transitioned to yet another method of transportation, this time onto three jeeps which carried us upwards on winding mountain roads to our final destination at Sonapani.

In the past week, we’ve spent some time becoming familiar with the area, our coursework, and Chirag’s ongoing projects. I plan to continue blogging over the next few months about our work and travel excursions in the region.

Stay tuned for more!


Note to Self

Don’t generalize results after testing web applications in a pre-release browser, even if the browser is an incredible improvement over its predecessor and doesn’t seem to have any major bugs in “normal” use.


Over the past few years, I’ve worked with many non-profit organizations as a volunteer or board member. Most recently, I joined with some friends to found Ujaala, an organization that aims to support other organizations in India through projects that are locally actionable by volunteers in the US. (We didn’t want to focus our efforts on simply sending money overseas. Instead, we want to engage the local community in order to build awareness of the needs and issues affecting people in India.)

Since then, we’ve collected, sorted, and packaged over 1000 articles of clothing in a campaign that we ran this summer – they’ll soon be shipped to an NGO in India. While our first project has been quite successful, I’ve learned many lessons about what’s required to start and run a non-profit organization, and thought I’d share:

  1. Write a Mission Statement
    Before you can even start, it’s important that you identify a need that your organization will strive to address. It can be something as specific as supporting a particular team at your local high school, or a bit more broad, like Ujaala’s: Bringing opportunity to those in need by collaborating with non-profit organizations in India. Not only will a mission statement give your organization a defined purpose, it will give you a standard upon which to measure every action and project that your organization undertakes.

  2. Assemble a Diverse and Committed Team
    If you’ve read this far with interest, you’re probably committed to your cause enough to help get an organization off the ground. Find more people like yourself and get them excited about your idea. You will need a dedicated team in order to fill your organization’s board of directors and also to spread out the administrative and substantive workload involved with running any organization. Additionally, as with any group of people, a diverse set of individuals will bring many different ideas and opinions to the table, which will prove to be extremely useful as you brainstorm fundraising and project plans.

  3. Understand the Legal Stuff
    While not nearly as fun as the actual work your organization will be doing, it’s important that you understand and navigate through the legal process required to set up a non-profit organization. In most cases, you will need to set up a non-profit corporation in your home state, and then apply for 501©(3) federal tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service. While a tedious process, filling out the intimidating 28-page application, IRS Form 1023, will help you to solidify and understand your organization’s activities along with its long-term financial plans. This process may not be applicable for every non-profit organization – please remember that I’m not a expert, and do contact an accountant or lawyer if you have any questions.

If you can successfully complete those three tasks, there is no stopping what your organization is capable of. Keep your team motivated, and go help the world!