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All you need to know about Jason. Sometimes more.

Updated: 2010-03-30T00:00:45.385-07:00


Charles in charge



Today my youngest brother Grant and his wife Heather welcomed a beautiful baby boy to the world. Meet Charles Andersen Shellen. You can call him Charlie. I know this photo isn't my best look but I may have shed a tear or two holding my baby bro's baby.

February lost


One day I'll tell you the story of February 2010. Not now of course, that would spoil all the fun.

A reminder: the title sets the tone


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Kaiser meet social media


My medical provider Kaiser Permanente just sent an email update on their H1N1 flu vaccine availability with the helpful sounding subject line: H1N1 vaccine now available to all Kaiser Permanente members. Previously, they would only give vaccines to the most high risk groups, mainly based on age. Inside this email was a link to their website and a phone number (1-800-KP-FLU-11) to call to find out where the next flu clinic would be. Let's put aside for a minute that Kaiser has my zip code and could have sent along the location and schedule. However, clicking the link just gave the same phone number. Kaiser it's 2010, you have my location and a website - you could really stand to use your website to disseminate relevant information.

Moving on, I gave up and called the flu clinic hotline number. After using the voice prompt system (it got my local facility on the second try), it played recorded information from December 7, 2009 that all vaccinations have been centralized at another location and that I would need to call another number! This is getting silly Kaiser. I suggest getting a blog or Twitter account so you could really get information out there. Here's an example of what life looks like in the future:

Kaiser members in the Walnut Creek area

If you are looking for the Kaiser flu clinic in Walnut Creek, California - you can call the Kaiser Martinez Campus flu hotline at (925.372.1615) however, last night the recording stated:

As of Monday, January 4th - Seasonal & H1N1 vaccinations are available for all members.

  • No appointment is needed, just drop in at the Martinez campus
  • Available on the 1st floor of the Ensenada Building
  • Shots are available Tues, Wed and Thursdays
  • between 9 - Noon & between 1:30 until 4:30 pm (or when supplies are depleted)
  • Bring your member ID
  • Wear a short sleeve shirt

There you go Kaiser and that took me 5 minutes and I don't work for you. You can't swing a stethoscope without hitting a social media consultant who can help, I bet you could start doing this in no time. I'll be waiting, patiently.

"It only hurts when I breathe in...or out."

A small feed related note


If you are reading this in a feed reader then you are probably subscribed to my Feedburner-ized feed of shellen dot com, which is cool, but as of today I decided to stop blending in my Flickr photos. I still like Flickr, I still take photos like this recent one of my old Sony Sports Walkman, but it's mucking up some other things l've been using like Friendfeed and Tumblr with duplicate posts. If you still want to subscribe to my photos you can add this link to my Flickr stream or use this link if you use Google Reader. Thanks!

Video-enabled digital SLRs go hip-hop


I knew that after buying a fancy new camera, the Canon 50D, that Canon would release one with HD video soon. True to form, just a few months after I made my purchase Canon released the Canon 5D Mark II. I wasn't too sad, after all the camera was $1000 more than the one I had purchased. However, Canon announced another HD video enabled SLR for $1000 under what I had paid for the 50D, the EOS Digital Rebel TSi. As an early technology adopter this is not an uncommon occurrence for me, but I did end up on the unfortunate end of what appears to be a new era in digital photography and video technology. For the record, the Canon 50D is still a stellar still photo camera, but I see a video SLR swap in the future, perhaps the even newer 7D. Here's the side-by-side comparison on DPReview of all mentioned cameras.


Soon after the first of the HD video SLR's came out, stunning videos began to surface making full use of the great lenses available to still photographers. You had to wonder when they would make the next leap and see some real world professional usage. Today while watching a behind the scenes video about the making of the new Young Money - Bedrock video, I noticed that this video seems to use almost entirely video SLRs.

As pictured above, video SLRs pop-up all over the video. I would love to find out more about why they were chosen and how well it worked towards the end result. I know it's a hip-hop video and not high art or Avatar, but it marks an interesting milestone in my book in terms of great technology becoming more affordable for aspiring auteurs. Below is the entire behind the scenes video showing the video SLRs in action.
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A robin among the persimmons


I took this photo outside our house the other day. This photo is also part of a test I'm doing. I uploaded the photo here with Picasa for Mac's BlogThis plug-in but I also uploaded it to Flickr and Brizzly. So far, Brizzly is the easiest upload but I suspect that the compression used will make the photo look best on Flickr. I'll keep you posted on the results.

More something or other in 2010


Counting this post, I blogged 11 times this year. I couldn't even manage a measly post a month. It wasn't for lack of things going on. I mostly hated the format of my blog and my whole media workflow. Photos on Flickr (and now Brizzly), status and jokes on Twitter (synced to Facebook), videos on YouTube, everything on Friendfeed, Reader and Tumblr. It's a mess. It's a mess I hope to sort out in 2010 but it's neither here nor there. I did give a little makeover so maybe I'll stop hating it so much. A big help along the way, I'm using Typekit to give it a fresh new feel. Instead of an empty promise to blog more in 2010 maybe I should just plan to sort out this mess for you, me and everyone. Happy New Year and happy new media!

My 11-year old self would die


Last week I had a little misunderstanding with Justine Bateman. Today, Alyssa Milano gave out invites to Brizzly to her followers on Twitter. Life is getting more surreal by the day. I'm angling for some sort of slap fight with Nicole Eggert next week.

Happy 10th birthday Blogger


photo: Jason Shellen

Many happy returns. I'm glad you came along when you did. My life wouldn't have been the same without you. Thanks to Ev, Meg, Paul, Matt and Derek for dreaming up such a fun playground for me personally and professionally. Thanks to those who helped power the [b] during the hard times and for those keeping it real over at Google. You know who you are.

Brizzly: Coming soon from Thing Labs



A few hours ago I gave a preview of the web app that we have been working on at Thing Labs. It's called Brizzly and it's a fun, new way to use Twitter. Brizzly lets you do all the things you love on Twitter plus a bit more. We are still working on it and most notably the user interface isn't final, but Techcrunch wrote up a little piece about Brizzly and *cringe* has a video of my demo (which I haven't watched). The team at Thing Labs has been working really hard to get it ready for use, but the conference came up a little before we were ready to release to the world. Never fear, go to and enter your info if you would like an invite and we'll send you one when we are ready. Also, how cute is the bear wearing a bird suit (if I don't say so myself)?

Plinky in today's New York Times Magazine


Illustration by Peter Arkle

I had the pleasure of being quoted in the NYT Magazine today in an article about Plinky. The article speaks for itself and I thought Rob Walker did a nice job. One thing I've been meaning to write about more is what's coming next for Plinky. The article touches on this:

"Shellen says his company has more projects in the works that are “centered on conversation” but for the moment has been learning more about what sorts of prompts are effective."

More on this soon, I promise.

Biz Stone on the Colbert Report!


Last night my old friend Biz Stone appeared on the Stephen Colbert Show on Comedy Central. I'm stoked for Biz and the whole Twitter team. Their mainstream media mentions and appearances don't seem to be slowing down. Evan Williams was on Charlie Rose and they were profiled on Nightline. If you didn't catch Colbert live last night you can see the full clip embedded below.

I've been friends with Biz for a while now but we not met in real life back in 2001. However, that didn't stop us from becoming arch-nemeses, cordially of course. All the same time, I really wasn't too sure about a guy who referred to himself as "genius" and his smart aleck style of writing wasn't helping things. In 2003 when we finally met at a blogging conference I found out that he is actually one of the nicest guys around. We had to end our pretend feud. We were able to hire him onto the Blogger team at Google in October 2003 which Biz of course wrote up jokingly as an acquisition of Genius Labs. After spending years working with Biz I can't help but read anything he writes in classic Biz Stone-style. I'm glad the rest of America gets a glimpse into the kind of fun Biz brings to any project.

Clip courtesy of Comedy Central.

While we are getting truthy, a minor correction to a Techcrunch post about a rumored sale of Twitter to Google. Michael Arrington writes:’s a brilliant deal for Google - the value of Twitter is only going to go up over time. And it will be Twitter founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone’s second sale to Google - they sold Blogger to them just five years ago.

It's would be Ev's second sale (if it were true) however, as mentioned above, Biz was brought on in late 2003 and wasn't part of the Ev, Steve, Rudy, Jason, Jason and Jason team. It is interesting to note that one Jason, Rudy and Steve are at Twitter though. Go (old) team!

A little free product development advice


As a former Google product manager and current entrepreneur, people often email me to ask for advice in a number of areas. One of the recurring variants is a request that goes something like this:"I have an idea for a site or service. It's going to be bigger than the disco ball! I don't really know how this technology stuff works but maybe I could tell you my idea?" What comes next is usually a variation of "...and then you could help me build it, sell it, promote it, show me how it's done or something else?"Still other email are from small start-up founders who want to know what the secret trick is to building a great product or to take a look at their new creations.First of all, it's flattering that people like the products I've helped build enough to seek me out. As a busy CEO of a venture-backed start-up I unfortunately don't always have a lot of spare time to dig in and help out, so here are a few of my fundamental thoughts on entrepreneurship, building products and how I can help.I'm not a technical personSurprise, neither am I. In fact, I've never taken a single Computer Science or Business Administration class. I received a BA in Fine Arts from a small liberal arts college. I thought I was going to go on to Cal Arts to study animation and work for Disney or Pixar, but the web came along and my plans changed. To this day, I'm at my best when I am behind the drivers seat in Photoshop or Illustrator sketching out new product ideas or at the whiteboard designing rough sketches of future web applications. As long as you can communicate with technical people, you'll be in fine shape.Execution is underratedI have a belief that ideas come down to execution. Great ideas are a dime a dozen but in the end the one's that emerge successful are the one's that have persevered and made something special.The same idea in the hands of different people have many different outcomes. For example: for every Google there are 50 search companies that ended disastrously. Google executed well and refined and refined a core idea that wasn't necessarily unique. Some ideas when executed well take off and others fail to capture the imagination.If you think it's interesting, make a demoIf someone came to me and said, "Here's my great idea, but I want tobe paid for it if it's good." I would probably shoo them away -implement your idea, even as a simple demo you have 10x morelikelihood of being taken seriously. Venture capital or even angel money is rarely given to people who don't have a working demo. Product managers and engineers at top software companies usually need a demo to continue development and receive support from their superiors. If you can't code, make friends.Version: PerfectNo one ships something perfect right out the gate. If you are doing it right, there is a good chance you will throw away most of the code every 6 - 18 months. Hell, sometimes you'll throw away the first product. Premature optimization is usually the main stumbling block of any small team. Go fast and learn from mistakes.The competitionAim high. Don't think of your competition as the other guys in a garage, aim at someone who doesn't know you are coming and potentially someone who wouldn't see it coming until it's too late. Don't worry about the other guys doing similar things unless they are doing 100% the same thing. Have a long term vision and imagine what wild success would look like if your service or product takes off.You are what you readIf you aren't already reading Paul Graham or Joel on Software then I highly recommend subscribing. Paul works with many start-ups and Joel is an old hand at software development. You are not creating a product in a vacuum, many other people have been down this path, learn [...]

The doctor ordered "Back to the Future II" and bedrest


I've been sick with a cold. Not any cold, but some super human cold to end all colds. I'm finally feeling better and I've ingested my share of ibuprofen, Sudafed, codeine cough syrup, Tylenol PM, pho, hot tea, home-made soup (thanks Allie), but mostly a bunch of movies. My eyes have been hurting so a lot of the time I just listened to the movies.

Since last Friday I've re-watched (or listened to): Mission Impossible 3, Wedding Crashers, Singles, Batman Begins and watched for the first time: Hitch, Step Brothers, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist. The re-watches were all good to great, the first timers - almost every last one of them horrible. I've learned that when you are sick, go with what you know.

Sequels in general make for great movie watching when you are sick, because plot details don't matter as much and the fact that it's not as good as the original won't matter as much. Plus you have probably already seen it a few times so you can doze off for periods of time and the story still makes sense.

(image) I recommend Back to the Future II or BTTF II as we true fans call it. It's not as good as the first but definitely better than the old West flying train piece of junk that came out after it. Lot's of Biff getting his just desserts and Marty's girlfriend gets upgraded from nameless actress to Elisabeth Shue between BTTF 1 and 2. Not bad! Other things to love about this one mainly appear in the future, Nike self-lacing shoes, Mattel Hover Boards, hover cars, 3-D advertising and a fax machine in every room of the home.

For my money what's better than a movie about the future when being sick essentially puts you in a wormhole to next week anyway.

Try to avoid tense movies like MI3 or The Dark Night, I learned my lesson the hard way. Other recommended sequels would include: Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi.

Roads? Where you're going you don't need roads... Motrin maybe but no roads.


America needs Jon Stewart


President Obama has had his chance at picking a Cabinet and he's done a fine job so far. It's hard to pick from a crop of only real human beings so any fictitious characters are noted with an asterisk, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't be great.

Jon Stewart
Secretary of State Now maybe this one is too easy, but he does have a great sense of what's askew in America and could deliver bad news with a humorous delivery. Also his Bush impression kills me.

Clair Huxtable*
Attorney General You remember Clair? She was the Mom on The Cosby Show but she was also a whip smart lawyer. Do you think she would let any of this crazy "Is it torture? It's not torture" stuff slide? Would there be any doubt that she would get to the bottom of who leaked an American spies name to the press? When Theo and Walter decide to listen to a recording of "Macbeth" instead of reading the book, who would set them straight? Clair Huxtable that's who.

Gavin Newsom
Secretary of Looking Fabulous Currently Mayor of SF but that head of hair is too good to waste on one city. If there were any younger Kennedy men around that wanted anything to do with politics then Gavin might have competition. This does require creating a Department of Looking Fabulous, but with the success of all these make-over shows - I think America could get behind it.

Tina Fey
Chief of Staff Smart, known for keeping her co-workers productive and funny. Is there anything she can't do? I think she would also be motivated to make sure she never needs to resurrect the Palin impersonation.

Iron Man / Tony Stark *
Secretary of Defense. Technically I don't think the Iron Man suit would fit into a Hermann Miller chair in the briefing room. Of course this is America and we could probably get a government contractor to whip something up to the tune of $500K that would work for Tony/IronMan to use while be-suited. On second thought, let's just make him stand at meetings.


My hip-hop posse would include Zach Galifianakis


My sons Drew and Miles and Allison are my real posse but if I were a famous rapper with loads of spare time to terrorize restaurants and act badly at retail clothing stores this would be the crew to hit the town with.

Zach Galifianakis
Every posse needs someone making the boss laugh. Have you seen the Kanye West video for "Can't Tell Me Nothing?" with Zach? The guy is all hip hop.

Mike "Money" Brandt
Aside from every crew needing a "Mike" (get one if you don't have one), he's got mad b-boy skillz from the early 90's. An old friend from back in the day on the mean streets of Fremont, CA. Former-basketball player, perfect for all occasions.

Taylor "Lil Bro" Shellen
Isn't there some sort of law that every posse needs a least one sibling? Plus Taylor is in better shape than I and could escort haters to the door. I think anything past 3 in a posse starts to get weird so I think that's the list.


Plinky is live!


It feels like I've been up for about a week straight but we launched Plinky today. Much more on that tomorrow for now, go and give it a spin!


Well I wouldn't say I "missed" work


I'm featured in an article on CNN today called: They left the corporate cocoon to blossom. The article is about people like Vanessa Fox and I who left cushy gigs at big companies to strike out on our own. Highly recommended reading *ahem*.

A couple points of clarification about the article:

  • CNN must have some sort of editorial policy against outbound links, you can sign up to be notified of our pending launch at
  • The article states that I was "complacent" at Google. I would probably use the word "restless".
  • Start-up life isn't for everyone and I certainly wouldn't advise foolishly quitting a perfectly good job because it was my preference to do so. This downturn isn't going to be easy on anyone, least of all small businesses.
  • That said, it does feel a lot more like you are living your own life when you have a hand in your own fate. Don't let the economy keep a good idea down. I feel a flurry of motivational quips coming on: "Where there is a will there's a way", "Just do it", "If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it". The last one snuck in there and might not apply.

For all of you who have been waiting for Plinky... it's just around the corner. More on that soon.

A simple theory


Ivor Tossell's interesting theory on the differences between Facebook and Twitter in The Globe and Mail:

"Facebook is about people you used to know; Twitter is about people you'd like to know better."

This seems to hold true in my experience, how about you?

A little over four years ago...


I attended the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Protesters, supporters, an abundance of police, armed forces and secret service milled around Boston's Fleet Center. Once inside, I was lucky enough to slide into some borrowed VIP seats in time to see Barack Obama deliver the keynote address. I wondered to my colleagues aloud at the end, "When can we have this guy as our President?". He delivered an amazing speech, a unifying speech and not just for the Democrats. He was commanding, eloquent and spoke honestly about how to heal a divided nation. When people have asked me why I have supported Obama I keep pointing back to that night that I had a glimmer of the hope that an Obama presidency would bring.

Barack Obama delivering the keynote at the 2004 DNC on Flickr

Last night, when the Obama landslide victory was announced, I welled up uncontrollably. I didn't cry for a politician, I think like many Americans I felt like a veil had been lifted. Seven years of fear mongering, misleading the nation and mishandling of both man-made and natural disasters are finally book-ended by a historic win for a deserving, intelligent leader. I finally feel truly hopeful about America for the first time in a long time.

This wasn't an easy win and I have friends and family who flew to battleground states, made phone calls, donated money and goods, held fundraisers and more. When it was all over there was dancing in the streets. DANCING. IN. THE. STREETS! When is the last time a political candidate inspired more than a cocktail party? Truly amazing.

I know it sounds corny and empty without action behind it but, I believe in Barack Obama, I believe in the hope he has already inspired and I know that will translate to action in the coming years. I can't thank all of you enough for voting for Barack Obama. Yes we did!

Laptops for change?


(image) My friend Chris Wetherell decided he couldn't sit on his hands during this election and flew out to a county that is in need of Democratic assistance. He's been there since early this month and will be staying through the election. Chris tells me that their greatest need right now is laptops that can run Firefox. Just a straw poll of our own office yielded a few good laptops that we are going to send their way. Can you help Obama with your old laptop? A few requests and things to note:

  1. Please wipe off any data you might need before sending. Ideally, you would nuke it and reinstall the OS and Firefox.
  2. Do not send junk. Please fire it up and check to make sure it's in good shape. Send along power supplies, etc.
  3. Don't wait! DO IT NOW!
  4. After they are done using them, they will be donated to schools serving the underprivileged.
  5. [updated] With the laptop, please send a note with your name address, and phone number so we can thank you or call with any questions.
  6. Please send them directly the office where Chris is working:
ATTN: CJ Ash, Florida Democratic Party
2321 Central Ave
St Petersburg, FL 33713

Thank you!

Sad excuse for a blog


Recently at a cocktail party I met someone who said, "Didn't you used to keep a blog?". Ouch. That hurt. All I can say is, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to keep this baby going. More on that soon.

Let's go for a ride



Allison and I have been married ten years as of today (1998!). Neither of us had any idea of what we were getting into, but it's been the ride of our lives. Here's to future adventures with my best gal and best friend Allison.




A tweet from my old buddy Eric Case reminded me that I hadn't heard Google Technology Director, Craig Silverstein doing his traditional freshly baked bread announcement since I left the company almost a year ago. Luckily, I captured this a few years ago on video so we can all remember that it's all about the bread.