Mahatma Gandhi once said “You must be the change you want to see in the world” – at Center’d, individually and collectively we do believe in it as you can see Jennifer Dulski’s blog post this morning. 

Today, after watching President Obama taking the oath there is only one thing on my mind: change.

Change is refreshing – it forces you to challenge your own assertions; it makes you feel incomplete at the very moment it arrives and leaves you hungry for more. It brings in a sense of uncertainty that gives rise to hope and the renewed sense of direction – the change witnessed by billions of people across the globe today is just that. What a day!

Photo theme: Hope is Change / Photo Credit: joel.childs / On my mind: The White House

Need help in organizing your school events?

At Center’d, we can help! We just launched a school events portal to help you busy parents, teachers and volunteers! You can see the details our press release, or you can read the entire release below:


Menlo Park, CA (PRWEB) January 13, 2009 — Center’d (, the website that helps people plan activities and events of any kind, today unveiled a school event planning center designed to help people plan and coordinate any type of school event, from classroom parties to school fundraisers, to recurring volunteer needs and more. New resources include quick-start planning templates that people can easily copy and customize to meet their own needs, and enhanced sign-up sheet functionality that makes it easier for organizers to manage and coordinate volunteers. The school event planning center is now available at:
News Image
Planning Tools Designed to Help Busy Parents:
Since its public launch in June 2008, Center’d has provided busy adults with time-saving tools to plan any type of activity or event. The new planning center provides parents of school-age children with one place where they can find everything they need to plan and coordinate any type of school event. It includes the following features in addition to the existing planning tools offered by Center’d:

Enhanced Sign-Up Sheets: Center’d enables parents and schools to easily recruit and manage volunteers, eliminating the need to use paper sign-up sheets, spreadsheets, and other time-consuming methods. Center’d has improved the usability of its sign-up sheets, including additional editing features, which make it easier to manage multiple and recurring tasks. Center’d makes sure people stay on the same page by sending reminders to volunteers and alerts to organizers if someone backs out of a volunteer spot so it can be filled.

Quick-Start Templates: To help people get started on a plan quickly and easily, Center’d has developed an easy-to-use set of templates that people can copy and customize to meet their own needs in three simple steps. The new templates include guided tips to help organizers get a quick preview of how they can customize a specific plan’s elements. The school center includes a dozen different types of school activity plan templates so people can easily plan events including a school auction, a book fair, a class party, and more. To preview all the templates, visit the school event planning center.

Specialized Customer Support: People who have any questions or need some help getting started can contact the resident school activity planning expert at Center’d, whose contact information is prominently displayed on the school event planning center.

“With spring right around the corner, many parents and teachers will be organizing activities such as picnics and annual fundraisers. By using our new planning resources, they can save time and have a more successful event.” said Jennifer Dulski, co-founder and chief executive officer of Center’d. “The enhanced features and new templates we’ve developed to help schools are also extensible to other organizations that utilize volunteers, such as non-profits, religious organizations and teams.”

What People Are Saying:
The planning tools from Center’d have already found a warm reception among people who plan school activities and events. Following is what a few school event organizers have said about Center’d:

Center’d is one of the best organizational tools I use as a room parent…

“Center’d is one of the best organizational tools I use as a room parent…” – Kim D., Mt. Clemens Montessori School, Mt. Clemens, MI

“Center’d has become an integral part of managing my son’s school lunch volunteer program. It’s the perfect solution…” – Rebecca W., Laurel Elementary School, Menlo Park, CA

“…I encourage all schools who depend on volunteers to embrace this resource – it makes it easy for volunteers to support your organization.” – Lori F., Development Director, Keys School, Palo Alto, CA

For more information about the school resource center and features including quick-start templates, sign-up sheets, and guided tips, check out the new school event planning center.

About Center’d:
Center’d helps people make plans of any kind, from organizing casual activities like a night out with friends to coordinating complex events like a school fundraiser that needs dozens of volunteers. By integrating robust local search and planning tools, Center’d makes coordinating any activity or event seamless and easy. As people make plans, Center’d gathers enhanced data about places that will enable the company to make personalized plan recommendations. This unique approach creates a more relevant experience for consumers as well as more targeted and intent-based advertising opportunities for businesses. Center’d aims to give people all the tools they need to plan all of life’s activities.

Led by former Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo! executives, Center’d is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, and is funded by Norwest Venture Partners, KeyNote Ventures, and private angel investors.

Could Microsoft Tag be the catalyst for coupons online?

I was browsing the Microsoft news and found this interesting blog posts about Microsoft Tag in between Windows 7 R2 Beta launch and Ballmer’s CES keynote.

What is Microsoft Tag? Simply put it’s a new bar-code technology that let’s you publish barcodes in print or web mediums that can later be “Scanned” by users using mobile phones to convert to it’s original form. From Microsoft’s website:

The sophisticated technology powering Microsoft Tag, High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCBs), was invented by Microsoft Research. It was designed from the ground up for maximum performance with the limited cameras on most mobile phones. Advanced image-processing techniques decode even out-of-focus barcode images, which means Microsoft Tag works with the fixed-focus camera lenses common in most mobile devices.

Funny, this whole thing reminds of a QR Code scanner prototype that I built (circa 2005, I was still at Microsoft) for Windows Mobile Camera phones to send and receive driving directions, business listing information etc – but the problems that the MSR team talks about (out of focus images, size of the image and so on) were precisely the reason why my application was abandoned.

But this is very cool stuff – technologies like this coupled with wide spread client software on a wide variety of mobile devices (Android, iPhone and Windows Mobile) could lead to new ways to distribute online coupons, especially in local space.

My head is already buzzing with ideas.

— Chandu Thota, CTO/Co-Founder, Center’d

On my mind: Slanted Door San Francisco

Issues with Local Business Centers

Checking out the “local” blogs buzz this week, I noticed a number of blogs reporting about Google Local Business Center issues and why it’s a failure. In his post, Mike says:

Google needs to understand that Local is different than Search, that accuracy is more important than relevance, and they need to embrace the business listing side of Maps if for no other reason than these folks are the future growth of Adwords. If it takes charging a monthly fee to have the resources to service this side of the business then so be it.

I agree in principle that the companies like Google and my ex-employer should strive to provide a better service (and any company for that matter :), but I’m not so sure about charging local businesses for that service. The problem that Mike is pointing out with Google is just a tip of the iceberg. The problem with local listing sites and pain that a small business owners feel as a result is much deeper and bigger. Why do I say that?

An online listing of a small business is an important identity that the small business owners deeply care about. They not only want to make sure they can be discovered online, but they also want to make sure that the listing information is accurate. Sounds reasonable? Ok, then to achieve that where do they need to go today? Google? Microsoft? Yahoo? Ask? YellowPages? Yelp? Localeze? Merchant Circle? Center’d? Or InfoUSA? All of them?

You see the issue? The issue is that the local directories are fragmented and the small business owners are already spending tons of time online to make sure their information is accurately presented on each and every site (at Center’d we do get a number of emails every single day from SMBs asking either to be listed or to correct the listing) – that is a huge distraction from running their business offline. Now if all these sites start charging them for having a basic listing and keeping it accurate – it’s going to be a huge money sink as well. I’m not against charging small business owners for promoting their business once it is listed and accurate – but having an accurate listing is almost a right that they have and all the websites that do list these owe it to their owne users aswell – after all you don’t want to give a wrong phone number or a wrong address when someone searches on your site.

So what do we really need to help small business owners? We need a federated service that let’s a small business owner to create and control their identity online – then this service pings all the directories (that are registered to get updates) about the updates. Then each directory must sync the data automatically from the central listing created/controlled by the small business owner. The federated service must be free and should some-what be like Wikipedia (or a part of Wikipedia itself?). Sounds too simple? Yes, hard to archive? May be, but not impossible. There are issues around how entities are represented in each directory –  a standards-based entity-definition system and a standards based data format (microformats) is key to realize this.  

When we are seeing a broader trend to move towards an open, portable and standards-based protocols and data formats, isn’t about time to make that “local move” too? What do you think? If you are passionate about this problem and want to do *something* about it, ping me – may be we can do something together!

— Chandu Thota, CTO/Co-Founder, Center’d

On my mind: Central Market Dallas /  Photo theme: Fragmented / Photo credit: Cats_mom

Reading lots of blogs and doing it fast!

Like many geeks, I read a lot of blogs in vertical categories such as web 2.0, social networking, cricket (the sport) etc, and also like many of us I’m pressed for time to read these feeds everyday. Existing feed readers such as google reader are not so helpful in summarizing my feeds such that I can get a snapshot of what’s happening in each vertical; in essence what I need is a smart aggregator that organizes my feeds TechMeme style. 

So, over a weekend, I dug up my old blogvia project that does the natural blog aggregation and clustering and put it to work to test if it can save time for me. The results are promising so far –  the idea is that I create an OPML file from the feeds that I want to read and feed it to the blogvia crawler – and it fetches the feeds, analyzes them using NLP (natural language processing) techniques and aggregates them based on the similarity of the posts (or in other words clustering similar blog posts). You can see early results for local news, iphone and android news, Microsoft blogs, cricket news, mapping and geo news, and celebrity gossip (heck, why not!). If you see the results closely, they are not perfectly clustered, but still lets me scan over 1000 feeds in 15 minutes flat! and hey for a little time that I have spent its not that bad! 🙂

Talking about NLP stuff, We are also using NLP and Semantic stuff at Center’d to solve some of the local planning problems – Jen talked about what we are doing recently at an SDForum presentation – I will post more details as soon as they are available on our site. If you are using NLP stuff in local, I would love to hear your thoughts on how we can push for standards in creating semantic local web.

On my mind – Delfina San Francisco.

— Chandu Thota, CTO/Co-Founder, Center’d

Photo theme: Clusters/Photo credit: Image Editor

Happy new year!

Hope your 2008 was a blast.

Year 2009 is going to be even more exciting – this is going to be an year that forces us to think and do what is much needed in these times: reinforced focus on creating meaningful and valuable products and technologies that push us forward in the right direction (i.e. no more sheep throwing and beer drinking applications).

I know that we are all waking up to rather grim news but there are a lot of things we need to be hopeful about.

Have a wonderful and happy new year 2009!