Starbucks Free WIFI Heatmap

It was all over the news yesterday about how Starbucks Free WIFI is going to change the way we connect to Internet, so I got curious and generated a “Starbucks Free WIFI Heatmap” based on all Starbucks stores in the United States. The resulting map is seriously stunning, take a look at the image below:

There is a live version running on my machine (will try to upload to my site later for you to play) and I can see how this is gonna make some cities go “WiMax” without actually having “WiMax” 🙂

Get deals near you via RSS Feeds & Widgets

We have been busy at The Dealmap HQ working on more ways to get you the local deals in ways that’s convenient for you. As part of this push we are launching local deal feeds for top cities and The Dealmap widgets .

Local Deal RSS Feeds

To get a feed for your city, simply go to our local deals directory and pick your city. Then select the type of feed you need (Restaurants vs. Daily Deals) – then simply add “/rss” at the end and add that url in your favorite feed reader!

For example to get all daily deals in San Jose, you would subscribe to: http://www.thedealmap.com/cities/san-jose-ca/daily-deals/rss

Similarly, to get all restaurant deals in Seattle, you would subscribe to: http://www.thedealmap.com/cities/seattle-wa/restaurant-deals/rss

 

Local Deal Widgets

You can also get local deals in widgets for your site with a single line of simple HTML code. Simply visit The Dealmap Widget maker page and pick a theme/design/size that suites your blog! We have pre-selected some standard IAB sizes so that its easier for you to integrate into your blog/site. Below is a sample widget and the code required to install it:

http://widgets.thedealmap.com/?l=Seattle%2c+WA&h=250&w=300&t=black&lcid=1033 http://widgets.thedealmap.com/?l=Seattle%2c+WA&h=250&w=300&t=black&lcid=1033

It’s that simple!

We are working on more ways to get your favorite deals – so stay tuned. And of course, these widgets are built on top of our own Dealmap APIs – so you can build a custom widget yourself if you are a tinkerer!

Introducing The Dealmap

The Dealmap is now live.

This is the brand new local deal search and discovery engine that we have built at Center’d. The goal is very simple – we want you to find the best deals in your neighborhood and start saving money.

The origins of The Dealmap are deeply rooted into to the flavors work that we did with Center’d last year. When we originally designed various flavors for any city we thought “Cheap” flavor is a good candidate – so we rolled out a series of “deal” pages for different cities like this one: San Francisco Cheap Things To Do. As we started getting feedback on flavors it was pretty clear that people loved local deals – and the use case was so strong that we had to go with its own domain – that’s how The Dealmap was born!

While we are using Center’d data platform heavily in The Dealmap’s making, there are a ton of cool stuff that we have built ground-up for fast changing (deals are time sensitive) local data. I will be discussing various technology pieces here on my blog in coming weeks.

We also have a full-blown API – as a matter of fact – we built the API first and then built The Dealmap on top of that (hey, we eat our own dog-food! :). So if you are itching to play with this unique local deal dataset, feel free to join the conversation or just get started with the API docs.

It’s exciting to see The Dealmap live, but our job here is just getting started to get you the freshest deals daily!

So what do you think? Send me the feedback!

Platial and the social mapping movement

Today is a sad day for me and many other mapping geeks that tinker with online mapping and connecting people through it. Platial is going offline. I have been a huge fan of Platial project and Di-Ann and the team from the very beginning.

I was still at Microsoft, with the Virtual Earth team, when they launched the service and I had the opportunity to share my thoughts with Annalee from Wired on their launch; my thoughts haven’t changed much since then – just like rest of the mapping community, I’m still very excited and optimistic about mixing local and social.

Platial team was truly on the forefront of the local-social experiments online and I’m sure we will see many many more from their team in future!

Center’d on iPhone

Center'd iPhone App

Center’d app is now live on Apple App Store! Using our iPhone application you can now find the right place for your needs – our unique semantic analysis on online reviews and ratings from our content partners make it so easy to understand specific features associated sentiments for any given place. Give it a whirl and let us know what you think: http://www.centerd.com/content/iphoneapp.aspx

Here is the full press release below and you can also read nice summary of our product on TechCrunch: http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/08/18/centerd-brings-its-local-discovery-engine-to-the-iphone/

 

 

Center’d App for iPhone and iPod Touch Enables Flavored Local Discovery

Search and City Guides Help Users Find Places Based on Interest Categories Including Kid-Friendly, Romantic, and More — Consumer Sentiment Charts and Interest Category Drill-Downs Offer Unique Summary of Places

Our unique approach to local search and discovery is well-suited for location-aware devices and is a natural fit for the iPhone

Menlo Park, CA (PRWEB) August 18, 2009 — Center’d, the web site that helps people plan life’s activities, today announced its Center’d App is available on the App Store. TheCenter’d App classifies more than 1 million places so iPhone and iPod touch users can search any U.S. city and then filter results based on their interest, distance or popularity, or they can browse city guides to see the best things to do in top cities by picking an interest style or activity in categories that include kid-friendly, romantic, cheap, outdoor and more.

 

Center’d iPhone App

“Our unique approach to local search and discovery is well-suited for location-aware devices and is a natural fit for the iPhone,” said Jennifer Dulski, co-founder and chief executive officer of Center’d. “We’re excited to extend our technology to mobile applications and help people more quickly find nearby things to do that meet their needs.”

Flavored Local Technology Enables Unique iPhone Features:
By analyzing millions of conversations on the web using natural language processing (NLP) based technologies, Center’d is able to surface detailed insights about local businesses. This data gives people a quick way to determine the tone of Web conversations about a place, and when coupled with other key features helps people quickly find the right place for their needs.

Features of the Center’d App include:

– Search and Browse: People can search for places in any U.S. city and filter results by popularity, distance, or interest styles, and browse things to do with more than 20 city guides, choosing from 7 different interest styles and 5 activity categories.

– Aggregated and Summarized Place Data: Place profile pages feature content that gives users a quick snapshot of a place without having to read dozens of reviews on a mobile device. Sentiment charts capture whether people make positive, neutral, or negative comments about a place across ambiance, service and price categories, and include “snippets” of the most frequently mentioned comments within a category. Place profiles also include interest icons that allow people to drill-down on each style category to see snippets from relevant web conversations and understand why places qualify within a given interest, such as romantic.

– Detailed Maps: The app allows users to view multiple places from search and browse results on detailed interactive maps. They can pan and zoom maps to help find the right place, and view individual places on a map to pinpoint where they are located without leaving the app.

– Easy Content Submission: Users can quickly submit content and information about places, including photos through an embedded tool, short keywords that describe a place, and interest information about a place to help classify it.

– Planning and Sharing Tools: Users can also make plans for themselves or with others by saving places and combining them on a list which they can then easily share with friends.

The Center’d iPhone application is available for free from the App Store on iPhone and iPod touch or at www.itunes.com/appstore/.

Local Content Available for Publishers:
In conjunction with the launch of its app, Center’d has developed a new program that enables publishers to add local content and monetization tools to their site for free. By using the Center’d widget, publishers can provide their audiences with unique intent-based local content, and by participating in its paid partnership program, make money by using the widget. Publishers can customize the design and content they would like to display in the widget to suit their site. More information can be found athttp://www.centerd.com/t/widgets.

About Center’d
Center’d (http://www.centerd.com) helps people plan life’s activities. The company has developed personal planning features and group collaboration tools that help people plan any type of activity, from finding and discovering things to do, to organizing and coordinating complex events. By analyzing millions of conversations about places on the web, Center’d has created a unique index of more than 1 million places that are classified by interest styles, including kid-friendly, romantic, cheap, and more. This novel approach enables Center’d to deliver a more relevant and personalized local experience.

Headquartered in Menlo Park, California, Center’d is led by former Microsoft and Yahoo! executives, and is funded by Norwest Venture Partners and KeyNote Ventures.

Chrome OS = Web is the platform

For many months I have been playing with Chrome V8 and some of the Google APPs + Chrome Shortcuts + Google Gears as a replacement to Microsoft Office. Tonight, reading the blog post from google about Chrome OS and I can’t stop thinking about the possibilities. I have always wondered about the potential of V8 engine and how Google as a JavaScript heavy company would develop Chrome based technology into a platform. The details about this initiative at this point are very little, but if they do deliver a true platform (unlike app engine) – this is a significant paradigm shift.

Below is their blog post in it’s entirety:

It’s been an exciting nine months since we launched the Google Chrome browser. Already, over 30 million people use it regularly. We designed Google Chrome for people who live on the web — searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends. However, the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web. So today, we’re announcing a new project that’s a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.

Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.

Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.

Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.

Google Chrome OS is a new project, separate from Android. Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems. While there are areas where Google Chrome OS and Android overlap, we believe choice will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google.

We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear — computers need to get better. People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up. They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don’t want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates. And any time our users have a better computing experience, Google benefits as well by having happier users who are more likely to spend time on the Internet.

We have a lot of work to do, and we’re definitely going to need a lot of help from the open source community to accomplish this vision. We’re excited for what’s to come and we hope you are too. Stay tuned for more updates in the fall and have a great summer.

What’s new in iPhone 3.1 SDK?

Just got a note from Apple that iPhone 3.1 SDK (beta) is up on dev center. So what’s new in this SDK?

What’s New
Organizer: the iPhone Development grouping now collects crash logs, install
bundles, and provisioning profiles in a single location
iPhone OS 3.1 Simulator uses frameworks more closely matching the device
Toolbar uses a single popup to choose platform, target, and debug/release

We are just getting started on 3.0 and not sure if a minor version upgrade is justified for these updates 🙂

You can read the full readme on dev center.

So long, Rajeev

I’m still shocked, saddened and trying to come to terms with the reality – Rajeev Motwani passed away earlier today.

I feel very fortunate to have crossed paths with Rajeev – he was not only an advisor/investor in my company, but also a true mentor; it was just a couple of weeks ago I exchanged emails with him to meet up for a coffee at University Coffee Cafe. Life is unfair.

R.I.P Rajeev, you will be truly missed.

Google Rich Snippets, Information Discovery and Open Web

This week Google launched rich snippets support which allows website owners to include interesting content by including structured data (such as Microformats and RDF) into their webpages. While this has been done before by Yahoo! Search Monkey before, this move from Google got a lot of attention because of it’s market share in search and how it can positively impact the traffic to a website with interesting and unique content. So I was genuinely excited to see what this is all about and see how we can integrate the rich local data that we have at Center’d into snippets. And I was a bit disappointed after learning more about what this can do in general. Here is why.

According to the Google webmaster’s blog post, they have describe the process as below:

Rich Snippets give users convenient summary information about their search results at a glance. We are currently supporting data about reviews and people. When searching for a product or service, users can easily see reviews and ratings, and when searching for a person, they’ll get help distinguishing between people with the same name. It’s a simple change to the display of search results, yet our experiments have shown that users find the new data valuable — if they see useful and relevant information from the page, they are more likely to click through. Now we’re beginning the process of opening up this successful experiment so that more websites can participate. As a webmaster, you can help by annotating your pages with structured data in a standard format.

Great – sounds simple right? Now look at the currently supported formats here in their documentation, this whole thing is limited to Reviews, People, Products and Businesses and Organizations – that’s it? That seems to be a very limited set of structured data formats to express web in a structured format! And if you dig a bit deeper, even for this types of datasets the schema is very restrictive. Let’s pick Businesses and Organizations for example, the following are the properties that are “supported”:

Google recognizes the following Organization properties, and may include their content in search results. Where the RDFa Organization and microformats hCard property names differ, the hCard property name appears in parentheses.

name(org/name)
The name of the business. If you use microformats, you should use both org andname, and ensure that these have the same value.

url
Link to a web page

address (adr)
The location of the business

street-address
The street address. Child of address.

locality
The city. Child of address.

region
The geographic region. Child of address.

postal-code
The postal code. Child of address.

country-name
The country. Child of address.

tel
The telephone number

Now, that’s disappointing – this level of limited support of structured data is not going to help users or publishers because it’s going to aggregate all websites to a common denominator!

Consider this: let’s say that you are looking for a restaurant in San Francisco. And let’s assume there are 3 different websites that have three different data about this place. Say website A has ratings information, website B has menu information and website C has supported activity related information. When you run the query in google what would you expect to see? You want to find out as much information as possible such as reviews, menu and service related info from all 3 websites that have that info – but in the current model where every web site is forced to express their “structured data” with a limited set of fields you would see exactly similar and almost duplicative information. Note that no one is gaining in this process: the content publishers or the websites lost their uniqueness and the users are not getting the full information that they want to get.

Now I buy the argument that the standards can be extended and also it’s impossible for anyone to define “structured format” that can fit every bit of information that’s present on the web. That’s why I am kind of “old-school” in thinking that we need to get smarter about mining this data using machines. Web is open by definition because there are no rigid rules about expressing content and the intent underneath. That’s what makes web so much more fascinating – there is all kinds of data that is to be understood, mined and re-surfaced at end-points such as search engines. So putting a rigid structure at discovery level (i.e. search engines) we lose the open-ness of the web. Keyword search is already a limiting paradigm in discovering information since you can never discover content that you can’t define (in a keyword) – now by hiding information that’s not structured, you will never know what you would have discovered accidentally.

Hopefully that won’t happen with this semantic web push from Google.

Related: Great discussions at Tim O’Reilly’s radar and Ian Davis’s blog on this topic.

Disclaimer: At Center’d we have unique data about a place’s capabilities (such as is it good for kids, is it romantic etc) in a structured format and it cannot be currently expressed in the proposed solution. I have contacted Google about this issue and will update if I hear back 🙂