Change Notification

By afilushafilush (1261508210|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

The class on Change Notifications had a lot of incredibly interesting sites that I used during my project and also in my job search. This blog will cover how I used the following tools, what I found most useful (or not) about them.

Site Alerts - Search Based

What I did
Of all the topics in the smartphone industry, I am personally most interested in news and information about the Google Android O.S. I have decided to make a phone running this software my next smartphone purchase, so I want to read information about it daily. I set alerts for the Google Search [Google android] and decided on the following options:

  • Comprehensive coverage
  • Changes sent once per day
  • Sent to email

What was Useful
The whole process took all of 30 seconds and became my most used Change Notification tool. I find Google Alerts to be the most useful because it send me the information right to my inbox. I spend an inordinate amount on time in my email, therefore I am most likely to pay attention to something in my inbox. Although I did not set up any complicated searches, the ability to use all the "search syntax" I have learned this semester is also really useful.

Not only did I use it for my term project, but I also used it for both several of my interviews to stay up on the latest news and blog topics about the company. This allowed me to come up with several good questions for my interviewers because I had current knowledge of the company. Below is a snapshot of three alerts I set up for my project and interviews.


What was not Useful
The only issue I had was that I overdid the Google Alerts to begin with. I had about 10 different emails flooding into my inbox daily, and I dislike having to sort through them. It was easy to fix, as I just made the less important searches into RSS feeds, so I could still receive the content but not in my inbox.

Page Alerts

What I did
After learning about WatchThatPage, I attempted to set up alerts for the 4 major smartphone manufacturers' (HTC, Motorola, Samsung, Blackberry) "Devices Page" to monitor any new releases. This turned out to be quite difficult, as the companies did not have just one page that listed all their phones. Their pages were typically filled with dynamic Flash applications that displayed all the phones. This made the process confusing and not that helpful. To work my way around this, I found other websites that had better lists, and used these instead.

What was Useful
Once I found sites that were applicable, such as CNET's smartphones lists for reviews, the page monitor was very helpful. It allowed me to see when any new reviews were posted on their site. As this was not that frequent, having it delivered to my inbox was not that much of a hassle either.

What was not Useful
My only real complaint is the lack of ability of WatchThatPage to understand sites with Flash content. Since neither of these sites (WTP or TrackEngine) has been updated recently, it either is not possible or just not included as of yet.

Yahoo Pipes

What I did
Most of the feeds I used did not need to be filtered too much. But there were a couple large news sites that I wanted to follow for a wide look at smartphone stories in the tech world. These sites were NY Times, CNN and MSNBC. To aggregate these into one "TechNews" feed, I used Yahoo Pipes. While I only used a small portion of the available tools, I did use the following:

  • Fetch Feed: Took the feed URL's from my Google Reader and imported them into my pipe
  • Union: Combined these three feeds into one
  • Filter: To only include stories that included the following words: verizon, at&t, t-mobile, sprint, android, windows mobile, htc, samsung, iphone, blackberry
  • Pipe Output: necessary end to pipe

What was Useful
This worked perfectly. I imported the resulting feed into Google Reader and have followed all the important news about smartphones.

What was not Useful
I have no legitimate complaints about this site. The only thing that was frustrating was the time it took to set up my first pipe. After that I felt I had a great idea of the basics.

Email Filtering

What I did
For WatchThatPage, I used "plus+addressing" to apply labels to the alerts and have them skip my inbox. I could not use the technique for Google Alerts, as I signed up with my Gmail account. But I still was able to apply labels by specifying that all emails coming "from:(moc.elgoog|ylperon-strelaelgoog#moc.elgoog|ylperon-strelaelgoog) subject:(Google Alert)" would receive a label.

What was Useful
I already use filtering with all my different school groups, classes and companies I am recruiting with. Simple sorting and filling, combined with Gmail's search feature, make it very handy to quickly find emails.

My Thoughts

The class on Change Notification was the most useful class of the semester for keeping up to date on my topic. The tools ranked in order of usefulness:

  1. Google Alerts
  2. Yahoo Pipes
  3. Page Alerts
  4. Email Filtering

Depending on your topic and alert preferences (whether you like information to be delivered to you through email or RSS), your rankings could be very different. Try them all out and continue to go back and refine your alerts until they fit your topic and provide you with your information without you having to lift a finger. It just makes sense!

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