Change Notifications

By joshuaaajoshuaaa (1261281371|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

Email alerts? Check. Page monitors? Check. Feed creation? Check. Now how do I uncheck???

Change Notifications

Alright, so they aren't all bad, and in the right scenarios, they are actually pretty useful. I feel as if they use more time than they are worth, though, and are not as useful as RSS feeds (although they are sometimes a useful alternative).

Email Alerts

Email alerts (either joining a site specific list or signing up for Google Alerts or Yahoo! Alerts) can be either a useful tool or a source of information overload. They are particularly useful when you have a relatively specific query, as you will be able to focus on a few articles a day, whose links are delivered right to your inbox. When you have a non-specific query, however, email alerts are no more helpful than simply going to Google or Yahoo! themselves and running your query. I currently use Google Alerts for all three of my research companies: UPS, USPS, and FedEx. My queries for the three alerts are as follows:

UPS: "united parcel service" OR "UPS"
USPS: "united states postal service" OR "us postal service" OR "u.s. postal service" OR "USPS"
FedEx: "fedex" -field -cup OR "federal express"

These queries generally result in about 10 new articles a day, which I think is a good number with which to work for my event updates and to stay current in the industry overall. Below is a screenshot of one of my Google Alerts.

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The formatting is clear, you can see exactly what is going on, and the links make it convenient to view the source. My Google Alerts definitely benefit me, especially when concocting my current event entries.

Page Monitors

WatchThatPage is the tool we are using as a page monitor. Of the three tools I am talking about in this blog, I have found page monitors to be the least useful. Maybe it's because it's free, but the emails I receive from WatchThatPage are impossible to decipher and don't seem to be very useful. I know the usefulness of a tool really depends on what I put through it, and I will continue to add pages to my account that I think will be useful, but the results I am receiving right now are not helping at all. Another pitfall of the tool is that you have to use very short URLs when adding a site to monitor, and bit.ly doesn't work for this site. This greatly reduces the range of pages you can keep track of. I have yet to find a useful site that I would be forced to use a page monitor for, as most of them are available in RSS. Below is a screenshot of one of my very confusing WatchThatPage notifications.

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Feed Creation

Yahoo! Pipes is a very powerful tool that can be very useful, given the right topic and the right feed. Without those, however, this powerful tool is worth zilch. I began my feed creation experience very optimistically, with the belief that I was going to be able to create the perfect feed with which I would be fed all relevant news pertaining to my term project. I was quickly brought back down to Earth.

I began by searching for feeds about my topic that had already been made by other users. With no luck, I began to create my own, and found myself wanting to use sites to which I am already subscribed to via RSS. After tinkering with Yahoo! Pipes for a good half hour, I had a pipe created, it looked lame, and I check it infrequently because it does not produce very good results. I am going to be trying to make it more powerful in the near future.

I also gave Dapper a shot with feed creation, but nothing has come of that tool… yet. Similar problems exist for Dapper as Yahoo! Pipes, but I will be giving it another shot soon.

Conclusion

After our monitoring changes class, having signed up for yet another 4 or 5 accounts, it is becoming somewhat overbearing trying to remember all these tools. While some tools are proving extremely helpful (RSS feeds, news search engines, etc.), others are just a nuisance. I will be somewhat happy at the end of this semester when I can unsubscribe to the duds, while finding more uses for the successes.

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