Create Persistent Searches and Monitor Specific Keywords with the Best Google Alerts Alternative: TalkWalker Alerts

If you are not familiar with this kind of tool, its key purpose is one of actively and persistently search for a set of keywords you specify and to report to you, via RSS/email of any instances of new content mentioning your selected keywords.

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See on Scoop.itThe Social Web

 

Stephen Dale‘s insight:

In view of the rumours that Google Alerts is the next service to be canned by Google as part of its ongoing rationalisation exercise and strategy to integrate everything into its Google+ service, this looks like the ideal alternative. Particularly relevant if you want to maintain some independence from the Google ‘capture net’ (and not everyone wants to have a G+ account). As Robin Good writes:

“If you are not familiar with this kind of tool, its key purpose is one of actively and persistently search for a set of keywords you specify and to report to you, via RSS/email of any instances of new content mentioning your selected keywords.”

I’ve been a long-time user of Google Alerts and have noticed a fall-off recently in the ‘hits’ I’ve been receiving, which might infer that the service is not receiving the same attention from Google that it once did. I’ll certainly be giving TalkWalker Alerts a try-out. #alerts #smtrng

See on www.talkwalker.com

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Creating a feed for websites that do not have RSS

rss logo

I’m not sure if anyone else has shared my frustration at having come across a really useful or interesting website and then discovered there is no RSS facility to subscribe to subsequent updates. Clearly the author/owner of the website believes that their readers will bookmark the site and keep popping back to see if there are any changes.  Not very realistic when there are several billion websites out there.

There’s also the perennial issue of the (mainly public sector) websites that fail to support RSS, with an antiquated content management system (CMS) often cited as the problem.  Mash the state clearly had some good intentions in embarrassing local councils into providing an RSS feed on their website, but with only 32% of councils with this facility at the last count – well short of their target of getting all council websites to support RSS – they may well have given up on this crusade (indeed the website hasn’t been updated since 2009)

Anyway, there is a solution (sort of) which I had completely forgotten about until recently when I was reconfiguring some feeds in my Google Reader. This lets you create a web feed for websites that do not have an RSS facility. It’s a bit coarse in that you can only monitor changes to a whole webpage (rather than – say – just monitoring news updates), but better than nothing.

To make a custom Google Reader feed, all you need to do is cut and paste the URL (the web address) of the page you want to monitor into the box you get when you click on the ‘Add a subscription’ button at the top left of the Google Reader page.

I’ve shown below the screen shots for the feed I’ve juts created for my local council Uttlesford  – not, I might add because I think they’ve got anything interesting to say, but you never know, they might read this and respond by providing a real RSS feed on their website. I can live in hope!

google reader create feed 1

google reader create feed 2

If anyone is not aware of if an RSS feed is available, look out for this commonly used icon:rss logo

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RSS Explained

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It remains something of a tragedy that most public sector web sites still don’t support RSS.  I can probably accept that council officers and other senior public sector workers don’t understand what RSS is, but surely the various ICT departments or outsourced web design agencies have a duty to inform and educate the people they’ve been commissioned by to host/design/manage their web sites?  Well, clearly not! In the mean time, if you want to know what is happening at your local council, you’ll have to keep visiting their web site.

For the uninitiated, here’s a very useful article about RSS (all you need to know but were afraid to ask).

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Google Gears up for off-line browser apps

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As a closet fan of all that is ‘Google’, I was wondering when I should make the final step in my transition from Bloglines to Google Reader. I’ve been using both for some time now, which is bit of a pain when I have to add and categorise a new feed since I end up replicating the process twice. However, I think the recent announcement about Google Gears is the tipping point I needed. So, sadly, it’s goodbye to Bloglines, but loyalty only goes so far.

Basically, Gears is a browser add-on that enables web-based applications to run locally whilst off-line. The product is in Beta at the moment, and only supports the Google Reader (RSS feed aggregator). However, we can expect to see support for Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Google Mail, Google Blogger, and in fact any of their applications where there is value to be gained by working off-line and on-line.

Looks like another killer app to me!

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