Two Good Recipes for Custom Topic Tracking

Many companies I’ve worked with have wanted my help in developing something beyond Google Alerts to help them track news around particular topics. One of my hallway conversations with Marshall Kirkpatrick at SXSW this year confirmed that custom RSS tracking development work is one of the things he’s called upon to do quite often as well.

Marshall recently published a very helpful how-to/case study on his work for Sun’s JavaOne conference using technologies like Google Blog Search, Feed.Informer(new to me), Dapper, and AideRSS to generate a nicely formatted aggregated feed of the most relevant blog discussions around the conference. He explains each step from creating searches for the best possible matches, filtering for relevance, removing duplicates, and styling and presenting the results. It’s a great recipe for any consultant, project, or company to follow.

If you want more of a quick and dirty one-click solution, Yahoo Pipes is currently featuring a useful simple interactive tool built by Daniel Raffel for following discussions around a topic. You just enter some keywords and then hit “run pipe”:
Pipes: Aggregated News Alerts

Pipes gives you several choices for how you can grab the results as a persistent stream of data, searching regularly for new matches:
Results Choices

Pipes can also be cloned easily, so if there’s some way you wish this one behaved slightly differently, you can always clone it and build/modify to suit your own needs.

As Marshall describes in his blog entry, the real art and elegance in these projects and part of what makes his specialized knowledge and experience extremely useful is in the cleverness of the search strings, the filtering mechanisms, and the tools and techniques that select for the most useful information on a particular subject.


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