Friday, November 27, 2009

Tracking Internet Content - The Femtoo Way

My name is Thomas Carnell - the creator of Femtoo. This is my first ever Blog Post so I'm sure it will go through many revisions and is probably a terrible read - please feel free to comment on the contant and my writing style!

This article gives a basic overview of how to track Internet content using Femtoo (http://www.femtoo.com).

There are three key steps to create a useful Femtoo Tracker:
  1. Know what information you want to track,
  2. Find a web page that clearly contains this information,
  3. Proceed to create the Tracker in Femtoo
The first point is very important and will help you find a web page that contains the information you are after. We will take a closer look at the following examples:

  • A) To be notified when a particular shop product is back in stock
  • B) To be notified when my favourite cartoonist has published a new cartoon
  • C) To be notified when a new version of my favourite music software is released
  • more....
Example A - Product stock level

If I want to track the stock level of a product from a particular shop, I must find the 'product page' for that item, fire up Femtoo and create a tracker for that page - selecting the 'Number in Stock' field (or whatever it might be. You may  also set a Tracker Rule that specifies to only notify me if the stock level is greater than 0 - implying that the shop has got some more stock in and the item is once again available to purchase. In exactly the same way, you may wish to track the price of key items of your competitors and simply be notified of any change.

Example B - Newly published cartoon

Lets have a look at the second example above, and use Dilbert (http://www.dilbert.com/) as an example. So we want to be notified every time there is a new Dilbert comic strip . For this, we need to find some piece of information on this page that 'implies' that a new comic has been published. So we could try to find the following pieces of information:

  • Comic Title
  • Published Date
  • Number of comic strip
If we take a look at the Dilbert page we can see that the comic strips don't seem to have titles, so we can't use Comic Title as a 'handle'. However there is a date just above the comic (eg "November 26, 2009") - so maybe we can tell Femtoo to track the comic date? And yes, the Femtoo Tracker wizard tells us that the 'CSS Selector' for the date is 'DIV.STR_DateStrip' and Femtoo can successfully locate and track this item. Great, so we're done - we will now be notified every time a new Dilbert comic is published.


Example C - Tracking software versions

Let's consider tracking the latest version of the amazing jQuery javascript library (http://jQuery.com/). Okay, so we need to find somewhere that clearly states the latest version. After some hunting around, we can see the latest version number detailed in a few different pages:

...So which page do we use to build our Femtoo Tracker? You should try to choose the page that is likely to be more 'reliable'. In this sense 'reliable' means when the content is clearly displayed and contained inside it's own specific part of the page - this generally means that the content will be less effected by other changes and updates to the page.

From looking at the above three pages, I would say that the best option would be to use http://jQuery.com/. If we take a look at this page we can see (in red writing just below the download button) that the latest version is "1.3.2". By using the Femtoo Tracker wizard we can extract the text "Current Release: v.1.3.2" - this is fine and when this text changes we can hope that it implies a tasty new version of jQuery is available to download! But it may also imply (for example) that the text has changed from "Current Release: v.1.3.2" to "Latest Release: v.1.3.2"...

However, by setting a Tracker Rule, we can tell Femtoo that we want the content to be a 'number' and specify that we only be notified when this number is greater than "132". By specifying content as a number, Femtoo will attempt to extract any valid number from any given text - in this case given the text "Current Release: v.1.3.2", Femtoo will extract "132" - pretty neat, eh?

Conclusion

Femtoo gives you the tools to accurately pin-point specific parts of a page that mean something to you. The key is to know what you want to track and where to find the information - Femtoo will handle the rest.

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