Posted in: Archive
Every once in a while you come across a web page somewhere that doesn’t have RSS feeds. I’ve been finding this more and more important recently as there are a number of government sites in Northern Ireland that I’ve been keeping an eye out for press releases on. There’s also been a few instances where some services are only open to those with invites and I’ve wanted to use when it opens up to the rest of us. Or, I’ve wanted to keep an eye out for software updates e.g. WordPress new releases.
Thankfully, there are a number of page monitoring services and tools around the web that can keep you up to speed with what is happening easily and for free.
Check 4 Change
Check for change is a little firefox plugin that monitors pages in a timer. To check a particular web page for changes, you have to select a particular piece of text on the the page in question, then select the monitoring frequency. It’s main shortcomings are the fact that a tab has to be open in order to monitor a page, but works well for sporting pages (e.g. football results which change there and then). I guess this is to be expected for a tool that works client side in the browser. Notification works via a popup, a sound playing or an animated icon on the tab in question. A nice little tool for giving real time feedback to a static page.
Update scanner works again in the browser via a firefox plugin. It isn’t automatic, but provides you with a way to list the sites you wish to check in your sidebar. Checking for updates is performed via a button inside the interface, that needs clicked every so often to go out and look for updates. If you are using this for press release / information update purposes, it may be fine, you just have to remember to press the button on startup. That said, update scanner does open by default when you start ff up for the first time. Options are available within the tool to specify how big a change to report on – what update scanner calls ‘ threshold’, ranging from less than 1000 characters of change all the way to reporting all changes to a page.
When a change is detected, an alert pops up for you to view, along with old and new versions of the page shown side by side to let you see what has changed. A very tidy little plugin, that doesn’t use alot of memory and performed well with multiple sites.
Site Delta adds a couple of additional extras to the mix – in particular, the page segmentation is a pure godsend, which lets you decide which sections of the page you want to monitor. The interface however takes a bit of getting used to and figuring out, as you have to add pages via the none to obvious ‘Delta’ icon which attaches itself to the bottom right hand side of your browser. There is however an awesome tutorial available via Wikipedia on the usage, and in particular how to use for Wikipedia pages.
Other options include scan frequency, site watch (allowing automatic monitoring of pages) – which has machine learning built in. In other words, in the much the same way as a search engine robot ‘learns’ to revisit a site which changes frequently, so too does siteDelta ‘learn’ to check more frequently changed sites more often.
Google Chrome for me, apart from problems with large blog posts in WordPress, is winning hands down as my browser of choice at the minute – so well worth investigating what is out there for page change detection for Chrome.
The Camelizer is another browser based tool that monitors your pages – but this time for another reason. One thing the web is particularly poor at, is keeping track of changes to content – with no archive of what has existed prior.
The Internet Archive / Wayback Machine is one such project that attempts to do so, but often in the scope of e-commerce websites, this is simply too big an ask, with prices often changing multiple times a week. You are lucky if the wayback machine keeps a copy from last month!
What this little browser plugin does is to tap into the archive data on camelcamelcamel.com, camelbuy.com, and camelegg.com to provide some neat features at popular retail websites like Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, and Newegg.com. It also supports Backcountry.com, Overstock.com, and zZounds.com.
The Camelizer also places a Track Product button on the product pages so that you can create a price watch. These are used to receive alerts when prices drop on products you want, and you can receive these alerts via email, Twitter, and/or RSS feed. Whilst this isn’t specifically designed to track changes to ALL webpages – it is certainly useful for snagging a bargain!
Page Monitor is a very simple and easy extension with powerful features. It supports a desktop alert for whenever a page changes, and doesn’t require you to have either browser chrome or the tool open to work. You can specify certain segments of the page to watch for changes (assuming you know your way around jQuery selectors and/or regular expressions) – which many a web developer will already know.In any case, jQuery makes it pretty simple to target particular segments of HTML. A number of folks have commented on the ability to track both browser plugins and other software for version updates. As I hinted earlier, I’ve set it up to keep an eye on the WordPress releases, so I know when version three is out for example.
The desktop notification is also pretty nice ,and you can specify a sound file to play to go along with the alert if you so desire. Page Monitor makes it simple to specify time intervals to check for changes, and the interface is simple to understand and navigate around. For those of you using Chrome – you’ll be more than impressed with its feature set and ease of use.
Change Detection is a really handy little service, not least because it doesn’t require your login details to let you get started. All you have to do is enter your email address, along with the page you want to monitor, and away it goes.
Emails are then sent directly to you when changes occur, along with a link to a webpage which breaks down the changes highlighted. You can however setup a permanent account, which gives you access to all the pages you are monitoring, along with a couple of other features such as RSS feeds of changes, and a summary of previous changes.
Change detection provides an easy way to monitor a page, and get an update sent to you via email. RSS support is also available which in turn (with the aid of third party tools such as twitterfeed.com) allows you to get changes onto the twitter platform, and thus to your mobile device.
TrackEngine whilst a server side tracking tool, works via a browser bookmarklet. Once you’ve signed in, simply dragging the bookmarklet to the browser enables you to track any page on the web for changes. The free usage allows up to 5 bookmarks, with a commercial option enabling the service further if needed. Up to 50 bookmarks can be monitored for around $53 dollars per year.
New items can be added to via the popup window, with the option to only send changes on page if the page in question contains particular keywords. Logical AND’s and OR’s are available for this functionality to ensure that the existing page and changed page contain both keywords.
Track engine is a great little tool, that facilitates easy tracking of pages, if you anticipate having only a handful of pages, it works perfectly out of the box, and highlights changes easily for you to see what is different.
With some of these tools and web apps, tracking pages that don’t have RSS doesn’t have to be difficult. If you are finding yourself checking the same sites over and over again during the day – or rely on time sensitive information on a static site, some of these will definitely make a difference to your overall productivity.