February 2009 archive

Subscribe to Google Search Results

While there are several sources for content when setting up persistent search queries, nothing is as comprehensive as google. They don’t offer RSS feeds out of the box but getting a feed from those results is still possible.

Feed43 is a nice application that turns static pages into feeds. The tools they offer to define what content that you want set it apart from other services like feedity and page2rss.

To subscribe to search results, start by creating your query at Google. Go to advanced search options and restrict the search to pages updated in the last 24 hours to get the most dynamic RSS results. You can also set the number of results to return to 80 (if you set it to 100, Feed43′s service tends to choke.)

Once you’ve got a query that you like, copy the URL of the results page. It should look something like this:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&as_epq=persistent+search&num=80&as_qdr=d

Now jump back over to feed43 and start a new feed. Paste the google URL into the address field and press ‘load.’

For Step 2, you’ll define what feed43 should consider an item.

My settings are:

Global Search Pattern:
Item Search Pattern:
That seems to do the trick for me. Press ‘extract.’

In Step 3, you can name your feed and decide how it should be displayed.

My settings:

Item Title Template:
Item Link Template: blank

Item Content Template:

Try the preview button. If everything looks good, you’re done. You can now subscribe to your feed in your favorite RSS reader.

Because Google’s reach is so broad, the results of this feed tend to be very noisy. Save this option for very specific queries and use filtering tools to fine tune your feed.

By the way, you can also use this trick to subscribe to results from a Custom Search Engine. CSEs don’t offer advanced search options by default but you can simply manipulate the results URL to get the same effect. After you’ve set up your Custom Search Engine, add &num=80&as_qdr=d to the results URL to restrict them to the past 24 hours and to list up to 80 results.

Persistent Search

Setting up a listening post is one of the best uses of RSS that I can think of. Here is a slide deck reviewing some of the tools available for creating persistent search queries.

Persistent Search
View more presentations from mattsweb. (tags: tools search)

Some helpful links for taking persistent search to the next level:
Google Custom Search

RSS from Google Custom Search

Create a feed that searches the top ten social networks

Create a feed that searches blogs, boards and twitter

Tool for creating RSS from static pages

I’m sorry I’m not sorry

We’re doing company branding work at the office so evaluating how companies represent themselves to customers has been on the brain lately.

It can be interesting to debate the merits of a position in a marketplace. Should we be the low-cost, efficiency leader? Or should we offer the best customer service possible or go after a luxury segment? While one approach may be more appropriate for a given company vs another, I think the important thing is to be consistent. My personal experience tells me that when a company’s behavior lines up with who they claim to be, it usually works out fine. When it doesn’t, it’s ugly.

I recently found a bogus charge on my credit card. Luckily, I saw the transaction while it was still pending and payment hadn’t been sent. So I called the bank that issued my card and told them the whole story. Their response was to tell me that they couldn’t stop the payment from going out and that I needed to call another department to place a fraud claim. Fine, whatever. When I repeated my story to the fraud department (45 minute hold time) they told me that they’d investigate and get back to me. That was over 2 months ago and still no word on the verdict, despite several phone calls from me. Now to their credit, they did issue a provisional credit to cover the amount in question while the investigation was going on. But I’m not comfortable spending that money since I don’t know whether I’ll be able to keep it or not.
All of this wouldn’t be so bad if the credit card company had painted a more realistic picture of how this would happen from the get go. I still have their sales brochure, which says things like “You won’t be held responsible for any unauthorized purchases.” My claim form says “your claim is top priority with us.” Riiiight.

On the other hand, I checked out the local Snap Fitness earlier this week. They are a stripped down health club with about a tenth of the equipment, resources and service that Lifetime or Ballys would offer. But they don’t apologize for it. My conversation with the sales person was sugar coat free.
“Do you have showers?”
“No, most people just get in and out.”
“Okay, how about lockers for my stuff?”
“We have cubbies.”
“Alright. Where’s the drinking fountain?”
“We don’t have one.”

Not the most impressive set of features for a health club but there is no misunderstanding about what they offer. And it’s only $30 a month, less than half of the dues at Lifetime or the YMCA. I think that Snap Fitness may grab a smaller slice of the total market with this approach, but the customers that they do have will be satisfied and likely to stay.