Postbureaucrat

Personal blogging by Steph Gray, founder of Helpful Digital and erstwhile bureaucrat

Introducing inboxlistening: follow the online conversation by email

This being a personal blog and all, I thought I’d share a preview of a little development project I’ve been working on recently not linked to the day job: inboxlistening.com

inboxlistening screenshot

Why does the world need another online monitoring tool? There’s Google Alerts to get news and blog mentions by email. There’s Netvibes or Pageflakes if you want to create a dashboard around an event or brand you want to track online. There’s Radian6 or Brandwatch or a dozen others to analyse and graph the online sentiment around your brand. And there’s or Addictomatic when you want to find out what social media is saying about your keyword. None of them quite scratch my itch.

  • Dashboards are useful to scan but can be laborious to remember to check, especially if it’s not a key part of your job. Getting email alerts in your inbox is a much better approach for this crowd.
  • Dashboards in Pageflakes or Netvibes take time and skill to set up. I’ve tried to document the process before, and it’s convoluted, even if the outputs are free.
  • Most of the time, digg.com and the rest aren’t a key source for me – it’s only really online news sites, blogs and Twitter that I’m really interested in
  • A single keyword often isn’t enough. You need to refine/add several terms to get useful results which screen out most of the noise.
  • Dashboards are often fiddly to share with other people, involving logins and all that jazz.

Think of inboxlistening as Addictomatic meets Google Alerts, and gets a bit more corporate. It aims to get you from identifying the need to having a dashboard and daily or weekly email update set up in under a minute. 10 seconds if you’re in a hurry.

As I’ve said on the site, it’s a very rough beta for now, and is highly likely to fall over at any minute and not work on a variety of browsers and email clients. It works by structuring the keywords you enter into URL queries sent to Google News UK, Google Blog Search UK and Twitter search, and then displaying the Atom feed of the results together on one simple page, with a cron job to email the report to a specified email address daily or weekly. That’s pretty much it.

I’m just putting it out there to see what people reckon, and get some ideas for where to take it next. I’d be interested to hear what you think – comment below or to feedback at inboxlistening dot com.

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12 comments on “Introducing inboxlistening: follow the online conversation by email

  1. cyberdoyle says:

    Excellent, worked quickly, did what I wanted. Very useful.
    chris

  2. Simon Pauley says:

    Good work Steph. going to try it out with some users and see what they think compared to usual channels.

  3. […] This post was Twitted by ereuben […]

  4. Like it. What are you using for the emailing bit: anything clever, or just php’s mail function?

  5. Steph Steph says:

    @Simon D: just using William Fowler’s rather long in the tooth class.Email.php:

    http://www.codewalkers.com/c/a/Email-Code/PHP-Text-HTML-Email-with-Attachments-21/

    … to simplify sending HTML email. I need to send plain text versions in the same bundle but haven’t quite got round to that bit yet.

  6. Tracy Playle says:

    Have you seen http://www.perspctv.com? Very similar to what your doing here, but doesn’t appear to offer a weekly or monthly email report as yours does. That little added extra will really appeal to some people. Might have to add it to my list of useful monitoring sites that I show people when I’m giving out the ‘if you do nothing else with social media, at least start listening’ message in some of my talks and training sessions.

  7. Steph Steph says:

    @Tracy – perspctv.com looks very interesting and spookily similar in some ways. inboxlistening is a much more basic approach probably intended for an audience with simpler needs – but there are some interesting ideas in there.

    1. Steph Steph says:

      Thanks Steven – to be honest, the tool just displays whatever Google thinks is ‘news’ vs ‘blogs’ … looks like identi.ca is ‘blogs’ to them!

  8. Bex Obrien says:

    Steph – this is great and does exactly what I need!