Posted by: jimmydlg | November 19, 2008

Information Trapping

Information Trapping is a valuable resource available in many different forms on the web. It allows us to create alerts or watch for particular types of events, media, or information and then have that information sent to us once it’s found. As Tara Calishain put it so simply in an interview, “The information in which you’re interested will come to you. You will not have to go looking for it on a regular basis.”

I’ve been using the technique of information trapping for quite some time, mainly through the use of Google Alerts, but also through various other programs (some of them stand-alone applications)

Google Alerts has been a great benefit to me.. I came across it on accident by using the News section of Google to look for topics that interested me. At the bottom of the news search is a link that says “Get the latest new on <whatever you searched” and once you click it, it easily takes you through the steps of creating an alert.

These alerts have kept me informed about products, news, and issues that I wanted to be reminded of later even if I knew they were far out on the horizon.

For example, I have been patiently waiting for the product HDPC-20 from DirecTV and Microsoft Windows Media Center. This product will allow me to integrate DirecTV into Media center so that I can use Media Center as my PVR and not the clunky slow HD DVR from DirecTV. When I first started looking for information on this device, I discovered it wouldn’t be available until sometime in 2010, and I first heard about it in 2007.

Ever since then, I’ve had a Google Alert running, and each time new information surfaces on the HDPC-20 I’m instantly informed.

Another kind of Information Trapping I use frequently is in my job. I use a program who’s sole purpose is to monitor information from a diverse set of origins, watch for particular conditions, and alert me when those conditions change. The program is called IP Sentry, and it makes keeping track of the status and condition of all my servers and software platforms easy. Without it, I would spend a great deal of time checking the condition of various devices, platforms, and software packages, just to mostly find out that “everything’s ok,” but with this package, I know instantly when something’s wrong, even if I’m not paying attention to it on a regular basis.

A while back I extended the use of this software to watch Best Buy’s product page on a Nikon D200. When they were first released, they were extremely rare, and (thanks to Google Alerts) I had come across some information that Best Buy regular received small shipments and they would go online and then sell out quickly from their website. I modified one of the monitoring agents in the IP Sentry software to check Best Buy’s page to see when the “Out of Stock” message disappeared and have it send me a text message. Sure enough, at 2AM one morning my alert woke me up, I ran to the computer and bought one of the last ones.

During my research of information trapping, I came across Furl, which seemed like a site that literally traps information. When you bookmark a page on Furl, much like you would with Delicious.com, it not only saves your bookmark, but it saves a copy of the page in a local cache for you as well. That way, even if the information on the page changes, or the page is removed, you still have access to the original copy. I plan on exploring this more to see how useful it will be.. but for now the idea seems to be appealing, and I certainly haven’t minded maintaining my delicious bookmarks.

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Responses

  1. Now that is cool Waiting for a camera and getting an alert at 2a.m. See If i had something like that than I would use it. Right now i’m so turned off by the idea because all of this sounds so technical and nerdy that I don’t even want to bother with it. Now that i know what kind of cool stuff you can do i might look into it a bit more and your going to be my go to man when i have questions. What else have you done with this type of software. Whatever you were talking about earlier went way over my head. About pvr’s and dodilleys and what not. I’m glad to see that there is a lot of use for this than what I thought.

  2. I think that you found a better definition than I did. I understand what you said now about it being opposite of RSS.


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