I don’t think I need to explain to faithful readers, I’m lazy. It’s not that I dislike work, just that I hate routine tasks. For example, there are websites I work with where it’s critical the correct page content shows. Every so often, someone makes a change that I didn’t know. It’s not that they’re keeping me out of the loop, just that they’ve moved on to their next task. I found a free intelligent agent that allows you to monitor web page changes.
ChangeDetection.com is a service that monitors specific URLs for you. It’s not as robust as another service I reviewed called WatchThatPage. However, I found the service easier to set up. The alert emails work well on small screen devices like a BlackBerry or Apple iPhone. Part of this is because the service doesn’t send you the changed text in the email, but links to a page showing the differences.
Initially, you might think there aren’t web pages you want to monitor. My guess is there are once you think about it. There are a number of scenarios where you might want to use a web page monitor for:
- Robots.txt files
- Sitemap files
- Press releases
- End User License Agreements (EULA)
- Conference agenda pages
- Association membership changes
- FAQ pages
- New or changed product offering pages
And if this list doesn’t get you thinking just see what other people are publicly monitoring to get ideas. The example below is not an email alert from my account, but a recent one that showed at ChangeDetection.com. In this case, someone is monitoring Paul Thurrott’s FAQ page for Windows XP Service Pack 3.
The yellow text highlights the changes, which was added text. In some case, you’ll see strike-throughs indicating text deletions. This happened on some of the campaign endorsement pages I monitored as voters changed their minds.
If you click the page title, you see the most recent cached copy the service captured in the lower portion. At the top of the page, you’ll see links for the different change types.
Setting Up a Web Page Monitor
For this tutorial, I’ll use a product offering scenario from ExcelUser.com. The website doesn’t have a RSS feed or Twitter account that might tell me about product changes.
To set up a web page alert on ChangeDetection.com,
1. Find the URL of the page you want to monitor. I’ll use http://www.exceluser.com/catalog2/index.htm which is the catalog page.
2. Setup an account at http://www.changedetection.com/processsignup.html . You need to provide an email address since that’s the method of communicating “page changed” alerts.
3. You can either click the confirmation link in the email they send or enter the Confirmation code.
4. Create a password.
5. You should then get a page similar to the one below where you can enter in your URL from Step 1.
6. Click Next.
7. The monitor a page options panel appears where you can refine your page alert.
8. Set the time frame for your alert. You only get an email when the service detects a change.
9. Set the type of changes you’re interested in.
10. Click Create.
As you can see the process is pretty simple. Once your ChangeDetection.com account is set up, it’s easy to edit, create or delete your monitors. And if you happen to miss the email, you can check the page log which has its own URL. It shows the last 25 changes for each web page monitor as well as some HTML code if you wish to provide a link to others.
Last Updated (Friday, 11 May 2012 12:55)