Knowabout.it - now with 10x the awesome.

I dedicate most Sundays to watching football. I usually do this from my basement (which also doubles as the Dig Down Labs LLC headquarters), so I’m often tinkering on the computer throughout the games as well. Especially when the Falcons are playing poorly (which is a lot this season).

So Sundays have become somewhat of a ‘hack day’ for me.

A lot of the time I’m using that time to flesh out more of the Coach Wizard product, but when my brain needs a break from that, I sometimes take the time to clean up or improve one of my other services.

Yesterday, I used the time to clean up a few things around the knowabout.it service that I think a lot of people could benefit from and enjoy. Here’s a quick breakdown of the updates:

1. Accounts via Twitter

You should now be able to create an account, or log in to your existing account, via Twitter auth.

Why would you want to log in? Well right now logging in unlocks two main features:

A. The ability to catch up on links that recently passed through your Twitter timeline

B. The ability to set up keyword alerts.

I’m also toying with the idea of letting you turn off ads (probably for a $1 annual subscription or some other insanely small amount)…but I haven’t made my mind up about that yet, and once I do, it will have to wait for another hack day before I get around to implementing it.

2. Recent links that have passed through your twitter stream.

If you’ve followed the ups and downs of knowabout.it over the years, you’ll know this is not a new feature, but it sits at the core of just about every version of the service I’ve built over the years.

The simple truth is that I’m just too busy to keep up with all the interesting stuff that passes through my Twitter stream (I follow really great and interesting people!).

I like having a way to get a quick picture of whose recently shared links into my stream, and then be able to dig down into those links as I choose.

It’s a really simple tool, but I catch so many more interesting things because of it.

3. Ability to set up monitors

Monitors are basically a poor mans Google Alerts.

The UI is still pretty complex so I’m not sure too many people will be able to properly set them up (if that’s really the case, I’ll address it sooner rather than later)…but the basic idea is that you can throw in any keywords you want, and define the sources you want to monitor (right now knowabout.it monitors gawk.it, hacker news, reddit, and usv.com – if you want me to add other sources leave a comment below and I’ll try to add them to the list during the next hack session).

When you have a monitor set up, every bit of content that passes through the knowabout.it system is checked against your keywords (mostly just simple keyword matching in titles right now, though it checks all the content passing through the gawk.it source [blog posts and full comments]) and when a match is found you’ll get an email.

You can set monitors up to send you emails as soon as matches are found, or you can have it just send you one 'digest’ a day letting you know all the matches it found over the past 24 hours.

I use this to monitor all the above sources for the keywords ’falicon’ or ’gawk.it’, so I get immediate alerts when someone is talking about one of those things…so it’s a great way to make sure I ’know about’ and engage with people around my brands (speaking of which, I need to set it up for all my other brands too!).

4. A basic Twitter bot

Via a short discussion on usv.com @_trendspotter suggested that I create a Twitter bot that feeds stories from the knowabout.it homepage into Twitter. I thought it was a good idea, so I did it.

You can follow the @knwbt account to see it in action.

5. Simple search of recent content

I often think of alerts and search as things that go hand-in-hand (alerts are really just saved searches, executed on new content as it’s added)…so in fixing up some of the monitor stuff, I needed a way to search to do some testing. Once I built that, I figured I might as well put it out there as a feature for everyone.

To be honest, it’s not a super powerful version of search. It’s really just a regex system on top of titles, and only searches against the last five days of items the knowabout.it system has discovered.

But I think it still returns some interesting results and can be useful in certain situations (one being when thinking about setting up alerts – do a simple search first to set your expectations for the type of matches/volume you could expect).

…and that’s about it for yesterday’s hack session.

This version of knowabout.it is all about simple personal hacks to help me keep up with things the way I want to…but hopefully you’ll take some time to give it a try and find some value in it yourself too.

If you do, I would love to hear how your using it and what you like and don’t like in the comments below…and of course please tell all your friends about knowabout.it as well!

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for digdownlabs.com and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.

If you have comments, thoughts, or want to respond to something you see here I would encourage you to respond via a post on your own blog (and then let me know about the link via one of the routes mentioned above).