Make Your Own Deal Tracker
If you are not already familiar with them, websites like Woot! and Steep and Cheap offer a single item at a time, often at huge discount, but only until their limited stocks run out. If you need a new piece of travel gear or gadget, these sites can be a great way to find it for cheap. However, they also encourage frequent refreshing, procrastination, and impulse buying.
What if there was a way to filter the results so that you were only notified of items you were most interested in?
Well, I am going to show you an easy way to do just that.
Introduction: RSS and Yahoo! Pipes
Real Simple Syndication, commonly known as RSS, is just an easy way for readers to stay up-to-date with new content on their favorite websites. Using RSS is commonly refered to as "subscribing" because new content is delivered to the reader's browser or email, eliminating the need for them to visit the site themselves. The major difference between an RSS subscription and most magazine subscriptions is that the former is totally free to use.
Yahoo! Pipes is a fun, straight forward, way to manipulate the information carried by the RSS subscription. I say it is fun because really it is a lot like playing with blocks. Here are five simple steps to creating a custom deal finder with Yahoo! Pipes.
Step One: Grab your sources
The first thing we need to do is insert the RSS links into Yahoo! Pipes. The links themselves can be found on each deal site, marked by either a text link labeled "RSS" or a square, orange, icon. Copy the link from you favorite deal site and head over to Yahoo! Pipes.
To create a deal tracking machine, we are going to link several modules together with "pipes." The first module we want is under "Sources" in the left column and called "Fetch Feed." Drag the module from the left column into the working area to add it to our machine.
In the dialog box on the Fetch Feed module, add the RSS link from your favorite deal site. I did this twice, once for Woot! and once for Steep and Cheap.
Step Two: Sort the results
The next thing we want to do, is sort the results from the two sites, so that the newest deals will always be at the top of the list. This is easy with the use of the "Sort" module, found under "Operators" on the left side.
Connect this module to the first one by clicking the little circle at the bottom of the Fetch Feed module and dragging it to the top ofSort. You should see a "pipe" appear between the two. It's kind of like connecting the dots.
Under the "Sort by" drop-down menu on the Sort module, select, "item.pubDate" and then set it to "descending." Once that is finished, click the plus sign on the module to create another sort option.
Set the second sort option to "item.y:published" and, again, descending.
I did this twice, once for each of my RSS links.
Step Three: Combine the feeds
Note: If you have only a single Fetch Feed module than you can skip this step.
If you have been working with the RSS links from two sites like I have, we can now combine them into one. We do this using the "Union" module located under Operators in the left column. After dragging it into the work area, you will see that the module has several input circles but only a single output.
Click and drag between the output circle of the Sort module to one of the input circles on the Union module. Do this for each differentSort module you have created.
Step Four: Filter the results
The goal of this process is to filter the many deals that will appear for things you do not need, from those that you do. We can do this using the "Filter" module, located under Operators in the left column.
Once you have dragged the Filter module over from the left column, you will see that you have the option of either blocking or permitting certain items. The easiest thing to do is to permit only the items you are interested in.
As an example, lets say I am interested in buying a new winter jacket. I would set the Filter to "permit items that contain all of the following." For the rule, I would select "item.description" from the first dialog box, leave "Contains" selected in the second, and type "jackets" into theword box at the end. That's it.
We are almost done, but I like to do one more thing to limit the results I recieve. Drag the "Truncate" module from the Operators section in the left column and connect it below the Filter module. Set this to however many results you want to see. Something like two, five, ten, so on.
Now is also the time to connect a pipe between the bottom of the Truncate module to the "Pipe Output" module.
Step Five: Grab your feed
Once you have connected to the Pipe Output module, click save and name your new feed.
Once created, there are many ways you can view the results of your new deal-tracker feed. If you click "Run Pipe," you will notice that you can view the results on that page, add them to a Yahoo! or Google homepage, get them sent to your phone or email, or view them through any other RSS reader. How you view the results is up to you.
Once you find that great deal on a winter jacket, simply go back in, edit you Filter to permit a different item, and save the Pipe again.
Deal-a-day sites can be a great way to find discounts on items you do not urgently need. To beat their impulse buying trap, try using the free and powerful Yahoo! Pipes tool to create your own deal tracker.
What is your experience with Yahoo! Pipes? What are your favorite deal-a-day websites? Let us know in the comments.