Make Your Own Deal Tracker

by David DeFranza on 1 October 2008 7 comments

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 image

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 photo

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 photo

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 photo

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 photo

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.

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Myscha Theriault's picture

Looks like way more than I can deal with today or anytime soon. But as soon as I get back to a more settled situation, this looks like it would be really worth the effort, David, for folks like me who are fanatical about finding frugal deals. Thanks for breaking it down.

Guest's picture
Tom

Can anyone recommend a site like Woot in the UK? The only site I know of is hotukdeals.com which is nothing like the same thing.

Guest's picture
Guest

Firefox has an add in that tracks woot in your bottom right of the browser...no need to go through all these steps, you just rightclick it to get to the site if it says something that will interest you.

Steep and cheap prob has one too.

I also use the coupon cabin and retailmenot add in to automatically look for coupons when i surf.

Guest's picture
Guest

www.dealdump.com is also an RSS aggregator

Guest's picture
Quentin

I bet everybody seems a bit lost because of the worldwide financial crisis. A lot of people are just wondering what will be the impact on their personal finance.
I believe that the Wealth Manager of our website might be of interest to see his own personal finance situation in a graphical form as well as the state of his finances in the future according to investment and spending choices.

You can find the tool on www.prosperitypersonal.com under the “Wealth Manager” section (http://www.prosperitypersonal.com/WealthManager.html)

Guest's picture
Guest

TigZoo.com is a pretty cool site. It occassionally has free stuff, too!