Set up and monitor alerts from various Web services with Trackle, a new competitor in the very useful gopher services department.
Josh LowensohnFormer Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
I am a big, big fan of tools that monitor the Web. Some of my favorites include Google Alerts which I use to track where our stories show up, AreMySitesUp, which I use to keep an eye on Web site uptime, and PriceProtectr which watches for drops and increases from various retailers. Trackle, a service that's coming out of private beta on Tuesday, is hoping to replace all three--and many others--by corralling all of these various alerts into one, large in-box. Is it a keeper? I think so.
Much like competitor Yotify, Trackle lets you peruse a long list of sites to find something interesting to track. Once you do, it has a specially created setup wizard for each site that make setting up a new alert a snap. For example, if you want to track crime in your neighborhood, you simply plug in your street address. The wizard expands to give you options on how big a radius you want to search from, along with what specific crimes you want to be notified about.
The same goes for any other "tracklet" of which there are about 100. Users can rate these tracklets with a one to five star rating, and send feedback for changes. The service also keeps track of which ones are the most popular, which as of this writing is one that tracks stock ticker symbols for pricing and related news.
I found the service's real power to be in its in-box-centric design. Sure you can get everything forwarded to your e-mail in-box, or phone (via SMS), but the built in alerts in-box is far more powerful. Here you can view everything you're keeping an eye on in one place. It's set up in ascending chronological order, so the newest stuff is always on top. Likewise you can go in and adjust each alert, including whether or not friends can see it, and its notification settings.
Trackle's one weak point is that its social networking is very underdeveloped. You can see what a friend is tracking, but first you'll need the e-mail address he or she signed up with. Likewise, once you've seen what he or she is tracking, you can't actually set up a tracklet for that stream of information, which would let you be alerted to new things they're tracking. Admittedly, this could become overwhelming with a big enough social circle, but it seems like a missed opportunity.
To its credit, the service is integrated with Twitter, so if you can send any item out as a Tweet, or share an entire tracklet to your feed. It will also soon have integration with Facebook. Other upcoming features include a vacation mode where you can suspend all your tracklets for a specified period of time, as well as a location tool that will automatically adjust all your alerts for where you are. A bookmarklet and toolbar are also in the works, which will make it easier to start a tracklet from any site you're on.