This week’s Something for the Weekend is a little different, as it’s a tool for newsgathering rather than publishing. But what a tool.
iMacro is a plugin for Firefox, with paid versions for Internet Explorer or standalone use.
There’s a lot of corporate/technical jargon on the website (“create solutions for web automation”), because, like some of the best web tools (e.g. Twitter), this can be used for so many things it’s hard to describe in a single sentence. But here are some of the headlines:
- Automation of repetitive tasks, e.g. filling in forms, searches, etc.
- “Data Extraction/Web Scraping/Web Mining/Enterprise Data Mash-Ups“
- Website testing
- Password manager
- Forming part of a larger software app
That doesn’t tell us much, so how about some concrete examples from the imacros’ bookmarks page:
View SF Bay Area traffic incidents
Search iMacros User Forum, Wiki and Google
Search in 3 Blog Search Engines Simultaneously
Search Yahoo, Google and MSN at the same time
Replay Zillow.com real estate search
Automate the United States TESS Trademark Search
Update Facebook status without visiting the site.
Now you’re getting the idea.
- Imagine you have to plough through a number of government database searches to gather the information for a story.
- Imagine you need to post an appeal for information on a number of forums or blogs.
- Imagine you need to upload something quickly – or to more than one site – or both.
- Imagine you create a macro for your readers to conduct their own personalised search – based on a postcode, for instance.
This is one step closer to the semantic web that’s often talked about.
And I imagine the more you use this the more ideas would spring to mind – while the social sharing element of the software means you can benefit from others’ experiences and ideas.
Also worth browsing is the iMacros forum pages, where users talk about what they’re doing.
Have a play with it this weekend and let me know what you think.
Another tool you might want to look at is Kapow. This is a very high-end software designed specifically to make scraping drag-and-drop simple. The paid version is extremely expensive, but they released a free version here that anyone can use. The only requirement is you have to publish your “scraper” robots to the world, and make it available for anyone to use.
I don’t use Kapow myself, but I have heard great things about it from colleagues in Denmark, who used it to great effect for their recent investigation of EU farm subsidies.
Love it!!! Great handy tool.
There is also a very useful Wiki page, especially for iMacros for Firefox:
Although I’ve only used iMacros a little bit so-far it looks _really_ cool.
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