Archive for the ‘Desktop Alert Software’ Category
Particls is entering public beta today. If you haven’t come across the name before: the product first started under the name Touchstone about a year ago, and then last April when it went private beta to a larger audience of testers, a much desired and appropriate name change was carried out.
Read on if any of these catchwords appeal to you:
- information overload
- personal relevance
- attention profile
- keyword monitoring
- importance-correlated disruption
I’d like to point out two remarks in today’s announcement on the Particls Blog that I definitely consider highlights: firstly it is now confirmed that a Particls version for OS X is in the pipeline. Secondly, bloggers and web site owners can share their Particls setup with a custom sidebar badge, such as this one:
Particls for OS X coming
The upcoming OS X version of Particls now officially being mentioned in a communique issued by Faraday Media is a real milestone. Ever since I got acquainted with the two creative minds behind Particls, Chris Saad and Ashley Angell, in February 2006—and also when I briefly met with Chris in person in San Francisco last December—the sensitive topic of Mac lovers feeling heavily neglected was frequently brought up.
"Ping me as soon as they make an OS X version available!", has probably been the most often heard reply from the tech journalists on my contact list when I would approach them with a brief but substantial update about Particls.
Ok, that said, what I haven’t managed to get hold of from the developers yet is an estimate release date for the OS X version, but I trust they’ll attract sufficient additional funding soon to make the first prototype available within a year from now. Until then Particls runs fine under Parallels Desktop for Mac.
Getting the download
Particls is now freely available for download from the Particls Download page. I suggest you get acquainted fast, because I’ll be shifting to fourth gear shortly.
I figured that a couple of other tech news sites would likely do a perfect job offering an introduction to the core functionality of Particls (see Track Your Favorite Topics … on Digital Inspiration from a few days ago, glance through my Particls news radar for a live-updated list of reviews, or refer to the Particls FAQ), so I decided in this post I might as well focus primarily on the publisher aspects of the product. Please follow me to the Particls inTouch introductory page while I describe the technical, practical aspects of this new Particls partner program.
Particls inTouch installer packages
Particls inTouch lets you share your own customized version of the full Particls installer package on your website. There are two flavors of inTouch, a basic one that generates an installer from a single feed or from a set of feeds (OPML), and an advanced one targeted at publishers obviously offering more granular control. I’ll describe both here.
inTouch Basic is the most simple way to offer your readers a Particls installer package: just type the web address of the website you’d like to track and copy the code from the box on your screen.
inTouch Basic also lets you enter the URL of a single RSS feed or from a set of RSS feeds, a so-called remotely hosted OPML file. Most online RSS aggregators allow you to create an OPML file and they’ll host it for you. The advantage of this is that any changes you make to your list of subscriptions is immediately reflected in the OPML file. Remotely hosted OPML files are often referred to as Reading Lists. If you are looking for high-quality OPML files around a certain topic, then browse the BlogBridge Topic Experts Guides. This library of OPML files offers tons of feeds on topics such as marketing, politics, online education and science & technology.
Here’s my inTouch Basic badge that simply tracks CleverClogs posts using Particls:
inTouch Partner offers publishers full control: after signing up for an account, they can choose which feeds to include with the package, which keywords to look out for, which ones to avoid, and they have the option to change the look and feel of all of the Particls screen elements, such as the logo and text color on the ticker and on the pop-ups. A personalized set-up file is generated and then hosted on the Particls servers so that your readers can download and install it. The inTouch user account allows Particls Partners to modify their settings later on.
My CleverClogs installer package, should you want to try it, is located at
and the underlying web address points to
Creating a Particls inTouch Installer Package
To have Particls host an installer package on its server, a user account needs to be created through the Partnership Sign-up form.
After signing up, a rather straightforward edit form opens that lets you enter the details to create the package:
Just for the fun of it, I added a CleverClogs logo to my ticker bar by changing the following options in the Settings and Skins. I then followed the instructions to upload the Particls skin file to their server:
This is what my Particls ticker looks like now:
Creating your own branded version of Particls
I had no difficulties creating my own Particls badge. In fact, you could use any badge image as long as you make it point to the web address at which Particls stores the installer package.
In short, these are the steps once more:
- Read the overview page of the Particls inTouch Partner program
- Sign up for the service at the inTouch Admin Console
- Create your custom installer package
- Get the code for your badge
- Insert the badge code into your blog
Ideas to improve Particls
It’s obvious I like Particls as it is very much already. Still, there are a couple of things I’d like the developers to pay attention to (!):
- Commit to releasing the OS X version and communicate about it
- Allow the Particls client to regularly poll a remote OPML and adjust the feed list accordingly
- Make it easier to quickly find back items that just scrolled off the screen
- Increase the font size of the ticker items
- Display the source of individual feed items in the alerts if not identical to the feed source (especially important for "River of News" feeds)
- Allow changing the URLs of feeds in the "Manage my feeds" panel
Particls News Radar
I’ve collected a couple of feeds related to Particls. Please feel free to use the comments section to suggest another feed.
Chris Saad, CEO of the young Australian start-up Faraday Media that produces Touchstone, published a rather cryptic screenshot today of the new interface for the Touchstone version that apparently is going to go be available in private beta anytime soon. His blog post is titled I love the new Touchstone Beta + FlickrBabes.com.
A few weeks ago I described Touchstone’s functionality and the potential I see for it in a comment on Dave Winer’s blog:
"I’d vote for the talented guys behind Touchstone … basically scans your browsing history, your bookmarks, e-mail, documents and other stuff that characterizes your personal attention stream.
You then select the sources that are likely to produce information that might be of interest to you. It makes sense to use web feeds for this of course, or people could develop their own input adapter.
I appreciate this method of managing information overload because the Touchstone engine will only display bits of incoming information if they match your attention profile above the granular thresholds that you determine. The more important that information is to you, the more persistent and disruptive its presentation.
With lots of bloggers talking about handling information overload and attention management, I believe Touchstone provides a viable solution for a real pain.
Ties: the CEO’s a Skype buddy of mine and he once paid me dinner."
I’ve fought quite a few Touchstone alpha releases myself over the past few months and exposed several of my closest blogging friends to its bugs, so it’s not that I don’t know what Touchstone is about. What these Australians didn’t tell me so far though is that their new product apparently is capable of sending Flickr feeds to my Windows system tray—look at the enlarged version of the Touchstone screenshot that Chris put in his blog post:
Will the new Touchstone be able to offer streams of rich media to my desktop?
If Chris publishes a screenshot like this, it most likely means he and his development team, led by Ashley Angell, are very close to announcing the private beta. I’ve already Twittered in his direction about it this morning. He’s awfully quiet on Skype, so now all we can do is wait. If you haven’t signed up yet, then rush to the sidebar of the Touchstone website and fill in your e-mail address.
Update: Someone submitted this blog post to Digg (visit to vote) just now. It’s such fun to see my TypePad stats page being swarmed by Digg visitors: