Twitter Track is Back Thanks to New Service from Particls

Particls, the one-time RSS feed organizer and alerting service, has today launched a new project they’re calling “Particls Fountain.” Although it’s hinted that the service will eventually do much more, today its goal is simple. Particls Fountain will function as a replacement for the long-gone Twitter Track feature that once allowed you to follow topics of interest by keyword.

Unlike its predecessors, the new service from Particls is simple and straightforward. There’s little setup involved to get started with Fountain; just choose the method that works for you. You can use Fountain in one of two ways: via Google Talk (or any XMPP client) or via Twitter itself.

Using Particls with Twitter:

For Twitter users, just follow @particls on Twitter. To track something, start your request with ‘d particls.’

Example:

d particles follow “web 2.0”

will track all references to “web 2.0” on Twitter.

d particles follow “web 2.0”, “web 3.0”

will track all references to “web 2.0” and “web 3.0”

Using Particls via IM:

If you would rather use your instant messaging program to be alerted about your tracked keywords, you can do so with any XMPP client, including Google Talk. To get started, just follow particls@particls.com. You can then use the following commands to begin tracking keywords:

follow “web 2.0”

will track all references to “web 2.0” on Twitter.

follow “web 2.0”, “web 3.0”

will track all references to “web 2.0” and “web 3.0”

Will a Simplified Service Save Particls?

For whatever reason, the original RSS tracking and alerting service provided by Particls never quite caught on. Perhaps it was just a little ahead of its time. The service aimed to help us address our RSS/information overload issues before some of us even had any to address. But the concept behind the service was solid: a desktop ticker, instant prioritized alerts, easy sharing of RSS items, simple feed subscriptions, and so on. In fact, that version of Particls sounds a lot like one of our favorite desktop apps today, Snackr, which does many of the same things but launched nearly a year later.

We thought Particls 1.0 was a good first attempt at managing those sorts of issues, but it was not without its problems. The program was a Windows-only client, had some UI challenges, and, from personal experience, hit an older laptop’s CPU just a bit too much.

Later, the company split the Particls solution into half, with one half becoming Engagd, an attention management engine, and the other half becoming Particls 2.0, the visualization and alerting engine. From the sound of it, those two projects have now been abandoned – the company notes that all resources have been diverted to the new project, Fountain.

Oops, a DM Limit

Unfortunately, there is one major concern regarding the new service, and it’s not really Particls’ fault. Currently, Twitter API limits direct messages to 5000 per day for whitelisted accounts. That will severely impact what the service can do using DMs.

Here’s a video of Chris pondering this issue:

This API limit is a clear example of the sort of thing a company would gladly pay Twitter for access to, if only there was the option. It’s unfortunate that Twitter’s hard-set limits are actually affecting the abilities of other companies to innovate around the core product.

Yet that won’t stop them from trying. For the record, Particls is not the first service to attempt to implement the missing Twitter Track feature. For example, the Twitter toolkit from TweetLater also provides this functionality. However, the difference between the two services is that TweetLater provides tracking via an emailed digest – not real-time alerts as Particls does.

Will Fountain be a Success?

Whether Particls Fountain will succeed where previous incarnations did not is something that’s yet to be seen. However, the company is now actively working with the community and letting them drive the development. This critical step is vital to making a successful product, so it’s encouraging to see the interaction.

Through the UserVoice site, 100 or so testers have already begun providing feedback about Fountain. They – and you – will be the people voting on the next step for the service, whether that’s tracking your alerts history on the web, receiving an email digest, adjusting alerts through a web-based dashboard, or something else entirely.

If you want to give the service a try, you can do so today; just follow the instructions above. Besides UserVoice, you can also give feedback directly to the creators of Particls on Twitter: just follow @ashleyangell, @stephenkelly, and @chrissaad.

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