Dapper

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Dapper (data mapper) is an online service that can capture content from any website and broadcast it in many different forms including an RSS feed or even a widget.

You can use it to create so-called ’Dapps’ that obtain any content, such as the results of a search or custom selections from a user form.

These Dapps can then be shared with other users or used to generate custom alerts that notify you whenever a specific content appears.

Publishers can use Dapper to create custom widgets that broadcast their content for use on third party sites.

Here a list of some of the situations I could think of where Dapper can prove extremely useful:

  • Create RSS feed: if you would like to create an RSS feed for a site that does not offer one. This can be any kind of site in any format and not necessarily a ’blog’ or news-portal type site.
  • Customize by search results: Dapp can be used to create an RSS feed for the keyword search or custom-form results from any site, portal, or search engine. For example, you could create an RSS feed for the results of searching for “anime” (or any other keyword) in Youtube, so that every new anime video is RSS-ed to you.
  • Customize any content: Even if the site you are interested in does offer an RSS feed, you might consider using Dapper in order to customize the feed the way you want it. As an example, a software portal might not make freeware and payware distinct in its feeds. Using Dapper, it is possible for you to add a ’software type’ field into your Dapp and/or restrict your broadcast information to freeware content.
  • Another example: although I do not offer an RSS feed that is restricted to any other single category in Freewaregenius, you could easily set Dapper to generate an RSS feed just for, say, the ’games’ category if that’s what you want.
  • Publish your content: you could use Dapper to easily create a widget with content from your site for other bloggers to publish on their own sites.
  • Alerts: once you create your Dapp, you can ask Dapper to send you an alert whenever certain conditions are satisfied. For instance, you may set up an RSS Dapp from a certain political blog, but request that you be sent a special alert whenever the content of any post contains “Barack Obama” as an example.

The learning curve: if your style is to jump in and use a tool in order to learn it, like me, I would advise you to NOT do that and watch the tutorial video first; it will set you on the right track. My experience with this service is that it was a little intimidating to get to grips with at first, but no sooner had I used it to create a couple of Dapps than it all came together in my head.

Here are some more notes on this service:

  • Share Dapps: you can search for Dapps that other users have created that you may be interested in (all Dapps are tagged to make it easy to find what you’re interested in). When creating a Dapp, you can choose whether you want it to be publicly available or you like to keep it private.
  • Dapper offers a number of output formats including XML, RSS, Google Gadget, Netvibes Module, Google Map, iCalendar, Image Loop, CSV, JSON, XSL, YAML and email. My experience was restricted to XML and RSS so I cannot say much about these.
  • You can create Dapps that allow the enter multiple input variables. Ffor example, let’s say you used an ’advanced search’ form to search for (a) a certain keyword and (b) limit the results to stories posted after a certain date, you can set these to be user-defined variables that can be changed by the user later on without re-building the Dapp.
  • Setting fields: fields are user defined and can be as granular as you want. For example, if you were creating a Dapp from Freewaregenius content you might create a ’posting’ array out of an entire posting and that’s it, or you might create fields such as ’title’, ’rating’, ’version tested’, ’description’, and ’body text’ or any combination/variation of these (see the ’Dapp preview’ in the screenshot for an example).
  • When defining fields, Dapp does a great job automatically identifying all similar instances of it on the web page. It also offers a nice set of tools that help you hone in and/or filter fields. For example, if you’re trying to select a certain text as your field but find that the selection tool is grabbing more than what you want, there is a simple slider tool that you can use to tell it to select more or select less. Another tool I really like is the ’select inside’ tool that can filter a a text using what always comes before or after it (e.g. a row of text contains “Date: 4/5/2007 Author: Smith”, you can tell it to grab the content after “Date:” and before “Author:” in order to hone in on the date field).
  • I’ve found that although my RSS Dapps worked just fine with Google Reader and IE7’s built in RSS reader, for some reason they did not work with Klipfolio, my favorite widget engine.

The Verdict: this is an exciting and powerful tool that can enable you to filter and broadcast all manner of content from the internet filtered exactly the way you want it. For someone like me who is always searching the web for free software and services it is nothing short of a godsend. It is well designed in general so as to make the process of pinpointing and filtering content to create broadcastable Dapps both sophisticated and easy to do.

Go to the Dapper website.