I’ll be frank: compiling the PowerPR index is a pain in the arse. It takes ages. So I looked into ways of automating this, and, lacking the technical expertise to devise any server-based solution that used APIs, came across The Easy Bee. It’s a great tool for compiling lists from disparate online sources, and as such could work for any PR pro trying to do such a thing. And lists – all lists, any lists – are used by PR people the world over.
There are several macro recording apps out there and I tried quite a few, but the Easy Bee was by far the easiest to use from the outset. It really is as simple as pointing the software at a web page, then clicking on the data you want to extract. From then on you can just repeat the action as and when you want, or schedule it. And it’s all done with the neat analogy of sending honey bees out to get the data, with a group of honey bees being called a hive. Nice.
So, I have several hives, one for Technorati Authority, one for Yahoo Inlinks, and so on. Within each hive I have all the separate PowerPR sites, which currently stands at just over 100. After setting these hives up I can just run them, meaning the queries are all refreshed (or, to use the quaint metaphor, all my honey bees go out to collect pollen), then I can extract that data and paste it into the PowerPR spreadsheet. In practice it’s not quite that simple as there’s not a really easy way to extract the data, so I print a report into a PDF, then take the data from that and put it into the spreadsheet.
However, as you go beyond the initial simple stuff and start using it for hundreds of queries, this point and click interface gets a bit clunky. You have to go through the same process for every entry even though all you’re changing is one part, so for example you have to go through the entire process for getting the Technorati Authority figure for The Friendly Ghost as you would, say, for Micropersuasion, even though all that’s different is the URL you’re querying against. And given that each query can take a couple of minutes to put together, cumulatively, over the 800 or so queries needed for the PowerPR index, it starts to get very laborious. I still haven’t managed to automate the whole of the PowerPR index. I know that when I have it’ll be a cinch to run the software and extract the data, but I really started wishing I could edit these macros at a command-line level.
Furthermore the software insists on ‘redrawing’ the hive every time you add an entry. Again, as the number of entries goes into the hundreds, this takes up unnecessary time. I’ve been in dialogue with the developer over this and at the end of the day it seems I’m using the software for something it wasn’t originally designed, but I do feel there are some good, practical and non-radical ways in which it could be improved to cater for more uses. Specifically, enable command-line editing of macros, make data reports easier to produce, and implement some sort of ‘turn off’ feature for the redraws.
But I digress: to point out the failings is to quibble. What it does, it does extremely well. You can even hire the software for around a tenner a month if you want to try it out first (there is a limited demo version too), and even though it’s not perfect for my needs, it does the job well enough so I’ve bought it.
I get the feeling the software is still under development to an extent, and that it will improve in future. I’ve offered to beta-test future versions and will be sending my list of possible improvement, and this raises an important point: the developer has answered my queries and been very helpful throughout. As a result, as with Similpedia, I’m a fan.
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