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Show HN: I made an alternative to Google Alerts that listens to social media (pmalerts.com)
261 points by fstopmick on Nov 20, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 107 comments

This is really, really cool. And I love the home page! Being able to see results before signing up is great.

I'm not a potential customer right now, but the text on the pricing page "If you find a payment bug (incorrect charges, broken UI, etc), let me know and I'll give you the full version of PMAlerts for free, for life." would absolutely give me pause.

A simple addition if you're actually dealing with payment issues would be to add "I'll make sure your billing is straightened out ASAP - and never charge you more if you've been undercharged."

But ultimately, get your payment system functioning ASAP. I would not be comfortable putting my card info into a system that tells me ahead of time it might have bugs.

I very much appreciate the candid feedback, cmg. I'll update the copy now.


Maybe push the security aspect? Have a tier be “bug bounty” and add something like “PM alerts are for users only. Report a bug and get a free version, for life”

I like this a lot. I'll incorporate it - thank you!

Nice work. Have you considered creating a page/blog post the explains how you've used your own tool to find paying customers? Doing that would provide a ton of value I think:

1. You'll (hopefully) find new customers

2. By using your own tool regularly, you'll gain invaluable insight into UX issues and new feature ideas.

3. Potential customers on your site would get to read through a play by play story about somebody successfully using your tool to drive business results. Basically a meta case study.

I LOVE this thinking. I have a small write-up about "how I'm using PMAlerts to drive growth for PMAlerts" here:


But it's not presented as a formalized case study and doesn't provide the value you're proposing (to me or others). I'll do it!

Congrats on your Show HN!

I absolutely liked your copy.

Is karma.fm one of your side projects too?

Thanks very much! And yes it is - I'm using PMAlerts to learn how to listen, and Karma is teaching me how to think and write (though it's a bit less mature)

Do you plan to post about karma.fm when it comes out of alpha?

I'd be interested in the Zettelkasten and second brain examples under "How can Karma help me?"

Yes, for sure. If you'd like to help me nail down the MVP for this, feel free to send an email (m@pmalerts.com). Would love to have some company over there.

Nice, you have the foundation there which is great.

I'd also recommend making the faq table of contents into clickable links.

On it, thank you lprubin.

When trying to set up an Hourly alert on a free account it says "Please _register_ your account to ...". Apparently, it's a $10/mo feature, so you may want to reword the message to explain that and also link respective part of the price list from the message itself.

Also, "Purchase Upgrades" button is not clickable - https://i.imgur.com/uIyrIFv.gif

PS. I'm curious to see how well it works, but from what I saw so far - well done, break a leg. Saying this as a user of Talkwalker and F5Bot ;)

Ack, thanks for the heads up RE the "register" copy. Just pushed a fix.

Edit: RE the Upgrade button - once that 0 goes to nonzero, it should work. It's poor design on my end, I'll improve the UX asap. Thanks for trying it out, and for the feedback :).

How does it monitor results on Facebook? AFAIK the api is closed down for this - it's possible to get content only for a single authorized user.

Hi everyone - just wanted to drop a message here in case you sent me an email and I haven't responded yet.

First - thank you for the super supportive and encouraging vibes here, and for the candid feedback. Really, really appreciate how many improvements are going to be attributed directly to you.

Second - sorry for the delayed responses. I'm working through emails / messages / comments and promise to get back to you - I just don't want to rush through bugfixes and conversations, so it might take longer than I'd like.

Third - There have been a few reports of email verification breaking, and also of features not being fully enabled with Early Adopter subscriptions. This is my bad - the email verification flow didn't take into account case-insensitivity. Should be fixed now (for anyone impacted, you should have a new verification link in your inbox). Features should also be enabled by EOD today - the complexity of feature-by-feature upgrades is coming back to bite me now.

Fourth - I've authored a couple more notes to answer questions that have popped up:

Bizdev strategy / vision: https://www.karma.fm/p/SdjVjdj/the-pmalerts-strategy

How closely does PMAlerts listen?: https://www.karma.fm/p/rk3HI4d/how-closely-is-pmalerts-liste...

Thank you again,

- mick

Hey Mick, really great tool and super useful, here are my bits of feedback: 1: When you customize what websites you want to listen to, you should also be able to customize what language you want to include/exclude (where I work, there is a univeristy in Italy with the same name, so google alerts floods my email with Italian website mentions, but they aren't actually relevant to us) 2: When I signed up, I got a message that said "something bad happened", the wording is a little alarming right after giving information, and it doesnt give any more info on what I can do/ where to go to fix things. It stopped giving that alert once I unchecked "custom". Like I said, awesome tool, keep it up!

Hi, you should hide elements with CSS instead of with JS, following is visible on visiting the page with JS disabled.

"A confirmation link has been sent to your email. If you register and confirm your email, you can skip this step."

Thanks for the heads up about this

For anyone curious about the services being used to support platform polling, I'm using serpapi.com for the Custom and LinkedIn options on PMAlerts. I highly recommend experimenting with this service - lots of potential gets unlocked as soon as you work around arbitrary scraping limitations that Google throws up. Plus, Julien from serpapi is awesome and super accessible.

How are you getting the data from Twitter and Facebook?

Not OP, but they stated for Twitter they use LinqToTwitter (.NET), for Facebook is a custom { hack } to acomplish.

I really like this! If you don't mind sharing, how much time roughly was spent from the time you wrote the first line of code and until this launch? I'm curious about these things.

Thanks very much! The prototype was a console application I built a little under a year ago (Jan 2020). I've been chipping away at it on nights and weekends since then... maybe about 10 hours per week on average (some none, some double). So ~10 full-time weeks? 9 too many

Nice work! You mentioned you are using serpapi in one the response below. Are you simply fetching results from Google or are you also using some other ways to monitor these sites like Facebook, Reddit and others natively. I would be curious to understand how you implemented it.

Thank you! Most platforms have a combination of "poll via search engines" and "poll natively". Native polling mirrors the functionality of performing a keyword search using the platform's search functionality.

Hey, welcome to the club. I'm working on Syften.com.

I'm focused on helping startups engage in conversations, so I try to send the notification within one minute. Here for example is how I used Syften to grow Syften by an additonal $640 ARR from one Reddit comment: https://syften.com/blog/post/one-comment-640-arr/ . It also has features like being notified when someone replies to you on Hacker News.

PS. I'm wondering, how in the world can you monitor GitHub? There is no API that I know of. Surely you don't scrape the entire GitHub every minute?

Pleasure to connect, and congrats on the success! I envy your alert times :).

I actually don't scrape all of GitHub (or any platform)... I just simulate a user performing a keyword search and share new results.

I love the fact the you've spent time focusing on onboarding.

Most SaaS companies onboarding workflow these days is:

- Describe what they're about - Ask for a sign-up before you even have the chance of using/interacting with the product

It's always seemed strange to me that the normal SaaS flow forces users to blindly commit... I want you to fall in love without any coercion. It's more romantic that way

If you're taking feature requests, I have one for you:

Let me filter the alerts. For example, I want an alert every time "foo" (a topic) comes up on social media. However, some fool just named their startup "foo", and now all searches for "foo" the topic are polluted with material about "foo" the startup.

So maybe let me set up alerts for "foo -finance -money -banks" because the topic is about gardening and the startup is in the financial services sector.

Ooh this is implemented! If you click on "Filters" at the top of any selected alert, you'll see options for keyword filtering, username filtering, and domain filtering. The UI/UX is a bit immature, so if you use it and have any feedback, I'm happy to address whatever friction you hit.

Ooops, not sure how i missed that. Thanks!

It's like https://www.sprinklr.com but 1,000-4,000x cheaper (seriously).

Love the homepage.

EDIT: Question, I just tried the demo out on some very popular terms (e.g. "google", "Microsoft", etc) - it appears results are only returned for Twitter. If I unselect Twitter, "no results found".

Just an FYI in case that's not intended behavior.

And I guess it's also like youtube-dl in the sense that it needs to continuously fight updates and/or banning from the sites it wants to download from.

yeah, it's not as fixed-cost as I'd hoped

Have you considered open-sourcing the libraries that fetch content from these platforms? You could build an entire community that helps you maintain the code ...

I haven't, mostly because I'm scared of the liability. My code is pretty sketchy for everything but Twitter, and for that I use LinqToTwitter (.NET) which is already OSS (and amazing).

Yeah - the onboarding flow (insta-results) only supports Twitter. Other platforms are polled run on a recurring basis and take ~10 minutes to show results, so when you create an alert you'll see stuff from other places. I need to make that clear on the onboarding flow - it's a UX bug. Thanks very much for the feedback and love.

Also on the site itself, because I did not realize that at all! Good to know!

I know that one of my sites is mentioned on one of the services that is not twitter, and not seeing it in the preview results gave me pause.

Nice site otherwise, best of luck!

Ok yeah that's a clear need - set expectations that results from other platforms take a few to show up. Thanks for the push to correct

Really nice tool! Couple things I'm running into:

1. I registered on my laptop, opened account verification email on my phone. Verification link says I'm verified, laptop say's I'm not even after logging out/in.

2. It says 5 alerts are free, but at 3 alerts I'm presented with a message stating I've reached my limit.

3. Last pass doesn't seem to like the email field on sign in. It won't autofill it :(

I'm hearing similar feedback from others on all three items - if you shoot me your email to m@pmalerts.com I'll upgrade + verify you manually while I troubleshoot. Thanks for confirming these, and sorry for the headache!

Nice tool, just in time I sought an alternative to Google Alerts, because they filter out most stuff and are biased towards bigger/news portals.

For now something is not quite right, whatever I search for, I only get results for Twitter and when I uncheck Twitter, I get nothing.

It'd be also cool to search by language (or would site:pl work to filter by TLD?)

I find Google Alerts great, my only problem is that it picks spammy news/blog sites that keep reposting the same or similar content from press releases in various domains. Flagging as irrelevant doesn't help: There too many of these "blogs".


If you're curious about how PMAlerts addresses this and other Google Alerts shortcomings, I wrote a small piece about that here: https://www.karma.fm/p/0SZfbtW/9-reasons-why-you-should-stop...

Ack! The onboarding flow only works with Twitter right now, but once you create an alert all platforms will be polled (though some will be polled via search engines until I can fund native search, like LinkedIn). I should add a disclaimer to the onboarding UI...

site:TLD filtering is sort of in place right now but it's not obvious... you can select the "Custom" platform and then use that site:tld syntax (or any syntax supported by Google). Lmk if you run into any issues there, that's a relatively new feature.

Language / geography filtering is on the backlog! hopefully to be funded by paying customers.

Thanks for trying it out!

Love the pricing model and the UX is nice. Three small things I noticed during sign-up:

1. Please let me sign-up from the pricing page. At least on my phone I couldn't find a direct link or button.

2. The "Save Upgrades" button is annoyingly sticky on my iPhone.

3. Email doesn't autofill.

Otherwise registering and adding an alert was smooth. Well done!

Thank you!!! Will address each of these, hopefully by the weekend depending on dayjob demands. Don't hesitate to let me know of any other friction points - I'm aiming for frictionless

This looks super cool, I just signed up :) FYI, the verification email landed in my spam folder.

Thanks for the heads up, others have said the same. Someone shared some deliverability tips with me that I'll be implementing asap.

I've also had issues with deliverability. Please share what you learnt about this if you don't mind me asking.

I love the idea. Does this support searching for links to a specific domain? I tried adding my personal blog (without the http:// prefix) and no results showed up.

Thanks nyellin - and for sure! If you used the onboarding flow or "result preview" functionality, you'll only see recent Twitter results. But if you create an alert for your personal blog and select "Custom" along with other platforms, you'll be notified whenever someone drops your link AND (important) it isn't shortened by something like bitly.

Man, this on-boarding is slick! well done.

Thank you!! That's all attributable to early adopter feedback, but I'll take the credit :)

Awesome! I'm digging this. I also like how the features are tiered. You might want to make a chart showing what features are under what tier, but it's not overly confusing.

I'm super on the fence about my pricing page, to be honest. Would you rather have just a standard three-tier Personal / Startup / Enterprise plan (3 choices), instead of granular control that confronts you with a $numberOfFeatures choices?

Nice work! I'd love something that alerted me to mentions in Discord servers. Not sure if that's doable without having a bot in every server.. but I'd pay for that.

Hmmm... I could have a setting for PMAlerts integrations (slack, teams, discord, zoom) that configures it to not only feed alert results into the app, but to listen to that server's contents for you and only you. A bit tricky with privacy implications, but technically feasible. I'll have a think on it - thanks for the love.

Cool, just signed up! Transitioning my Zapier-powered twitter alerts over. Love the thought you've put into this, like ability to hide results authored by certain usernames.

Woohoo! Email is m@pmalerts.com if you need anything (a bit behind at the moment, but I generally aim for responses within a day). Would love to connect + learn more about your use-case and general needs/challenges in this space.

This is slick! I could see using this for one of my own projects. How do you get the data? Are you using the official apis or are you 'scraping'?

Twitter results use their official API, otherwise I crackle sounds can't he- crackle what?.. call disconnected

Curious how scalable is this service? When services will start throttling/blocking your calls?..

Everything "legit" scales along with the cost of API access

Everything else scales along with the cost of outsourcing that risk to services located outside of the US (like serpapi.com) who implement lots of proxies and workarounds

I'm not sure if there will be margins, so if it scales, it'll have to be very cost-consciously

Great product!! Super simple to onboard, cheap and very useful. What service are you using from sending Emails and Text notification?

Thanks uberneo! I'm using Sendgrid for emails (looking to switch to something with high deliverability, high trust, and easy analytics if you have any suggestions!) and Twilio for texts (super friendly SDKs).

Postmark is great for sending transactional email with high deliverability.

If, like me, you clicked this expecting to find a tool that would aggregate posts from social media for their own consumption, not as a business intelligence tool, let me recommend https://fraidyc.at/.

I'm floored with this app. Well done!!!

If you don't mind me asking...how did you manage to scrape linkedin?

Thank you! Right now LinkedIn results show you what you'd see from a timeboxed google search, like "ryanr site:linkedin.com", but this will change once I have either 1) time to implement deep native polling, or 2) a service that does it for me (high confidence in 2 becoming available soon).

Cool tool! I added it to our slack and did a /pmalerts a couple of times in a channel (twice I think) without first inviting your bot to that channel and I got A LOT (10+) of messages from the bot. Seems like something's a little off there.

Hey Kevsim - thanks for the heads up and sorry about that - that's a familiar bug that I thought was fixed. I'll try to repro, would love to connect via email to confirm any attempted fixes - m@pmalerts.com

Anyway to plug in sentiment analysis ? I would love for you to run this through IBM Watson or something so I can see if people are saying positive things about my brand

Yeah, I'm super excited to build this out.

I'm admittedly overeager to build and am not very good at building financially sustainable projects, so I told myself I'd fund this feature with revenue from paying customers. ($0MRR right now)

In the meantime, you can use webhooks to push results into your own sentiment analysis flow. That's supported (and free).

Charge people up-front for this.

Watson is very expensive after all.

Alternatively you can use an npm module to determine basic sentiment https://www.npmjs.com/package/sentiment

I'm very curious how this is built, I've created something like this myself using a combination of tools. (huginn, rss-bridge, searchx, etc.)

Huginn author here (alerted by huginn to this post!) and I'd also like to know how it's implemented.

Nice work! Definitely a more complete complement to f5bot

Thank you swlkr

There's https://brand24.com/ that might do something similar

I’m really keen to see how LinkedIn alerts work, I’d love to plug into this by API for our clients. Email in my profile if you’d like to chat?

Absolutely, shooting an email over now!

If anyone here on HN wants it for free, just let me know via m@pmalerts.com and I'll give you an early adopter subscription (full product, free for however long it's around).

Wow. That's really generous. I could see myself one day using this, but don't have a use for it now. When I do, this is definitely a product I would happily pay for, and, if and when, will.

Super appreciate that sentiment. That's what I'm going for - 1) build something valuable, default to freemium 2) pave a clear path to free for those in need 3) have faith in voluntary reciprocation of value

I am surprised why no one thought about it? Awesome!

Oh I don't want to pretend to be original here. mention, brand24, awario, and lots of other "social listening" solutions exist. I'm just particularly interested in building SaaS products on top of a business model that's designed to redistribute wealth from megacorps to people-in-need, so I don't mind playing copycat until I can fund true originality :p

Are you using public/legit APIs for all these services? Seems like you might be at risk for TOS violation for at least a couple.

Twitter is legit, otherwise I plead the 5th. I do outsource this risk (and pay for that), so stability shouldn't be an issue unless there's a broad and deep crackdown on everyone who scrapes, which I think is unlikely given recent sentiment around the issue: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22180559

But it is a risk. Serpapi.com is helping me a lot with that - give them a tinker!

What do you mean by “outsource the risk”?

I mean I hope that if I pay someone else to harvest my drugs and I don't know how they do it, then I have some level of plausible deniability, but that just went out the window

Really well done, slick onboarding, nice and simple UI, pricing page makes sense. Good work!

The header of your website is sticky and takes up half the height of my screen.

Gah, the mobile UX is pretty horrible right now. I'll prioritize it, thank you bzb6

Do I have to disclose my passwords or open my accounts for pmalerts to work?

No you don't! You can use PMAlerts without even providing your email if you'd like.

Quick feedback, on mobile the header takes up about half of the viewport

Yeah, I'm a garbage developer, mobile needs some work. I'll prioritize this - thank you for the heads up

No I think you did a great job here! Just helping out :)

Looks nice!

I'm giving it a try on one of our projects.

Thanks Chris! My email is m@pmalerts.com if you hit any snags or want to share more about your particular needs/goals. Happy to chat.

my antivirus blocked this page

I will signup as well! If I can I always looking for a ways to avoid Google products and support smaller business and creators. I think its time for changes.

a sentiment I wholeheartedly embrace

Wow, this is really cool! I especially love how you can see results before signing up!

Thanks for the love!

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