Quite simply, unless you are superman, covering such a broad area with one mind is going to be a massive challenge for anyone. So, how do you confront that challenge, because confronting your CEO with why you cannot be on top of everything operational is most likely a career limiting move.
So, how are we confronting the challenge?
Over the last few months we have investigated a number of options, some are still a work in progress, but we thought that perhaps if we share our current experiences, maybe the community of risk professionals could collaborate to improve these techniques. We have always said that unless you are a mind reader, then the only way to truly advance is through sharing and growing together.
So here are our current “tools of the trade” when it comes to finding risk and event data and our rating. Our criteria for rating was based on the following attributes:
- Frequency (real time alerts rated higher than delayed)
- Alerting (tools that provide you the alerts rather than having to go to a website)
- Rules (tools that provide the ability to write rules on the content)
- Cost (tools that are more inexpensive)
This is where our journey began to obtain information in a near-real time manner. Essentially, this is a service from Google that searches the internet but rather than you manually typing it in each morning, it automatically searches. The service has a number of options to either deliver the results to your email address or an RSS feed (so you can plug it in to your favourite reader). The service allows the alerts to be sent as they happen, daily or weekly.
We found these were great when the search terms you use are very clear and specific but it did become quite unmanageable to have sometimes up to 20 email alerts every day, essentially clagging up your inbox. The RSS approach was a little better for reducing email clogging, but unless you are reading your RSS feeds continually you generally miss quite a bit. The other issue was it searches every single site on the internet, which for some searches, such as natural disasters, will find every search with disaster in it. For those that use Twitter or Facebook you can understand the unnecessary data received due to the wide search criteria.
Yahoo Pipes (http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/).
Yahoo Pipes takes searching the internet to a new level, primarily due to the fact that you can bring in multiple specific sources that you select. This therefore eliminates those sources that are just not relevant to your topic. The rules engine within Yahoo Pipes is extensive and to be honest, sometimes a little mind boggling. You have to spend some time getting your head around the engine itself. It is a visual editor but underneath it, it has logic that needs to be understood to really utilise the tool. For an example, check out our Natural Disaster pipe (link).
Once you have nutted out the logic piece, which we leveraged from Adam L. (a member of the risk community), you can really get some high quality alerts. Unfortunately we have found a few issues with this service. Firstly, changes to feeds or feeds that have many entries can bring the Pipe undone (see the warnings on the pipe example above). Also, we just couldn’t get the Yahoo alerting function to work, And finally, when we connected Yahoo Pipes outputs to an RSS feed to then generate a near real-time alert or an RSS feed output, through Feedburner for example, the pipe would just not run. We always had to manually run the pipe.
So, great logical capability but it still has a way to go.
Apple Push Notifications (http://www.appnotifications.com/)
Apple Push notifications is clearly an Apple only service, for specifically the iPhone. This service essentially takes any RSS feed (which by the way Feed43.com allows you to create an RSS feed for any webpage), Twitter feeds,and Gmail and then sends it to an app on your phone near-real time.
Therefore, you can use the power of the two items above and then feed it into this service which sends an alert to your phone. It therefore doesn’t clog up your email and the app has the ability built in to remove alerts, either one by one, or removing all. And it does it almost instantly for the sites we have tested. The author does detail that certain RSS feeds do not allow instant alerting and therefore may block their service if not a certain type of RSS . Therefore in the case of these feeds, they are read at certain points during the day. So far, we have not noticed any major issues in delays.
We have been using this service for a few weeks now, feeding sites like earthquake alerts and weather alerts to our phones. Unlike the other two services, the App has a one off cost of approximately $5, but that is so minor compared to the fact it removes alerts from your email, doesn’t require you to have an RSS reader open and send the alerts to your phone, just like an SMS, with sound if you like. The app even allows you to turn off the sounds/alerting for a period (ie. when you are sleeping), which is fantastic.
At the moment, the main downside to this service is the lack of being able to emphasise certain alerts based on key words (saying that, the services above don’t do that either, so I guess we are just lifting the bar a little because it is delivering a great service). We are hoping that perhaps this functionality can be added in a release soon.