Wouldn’t it be sweet if you just got an email when something newsworthy happens? Wouldn’t that make your job easier? Well, have we got news for you.

Today’s release, PANDA beta 2, has an awesome new feature: search notifications. Think of it like a Google News search: Go to PANDA and search for something. Check the box that says you want emails, and your PANDA will send you an email when there are new results for your search!

How does it work?

Every night, PANDA looks at everybody’s saved searches and checks for new results. New results may have arrived because somebody uploaded a new spreadsheet — like the demo below — or because your team set up an automatic way to load in new data, like a nightly screen scraper.

Any PANDA search can become a notification. You can get notifications for PANDA-wide searches (lemme know if “Blagojevich” shows up in any data set) or for searches on a specific dataset (and let me know about every campaign contribution to “Quinn“ and greater than $100,000).

Give the new hotness a try at demo.pandaproject.net, and learn how to set up your own PANDA at pandaproject.net. (Note: Email is disabled on the demo server, but you can still experiment with the notifications interface.)

For further inspiration, watch Ben Welsh’s excellent talk on human-assisted reporting.

What’s it look like?

In this example, I’ve created a dataset of contributions to Washington-state political candidates.

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The dataset is updated monthly. I have uploaded the spreadsheets for January and February of 2012.

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Against this dataset I’ve run a search for “Costco,” a large, Washington-based company.

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The results include employees of Costco, as well as a few examples of goods purchased at the store being donated. Next I click the “Get email notifications of new results” button in the previous picture.

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My new subscription is now visible on my user page.

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Now let’s say that a month has passed and it’s time to upload March’s data. Maybe this is my job, or maybe it’s some one else’s — who uploads the data doesn’t matter for search notifications.

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Unsurprisingly, March also saw some contributions by Costco employees. Overnight my search notification runs, and in the morning I have an email linking to the new results.

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Following the first link in that email takes me to a search results page showing the new contributions matching “Costco” in the month of March.

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Note that I could have also used column filters in my search. For instance, I could have searched for contributions over a certain dollar amount. Or, I could have set up the search to find references to “Costco” in any dataset uploaded to PANDA.

Time flies

We’ve only got a little time left in our grant — so sad! To make sure we kick butt until the last dollar is spent, the PANDA posse got together last month to sort out a plan. We combed through lots of emails and feedback from our beta testers (thanks!) and wrote up “a prioritized list of features”:“https://github.com/pandaproject/panda/wiki/Features%2C-prioritized” to do as we storm to 1.0.

Please let us know what you think on the PANDA Project user group!