Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Blogging and web automation - #IFTTT

For several years now I've been using a web automation service called "If This Then That (ifttt.com). This streamlines my blogging process and makes me much more productive. Let me explain; IFTTT allows you to set up trigger events across a range of web services that you commonly use: Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, various blogging platforms, Evernote, Instagram and many more (check out all the "channels" IFTTT supports). When a new event is detected by IFTTT it can generate an action in one of its supported channels. Data from the triggering event can be used in the resulting action. For example, a new Gmail with a particular keyword in the subject line might cause a blog post to be created in WordPress with the text from the mail's message.
   
Here's how I use IFTTT when I blog. First, where do I get stories that I may want to blog about from? These can come from my Twitter feed (I follow a lot of techies), Google+ (ditto), CurateMe - a news aggregation service that sends me an email every morning with stories on computer science and A.I., Flipboard, which I read on my iPad and iPhone and the WWW in general. If I'm reading on my computer then I'll clip an interesting article using Evernote's WebClipper browser extension. If I'm reading on my iPad or iPhone then I'll send the article to Pocket. Now IFTTT kicks in. 
    When it detects a new Evernote note (tagged with the term "blog") or a new Pocket item (also tagged "blog") it automatically creates a draft post on The Universal Machine blog in Blogger. I may also manually decide to "flick" an interesting Flipboard story to my Universal Machine Flipboard magazine (currently Flipboard isn't supported by IFTTT). Ok, so now I'll have several draft blog posts in Blogger. I will then (maybe the following day) go into Blogger and look at the drafts. One of them I'll decide will be the day's post. This I will edit as necessary and publish.
   
Blogger then automatically generates a Google+ post about my new blog post and now IFTTT really does some heavy lifting. Blogging is pointless if nobody knows about new posts; so, IFTTT tweets the title and URL of the new blog post to my followers. It also posts to the Universal Machine's Facebook page. IFTTT then copies the post to another Blogger blog I run for my work on computer science. IFTTT updates my LinkedIn status with the new post and copies the post to four other blogging services: Delicious, Storify, Tumblr and WordPress just because it can. All of this is done automatically, with no input or effort from me, once I click "publish" in Blogger.
   So there you have it, my blogging process considerably enhanced by using IFTTT. If your web automation needs are more sophisticated then Zapier may be for you. It supports about 250 different web services and the event triggers and resulting actions are more sophisticated and detailed than IFTTT. However, it is not a free service. Read a comparison of automating web actions with the two apps: IFTTT and Zapier here. I highly recommend you check out web automation services to help you become more productive.