Monday, 18 June 2012

Essential IFTTT (IfThisThenThat)

from Scott Hanselma's Blog
Essential IFTTT (IfThisThenThat) - Programming Workflows for Humans using the Web's Social Glue

*hat tip to Tim Dalton for turning me onto this in the first place!

Wow, every once in a while an app or website comes along that smacks me in the face. Not just a regular "Hey, that's cool" smack, but more of a "Duh, I should have made that and I would have had a license to print unlimited money and now those guys have already done it and no one will ever know my secret brilliance but they did it and I have no money but I should still tell everyone because they are awesome" smack in the face.
IfThisThenThat should be the next big thing on the social web. It's bloody brilliant.
Here's the dull description I made for nerds:
IFTTT is a cloud-based open-ended web workflow creator building on existing social APIs to create more sophisticated distributed aggregated tasks.
Here's my description for non-technical friend:
IfThisThenThat lets all your online stuff work together to do way more interesting stuff.
There are Channels, like Craigslist, Feeds, Twitter, etc. Those are places that data can come from or go to. There are triggers that a different for each kind of channel. One might be "the temperature goes over 100" or "I tweet something with a @mention" and then you can take action. You can combine them in any way you want.
Here's an example that I'll make right here as I blog. Let's say I want FourSquare checkins to show up in my Google Calendar. Didn't know you wanted to do that? ;) Oh, you do.
It's the magic of OAuth and the proliferation of nice, clean public APIs that makes this possible. As I add the FourSquare Channel to IFTTT, I authorize it to have access to my FourSquare data. I'm not giving them my FourSquare password, though, so I can always revoke access later if I like.
Any new checkin?
I'll select Any new check-in...then I'll select what to do from that same huge list of Channels:
What a huge list of channels!
I'll authorize Google Calendar in the same way, then the REALLY nice part shows up. Templated actions. Yes. I can add text from a dictionary of {{Addins}} (although I think that's a poor name from these {{Keywords}}, but whatever). This way I get complete control of what gets added.
Lots of Action Fields to choose from
I'm sure they'll include more documentation and details on what data is available to be passed between Channels.
Now, bask in the programming of it all. Bam.
If any new checkin on foursquare, add it to Google Calendar
Some examples are amazing in their elegant simplicity. Why is IFTT a great idea? Because it's an ideavirus. It fills a vacuum in your web experience you may not have even known existed. And now that you do, you won't be able to live without it.

If Scott blogs something, send the link to Instapaper to be read later

Hanselman to Instapaper IFTTT recipe

If MSFT stock goes above 30, email me.

Email me if our stock goes up

No, text me!

Text me if our stock goes up
That's better. Now, if I tweet something that is not a @Reply or RT, also post it to my Facebook Page:
Put new tweets on my Facebook Page

If I take any pictures and post them on Instagram, also save a copy in DropBox for me.

Download Instagram photos and save them in DropBox

Hey, you can do stuff with DropBox? Sometimes I find a file while on my phone but I can't download it. If I email you a link, save it to my DropBox, OK?

Save emailed links to DropBox

And, if I favorite something with a link, make sure to send a copy of that link to Instapaper.

Send twitter favorites to Instapaper
I know I tend to be hyperbolic, but this is cool like Yahoo Pipes was cool, except people without a PhD can use it. This is going to be huge.
There's a few interface quirks, like it's unclear how to make a new recipe (you make a task first, then click inspect task (an unlabeled arrow) there's an another unlabeled button that looks like a pharmacist's mortar and pestle (mixing UX metaphors between recipes and prescriptions) and you can create a recipe there.Still, these are nits. The workflows is there and I LOVE the giant iconography, clean typefaces, and above all, the sense of empowerment.
If you are on the interwebs and have a maze of social accounts, you need to seriously spend time time drinking in the wonder and the magic of IFTTT. It's gonna be massive. You heard it here. Now, go.
*hat tip to Tim Dalton for turning me onto this!

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