Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Program Your Online Life with If This Then That (ifttt.com)

Lots of tools integrate websites together, but keeping track of which you use can be a hassle. If This Then That allows you to program dozens of services together so content management can be automated the way you want.
Posting from twitter to Facebook is pretty trivial, but what about sending an instant message directly to your WordPress blog or sending your starred Google Reader items to Instapaper? These examples are just some of the hundreds of tasks you can perform with If This Then That (ifttt).
If you’ve ever used Yahoo! Pipes, think of ifttt as the simplified alternative that makes sense.
Ifttt is broken up into tasks and channels, let’s review the basics so you can get started flinging your content around like a monkey flings poo.


Channels are the sources (this) and destinations (that) of content you want to integrate. After you sign up for an ifttt account, start by activating as many channels as you want to use. Currently there are 25 different channels with many more coming in the future.
Activated channels show up in color, while deactivated channels have greyscale icons.

A lot of the channels may be obvious what you can do with them, but others like SMS, Phone Call, and Weather you can click on the channel to explore what triggers and actions are available.
For example, the SMS channel has two triggers, sending any SMS message and sending a tagged SMS message. Each trigger will also have addins which helps further define when your task will run. We’ll look more into these when we build a task.

Actions are the other half of the equation. For SMS it makes sense that there is only one option, send an SMS message to your phone. We’ll explore actions more in the task building process.


Tasks are where the fun happens. To build a task click on Tasks in the top right corner and then the big Create Task button.

Next click on the channel you want to use for your trigger (this). If you haven’t activated the channel yet, you will have the opportunity to do so before continuing to the next step.
We’ll make a task with an SMS trigger, so we will select the SMS channel.

Now select the trigger you want to use. The task we’re making will used a tagged SMS.

Because of the trigger chosen, we will also be asked to specify which tag we will use in our SMS.

Now we move on to the action we want to perform, click “that” to select what channel you want to be the destination of your content.

Click on the channel of your choosing and then the action you want to use. For this example we will make a new Evernote note.

Now you can fill in the action fields with the title, body, notebook, and tags for your new note.
You can specify addins that will be included in your note. Addins are identified with two curly brackets. When your note is created, these addins will be replaced with the text/link they represent.
After you’re done, click create task at the bottom of the page.

Name your task and click create.

Finally let’s test our task by sending an SMS to ifttt with the tag #htg.

Currently tasks run automatically every 15 minutes and you can check the status of the task, disable, delete, and make changes on your tasks page.
As you can see, our task has been triggered one time so lets check Evernote to make sure everything ran as expected.

The note was create successfully in the notebook we wanted (ifttt sms), with the tags we wanted (htg, ifttt), and with the message body we wanted. I’d call that a success.


Now that you have created a task, you can see some of the power and flexibility of ifttt. Check out some of the community shared tasks called recipes. Recipes let you easily modify tasks that someone else created so it will use your channels and the addins you specify.
To add someone else’s task, click on recipes and browse the hundreds of pre-made tasks available. When you find a recipe you like, click on the arrow and modify it to your liking.

To share your own created tasks as a recipe, inspect your task on the tasks page and click create recipe.

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