Use Ifttt to Make the Internet Work for You

If you’re anything like me, you have a whole lot of online accounts to manage. Between Facebook, Twitter, my blog, Delicious, and various RSS feeds I check, it can be hard to manage. I like to share links everywhere, which can get a bit repetative if I want to post on several accounts. I also like to stay informed as easily as possible. Luckily, a new web app called ifttt plans to quell those woes.

ifttt is short for “if this then that,” and it’s a service that allows you to create tasks to perform some action based on an event that happens. For example, you can have a task that posts a link to your Facebook account whenever your add a link to Delicious. IF a link is added to Delicious, THEN post it to Facebook. It’s that simple, and can be very powerful!

Tasks, Channels, Triggers, and Actions

if this, then that

ifttt allows you to create tasks using channels, triggers, and actions. The task itself is the who shabang. You getting a text message because the temperature dropped would be an example of the task. This is the entire, “if this then that” statement.

The trigger is the first part of our task — the “this” part. The trigger can be anything from posting a link on Facebook, to text messaging ifttt, to a time of the day, week, month, or year. This part of the task causes (or…triggers) the second part of the task- the action.

Our action (the “that” part of the task) is whatever you want to happen once the trigger is activated. Again, this can be anything from sending a tweet, or texting, IMing, or calling you. Both the triggers and actions are based on the channels that ifttt has to offer.

ifttt's Channels

Channels are the services and devices that you can add to your ifttt account. ifttt has 23 channels for users to connect with. They include websites like Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Tumblr, and services like RSS, Phone Calls, SMS, Google Talk, and more (see the above screenshot). Each of these channels has a set of triggers and actions associated with them.

Using ifttt

ifttt Dashboard

ifttt has a dead simple interface that allows you to create up to 10 tasks using any of their 23 channels. From your account homepage you can see the number of tasks you have created and which channels you currently have activated, as well as a link to create a new task or get a detailed list of your current tasks. If you want details on a specific channel, you can click the Channels link and then click on the icon you want to know more about. This will give you a detailed list of all the triggers and action of that particular channel, as well as “add-ins.”

Add-ins are the descriptors used in your actions. For example, if you post a link to Delicious that you also want to post to Facebook, you’d use Delicious’ {{Notes}} add-in as the message when you create a Facebook link post action.

Now that you’ve got the terminology down, let’s create a task.

Creating a Task

The process of creating a task on ifttt is incredibly easy since ifttt walks you through the entire process. To create a task, we simply click the “Create a task” button on our account homepage. We are then brought to this page:

Create a Task

Clicking on “this” will allow us to set up out trigger. In this example, we’ll set up a simple SMS reminder for a TV show. From out list of triggers, we select the “Date & Time” icon. If it’s not activated, ifttt will ask you to activate it. With the Date & Time activation, you’re choosing your timezone. With other websites or services, it will be authenticating your account or giving ifttt permission to access certain infomation about your account.

Once we activate the Date & Time channel, we are given a few triggers to choose from.

Triggers for Date & Time

We’re going to set up a weekly reminder for one of my favorite TV shows, 30 Rock. Select the “Every weekday at” trigger to go to the next step, which is choosing the date and time. Here in the USA, 30 Rock airs every Thursday at 10pm. Once we select the proper date and time (I chose 9:45PM), click the “Create Trigger” button to move on

The times are in military time (0-23), so make sure you don’t accidentally set the trigger for 9:45AM.

Create the Action

Now it’s time to create the action. Click on “that” to display all of the channels that have actions associated with them. We’re going to set up a SMS reminder. Click on the SMS channel. Again, you may be asked to active your cell phone with a PIN ifttt sends to you. Once you do that, you’ll be able to choose the, “Send me a text message” action. Here we’ll construct our text message.

Setting up the SMS Action

The Date & Time trigger has some default add-ins, which you can change using the drop down box to the right. Once you have the message you want, click “Create Action.” You’ll then be given the option to include a description of the task (for your own use); then click “Create & turn on.” You’ll now get a text message every Thursday at 9:45PM!

ifttt Notes & Wishlist

ifttt is still in beta, and is currently invite only while they continue to test and add new features. With that, here are some things to keep in mind when using ifttt:

  • Right now, it’s invite only. You can request an invite here
  • ifttt checks for triggers every 15 minutes (at :00, :15, :30, :45). Because of this there may be some time between the trigger and the action.
  • You can create up to 10 tasks. My guess is that there will be a pro account where you’ll be able to purchase unlimited accounts.
  • It looks like ifttt has an API in the works, which will be great for creating your own features or adding in your own websites. Speaking of…

There are also some features I’d love to see:

  • Multiple Account Support: This is especially important for Twitter (for me at least). I have a couple of accounts I’d like to manage, and managing them all in the same place is pretty important.
  • Facebook Page Support: Similarly, I have several pages attached to my Facebook account I’d like to automate posting for.
  • WordPress Support: Having WordPress support (both wordpress.com and self-hosted) would be awesome, and could seriously lighten my plugin load for services like auto-tweeting posts and adding posts to Facebook.
  • Google Calendar/iCal Support
  • Adding an AM/PM for Date & Time: I know this seems trivial, but I will definitely forget to convert to the proper time every time I use the Date & Time Channel.

Task Ideas

The possibilites for ifttt uses are endless (if they do offer a pro account, I could definitely justify that purchase for the right price). With over 200 combinations of triggers and actions, you can automate a good part of your online life. Here are some ideas I’ve come up with (and use):

  • Phone, IM, Email, or SMS reminders
  • Automatically post a link to Twitter when you add a link to Delicious (insert any of the social network channels here)
  • Get a text message when there is a change in the weather
  • Use the RSS channel to automatically send new posts from a blog to Instapaper or Read it Later
  • Email notification when a new post is added to craigslist
  • Get a text when a stock changes
  • Get a text when your Facebook profile changes (this is a nice feature if you have friends that mess with you!
  • Automatically post new photos on Facebook to Flickr
  • Text news headlines using the RSS and SMS channels
  • Fake a call at a specific time (I don’t really recommend this for important stuff, but the posibility is there)

Conclusion

Even in its early stages, ifttt is a pretty powerful tool to help keep your online life in sync. I’m using it primarily for social networking, but between emails, calls, and SMS, I can use it to stay informed and on top of things like the news, weather, stocks, etc. Plus, the dead simple interface makes the user experience easy and enjoyable. If you can get your hands on an invite, I highly recommend checking it out!


Summary

ifttt puts the internet to work for you by creating tasks that fit this simple structure: "if this then that." Think of all the things you could do if you were able to define any task as: when something happens (this) then do something else (that).

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