ifttt: such a simple app, so useful

Some privacy concerns I have with it are mentioned at the bottom of this post, but for the most part I’ve found ifttt to be a very handy web app. It solved one of the problems Google created when they revamped Reader several months ago.

Like many users, I was very unhappy with the Google Reader changes. I subscribe to hundreds of columns, blogs and alerts via RSS, then scan the headlines in GR for items I want to read in full. GR allowed me to mark articles I found interesting (from my RSS feeds or from anywhere on the web) and post it to my feed/page with just one click. Also through the GR interface I was able to share and see/comment on (or vice versa) items that friends marked interesting in their feeds, so I got exposed to a range of interest areas.

But after carefully building up this content chugging service and community – which was different from my twitter, facebook or bookmarking networks – Google killed it without notice!, presumably to force users into sharing on their G+ platform.

There are probably myriad ways to recreate the above setup. Unfortunately most are beyond my tech-unsavvy abilities, especially since the baby allows me much less time these days to tinker on the web. I still miss those lost GR functionalities though (sharing articles with friends and having an RSS feed for the posts I found interesting), so this weekend I dedicated some time to investigate options.

On the first problem I simply lost that network and slowly had to migrate back to Twitter – not ideal since now my attention is divided between two services instead of GR being my one go-to platform for consuming media. On the second problem I now use Tumblr to get an RSS feed of my collection of posts; there’s a “Send To” feature from GR which sends articles to Tumblr. But some mobile devices don’t allow this.

Enter the handy tool ifttt.com. So simple it’s incredibly useful. It allows you to write macros across different web apps in this format: If This Then That. Given certain triggers on your specified channels, a set of actions can be activated by ifttt on other channel(s). In my case, when I mark an article interesting (eg star it in Google Reader), ifttt grabs that article and posts it to my Tumbler. There are hundreds of formulas, with many pre-made on the site. It’s a great tool, and I’m playing with it a lot right now.

  • If there’s snow in the forecast, send a text to my phone.
  • If someone tags me in a Facebook photo, call me plus download that photo to a dropbox file (helps you track and keep your image clean)
  • If I favorite a tweet, send it to Evernote.
  • Apartment Therapy illustrates how ifttt can help jobseekers scour jobs sites for relevant posts.

Note on privacy concerns, though: I don’t know how much data ifttt can mine when it’s allowed access to, say, your Google and Tumblr accounts. Plus, the more channels you give ifttt access to, the better you’re centralizing a data trove of your life!

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