I Resolved to Give IFTTT a Try

Regardless if you’re examining your personal life or your professional habits, the New Year seems to stimulate a surge in organization and a renewed commitment to productivity. So naturally as I planned for this week’s iNACOL Midwestern webinar web 2.0 feature, I thought I’d share a webtool that lets you create lifehacks to do just that.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of you were already using IFTTT (pronounced like gift without the g).  IFTTT stands for If This Then That and it lets you effortlessly associate services–some of which otherwise would never talk to each other. The result can optimize everyday activities and automate the way you do things on the web. I resisted using it for a long time because I didn’t think it offered much more than my apps naturally had integrated in them…I was wrong.

IFTTTrecipeThere are two terms that are unique to IFTTT—channels and recipes. Essentially, IFTTT connects two apps or “channels” in nontraditional ways to form “recipes,” which define the “this” and “that” of the IFTTT equation. Each channel has specific triggers and actions that can be used interchangeably. Some offer just one or two triggers or actions, while others have a multitude of possibilities.

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Let’s begin with Channels. When you open your account, available but unused channels will be greyed out. As you can see, I have activated 22 channels, which then allows me to use these apps in recipes. Like any good cookbook, the Channel tab also provides you with a sample menu of recipes created using the selected app. You can also see an overview of each trigger and action available for that app.

Activating a channel means you are authorizing the IFTTT web app to access to your accounts in order to act on information received or to write to a private location. If you’d like to revoke IFTTT access from one of your accounts, it is recommended that you do so within the app itself rather than simply deactivating it on IFTTT.

Last summer, IFTTT released their iOS mobile app, which added several mobile–specific features allowing users to interact with their Photos, Contact, Reminders and Locations in new ways. I expect IFTTT to continue growing their channel offerings, which currently stand at 77.

Recipes are the conditional statements that you create, share or browse. I’d say “shop” but all of this is free! There are over a 100,000 shared recipes to browse using various search options in the site or through the app.

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 12.18.50 PMI’m not exactly sure how I came across this one, but I found it rather comical. I was even more amused when I saw that it had been used over a thousand times in the last month! Now, while the Area 51 recipe seems a bit ridiculous to me, it did make me realize that I could use IFTTT to help me manage a Digital Learning Day Photo Challenge I’m launching in February. The challenge invites students across the state of Indiana to post hashtagged photos showing what digital learning looks like on the social media of their choice. I’m really excited to see how I can channel photos posted from various sites such as Instagram, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ into one photo blog.

That alone was motivation to create an IFTTT account. After I activated a few channels, I clicked “CREATE” at the top and worked my way through seven short steps to create my first recipe. It’s a simple one that triggers an 11 a.m. text message asking if I’ve started drinking water yet today.

I’ve been checking out other’s blog posts to find creative ways to incorporate Diigo, LinkedIn, Google Drive, and other tools I use on a daily basis. I’ve linked some of my best finds at the end of this post. One of my favorite recipes will allow me to cross post from a Pinterest board to my Facebook Page rather than to my Facebook profile; something neither of those tools will allow me to do through their platforms.

You can have as many recipes active as you’d like. I actually have a recipe to get a new Recommended Recipe in my inbox every day.  Who knows what will inspire me next?

Since my youngest is nearly thirteen, I will be preparing a few special recipes when she gets her first social media accounts. Topping my list is “Text me when an Instagram user makes a post.” Now, I certainly could plan to check her account daily or periodically throughout the week, but this assures me nearly instantaneous notification-and increases my chance of catching a lapse in good judgment before it’s too late.

Now that I’ve warmed up with a few recipes, I’m going to explore with the RSS feed to workaround the fact that Google+ is not yet an IFTTT channel. I can think of a few automations that would be useful there!

Learn more on your own:
School Library Journal’s Life Hacking with IFTTT | screencast tutorial
Supercharge Your eBook Reading with IFTTT 
See how English teacher Catlin Tucker puts IFTTT to work
The Assistive Technology Blog has some other interesting ways parents or caregivers can put IFTTT to use.
There may not be a Pinterest Channel, but that hasn’t stopped users from creating these recipes!