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If This Then That

Posted on 21 December 2011

I’ve been doing some heavier posts lately, so here’s something lighter-weight. It’s highlighting a cool new service that I’ve found very useful and think deserves some attention.

If This Then That (henceforth ifttt) is a simple tool that let’s you tell the internet “If this happens, then make that happen.” It’s really straight-forward and well-designed, and you can learn more about it here.

I’ve enabled a few tasks, including archiving my Tweets and Foursquare check-ins on my Google Calendar account, but I’m going to highlight two of the more useful ones I’m using that are a bit more of a hack then the rest. First:

Automatically retweet @(user) when they use a specific #hashtag

This one I actually enabled for Daybreak North. CBC is moving more and more to having Twitter take on a central role in communicating with listeners, and everyone in the office has been moving towards using Twitter with more frequency. The problem is that while I my Tweet from my account and other people who work on the show will Tweet from theirs, it’s a bit of a hassle to have to everyone logging in and out of @DaybreakNorth to share news there as well (particularly when Tweeting from in-the-field, something that will happen with breaking news).

So I’ve enabled ifttt to automatically retweet all of us when we use certain hashtags. For me, it’s #cbc. If that hashtag goes in one of Tweets, it will trigger ifttt, and retweet from the @DaybreakNorth account automatically. This lets me live-tweet things like press conferences from my own account, and append #cbc to key decisions that go out to the wider followers of @DaybreakNorth.

#PrinceGeorge is Canada’s most dangerous city for second year in a row according to @MacleansMag. Based on 2010 stats. #cbc

— Andrew Kurjata (@akurjata) December 14, 2011

RT @akurjata: #PrinceGeorge is Canada’s most dangerous city for second year in a row according to @MacleansMag. Based on 2010 stats. #cbc

— CBC Daybreak North (@daybreaknorth) December 14, 2011

There’s a bit of a hack to doing this, since the default choices within ifttt are to either retweet EVERYTHING a certain user says (which would lead to DaybreakNorth repeating my thoughts on waking up super early) or a certain hashtag (which would mean anyone could trigger DaybreakNorth), but not the more specific retweet SPECIFIC users WHEN they use a hashtag. To do this, we have to go to the RSS feed provided by Twitter for users, and use that as the trigger. You can see how it works in the picture below– just replace the part that says “akurjata” with whichever username you want to pull from in your own version.

I actually have this enabled for @PGTransitAlerts as well, though I make it so anyone tweeting at it can share tips.

Automatically repost pictures natively across platforms

The other set-up that I absolutely love this service for is pictures. I have an Android phone, which means no Instagram. This isn’t a big deal since I very much like the Picplz app, which does much the same thing as Instagram, including posting pictures to multiple photo services. I take a picture, I share it to Picplz, and Picplz sends it to Flickr, Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter.

With Flickr and Tumblr this service works great. The pictures shows up exactly the same as it would if I were posting the picture directly to those services. But Facebook and Twitter leave something to be desired.

With Facebook, it’s the same problem facing Instagram and pretty much every third-party photo service. Instead of having the picture post to a Facebook album, it appears as a thumbnail with a link to the Picplz picture. This is fine, but Facebook recently enabled nice big displays of photos, and this gets lost using Picplz.

With Twitter, this is a problem specific to Picplz. Where Instagram and a number of other services will display directly within Twitter, Picplz (for some reason) does not– it’s just a link. If people want to see the picture, people have to leave Twitter.

Neither of these are a HUGE deal, but it would be nice to have the option of using Picplz to post photos as photos, rather than links. Enter ifttt.

You’ll notice here that we’ve go the Flickr logo going on, rather than Picplz. That’s because Picplz is not its own channel within ifttt (hopefully that will change). Not a big deal, though, because when Picplz posts to Flickr, it automatically tags the photo as “picplz”, and it’s that tag that we are using as the trigger. Whenever a new public photo tagged “picplz” is added to my Flickr account, it triggers Twitter to upload the same photo to its photo app, and Facebook to add the photo to one of its albums. I still only upload the photo once, but now rather than appearing on Facebook and Twitter as links to a photo, they appear as I want them to: as photos. You can see (and copy) the Facebook recipe here and the Twitter recipe here.

These two recipes are the killers for me– things that I’ve wanted to do for a while, but wasn’t able to until ifttt came along. There’s a ton of other recipes incorporating things like Tumblr, Craigslist, text, email, and weather forecasts, so I highly recommend you head over to the recipe-browsing section and check it out. It is a really, really cool service.

Filed under: how to, reviews, social media

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