Near the end of 2010 a great little tool was launched called ifttt – the clever abbreviation of ‘if this then that’. Its purpose is to connect together all the different online services it can or, as they phrase it, ‘put the internet to work for you‘. I managed to get a beta invite to use the service shortly after it launched and since then I have been constantly using it to make my life that much easier.
I started with using a simple task that would send any of my blog posts to Twitter & Facebook. A short while later I discovered that I can see weather forecasts using the tool, so now, whenever it is going to rain the following day, I receive an SMS with a link to more details about the next day’s weather (how rad is that?). If you have a quick browse around the available channels on the site you will start to realise just how much ifttt actually does. It also makes you realise that the internet which we use today is so fragmented with so many different services that it’s actually becoming very cumbersome to keep up with everything. ifttt seeks to change that and gives you the ability to manage the many varied aspects of your online life in one place.
Recently, I came to the realisation that I use quite a few different online services to generate content. There’s this website, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Stack Overflow as well as services like Google Reader and YouTube where I can simply like or +1 items that are then automatically shared with my network. I’m also reasonably confident that I use less online services than the majority of other people in my industry. I’ve never really used Posterous, tumblr, Pinterest, Digg, Delicious, reddit or any other of the host of content sharing services out there. If someone were to use even a fraction of them they will quickly find that their online life is incredibly scattered and difficult to keep together in one place.
In order to remedy this, I decided to see how effective it would be to use ifttt (which is free by the way) and tumblr (also free) to create a single site where all my online content (as well as content that I have enjoyed reading/watching) can be viewed. The end result is available here: http://hlashbrooke.tumblr.com/. In short, I used the various ifttt channels to send all my WordPress posts, Facebook links, tweets, favourited tweets, Instagram photos, Disqus comments, Stack Overflow questions & answers, starred Reader items, liked tumblr posts, favourited YouTube videos and loved Last.fm tracks to my tumblr page automatically. Since I set up my tumblr account and all the ifttt triggers I haven’t needed to login to tumblr again – it all just happens with no further input from me. The goal of this project is to make sure my usual online activity stayed exactly the same, only now it’s being recorded on a single page.
I’ve had the tumblr site going for a little while now and I think it’s proving to be quite effective. I can essentially see all my public online activity in one place. There are still quite a few sites that ifttt doesn’t yet have channels for, but they will come with time. Most of these sites, however, have RSS feeds that ifttt can handle easily. I took the approach that the source of the content is irrelevant – so, for example, any links that I send to the tumblr page are not openly stated as Facebook, etc. links, instead they’re just supplied as content. What this has resulted in is a single page where all the content I create, enjoy or share is stripped of its original context and displayed as is. Ultimately, it has become a rather handy and robust content aggregation tool for me. After having it running for a couple of years I reckon it will become an interesting view of my online life.