SET IT, AND FORGET IT–INTERNET STYLE
by Brad Hines 3-26-14 12:15 pm
With endless troves of data/information, there is profitability to be had from curating and disseminating it effieciently, so automation in the digital age becomes a must. Sites like IFTTT and Zapier, the two leaders in the industry come to mind. With their "Recipes" and "Zaps" respecitvely, either of these sites can let you automate common Internet tasks, across hundreds of potential web apps that you might use regularly.
"IFTTT" literally stands for "If this then that", which is a common computer language concept meaning exactly as it sounds. I use two "recipes" so far with IFTTT, a recipe is their term for combinations of apps that you can use so something happens automatically. One of my clients for whom I perform social media duties for, it is my job to share his blog posts on his social media accounts each time he writes an entry. When my client makes a post, rather then have him e-mail me that he did so everytime, I simply have an IFTTT recipe to alert me. In this case, when my clients' blogs' RSS feeds has a new entry in it, then, an e-mail goes to Gmail. Two apps–Gmail and RSS, and one simple automated concept.
What the heck else can these app combinations do? Well, in the beginning, figuring out that part is a bit tricky, it takes some dedicated auditing of your daily online routine online to decide what exactly we should automate to help ourselves. The good news is that Both Zapier and IFTTT share many of the more common formulas that users are benefiting from, I found Zapier in particular to be helpful in finding what can help an individual both in their direct e-mails to me, and in their Zapbook. Also, a google search for IFTTT/Zapier formulas on Google provides endless suggestions. You can skip to the bottom to see some suggested to me by actual people as well.
Lastly, at either site, you can simply pick the app you use the most on a daily basis, and get suggestions for it. Here is the suggestion page at IFTTT for Instagram as an example:
AN INTERVIEW WITH AN AUTOMATION LEADER | Wade Foster, founder of Zapier:
How long has automation online been around? Where did it start?
Zapier started in Oct 2011 at Startup Weekend in Columbia Missouri. We placed first that weekend. We continued working and went on to be accepted into Y Combinator's summer 2012 batch and officially launch in May of 2012.
What was the impetus for starting Zapier?
I was doing marketing automation and trying to hack on some email APIs to fire emails based on events happening in our user database. Since I'm not a great developer this was challenging.
Bryan Helmig, who is a great developer, was building some SaaS apps and constantly getting asked about integration with various tools. He pitched me on the idea of having a one-stop-shop where anyone could hook up various SaaS apps without having to understand the underlying APIs. That was music to my ears so we teamed up with Mike Knoop and started Zapier.
Does Zapier personally work with apps to try and get them to open up an API?
On occasion, but mostly we are working with teams that already have open APIs and are helping them understand how their end users would like to better make use of the data in those apps.
What do you see as the future of automation? Or–Where do you see Zapier in 5 years from now?
The cloud has officially beaten the desktop when it comes to software. I see app fragmentation getting even worse. As a result a tool like Zapier gets even more valuable because it can get all these disparate tools to talk to each other without the need of developers. Zapier is solving that problem.
How do you see Zapier fitting into the IOE movement?
IOE is a subset of a greater movement which is automation in general. Zapier certainly can help enable automation between devices though are core offering is mostly focused in helping businesses increase the amount of automation they have so they can run more efficiently on less resources.
What do you find to be the biggest obstacle to the business?
There's lots of tough things about running a business. No matter what business I've been involved in, generating many happy users is always a challenge no matter how successful.
There are so many combinations for zaps, do you folks keep data on what are the most popular?
Absolutely. We keep aggregate meta data around the most common Zaps people are using.
How will you go about teaching people how Zapier can benefit their lives when the combinations are so vast?
We've put a lot of effort into our content marketing lately. You can read through the blog and see the quality increase https://zapier.com/blog/. Additionally, we'll start releasing packs of Zaps that suite different use cases, businesses and industries to help people hone in on the best Zaps for them.
If you don't mind sharing, how many formulas do you personally use, what is your personal favorite?
I have 40 Zaps running right now. The number seems to go up by about 2-3 every month. My favorite are those that send really key notifications into our team chat room to keep everyone up-to-speed on what's happening in Zapier world.
How is Zapier different, better or worse, than IFTTT?
Zapier spends most of its time thinking about the world of business automation. Therefore we support 300 of the most popular web services on the planet (compare https://zapier.com/zapbook/ vs. https://ifttt.com/channels).
Zapier also supports the ability to connect as many accounts as you'd like. If you want to use multiple Twitter accounts on Zapier, go right ahead.
Finally, you can also add services to Zapier yourself. Over half of the apps on Zapier have been built by 3rd parties (often the vendor themselves) via the Zapier developer platform: https://zapier.com/developer/
Some people's favorite formulas, and thoughts on automation:
I use a number of recipes. My favorite is that my blog posts can be automated to post to various social media feeds including Twitter. It lets me do what I do and it does the rest.
I helped a friend set up a task that created a new subscriber in Aweber when somebody commented on their WordPress blog.
Grayson P. Carter
Founder at LeadCadence.com
Getting an email within 5 minutes of a post hitting craigslist gives me a major edge on both fronts.
I use the site to automate a few things: Backing up pictures to Dropbox, sending me a text if one of the websites I manage goes down (my favorite) and automating some social media posts, for example, I upload a picture to pinterest IFTT will post it in my Facebook pages photo section too. I think that in the future as more people use it, they were be a cost associated with the service. Maybe some services like Facebook or Twitter may follow in Google's footsteps and not allow automated posts.
Creative Director/Tiny Stars Creative
The future of automation will be total home energy analysis and efficiency metrics, quantified into one basic number or percentage. Neighborhoods will be judged by their average of this metric and I predict it will have a big influence on the intrinsic worth of real estate properties.
In the shorter sight, software like IFTTT will allow professionals to do more business while still staying on track with household obligations, allowing more money to be made in the solopreneur sector/small business sector.
Social Media Strategist
The most powerful use I've found of IFTTT is its ability to do most anything with an RSS feed. Anything you can get into an RSS feed can be backed up/saved/sent to whomever or wherever you want.
For example, in my work at the Kars4Kids car donation charity I like to keep an easily searchable spreadsheet of all Tweets about our (in)famous radio jingle. I've used this method to create RSS feeds from Twitter searches
–Backup all of my Google+ posts to Evernote
–Send a nightly reminder to my wife
–Find new books added to the Amazon Kindle top 100 free books list
(no longer working)
–Backup social media accounts to Evernote
–Playing with the Google Glass channel now to see what I can come
up with, but wearable technology may play a big role in the future of the
Simply put, IFTTT is as powerful as your imagination and creativity allows. Everyone should try it at least once
Kars4Kids Car Donation Program
I think the future of this is in connecting the Internet with the home [editor's note: Like IOE] and wearable technology. For example, you may be able to preheat your oven by sending a gchat. I like where it's heading and I think the fact that theseservices allow for the creativity of the community to plug in is key.