Since I teach technology all the time in my work as a librarian, I’m always thinking in the back of my mind how authors can use technology to make their lives easier. Especially after attending the last meeting of my fabulous Romance Writers of America chapter (shout out to fellow Pocono Lehigh Romance Writers!), it was especially interesting to hear the published authors in that group discuss how much of the marketing of their book falls on their shoulders. Particularly when you already have a full-time job, it’s hard to imagine putting in hours and hours being an active presence on multiple social networks, even though you know you have to be visible.
When I stumbled on a New York Times article about how to use a new program called ifttt to automate certain aspects of your life, I was intrigued and a little excited. Rhyming with “lift”, ifttt stands for “If This, Then That” and basically links your various social and online accounts using recipes to create tasks that it accomplishes for you. With most of the major networks and platforms on there (I was happy to see Evernote, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Google Reader, Dropbox, the Weather Channel, Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, your cell phone – but where is Goodreads, people? Pinterest?), and the ability to link to your phone via text or voicemail, you have a powerful tool at your fingertips.
As described in their blog post discussing the origins of the idea of ifttt, the whole concept revolves around triggers and actions. While you can create your own, there are hundreds if not thousands of preconfigured “recipes” that can read a specific trigger and initiate an action for you.
Let me give you an example. I try and keep Twitter on in the background during my day, but I’m working at my day job, so watching and responding to my Tori MacAllister account isn’t usually feasible. If I’m retweeted or add a follower, Twitter etiquette would have me thank that person for either action, preferably as soon as possible. Enter ifttt.
All I have to do is activate my Twitter account in my ifttt account and then customize the message to say whatever I want. Nice, yes? When I check my tweets, I can see the automatic ones generated by this recipe and I get a feeling of smug satisfaction. I’m working even when I’m not working! And my high school etiquette teacher would be proud (yes, I had one of those).
For me, another detail I wanted taken care of was having my WordPress posts automatically placed on my Facebook page. Wordpress has a social networking feature that automatically does this (under the “Sharing” menu) and while I’m often happy to use that with my Twitter account, I don’t like the format it comes out with for Facebook. Ifttt can just suck my new WordPress posts and put them up on Facebook in the format I prefer, with no fuss or muss from me. Since I usually write my blog posts late at night after work, any extra couple of minutes I can gain are always much appreciated. Take a look at how I can customize the post:
Do you notice the “Addins” drop down menu? All that crazy punctuation and code isn’t anything I have to worry about – I just need to chose the placement and what I want from the Addins menu (you can see I wanted the default image for the post, the post title and of course, the url for it), hone the text (which is what is outside of the punctuation, in this case “new entry on the blog”) and then add it to my tasks. Done!
There are a ton of useful tasks that you can use to help yourself, managing your Facebook, Twitter and other social networking accounts among them. A great task that would help writers would be the voicemail to email feature. I don’t know if you have ever had (like I have) a great idea for a character or plot and you have nothing to write it down with. You know that as soon as people begin hocking you to do things, you’re going to forget your brainwave, so you get cranky and irritable (okay, now I’m thinking this could just be me). Don’t fear, there is a ifttt recipe that links your cell phone and email!
I can leave ifttt a voicemail (when you link your phone number, they call to leave you a confirmation number to make the task effective – just add the caller to your contacts and you have the number you need), and it sends you a transcription of your voicemail! How is that for a help? I’m assuming they use a similar kind of software to Dragon Dictation to use the transcription and even includes a link to the mp3 file of the actual recording.
In terms of other recipes that you might helpful (or just cool), how about sending your favorite tweets to your Evernote account for archiving (Twitter deletes the old ones regularly)? Or having ifttt text you if it’s going to rain that day? This fabulous tool could just make your writing life a little easier.