This has been a while in the making. I was reluctant to use IFTTT mainly because I had heard it described as the new Yahoo! Pipes. Yahoo! Pipes was something that I had used a number of times for client work and had found to be unreliable. But for the kind of client budgets that I was dealing with at that time; Pipes was the right price – free.
Pipes allowed you to do a number of things that as a non-technical user would have been otherwise out of your power.
Here is a simple example of one I built for a semiconductor industry client a number of years ago.
The idea was very simple. Use a battery of search engines to pull together news alerts. Filter those news alerts by keyboards and then provide a ‘good news’ link feed that was going to be used on a website to address a limited number of influencers. You could do so much more with it, pulling in different sources like Flickr or uploading a CSV document as a data source.
This was a simple use of pipes, it would recognise KML for location-based information where available and you could build these strings of operators as long as you like. I’ve used the machine translation option a lot to get a Heath Robinson-esque international monitoring programme in place that could be mailed out or output to an RSS feed.
But the reason why I went away from it in the end was that it was unreliable. If it was a car it would have been a late 1970s/early 1980s vintage Alfa Romeo or Lancia – it was that bad. Now yes it was a free service and five years after its launch it still bears a ‘beta’ label and most importantly; it relies on lots of other peoples APIs and RSS feeds to work properly all the time.
IFTTT realised the people want to connect different things together to make them useful and it’s managed to do this reliably. A key part in its success has been by lowering ambition in terms of what its trying to achieve as implied the the acronym of a name (If Then That – one of the simplest logic commands imaginable).
It defines from a basket of services what APIs you can use and doesn’t allow operators in the same way that Pipes does. This makes IFTTT a completely different beast. So far I’ve been using it to syndicate contents between accounts: publishing to Delicious when I post on Pinboard.in in case by some miracle it transforms from its current ugly duckling into a social search swan (I can live in hope); or publishing updates to my blog on Twitter, LinkedIn and its facebook page (through separate rules).
Looking at the recipes provided by people seem to be RSS to email conversions of sorts to notify them of special offers and weather news.
I like IFTTT. It does lack ambition, but it works very reliably. It won’t change the world, but it will help you automate some of the more tedious parts of your online social life.