First, a true story: Last week I was craving cake and despite the fact that I was wearing cute but painful heels, I decided to walk from Lister Hill Library to what I thought was the closet cake option, UAB Hospital’s food court in the North Pavilion. It’s a trek. And it doesn’t matter what shoes you’re wearing, it’s tough keeping pace with all those speedy doctors. [I won’t lie, midway to the food court I sat on a bench and pretended to send an email from my phone. A nurse walked; she took a look at my shoes and smiled at me. The jig was up.] I finally made it to the food court, ate the cake, felt happy and rewarded for my throbbing legs and feet. I felt no guilt. As gracefully as I could, I hobbled back to my desk, sat at my computer, ever so slightly slipped my feet out of my shoes, sighed a sigh of relief, and discovered this email in my inbox: Cheesecake in the staff lounge fridge!!
And now, I’ll tell you how I could have used IFTTT:
If This Then That (IFTTT, say it like gift) is a web-based task-creator. With what IFTTT calls recipes–a combination of activated channels, triggers and actions–you can create notifications on just about anything to alert you in any way you choose. For example: write an email to yourself that will help you find your phone, change your profile picture in Facebook and simultaneously change it on Twitter, automatically save email attachments to Google Drive, get a notification every time your daughter posts a video of the baby and then get that video emailed to you, etc, etc.
You can use recipes created by others, or create your own. Once you create a recipe, you can make it public. I found inspiration to solve my own “cake in the lounge” problem when I found a recipe that explained how to create a notification when you get an Outlook email from your boss (also not a bad idea).
I modified the recipe to serve my own purposes and created one that will send me a text when any of my co-workers sends out an All-Staff email about food in the staff lounge–yes, I did! Here’s how I did it:
Step 1: Create a rule in Outlook to forward All-Staff emails to a gmail account:
Step 2: Create the recipe in IFTTT:
When I tested the recipe, it took about 3 minutes for me to get the text. It isn’t instant, but it’s probably fast enough for me to get a cookie before they’re all gone.
As important as knowing about free food in the staff lounge is, there are more useful (er, healthier? more professional?) reasons to use IFTTT.
I also need to keep up with my professional reading. Right now I’m really interested in Medical Humanities, so I’ve created a recipe that will notify me if a new article is added to my Feedly category, Digital + Medical Humanities. Feedly, just one of IFTTT’s 67 channels, is really easy to check throughout the day, but some days I just don’t get to it. Just this morning I was notified about an Anatomical Art Exhibit at the Brighton & Sussex Medical School so I took two minutes to read the announcement and then got back to editing this post.
The most significant change since 2011, the last time Tech Lister posted about IFTTT, is the iphone app that launched last week. The app is sharp looking and just as easy to use as the web version.
I really enjoy browsing through the shared recipes to see what people have come up with.
All in all, IFTTT is a lot of fun, and useful for a variety of purposes:
- ridiculous pursuits
- staying organized
- keeping up with important news
- staying connected without really trying
Now…where’s that All-Staff email about cake???