Thursday, 29 September 2011

Customised Social Network Connections, if this then that

As a computer scientist I am naturally attracted to the simple conditional statement programming paradigm of a new web app that allows you to connect status updates between your favourite social networks. ifttt or ‘if this then that’ leverages the ‘if-then-else’ conditional statement, one of the three major building blocks of all programming languages. You connect your social networks by a simple collection of if this then that rules that yield a highly customised set of connections.

2011-09-26 SNAG-00This is an example of a rule or task as ifttt calls it. The ‘this’ part is a specified event on trigger channel, a typical activity on your chosen social network or channel. I chose a check-in with a photo in my task. For the ‘that’ part I chose to upload the photo on Foursquare to a chosen album on my Facebook account. It works extremely well and took only 30 seconds to establish.

2011-09-26 SNAG-01ifttt comes with several default channels but it is very straightforward to add your own social networks. My list is on the left. I have used less than half of the social networks (channels) supported.

Each channel typically has two of more possible actions from which you choose. Some actions require parameters which are entered via simple forms. For example, I was able to define the message content that accompanies my photo when it finds its way into Facebook. You can see that my 17 channels allow 1485 different possible task combinations.

A simple ‘{{ … }}’ notation is used to transfer key information from the trigger to the action such as {{VenueMapImageURL}} from the Foursquare check-in in my example. ifttt checks for triggers every 15 minutes so the typical delay in the action being executed is half that time.

For me one of the key omissions at the moment is a Google+ channel, but of course we need the API to be extended from its current read-only capability before ifttt can make use of Google+ in a full-featured way. ifttt is free and easy to get an invite by leaving your email on their web site.