Random Wednesday

Joining up the Web

The internet is, without doubt, brilliant at many things.  It’s great for wasting time, it’s superb for finding out about stuff you never knew you needed to know about.  Anyone spending more than 5 minutes on Lifehacker will suddenly realise that half the morning’s gone and they now have half a dozen new projects to try.

One thing it’s also good at is keeping everything separate.  You can exist on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr and dozens of other places as different entities.  But what if you don’t want to?

Posterous Spaces Logo

I may have mentioned Posterous before.  Posterous takes the pain out of blogging, making it as simple as sending an email.  You email your Posterous account and it then posts your blog where you want it posted – Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, self-hosted Drupal sites, Tumblr, wherever.  Once you’ve created your Posterous account (yes, I know, another account to keep track of), you associate it with the services you want to use, tell it what to do and when to do it.  Then sit back and enjoy the automation.

At time of writing, you can connect Posterous up to all of the following:

And that’s enough joining up the web.

But not for long! (Sorry, channelling Bob Hale today).

Posterous is great for blogging, but what about a bit more flexibility?  In that case, you need If This, Then That.

If This, Then That

If…  I send a tweet tagged with this, then send me an email.

If… I upload a picture to Instagram, do that with it.

If… and so on.

At time of writing, there are 47 channels on ifttt.  That’s 47 Ifs you can start with, triggering actions that will cascade your information around the web.  Again, you have to sign in and remember another username and password, again you have to associated your other accounts and grant ifttt permission to do things on your behalf.  But here’s where it becomes more interesting.  Posterous is a channel on ifttt.  If I send a blog post to Posterous, do…  Where Posterous will autopost to any and all of the services it connects to, ifttt adds a level of logic to that.

Then there’s the recipes.  A wise old programmer once told me “When you’re starting a project, search the internet and see if it’s been done before.  If it has, ask if you can use their code.”  Recipes on ifttt are like that.  People have written the common – and not-so-common – connections.  And if you get stuck, just email the developers.  They’re a friendly team.

So that’s it.  The internet all joined up.

Or so we thought!  (Sorry, Bob again).

Dropbox Automator

Dropbox Automator is relatively new on the scene.  For those who don’t know, Dropbox is an online file storage facility you can access from your desktop or smartphone.  Give it a folder to work with and it will synchronise that folder across your connected devices.

You can allow DbA access to your entire Dropbox contents or restrict it to a specific folder.  This shows you some of the actions you can do when DbA detects a new document…

So when you upload a document you can convert it to PDF and send it to your Kindle.  You can upload a stack of photos to Dropbox, DbA will resize them, send them to Google+ and Facebook having written some copyright stuff on them or applied an effect.  It’ll then zip up all those photos and save it to another folder, allowing you to delete the originals if it hasn’t already.  Powerful stuff, no?

Now this is where it gets very, very clever indeed…    Dropbox is also a channel available on ifttt.  This recipe will take those photos uploaded to Dropbox, resized and saved into your “Public” folder by DbA and create a wordpress blog post from it.  If you email Posterous a zip file of photos, it will create a gallery for you and auto-post it around all your connected services.  Between these 3 services I doubt there’s much you can’t automate – short of writing the blog post or taking the photo (and even then I guess you could use a camera that automatically uploaded photos to Dropbox, say, on your smartphone…).

The only notable omission from these services is Google+.  Once that’s in there, we’ll be happy bunnies.

And for the new accounts and passwords?  LastPass.

Now.  How do you automate your online life?  And I don’t think I said helicopter once!


#Listography – Top 5 Websites

An interesting challenge from Kate Takes 5 this week.  My top 5 websites.

Working in IT I spend a huge amount of time on the web trying to solve problems, learning new stuff, writing/coding sites of my own.  If I picked the sites that appeared at the top of my bookmarks list I don’t think you’d be inspired!

  1. – Home of my content-management-system of choice. An excellent piece of infinitely extendible software but kind of like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut for some of the uses I’ve put it to!
  2. – Documentation for my favourite programming language.
  3. – Reference for all the fun stuff you can do with the new style sheet specification (if you don’t know what that means, you probably don’t need to know.
  4. – Making websites look good no matter what browser you’re using.
  5. My test server.  I’ll omit the IP address as it wouldn’t work anyway. It’s where projects go to before being released out into the wild so I can tear them apart with development tools.

Not an inspiring list, not unless you’re doing Drupal development or hand-coding stuff.

So.  The other websites.  The ones I really go to…

  • Google Reader – – I’m a fan of Google’s products and the Reader is one of my favourites.  It’s an online newsfeed reader.  You know those little “RSS” icons you see on blogs and websites?  There’s a couple up at the top of this page.  They link to the reader and every time a site is updated you get a new item in your news feed.  The reader also syncs with an excellent mobile app so I get the same feeds at the same points on my phone as I do online.  This is one of the 6 tabs I keep pinned open at all times.
  • Toodledo – – Online task manager.  Syncs to a mobile app (Pocket Informant on Android).  Similar to “Remember the Milk” but different.  I’m a fan of these “Getting Things Done” sites and I’ll try a different one every year or so.  Toodledo was my site for 2011 and it’s carried over into 2012.
  • If This, Then That – – A new discovery for me, If This, Then That connects things together.  “If I create a new post on my blog, post it to Facebook” is the sort of thing it does – only with hundreds of possible combinations of things.  Excellent discovery, excellent site.  Best thing is, no plugins needed for your blog. It just knows.
    If This, Then That
  • Twitter –!/dogbombs – I know Kate’s mentioned Twitter herself, but it’s such a superb site that I couldn’t let it pass.  It’s also one of the tabs I have pinned open, in the form of Tweetdeck.
  • – Just because.  I have this site as a newsfeed in Google Reader, as a site I visit usually 2 or 3 times a day and as an email digest sent through a couple of times a week.  It’s excellent and I urge you to go there.  If you don’t find anything useful, at the bottom of the page there are the partner sites and I guarantee you’ll find something there.
Now head over to Kate Takes 5, which by rights should’ve been the 5th site on this list as there’s always something new and interesting there, and see where everyone else goes.