A collection of my posts/articles/presentations on If This Then That (Ifttt)


I’ve been using If This Then That (Ifttt) for a few years now. I tend to use it for pulling information together and sharing it to a variety of services and social networks easily. Without it I’d be forever logging in and out of services to collect and share information. There are similar services to Ifttt, but it works well for me.

Below are a collection of blog posts, articles and presentations I’ve written on the subject and I’ve also written a chapter on Ifttt and similar services for the forthcoming More Library Mashups book, titled “Ifttt makes data play easy?

Replacing Google Reader With Ifttt and Pocket

Replacing Google Reader With Ifttt and Pocket


A couple of days ago Google announced they were getting rid of Google Reader, which was a bit of a blow for me, as I use it as a main source of news for sharing to a broad range of social network accounts and sites semi-automatically. I used it in conjunction with ifttt, so that if I added a specific tag to an item in a Google Reader feed it would trigger an action to automatically post it to 1 of a number of accounts I use regularly.

Google Reader was flexible and because I could connect it to ifttt in this way it meant I didn’t have to log in and out of various personal and group Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Buffer and bookmarking accounts sharing links and news – I could do it all in one place. I could also do it via any device I had connected to the internet – PC, smartphone, tablet. Google Reader was also useful in the fact that you could organise RSS feeds into folders or tags and didn’t just have a huge jumble of unrelated links filling up the page. The whole set up was such a time-saver.

So, when I heard about the planned retirement of Reader my heart sank for a few reasons (1) Another popular service was being ditched by a high profile company without any thought for their users – I’d have happily paid to use Google Reader if I’d been given the option.  (2) How was I going to continue sharing this information if I had to do it all manually? (3) This ifttt setup was a key part of a presentation I was supposed to be giving at a conference about a week after Google Reader was due to close down – I could end up with very little to talk about at it!

So, I knew I had to try to find another solution. I’d looked at other RSS and news services some time ago to see if there were any decent alternatives to Google Reader. My main concern back then was that news articles were quite slow at being pulled through into the feed. Ideally if NewsNow.co.uk had an RSS output feed I’d use that for all my news – it’s got a wider coverage and is more up-to-date than Google News. Anyway, there wasn’t anything that worked in the way I needed it to that would provide all the functionality and flexibility in one place. Looking at lists of recommendations for Google Reader that have also appeared over the last couple of days nothing still met my specific needs in one package, although I’ve discovered some handy services I didn’t know existed.

However, after a bit of tinkering with ifttt I have managed to come up with a solution that works in a similar way to my Google Reader and ifttt set up, but instead I use a service called Pocket. This is a service for bookmarking items and articles to be read later.

Firstly I had to set up ifttt recipes to pull in all the RSS news feeds I follow into Pocket . Each separate RSS feed required a new RSS to Pocket ifttt recipe to be set up, so if I have 20 feeds I’ll have to set up 20 recipes. Alternatively, I could use something like Yahoo Pipes to pull all RSS feeds into a single one and set up a single RSS to Pocket recipe. I’m reluctant to do this though, as Pipes can be temperamental.

As you can tag items/articles in Pocket in a similar way to Google Reader it means you can organise the RSS items into related articles when they’re saved to Pocket.

Once you’ve pulled the items into Pocket with the tags, you can also add tags manually to specific items that will trigger the items to be posted to a variety of sites and services, as I had done previously with Reader. eg Add the tag “linkedin” to an item to send the article to LinkedIn. Here’s an example recipe for this.

As with Google Reader you can also mark items as read or delete them so they aren’t clogging up your feed on Pocket.

I’ve set up a number of RSS feeds going into Pocket, but as this is the most time consuming part of the process I haven’t added all of my old feeds yet. I have tested a few of the triggers and they’re working fine.

So, fingers crossed for this new setup and farewell to Google Reader – it was a great service for my needs and it’s a shame Google are binning it.

Reblogged: Imagining the Future | RFID – Changing libraries for good?


Imagining the Future – A Guest Post from Gary Green | RFID – Changing libraries for good?.

I put together this write-up of my presentation at the CILIP RFID in Libraries 2012 conference, and Mick Fortune kindly put on his Library RFID blog.

It was a bit of blue-sky thinking focused on how creative use of RFID in sectors beyond libraries might be translated into library use.

Publishers and Public Libraries Digital Skills Sharing Event #digiskills


The Reading Agency and Publishers Association held an event recently at Canada Water Library focusing on their Digital Skills Sharing initiative (funded by Arts Council England) which had been running for 10 months. The initiative consisted of six teams of publishers & public library services working together in an attempt to develop libraries digital marketing and communications channels with their readers. Further background details can be found here.

The event included a key-note from technology commentator and journalist Bill Thompson, a run-through of the six projects and a panel discussion in the middle of the project presentations.

Richard Mollett (Chief executive, Publishers Association) introduced the event, explaining how the initiative came about, the Publishers Association and The Reading Agency involvement in it and the projects that would be showcased during the event.

Nicky Morgan (Director of Libraries, Arts Council England) followed this up by speaking about the forthcoming publication of A.C.E. Envisioning the library of the future report in spring 2013 – a follow up to the research and consultation programme of the same name, aimed at developing A.C.E. “long-term vision for public libraries in England.” Nicky Morgan also encouraged libraries to tap into the funding streams available for libraries.


Bill Thompson’s keynote provided an interesting perspective on libraries and the role they play in today’s society. Amongst other things, he suggested that we’re not yet at a digital age and highlighted that even though we are surrounded by digital devices and information in a digital format, the physical is still relevant to us and it is just as important in our everyday lives. He spoke about the great shifts towards screen based consumption & engagement that were happening. With this shift also comes changes in reading habits – the focus on shorter pieces of text; different methods of text communication; bite sized pieces always being updated. He asked in a screen based world which bits of our brain does the internet want to use and can we spare them when we want to use it for deep reading beyond the internet? He suggested that we should be thinking about questions like “What’s the point of reading?”, rather than “How can we get people into libraries?” He also commented that illiteracy is seen as a failure, even though our brains aren’t born literate and literacy isn’t natural to us.

Projects Showcase 1

Gloucestershire Libraries with support from Granta set up a Twitter book club focused on new authors. As well as discussions between book club members they also had Twitter interviews and a Skype event with authors whose books were being read and discussed. They also considered using Facebook and even though a greater number of people use Facebook, Twitter provides a more immediate interaction, which is useful when trying to run live and interactive sessions. They did however note that due to this immediacy Twitter needs more time dedicated to it.

Leeds and Wakefield Libraries with support from Random House were keen to develop their online presences via social media and rather than trying to build numbers of followers, they were aiming to develop the engagement they had with library users. They saw this engagement as a way to develop advocates for projects in library services – advocates will actively promote projects that interest them.

South Tyneside Libraries with support from Pan Macmillan wanted to focus on a teenage reading project & the Big Borough Read. The teenage project was built around a Facebook page setup specifically for the project – once a teenager liked the page they were given a book, read it, review it on the Facebook page, and once they reviewed it they were sent another book. The reviewing aspect wasn’t entirely successful, as some teenagers weren’t keen on posting as themselves (so required some staff intervention). The Big Borough Read also had a dedicated Twitter and Facebook page. This project focused on a single book to be read by as many people in the borough as possible. They found that Twitter was the most successful method of engagement in this instance.

Reader by h.koppdelaney/Flickr

Reader by h.koppdelaney/Flickr

Panel discussion

The panel discussion was chaired by Miranda McKearney (CEO, The Reading Agency) and included Bill Thompson as well as representatives from both the publishing industry and public libraries. Points raised during the discussion (themed “Compelling reader experiences in the library of the future”) included:

  • The library hybrid focused on service delivery via both physical and digital space will continue to be important in the future.
  • Publishers create large amounts of content around writers and it would be of benefit to everyone if they released it for use by the library community.
  • Publishers recognised that libraries are a non-commercial space.
  • Libraries are seen as trustworthy sources of information and we should be emphasizing this when competing with other services.
  • Libraries should take the opportunity to be the Google of our local areas ie the first port of call.
  • We need a UK wide online portal for libraries that can act as a single place for people to go to for their information and library needs.
  • We need a UK wide development body for libraries.
  • Librarians should be involved in the development of online services, not just wait for the next big thing to come along and follow it.

Projects Showcase 2

Kensington & Chelsea Libraries with support from Little Brown set up an online reading group “Text Tribe”. The target audience were users who might not be able to get to the library to join a conventional reading group. They used a WordPress blog, backed up by Twitter, Facebook and publishers channels. As part of this the publisher donated 120 books for those involved in the reading group. Even though WordPress was the main focus for the reading group it didn’t work perfectly for book discussions.

Nottinghamshire Libraries with support from Penguin & Hot Key Books ran a competition to promote a teenage book title, with the winning entries to be created and used on the libraries digital signage screens. This project illustrated how difficult it is to encourage involvement from library users, as they only had 2 entries (8 once they got a school involved). However, the publisher illustrated that it’s not just an issue for libraries, as they have had equally low numbers of responses to their own competitions.

North West Libraries with support from Faber and Faber wanted to reach families who were willing to share their love of reading via digital media. This included using Pinterest for the Reading-Families project. Here families were invited to contribute to reviews etc. It was interesting to note that the families recruited via Facebook were the most active users, possibly because they were already used to having an online presence.

Following on from the presentations and panel discussion Miranda McKearney closed the event, emphasizing that even though this was billed as a wrap-up event a number of the projects would be continuing and the libraries involved were starting to expand on their use of social media and digital reader engagement. The Reading Agency are currently building a resource to continue their support of this theme at http://readingagency.org.uk/digitalskills and are keen to receive feedback on developing this.

It was an interesting event and (even though my library service already uses social media) it was really useful to hear how libraries with the support of publishers had made use of it to engage with readers in different ways. The projects also helped illustrate the need to think carefully about which social media tools libraries should use for engagement and that there isn’t necessarily a “one tool fits all” scenario. For example, South Tyneside found that Twitter was more engaging for their Big Borough Read project, but Facebook was a better fit for their teenage reading group. Many of the projects echoed earlier comments around the importance of the physical as well as online interaction – it appears as if the face-to-face sessions in these digital projects were just as important as the online engagement with readers. It also seemed to be a great way to build the dialogue between libraries and publishers – helping develop links and understanding between both sectors, enabling each other to support our work and our audiences’ love of reading.

Get Involved in the Revolution


I enjoyed watching the BBC’s ‘Virtual Revolution’. It filled in gaps in my knowledge about how things have developed since the early days of computer networks. It was also interesting to see things from an information society perspective as well as a techy one.

The series was developed with the help of the common man/woman. The BBC announced it back in Summer 2009, asking for people to contribute to its development. I thought this was a great idea, re-tweeting their calls for input into the series and it was fun/exciting watching it develop over the months.

However, when I go back to look at the blog post feedback on the BBC site and I remember the tweets I picked up around the series, I was really surprised at how little input was added by people outside the BBC. I know the programme makers also went beyond blog posts and Twitter feedback, including forums and discussion groups, but it still seemed like a miniscule response from the people. It got me quite frustrated- expecting at least a decent % of the internet world to get involved in this discussion. People had the chance to shape the programme and they didn’t take the opportunity.

I don’t know why. Maybe they hadn’t picked up on the fact they could contribute. Maybe they just didn’t want to, or couldn’t be bothered. Maybe they didn’t feel it was their place to get involved. Maybe they thought their opinions would be laughed at.

It’s a shame really, as I think a lot of people missed the chance to get involved, get their useful opinions/viewpoints heard and also, in a way, allow the social networking they get involved in over the internet, go beyond the computer and out to a broader audience on TV.