Managing Social Media with IFTTT

Yesterday I attended the first *official* meeting of the Maryland Library Association’s Social Media User Group. The primary discussion focused around a panel of local library professionals who are active in managing library social media accounts. Throughout this discussion, several tools were mentioned for managing multiple social media accounts to create a cohesive presence across platforms. With many of the panelists singing the praises of “IFTTT” for managing content, and several attendees left wanting to know more, the site seems ripe for further discussion in the library world.

What is “IFTTT?”

If This Then That logo

“IFTTT” (pronounced like “gift” without the “g”) stands for “If This Then That.” It is a web-based service that allows you to create automatic connections between different internet applications. These applications, which IFTTT calls “channels,” currently include over 50 sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Delicious, as well as productivity applications like email and Google Drive. Once you’ve created your IFTTT account, you can activate any of the channels in which you have an account and would like to link to other applications.

After activating channels, you will be able to create “recipes” to automatically link content across accounts or to automate activities you perform frequently. Recipes consist of a “trigger” from one channel that leads to an “action” in another channel. Want to archive your Facebook posts as a journal in Evernote? Or automatically post a link of your most recent blog post to your Facebook timeline? Create a recipe!

Recipes in IFTTT

Create Recipe in IFTTT

Create a Recipe in IFTTT

IFTTT gives you the option to set up personal recipes or share your recipes with other users. This means there are already several shared recipes set up for IFTTT channels that you can use or view as examples.

IFTTT leads you through creating a new recipe in a few simple steps. Let’s say I want all of our new LibTechTalk posts to automatically appear as links on my Facebook page. First, I select the channel that will initiate the trigger (or the “this” in the “if this then that” chain).

Choose Trigger in IFTTT

Choosing a trigger channel in IFTTT

Once I’ve selected a channel, I need to choose a trigger action. For this recipe, I’ll choose “Any new post” in the WordPress channel. This means my recipe will be “triggered” every time a new post appears on LibTechTalk.

Choose Trigger in IFTTT

Choose “Any new post” in the WordPress as the recipe trigger.

Next, I choose the channel in which I want the next action to occur (or the “that” in the “if this then that” chain).

Choose action in IFTTT

Setting up an action

In this case, I want the action to occur on my Facebook page, and will select the Facebook channel accordingly. Then, I’ll choose the action I want to occur in Facebook, in this case “Create a link post.”

Choose action in IFTTT

Choose an action in IFTTT

After selecting the action, I can customize how the post will appear in on my Facebook page.

Complete action in IFTTT

Customize an action

Finally, add in a description of the recipe and I’m done! I can also choose to share the recipe with other users, turn the recipe “off,” or delete the recipe altogether.

Finished personal recipe

A personal recipe in IFTTT

Using IFTTT

Although IFTTT does not allow you to monitor any of the activity in your social media accounts, it takes some of the hassle out of linking activities and content across several different sites. You will still need to manage the spontaneous engagement that is so important in cultivating a vibrant social media presence, but IFTTT can help you automate the routine tasks you find yourself completing time and time again. Best of all, IFTTT is free to use and can be accessed anywhere you have internet access.

Ready to dive into IFTTT?

How do you use IFTTT? Do you have any great recipes? Tell us in the comments!

 

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Got files? Drop (it in the) box

Cloud storage services have been around for awhile and are a great way to make your files accessible no matter where you’re located. Among my favorites is Dropbox because it goes beyond simply making your files available to you from any location. Dropbox allows you to share files and folders with others (with your permission, of course!). So, rather than just being able to access your files, you can use it as a place to share documents with co-workers, store and retrieve documents for students, and share photos with your family and friends.

“I usually just use Google Docs for that”

a screenshot of a directory of folders on windows xp

Dropbox can integrate with your other files and folders, appearing right alongside them.

And that’s fine. Google Docs is still a better solution if you’re looking to do synchronous collaboration on a report or presentation, but Dropbox can function just like a folder on your computer, making it more integrated into the workflows to which you’re already accustomed.

It might be possible that your organization has a networked drive or intranet that you use for sharing files (we have both here at Towson). These are both reasonable solutions to this, but both can be difficult if you need to access something at home, as many block access from off-campus. This also causes issues if you’re collaborating and sharing files with someone outside your organization. You might also run into storage and file size limitations with both of these solutions. Dropbox does have a limit of 2GB for free accounts (a subscription can get you up to 100GB). Our entire network drive is 10GB so 2GB for your own use is not so bad.

“Okay, you’ve convinced me. Now what?”

Getting a Dropbox account is easy, as is installing it on your computer. (There’s also a web interface for computers on which you can’t install or haven’t installed it.) To create an account, click the Login option in the upper-right corner and choose ‘Create an account’. Enter your info and voila!

a screenshot of the dropbox home page

Click 'Login' and then 'Create an account' to setup your account. Click the 'Download Dropbox' button to install it on your computer.

Click the ‘Download Dropbox’ button to install the Dropbox folder on your computer. (You’ll need admin permissions for this.)  This will download the install file to your computer. Double-click the file to start the install process. Dropbox will ask you where you would like the folder to be located (e.g. on your desktop, inside another folder, etc.).

Once everything is installed, you’ll notice the Dropbox folder (at whatever location you assigned it) and an icon in your taskbar.

Both of these will give you access to a variety of Dropbox functions.

Several Dropbox functions can be accessed from the taskbar icon.

The taskbar icon provides a shortcut to your Dropbox folder (either on your computer or on their website), a menu of recently changed files, and options to change your preferences, including moving the Dropbox folder to a new location.

Right-clicking on files and folders within the Dropbox folder will bring up your usual menu of options with the addition of a Dropbox option. From here, you can manage the sharing permissions of individual files. For any files that are in your ‘Public’ folder, you can also get a URL, which you can send to those who aren’t privy to the wonderful world of Dropbox.

What do I use it for, you ask?

I have two primary uses for Dropbox at the moment. First, as a person who constantly finds myself working at home (not recommended), I often use Remote Desktop to access my work computer. This is great, but there are times that I really need my work files on my home computer to print them or listen to them, etc. I used to email these to myself, which was a hassle and unnecessarily clutter my Inbox. Now I simply drag the needed file to Dropbox on my work computer and (almost) instantly have access to it on my home computer.

Second, I am currently serving on two work groups with members outside my organization that require files to be shared. We’re not collaborating on any documents necessarily, but a certain amount of file sharing is needed. One group is sharing video recordings, PowerPoint slides, and PDF reports. The reports and slides contain links to the video recordings. (One of the nice things about using the Dropbox folder is that your file structure stays in tact, so links to other content in the folder should still work.)  The other group is dispersing several Word documents amongst members of the group to facilitate a peer review process. The group coordinators have access to all files and the reviewers see only those files that they are reviewing.

I’ve also used this occasionally to gather content from clients and family for whom I do website development. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re emailing large files back and forth to someone, Dropbox can help you keep your Inbox clean and prevent potential confusion over the newest version of a file.

I’m sure that many other uses for Dropbox exist, and I’d love to hear how you’re using it (or would like to use it). What other cloud storage services are you using, and how do they stack up to Dropbox?

Working with Wiggio

A while ago I wrote a blog entry on wikis, specifically WetPaint Wikis.  One major reason that people use wikis is that they can provide a centralized place to work on committee or group projects.  While wikis are extremely versatile and can be used for multiple purposes, they don’t generally have an inherent structure which means that someone has to carefully set up the structure much like one would build a website.  If you need a centralized place for group work and want something even easier than a wiki, Wiggio is the place for you!  Unlike wikis, Wiggio was created with the specific purpose to facilitate online group work and contains many additional features that wikis don’t provide.

Wiggio incorporates a variety of social technologies into an easy-to-use shared web portal.  Next time your committee needs a shared online space, simply set up a Wiggio page and invite members of your committee to the page.  You’ll be able to not only share links, documents, polls, and a calendar, but Wiggio also gives you a variety of mechanisms to communicate directly on or from the group page.  Wiggio allows group members to leave typed or voice recorded notes for each other as well as easily send email or text messages to group members directly from the group page.  Wiggio also incorporates virtual meeting software into the group page so members can chat online, hold a teleconference (at a phone number provided by Wiggio), and even have a virtual meeting with full screen and document sharing,  as well as webcam capabilities.

Wiggio seems to run incredibly smoothly and with the exception of Java for the virtual meeting presenter, does not require any additional software.  Best of all… Wiggio is completely free!  That said, Wiggio does contain sponsored links and states on their FAQs that they will be adding additional “premium” components that will require a paid membership.   Try it out with your committee work, suggest it to your students for group projects, use it to co-author your next article- Wiggio is a great technology for any collaborative work you might have.   Overall, I highly recommend Wiggio.

Yugma and Web Conferencing

Need to meet with a colleague across town or across the country? Trying to present content or teach an online class? Need to teach library instruction at a satellite campus? There’s no need to travel or to teach in an asynchronous environment- why not try a web conferencing tool? Web conferencing allows for easy screen and presentation sharing as well as options for audio through a conference call or voice over IP (VoIP). Some programs even have the capability for a shared mouse and keyboard so that something like database search instruction can be modeled and then tried by all participants in an online, shared environment. Businesses have been using these technologies for years, but they can also be very useful in an academic setting with more and more online and distance education opportunities as well as collaboration between faculty and/or staff at different institutions.

yugma1Yugma is one of the many options out there for online conferencing. One great benefit of Yugma over many others is that it has a slimmed down version that’s available for free! With the Yugma free version, you have the capability to share your screen to up to 20 people at a time. It also gives you a free conference call number or the option to use Skype (VoIP) for all participants to be able to connect vocally. For written communication, public and private chat is also included. Yugma is also unique in that it is compatible with Mac, Windows and Linux systems.

With an upgrade to a paid account you additionally are able to share keyboard and mouse, change presenters, record and archive sessions, schedule meetings in advance, and access presenter tools (highlight aspects of screen/presentation). Prices run from $14.95 a month (or $149.50 a year) to $179.95 a month ($1799.50 a year) depending on the number of possible participants in a conference (20 to 500). An additional “Webinar” feature is available at $19.99 a month (or $199.50 a year) which allows you to have personalized web space where participants can sign up and directly access the webinar.

Yugma is intuitive to use, although I did run into some hiccups with the free account. The presenter/organizer will need to download the program, however participants should be able to access the screen share/presentation by simply visiting the Yugma website (www.yugma.com) and entering the access code that the presenter will see when setting up the session. A few things to look out for when using Yugma:

  • Although Yugma gives the presenter the option to “Invite Contacts” or “Invite Contacts to View Only”, the free version only allows viewing, so choose the view only option.
  • If you upgrade to the paid version and would like participants to be able to do more than view, they need to “run” the program which may cause administrative rights problems.
  • The latest Java will need to be installed on both presenter and participants computers
  • The teleconferencing, although free, doesn’t have the best sound quality. Skype is also an option.
  • The access code that the presenter is given when setting up the session is in a 000-000-000, however needs to be entered by the participants on the Yugma page without the dashes.

For additional options for web conferencing see the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_web_conferencing_software

 

 

Grazr helps you share your RSS feeds!

In the last post Carrie helped us understand what RSS feeds are and how to use Bloglines to read your feeds. Now that you have the basics of RSS feeds down, let’s get creative. Perhaps you have a feed or two that you’d like to share with your library liaison areas or people who are on a committee with you. You could direct them to the blog and tell them how to subscribe or you could use Grazr to create a feed reader like Bloglines directly on your own website!

grazr-image5Grazr’s free account option will allow you to create unlimited single RSS feed widgets to place on your webpage.  If you wish to combine multiple feeds into a widget, you can do this also, but it may cost you.  The free account allows you to create one combined RSS widget, but to be able to have multiple combined RSS widgets, you’ll need to pay anywhere from $9.99  a month to $149.99 a month.  Confused?  Let’s say that you have a liaison web page like the one above, a free account will allow you to stream blog entries from one single blog in any one widget.  You will have to create multiple widgets to stream multiple blogs (and they will not be combined).  If you would like to create a widget with let’s say health news from Medline Plus, along with health news from the CDC, along with articles from a search you conducted in a database, you will only be able to create one of these multi-stream widgets for free (although you could place this same multi-stream widget in multiple places).

Although the free Grazr account does have its limitations in terms of multiple feeds, it can still be a great resource for your liaison pages as well as on any webpage where you’d like to share the latest news, articles or updates from another website, blog or even podcast.  Amanda Taylor, a librarian here at Towson has come up with a great way to share new books in the library using Grazr.  She has created a blog listing all of the new science books as they come into the library.  Grazr allows this blog to be viewed from her different subject pages such as this page: http://pages.towson.edu/amtaylo/biology.html

So I guess you could say that Grazr allows you to be super web 2.0- not only are you able to direct feeds into your feed reader like with Bloglines, but then you are able to push that feed back out on any relevant webpages.

Google Docs

Have you ever tried to work on a Word document on a computer that doesn’t have Microsoft Office? Or maybe you’ve had to email yourself a document in order to open it on another computer? Online applications such as Google Docs allow you to create, edit, and save word processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations on the web rather than on your computer. Not only does this make it possible to create Microsoft Office type documents without purchasing any software, but it also makes it easier to share and edit a document between people.

In the library setting Google Docs can be used many ways. The ability to share a document or presentation gives students a way to work on group projects without messy emails. Library staff can easily co-author papers or simply share a spreadsheet between departments. This can be especially useful when working with people at other institutions who do not share a common server. Need a place to hold all of your committee documents that is accessible by all members? Google Docs can serve as that online repository. Although document sharing is a nice feature of Google Docs, it is not required; Google Docs can simply be a way to access documents on different computers or on computers that do not have Microsoft Office. Google Docs even lets you upload documents currently saved on your computer as a Word, Excel or PowerPoint file.

Google Docs