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Two ways to work around IFTTT’s removal of Twitter triggers

If This Then That kills Twitter If This Then That (IFTTT) is a really powerful service that could best be described as “the ultimate Web 2.0 mashup creation tool.” It lets you bridge Web 2.0 services together in really unique and powerful ways. You create “recipes” that follow the simple syntax “If this then that” (hence the name). The this (which IFTTT calls a “trigger”) consists of an action that you (or someone else) takes on one service (you post a new picture using Instagram; someone tags you in a photo on Facebook; someone sends you an email). When the trigger fires, that is when the that part of an IFTTT recipe comes in to play (which IFTTT calls “actions”). An “action” is something that IFTTT can do on your behalf using a variety of different services (create a note in Evernote; post a link to Twitter; SMS me). Their “about” page does a much better job than I of explaining what IFTTT’s all about, and you can check out the directory of public recipes to see the powerful and creative ways others are taking advantage of IFTTT.

Unfortunately, some recent API and policy changes Twitter has started putting into play has in effect neutered IFTTT’s capabilities as far as Twitter is concerned. While IFTTT still supports Twitter “actions” (so, e.g. you can post Tweets using IFTTT), they have removed all Twitter “triggers.”

Fortunately, with all the Web 2.0 services out there on the Internets, and using some of these services, I have found a way to accomplish the two things I was using IFTTT for, insofar as Twitter is concerned.

Cross-post your Tweets to a different service

Many people are members of more than one social network. (If nothing else, Twitter and Facebook.) Fortunately there is built-in support for cross-posting Tweets to Facebook. However, in my case, I recently joined App.net, an interesting experiment at creating a new, completely user-centric (and ad-free) social network. The catch is that (at least for now) you’ve got to pay to play — $50/year for a normal user, and $100/year if you want a developer account (i.e. access to their API). Because of this, not to mention the relative new-ness of App.net, things are still fairly quiet over there. One method that some people (myself included) were using to try and jump-start things on App.net, is cross-posting their status updates from other social networks onto it. (Plus it’s just really hard managing posts on multiple social networks, especially on mobile platforms: you’ve gotta copy/paste your update amongst X different apps, yada yada).

Fortunately (at least for the moment) there is a way around this. IFTTT supports RSS feed triggers — and Twitter allows you to export your tweets as an RSS feed:

http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/[YOUR USER NAME].rss

In IFTTT, create a new recipe, choose the “Feed -> New feed item” trigger, and enter the above URL for the feed URL; be sure to replace “[YOUR USER NAME]” with your Twitter user name. (You can also use “Feed -> New feed item matches” if you only want to trigger on Tweets matching a certain phrase) For the Action, choose the service you want to cross-post your Tweet to. In my case, I chose “App.net -> Post an update,” and used “{{EntryTitle}}” as the Message. However you can use any other service you desire; for example, “Evernote -> Append to note” if you want to save a record of all your Tweets into Evernote.

There is however a caveat: Twitter recently announced that RSS is deprecated, so there’s no telling how long this trick will work. So enjoy it while it lasts. Also, Twitter’s RSS feed automatically prefixes each entry with your Twitter user name; so for example if I were to tweet “I like cheese,” and mirror that to App.net, it would come out as “dburr: I like cheese.” But, you get what you pay for, so no complaining!

Take favorited Tweets and save them somewhere

As a software engineer, consultant and general tech enthusiast, I like to keep up on the latest tech related news. And, of course, as host and chief otaku of Otaku no Podcast, I try and keep up on the latest anime and Japan news. So I follow a lot of people on Twitter that tweet out links to articles that I am extremely interested in. However I’m not always in a position where I want to read those articles (e.g. when I’m out and about and all I have is my iPhone). So I use Twitter’s “favorites” feature to mark tweets with links that I might potentially want to read later, and I had an IFTTT recipe that took all of my favorited tweets and posted them to Delicious, the service I use for storing and managing all my bookmarks. My recipe would automatically add a tag to each bookmark indicating its contents (“tech” for a tech-related story, and “onp” for a story that I might potentially want to talk or blog about on Otaku no Podcast).

Unfortunately, there is no way (at least none that I could find) of exporting my Twitter favorites as an RSS feed; so the trick above didn’t work for me. After hours of searching I finally found a service that was able to pull in favorited Tweets. Diigo is a social bookmarking site, similar in concept to the aforementioned Delicious, that I honestly had never heard of. But it’s quite sophisticated, and has a very slick user interface. One of its many features is the capability to pull in your list of favorited Tweets and add them as Diigo bookmarks. Even better, if you would rather use Delicious, Diigo can automatically post bookmarks to Delicious; in this case Diigo would serve merely as a conduit between Twitter and Delicious. Diigo is a free service, but free accounts have certain limitations (one of which being that it will only save up to 20 favorited Tweets per day); also Diigo will show ad banners if using a free account. For most people this is perfectly acceptable; however if you want to remove all restrictions (not to mention ad banners), a Diigo premium account will only cost you $5 a month (or $40 a year).

Note that in the above, IFTTT isn’t even involved at all. IFTTT only comes into play if you want to do something else with your Favorited tweets besides bookmarking them in either Diigo or Delicious. If this is the case, then create a new IFTTT recipe with “Diigo -> Any new public bookmark” as the Trigger (Use “Diigo -> New public bookmark tagged” if you only want bookmarks with a certain tag to trigger your recipe.) For the Action, choose whatever service you want to process your Favorited tweets with (for example, “Tumblr -> Create a link post” if you want to automatically post your Favorited Tweets to your Tumblr blog.)

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

It is my sincere hope that IFTTT and Twitter can get together and work something out. Considering the wide variety of services that it supports, for Twitter to essentially take themselves out of that ecosystem is probably not their smartest move.

But, in the meantime, the old adage “where there’s a will, there’s a way” certainly applies. And with all the Web 2.0 services out there, there is almost certainly a way to do what you need. Experiment!

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