IFTTT: Recipes for working smarter

“If This Then That” (IFTTT) is a social media service that combines 166 channels such as Twitter, RSS and Android and iOS location services into “recipes” that can integrate government social media, data, location-based services and the Internet of Things.

Now one of nearly 80 social media platforms with federal-friendly terms of service, IFTTT can empower government IT managers to operate more effectively, and its developer platform can fuel everything from open archives to wearable devices with government application programming interfaces.

So what does IFTTT mean and how does it work?

If one action is taken on one channel, such as a Facebook, you can automatically trigger another action in another channel, such as SMS. For example, you could create a recipe where every Facebook post you send is auto-archived in a document for records management.

Taking the recipe further, you could create triggers where every single social media or blog post sent from any of your approved platforms are auto-archived in a shared Google Calendar that creates an open archive and visual records management system that ensures centralized accountability for any number of satellite offices and agencies. And that’s just the beginning. I asked some API enthusiasts in the SocialGov community which of their favorite recipes were must-haves for digital teams or those new to the platform. Although putting government APIs to use for citizens in IFTTT has exciting potential, we focused on recipes that could be used internally for government.

Here are three worth sharing:

Alerts: As a product manager at 18F, Leah Bannon needs to know when a customer or collaborator wants to take action. The 18F Dashboard, for instance, demonstrates the progress of projects from Discovery > Alpha > Beta > Live and invites people to get involved. She recommends establishing automatic alerts for programs like this to ensure your team is ready to meet them.
Example
: Notify me if someone submits a pull request to the 18F Dashboard.

Notifications: Melody Kramer, an innovation specialist at 18F, has an eye on where the discussions are happening outside government and wants to make sure she’s informed. She recommends that teams set up notifications that will automatically inform them when a URL from one of their digital properties is shared on another platform. That approach helps her identify where the conversations are happening so she can meet customers where they are.
Example
: Notify me if someone submits a link to 18F to Reddit.

Recruitment: Tim Lowden, a program analyst in the General Services Administration’s Digital Analytics Program, knows that new positions in digital government are opening up across agencies. To help with professional development and recruitment, he recommends using IFTTT to help potential applicants receive alerts when jobs matching specific criteria (such as the positions your department hires) are posted on USAJobs. Such alerts are can be customized for keywords, agencies, salary, etc.
Example
: Send a daily email digest of new NASA postings on USAJobs.

And that’s just the beginning. We’re planning an API cook-off for later this summer for agencies to explore developing public service channels that would fold government services into IFTTT. So if you’ve got a recipe (or an idea for one) to share, let me know at justin.herman@gsa.gov.

Justin Herman is the General Services Administration’s social media lead and is currently detailed to 18F to focus on talent recruitment. This article is adapted from his IFTTT posts on DigitalGov.gov.

About the Author

Justin Herman is social media program manager at the General Services Administration.

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