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Ask HN: What's the most creative use of IFTTT you've seen?
81 points by vccafe on May 23, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 68 comments
I know some folks are hardcore fans of https://ifttt.com/ - what are the most clever uses of IFTTT you've seen or heard of?

Not bragging here, but a while ago I used IFTTT to create a system where I created a quasi-alert system for a local legend/mentally ill guy who wanders the subway in my city. Everyone knows him, but sometimes he disappears for a month or two and people online start to talk about where he went.

I began wheatpasting a photo of him with a QR over his mouth (he often says the government/big corporations are trying to kill him) and the phrase "have you seen me?" around the subway stations he's usually on. The QR code went to an SMS #, which caught an IFTTT trigger to turn that SMS into an email (to an anonymous Gmail account) which, upon receipt, caught another IFTTT trigger and posted the text of their message to a Tumblr account -- one seamless workflow. This way, people could in more-or-less real time keep tabs on him and how he's doing.

It went well until the police took down the posters, of course. Haven't thought of a way around that, yet.

You put up posters encouraging random people to track a paranoid mentally ill person? Did you not think that might have harmed his mental health to see those posters of himself and have people pointing him out to their friends without understanding it? It'd be creepy enough for a normal person to see such posters about themselves.

Nah, most people are just genuinely concerned about him, especially when he disappears. I'm in China -- if I did this in NYC, I wouldn't have done it. But that type of malicious intent is far, far less here. When he's gone, there's lots of talk online about where he went and people start looking out for him. I just made a way to scale and centralize it.

You should set up some kind of tipjar so you can use donated funds to help buy him some food.

Collecting funds is quite prohibited (or heavily regulated, I should say) in China, otherwise I absolutely would.

Note to self: Do this to my brother for April Fool's Day next year

While that sounds cool it's also scary. I mean, everyone is stalking him.. it's not 'trying to kill him', but it's a reason to become paranoid. Without his agreement, I don't believe this is ok. (For non-humans however.. )


People used QR codes?

I'm very surprised (seriously)

Extremely frequently in China (where I am), yes.

I love the idea of IFTTT (and automation in general) but everytime I go their website, I just sit there for 30 minutes and realize that most recipes would annoy me more than they would help me. Maybe I just have no imagination.

Ditto however I changed the way I approach it, now Im hooked.

Instead of browsing recipes, just know the kind of things that are possible and leave. But, next time you run into a frustration †, hopefully IFTTT will be in your peripheral considerations and then you can set it up. Much more relevant that way.


† Like for example you wished you had a message the night before that it was gonna snow big time during the night, so you can set the alarm a little earlier. Or something like that.

I'm in the same boat. I think IFTTT is a great idea, but whenever I need something it does, I find myself using Cron jobs and web triggers instead.

What do you mean by web triggers? Watch on a web page? What do people use for that?

Some services can be configured to GET or POST to a URL of your choosing when something happens. E.g. you can ask Github to "GET http://my-site.org/action/ whenever you push commits to your repositories. If you control my-site.org, you can have the /action/ script do whatever you like. These "push" notifications are super- simple, reasonably low latency, and don't require polling.

I did something similar when taking an operating systems class. Linux kernel compiles take quite a long time, so I set up my site to send me a text message when I "GET /compile-done." Then, a quick "make ; curl http://my-site/compile-done would drop me a text message and I could get a sandwich or something until it was done.

The only thing I use it for is saving entries on selected RSS feeds to Pocket. That way I can read them on my phone when I'm away from 3G/wifi (on the tube, in the gym, in a lift etc).

I have a pretty in depth write up of how I use IFTTT and Evernote to collect my digital breadcrumbs. I particularly like that every month I get a screenshot of my last.fm chart. It's amazing how much music can spark your memory.


After reading your article I'm now investigating around that Doxie stuff, thanks for this. The wife regularly pesters me because she wants to scan stuff but I've always thought scanners where device from the 90s, never occured to me they actually evolved (SD card, dropbox, etc)

I've had a really good experience with the Doxie. I may upgrade my SD card to the wireless one, but other than that I'm super happy.

Yep, I'm now also very interested in a Doxie, due to your comment on the OP's article!

The Fujitsu ScanSanps are like what sex would look like if it were a scanner.

I am also using it with my last.fm data, to send me an email when an artist I already scrobbled releases a new record.

It also triggers an email when I have new artist recommendation based on my scrobbling history.

When I was running for adminship on Wikipedia, I had it so every edit made to my election page was sent to me as an email.

This took an anxious week and turned it into full blown 24x7 nightmare. ;)

I was really bad at recording mileage, so I set up IFTTT to save my foursquare check ins to Google Calendar.

Then at the end of the year I have a full list of everywhere I went and can give to my accountant.

I have one where it grabs my Instagram photos and stores them in a folder in Dropbox and then my screen saver uses that folder as a photo source to display.

I really like IFTTT. None of my recipes are really all that clever, but they save me money and time, which is why I like IFTTT.

I have about 10 recipes searching classified or bargain sites for various things I intend to buy, but don't need urgently, and get an alert sent to Pushover when matches are found. The sites do not allow you to search and email results, but you can search and generate an RSS feed.

After Google Reader was announced as shutting down I made recipes for my favourite sites and push the articles to Pocket. Offline articles ready to go every morning.

And then there's all the Ingress passcodes I get automatically forwarded to Pushover...

I archive Google Reader starred items to a Google spreadsheet by date, title, url and feed title.

On Fridays around 4pm I have an automatic tweet going out asking what's happening that night. Nothing too fancy.

I archive any Instagram photo I like to Drive also.

> I archive Google Reader starred items to a Google spreadsheet by date, title, url and feed title.

You know you can just browse your starred items, right?

Yes. But it's handy for sharing links and, once reader is gone, be central location for similar items.

I haven't found any IFTTT recipe that would be particularly useful to me. However, I've set up a few useful jobs on Zapier, for instance I have CircleCI automatically create a GitHub issue upon build failures using Webhooks.

I built this automated twitter account: https://twitter.com/SEOguru101

It uses RSS feeds to spit out content. I've only sent maybe 5 tweets in the accounts entire life.

I get an email if the weather shows it'll rain tomorrow. That's kinda nice. Also, anything I star on Google Reader saves to Instapaper, but that wont' be useful very much longer.

Yeah, I find automatic email / notifications for things like weather help you acquire an ambient, almost sub-conscious awareness of things you wouldn't be able to glean from the environment. Not IFTT, but I like PM software like Trello for this too.

I wonder about other things that are nice to have an ambient awareness of. It can't be too many things, otherwise you risk overwhelming yourself with notifications / beeps / things to check / glowing orbs, but I bet we all have a bit of room for more of that.

Even better than IFTTT for weather is the iOS app Dark Sky. I have it set to give me a push notification whenever it starts raining in my area. THAT'S a useful feature so I remember to grab an umbrella if I don't notice the rain yet.

That was my initial experiment with IFTTT, too, but I got annoyed by the inability to schedule "recipes", so I'd get said email (or tweet etc.) at a specific time. There is a date & time event source, but as you can't chain predicates...

If IFTTT even goes down, you can circle back to http://umbrellatoday.com/. Enter a location, and you can register an e-mail address (of mobile phone) where a message should be send to.

We have an in-joke in the Pacific North West about our 'jacket summers'. I use IFTTT to automatically post what to wear the following day. This being said, it's not very popular :)


I think the integration of Philips Hue gives an opportunity to do some creative stuff. Once there was also a recipe to automatically create a list of people who engage in conversations with you, but i think it doesn't work anymore after the changes in Twitter API/terms.

I'm excited about the recent integration with Hue. I used to have a little mechanical timer that would turn a lamp on when it was time to get up in the morning. I don't have much use for it this time of year since the sun is up before I am. But if I could set IFTTT to set a lamp indicating the weather forecast for the day right when I wake up, that would be cool :)

This is a good thread. Thanks for asking this question. I'm curious to see more answers.

I simply have no imagination when it comes to things like this. I really wish i did. I could probably make my life much easier if i did.

I've played around with IFTT and Zapier and found both quite limiting. I wished I could just write code to connect the APIs exactly the way I wanted. Has anyone else had a similar experience?

I'm building a platform to enable just that for businesses. It's mostly geared towards marketing integration and automation but could really be used any way imaginable.

When it comes to deeper integration zapier work's better in my pov.

Zapier is more for business uses; IFTTT is typically not.

You might check out this topic on Quora:


Sorry, Quora DIED for me the day they introduced this: "You must sign in to read past the first answer".

---which they sprang after years of collecting good stuff from good-spirited folks. Thanks but no thanks.

That is the day I deleted my account.

Which has been annoying on occasion - but less occasions than I'd've thought.

if you append ?share=1 to the end of the url, its open again..

My friend and I built a thing that alerted me when my dryer was done, called Toasty Knickers. We hooked up the dryer to an Arduino. Our first attempt was Arduino->wifi->email->IFTTT->SMS but it was pretty flaky. We finally got it down to Arduino->wifi->Pushover. It worked out really well!


Awesome, how did you hook it up to the dryer?

Also tidy your laundry room! :p

Haven't seen any interesting use of it.

I tried to use it to crawl photos and news and put it to my google drive, but in most cases I ended up with thumbnails and intro-texts. :\

Living in Texas and recently having bought a somewhat nice car, hail is a big concern for me. I have several recipes that monitor the weather.gov feeds of the counties in my area for the word 'hail' -- if it catches instances of that word, it'll send me a SMS.

Example feed: http://alerts.weather.gov/cap/wwaatmget.php?x=TXZ103&y=0

made a learning tool based totally around IFTTT and Zapier: http://becomeabuilder.com

I have only two recipes: I get emails for reddit replies and messages, and any post I save in reddit gets added my to Pocket queue. Both are fairly standard actually. I wouldn't call them creative. I often look at the website, and it makes me think of the awesome things possible, but I then realize I really don't need that much automation or mashups.

These are the most popular uses reported by IFTTT https://ifttt.com/recipes?utf8=%E2%9C%93&sort=popular

If you change your Facebook profile pic > change twitter Text me the weather every morning Star ★ a Gmail, send it to Evernote

I created a Twitter bot for reddit's Bitcoin community with IFTTT: https://twitter.com/redditbtc.

I also have the weather for my area texted to me every morning, which is pretty handy. Another recipe of mine is to automatically forward my App.net posts to Twitter.

A few weeks ago, when _why the lucky stiff's website was updating, I had a realization:

His site was hosted on GitHub pages, so I could get the RSS from his commits, feed it through IFTTT, and have it text me whenever he pushed new content.

While his site is 'gone,' the repository still exists, so I still have the trigger active.

possibly dumb question: how is that better than subscribing to the github rss feed?

I don't use RSS on mobile; getting a push immediately so when I'm not at a computer is helpful.

I used to have few recipes each taking tweets from my account tagged with #reN, retweet them with a new hashtag re(N-1) -- for tweets that I wanted to reach a wider audience.

Example: #re2 would get auto-retweeted for two days in a row.

Around the time I got this working correctly, twitter kicked ifttt out. sigh

I have setup a trigger based upon our local city's reporting of water line breaks/repairs since they use a specific hash tag on Twitter. When they post one, I get an SMS message. If my residence will be affected, I let my wife know.

I read the IFTTT in the title at first as IFFT and got really excited for a moment.

Me too. I assume this is the inverse fourier transform transform transform.

I was the first early adopter to stop using the service.

I use it to post to Google Calendar when I take an Instagram photo. Not sure how clever that is, but it might be useful in the future

As a follow up question - did anyone use IFTTT in a way that helped them make money?

When I was video blogging it reduced a 1h daily process to a 5m one, so depending on how you value time. In my case, my alternative was to pay a PA £15/h, so there was some [small] money attached.

I had socialcam on my phone post to YouTube. ifttt picked up new youtube videos and posted them as wordpress posts. Feedburner then picked up the RSS item and tweeted it.

So making a 5m video ended up taking exactly 5m and everything else was cobbled together as a chain of services.

I've setup alerts when a certain TV show is available for torrenting

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