Using If-This-Then-That to Automate Research Management

I posted a lengthy how-to on using the If This Then That service to capture incoming e-mails labeled in Google Mail and copy them into client folders on my Dropbox account.  One benefit of doing this is that it places e-mail with other client content, making browsing easier since you can head to the folder and find both e-mail and files in there.

I also use IFTTT for managing other research streams.  The service allows you to connect a variety of cloud-based accounts – e-mail, file storage, social media, and others – so that if something happens in one account and triggers a rule or “recipe” that you design, something will happen in another one of your accounts.  The interface is easy to use and you can point and click your way to connecting your accounts.

Here’s one way that I use it.  I use Twitter as a research tool, for finding out information that normally doesn’t enter through my filters.  I follow a few dozen people who tend to share links to information.  Similarly, I usually only share tweets that have a link to something I think is interesting.  When I send one of those messages, IFTTT copies the message with the link and saves it into my Dropbox account in a folder specifically created for this.  Now, if I want to go back through information that I know was interesting enough to send a tweet about, I have a copy in my Dropbox account.

Which means I also have a copy synchronized to my local PC.  When I do a search, either using Windows 7 on my desktop or Cue in the cloud, these links appear with the rest of the results.  In particular, I don’t have to rely on the availability of those tweets from Twitter; my personal archive guarantees perpetual access that online services can’t offer.

Unlike many of the tools or resources I post about here, IFTTT is relatively undefined.  But I would encourage you to take a look at it if you use any of the common cloud-based services they connect.  The ability to integrate and automate some functions may enable you to manage your research better, and possibly in ways you hadn’t ever thought about before.

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