Howard Rheingold: If Then Online RSS Tool

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Howard Rheingold
Howard Rheingold

IFTTT to Evernote can be a powerful team infotention tool (Diigo groups is good for circumstances in which you want to attach comment threads to bookmarked material, add sticky notes, etc.


The debate team at my school began using Evernote last year for collaborative research.  As students find sources, they dump them into a shared Evernote folder that everyone on the team has access to.  Our effort is multiplied, as students collaborate on finding and writing up evidence.



Click on Image to Enlarge
Click on Image to Enlarge

This year I’ve discovered a tool that makes Evernote even more powerful.  If This, Then That (or IFTTT) is a service that allows users to link any number of websites and web-based services: from widely-used services like email, SMS, Dropbox, Facebook, and Google drive, to lesser known services like Svpply, Pocket, or ffffound!  Using a clean and easy-to-use interface, IFTTT guides users step by step in creating “recipes” to link services.  If you’re looking for inspiration, you can browse through the hundreds of public recipes created by IFTTT users.  The recipes include everything from “download emailed Paypal receipts into Evernote” to “automatically change my Twitter profile picture when I change by Facebook profile picture.”  You can even have IFTTT text you when it’s going to rain.



IFTTT can be combined with Evernote to make a powerful collaborative research tool, because it allows you to combine the collaboration and cloud-access of Evernote with the easy access to information offered by RSS feeds.

Here’s an example:



My public forum debate team is researching the Middle East for debates in November.  The Council on Foreign Relations runs a blog called “Middle East Matters,” which you can subscribe to via RSS.  So first I created an Evernote folder call “Middle East Matters,” then shared it with all the members of the team.  Then I created a recipe so that every time a new item is pushed out by the “Middle East Matters” RSS feed, IFTTT creates a new note in Evernote out of that item.  Voilà!  I have now effortlessly shared the latest updates from the Middle East with my PF team.


It was simple, taking no more than five minutes to set up.  In fact, it was so simple, I created six IFTTT recipes, for six different RSS feeds.



IFTTT isn’t new, and it may be that many readers of this blog are familiar with it.  But if you don’t know it, it’s worth checking out.  And if you have used it, please share your experience in the comments; I’d love to hear how others are using it in education.

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