Monthly Archives: December 2011

ifttt.com is how the internet should work

If you had reason to divide technology users into two groups, those who are curious enough to look behind the curtain and figure out how things can be made to work better, and those who aren’t– I can think of no better line than the humble email filter. Tinkering with email rules isn’t rocket science (or even computer science), but it marks a person as belonging to a certain tribe. Lets call them People Who Think The Computer Should Be Working Harder.

ifttt.com (If This Then That) is for people who think the Internet should be working harder. It’s basically the same principal as email filters: instead of applying rules to incoming emails, you assign them to particular triggers– which could be a Craigslist search, incoming Facebook messages, new posts to an RSS feed, photos on Instagram or Flickr, videos on YouTube or Vimeo, and any of dozens of other triggers– even email. Triggers are grouped by source, called a “channel”.

Ifttt  Channels  20111207

Most of the channels can also be the destination of an action. For example, here are some tasks I use:

  • Send posts from the CFPB blog to Instapaper (I figure it’s probably good practice to read the stuff my employer publishes)
  • When ever there’s a new post to the official Django blog, email me– these are most often security updates.
  • Longreads is a great source of good (and, long) articles. I like sending those to Instapaper, too.

As you can see, I’ve barely scratched the surface– I could be doing a lot more with this. Here are a few some contrived examples, mostly for fun:

  • Post to Twitter, every time I “love” a track on Last.fm
  • Whenever I post a new Facebook status, post it to LinkedIn as well. Or Tumblr. Or Posterous. Or WordPress.
  • Every time I send an email attachment to a certain address (provided by ifttt), save it to my Dropbox account.
  • Send me an email whenever someone is selling a particular item on craigslist.

Explore it yourself, and I think you’ll find several examples of ways it can make the web more useful for you. This is one of those sites that I wish I could pay for. What they do is so useful, I hope they find a way to make it sustainable. It’d be a shame for it to go away.

ifttt.com is how the internet should work

If you had reason to divide technology users into two groups, those who are curious enough to look behind the curtain and figure out how things can be made to work better, and those who aren’t– I can think of no better line than the humble email filter. Tinkering with email rules isn’t rocket science (or even computer science), but it marks a person as belonging to a certain tribe. Lets call them People Who Think The Computer Should Be Working Harder.

ifttt.com (If This Then That) is for people who think the Internet should be working harder. It’s basically the same principal as email filters: instead of applying rules to incoming emails, you assign them to particular triggers– which could be a Craigslist search, incoming Facebook messages, new posts to an RSS feed, photos on Instagram or Flickr, videos on YouTube or Vimeo, and any of dozens of other triggers– even email. Triggers are grouped by source, called a “channel”.

Most of the channels can also be the destination of an action. For example, here are some tasks I use:

  • Send posts from the CFPB blog to Instapaper (I figure it’s probably good practice to read the stuff my employer publishes)
  • When ever there’s a new post to the official Django blog, email me– these are most often security updates.
  • Longreads is a great source of good (and, long) articles. I like sending those to Instapaper, too.

As you can see, I’ve barely scratched the surface– I could be doing a lot more with this. Here are a few some contrived examples, mostly for fun:

  • Post to Twitter, every time I “love” a track on Last.fm
  • Whenever I post a new Facebook status, post it to LinkedIn as well. Or Tumblr. Or Posterous. Or WordPress.
  • Every time I send an email attachment to a certain address (provided by ifttt), save it to my Dropbox account.
  • Send me an email whenever someone is selling a particular item on craigslist.

Explore it yourself, and I think you’ll find several examples of ways it can make the web more useful for you. This is one of those sites that I wish I could pay for. What they do is so useful, I hope they find a way to make it sustainable. It’d be a shame for it to go away.

Help kids learn to code

CodeNow is a DC non-profit that teaches kids to code, and they need donations. It seems like a good program:

The Five Parts To Our Program:

1) Weekend Training: Each student selected participates in one weekend training. On Day 1, students will learn basics in programming with Hackety Hack, an open source program teaching basics in Ruby. On Day 2, using Lego Mindstorms, (robotic kits made out of Legos), students works in team to build and program robots.

2) Projects: After the weekend training students will complete online assignments and projects to hone their skills

3) BootCamp: Students will attend a bootcamp from December 27-30, during which they will receive intensive training in the programming language Ruby.

4) Netbooks: Each student who completes the weekend training and bootcamp will receive a netbook. We feel it’s important for students to be able to practice their skills. The netbook is a tool which will allow them to do so.

5) Alumni Network: All students who complete the trainings and bootcamp will be invited to join our Alumni network where they will receive mentoring, assistance finding internships, and invitations to attend hackathons and other events.

 

 

#foodfail: Peanut Butter Cookies

After I had a few Ratio-driven successes under by belt, I had an idea: The Maximum Peanut Butter Cookie.

Ruhlman describes the “essential” cookie as 1 part sugar, 2 parts fat, and 3 parts flour. I’ve made this, and it’s OK.  Somehow, I got to wondering how it could be adapted to a peanut butter cookie. I stayed up late and actually did the math: I came up with a recipe where peanut butter provided all of the fat and most of the sugar. I made no other changes and added no other ingredients.

I thought this was brilliant. I gave it a name (see above). It was a few days later that I actually got around to trying this crazy thing, but that night I went to sleep convinced of my own genius.

The “cookie” it produced was awful. Imagine a lump of peanut butter in your mouth, with flour (making it drier) and being baked (even drier). You’re thirsty just thinking about that, right?

If I try this again, I think I’ll use a liquid for the additional sweetener (honey, perhaps), lower the amount of flour (to account for all the other “stuff” in a serving of peanut butter that is neither fat nor sugar: the peanut solids and whatever else), and probably add some eggs to soften and leaven it a bit.

 

Basics

I’ve been absorbing a lot of information about food in the last year(and actually cooking too!), but there a lot of basic things I have yet to try or learn.

I’ve read On Food and Cooking, but (until last week) had never made mashed potatoes. I’ve read Ideas in Food, but had never made gravy– and gravy is perhaps the best “idea in food” ever.

Preparing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner was educational, then. Here’s the menu we ended up with (including what Patty & I made, and things brought by family) :

  • Turkey
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Strawberry Salad
  • Gravy (!)
  • Cranberry applesauce
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Green beans
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Chocolate-chip pumpkin bread

There were no major disasters, but I’m already plotting The Next Turkey. I would have liked the bird to have come out with crispier skin– I’m not sure whether to blame the electric roaster, the brining process, both, or neither. I was happy that I took Ruhlman’s advice to make turkey stock ahead of time. Otherwise there would have been no gravy at all– there were no juices in the pan after the turkey was done.