Easy automation for Google+

Last week, I told you about a great new service called "If This Then That" (IFTTT), which lets you automate things online. I also gave instructions on how to post on Google+ via email.

Together, these let you automatically post things to Google+. But I didn't tell you how, exactly. I announced a "contest" to see who could come up with the most useful and fun Google+ automations using IFTTT.

If you're as lazy as I am, you'll be thrilled to learn that once created, these automations -- called "recipes" -- can be shared and easily re-used by anybody. And I'll share the winning contest entries with you below.

But first, let's take a look at what this automating Google+ thing is all about.

There are two basic directions for automating Google+: incoming and outgoing. To automate is to set it up so that things are put in or taken out automatically, without you having to do anything.

How to automate Google+ output

Setting up your Google+ feed to auto-post elsewhere -- say, Facebook, Twitter or on a blog -- is easy and popular, and there are many ways to do it.

A nicely curated list of those options is maintained by a Google+ user and advocate named Johnathan Chung.

The most common options happen to be browser plug-ins, and there are many to choose from for all the major browsers.

You can also automate output via RSS. This is a simple process of plugging in the RSS feed URL for your public Google+ posts to just about any service or site that accepts RSS.

For example, I publish an email newsletter using a service called MailChimp. You can set up MailChimp to take any RSS feed and publish new content in that feed as an automated newsletter. So I publish my Google+ posts as both a daily and a weekly newsletter.

Once I set it up, it required no further action on my part. I just post things on Google+, and my thousands of readers get a newsletter via email, complete with pictures and links.

It's easy to get an RSS feed URL for your public Google+ posts. Several services enable you to simply add your unique Google+ number to the end of their service's URL. You can find your number in the URL when you're looking at your profile page.

For example, my unique Google+ number is 113117251731252114390. Here's the RSS feed for my public Google+ posts on three services:

PlusFeed: http://plusfeed2.appspot.com/113117251731252114390

gPlusFeed: http://gplusfeed.herokuapp.com/113117251731252114390

Dlvr.it: http://dlvritplus.appspot.com/113117251731252114390

There are more on Johnathan Chung's list. By simply replacing your Google+ number with mine, you'll have your RSS feed URL as well, which you can plug in to any service that accepts RSS.

Google+ output automation is easy. And now, thanks to a few brave readers and Google+ circle friends, Google+ input automation is easy, too, for the first time ever.

How to automate Google+ input

Automatically adding things from the outside world into your Google+ stream used to be impossible. The reason was that SMS appeared to be the only possible input, and that SMS had to come from your own personal phone number.

But thanks to a neat hack detailed in last week's column, you can actually post to Google+ via email.

And thanks to the IFTTT service, you can use that email input to automatically take things from other places on the Internet and add them to your Google+ stream.

Lots of people took up my challenge last week and created Google+ input automations using IFTTT. Note that by clicking on the links associated with each tip, you can simply use them for your own Google+ account. (But first you need to set up Google+ email posting using the tip in last week's column.)

Here are the best tips for automating Google+ input.

Get notified if rain is in the forecast for tomorrow

Amber Yust created a recipe for being notified if rain is in the forecast for tomorrow. The IFTTT item for weather checks the forecast. If rain is expected, a notice pops up in Amber's Google+ stream, visible only to herself.

Post Google Calendar Alerts to your personal stream

Ray Ebersole created a hack that places Google Calendar Alerts, or reminders, into his personal stream.

One advantage of this hack is that Google Calendar normally needs to be running in order for him to receive pop-up reminders. But with this tip, he gets those reminders in his stream whether Google Calendar is running or not.

Remind your circle friends to watch something

Jennifer Ruggiero created several great Google+ inputs. If you want to automatically announce each This Week In Tech (TWIT) show just before it happens each Sunday -- or if you just want a reminder to yourself -- this tip will make that happen.

She also created one for reminders that a Chicago Bears game is about to take place.

Both these tips leverage Google Calendar public calendars. You can add any of these public calendars to your private Google+ Calendar, then have reminders for those public events pumped into Google+.

Share what you're listening to on Spotify

If Mark Zuckerberg can do it on Facebook, Chris Porter can do it on Google+. He figured out how to share what he's listening to on the Spotify music service to his circle friends on Google+. As with all these tips, you can "address" the incoming email to share it with everyone, just a small circle or just yourself.

Post on Google+ from Flipboard

Chris Porter also built a way to post directly from Flipboard, the all-purpose reader popular with iPad users. This recipe involves being able to share to Google+ from the Google Reader RSS service, then to share to Google+ from Flipboard via Google Reader.

Post Twitter tweets to Google+

Elia Alberti built a recipe for posting your tweets on Google+ automatically.

These are just a few of the many great ideas you can easily implement with IFTTT and Google+. By playing around with the service, and thinking about what makes sense for your own style of work and social networking, you can create your own recipes that nobody else has thought of.

And please circle me on Google+ and join the ongoing conversation we'll be having about using IFTTT to do incredible new things with Google+.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. Contact and learn more about Mike at Elgan.com, or subscribe to his free email newsletter, Mike's List.

This story, "Easy automation for Google+" was originally published by Computerworld.

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