How It Works

IFTTT: Your digital duct tape

FCW magazine June 30 issue icon set.

“If This Then That” (IFTTT) is a social media service that combines 166 channels such as Twitter, Android and iOS location services, and RSS into “recipes” that can integrate government social media, data, location-based services and the Internet of Things.

Now one of nearly 80 social media platforms with federal-friendly terms of service, IFTTT can empower federal managers to operate more effectively, and its developer platform can fuel everything from open archives to wearable devices with government application programming interfaces.

So what does IFTTT mean and how does it work?

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If one action is taken on one channel, such as a Facebook, you can automatically trigger another action in another channel, such as SMS. For example, you could create a recipe where every Facebook post you send is auto-archived in a document for records management.

Taking the recipe further, you could create triggers where every single social media or blog post sent from any of your approved platforms are auto-archived in a shared Google Calendar that creates an open archive and visual records management system that ensures centralized accountability for any number of satellite offices and agencies. (See http://is.gd/FCW_IFTTT_archive_tweets.)

And that’s just the beginning. I asked some API enthusiasts in the SocialGov community which of their favorite recipes were must-haves for digital teams or those new to the platform. Although putting government APIs to use for citizens in IFTTT has exciting potential, we focused on recipes that could be used internally for government.

Here are three worth sharing:

Alerts
As a product manager at 18F, Leah Bannon needs to know when a customer or collaborator wants to take action. The 18F Dashboard, for instance, demonstrates the progress of projects from Discovery > Alpha > Beta > Live and invites people to get involved. She recommends establishing automatic alerts for programs like this to ensure your team is ready to meet them.

Example: “Notify me if someone submits a pull request to the 18F Dashboard

Notifications

Melody Kramer, an innovation specialist at 18F, has an eye on where the discussions are happening outside government and wants to make sure she’s informed. She recommends that teams set up notifications that will automatically inform them when a URL from one of their digital properties is shared on another platform. That approach helps her identify where the conversations are happening so she can meet customers where they are.

Example: Notify me if someone submits a link to 18F to Reddit

Recruitment

Tim Lowden, a program analyst in the General Services Administration’s Digital Analytics Program, knows that new positions in digital government are rising up across agencies. To help with professional development and recruitment, he recommends using IFTTT to help potential applicants receive alerts when jobs matching specific criteria (such as the positions your department hires) are posted on USAJobs. Such alerts are can be customized for keywords, agencies, salary, etc.

Example: “Send a daily email digest of new NASA postings on USAJobs” 

And that’s just the beginning. We’re planning an API cook-off for later this summer for agencies to explore developing public service channels that would fold government services into IFTTT. So if you’ve got a recipe (or an idea for one) to share, let me know at justin.herman@gsa.gov.

About the Author

Justin Herman leads the U.S. General Services Administration's inter-agency Emerging Citizen Technology Office, coordinating and supporting emerging technology programs among 320 federal, state and local government agencies, including Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Robotic Process Automation, Virtual/Augmented Reality and Social Technologies. This program works with experts on emerging disruptive technologies that operationalize data and finds practical use cases for their application in government by engaging agencies, industry, civic organizations and Congress.

Justin sits on the White House's National Science and Technology Council subcommittee for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. He's been recognized as Fedscoop's 2017 Tech Champion of the Year, as one of the five people reshaping Washington DC by Capitol File magazine, and by Washington Life magazine as one of the most accomplished young leaders in the Capitol.

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