I've written enough posts about hacks for my Nokia and BlackBerry. Now it's time for my iPhone and an email hack that I've been working on. I've been using a system that I built to feed me buzz from the web on to my phone through push messages (ie alerts that look like SMS). Here's what I have built, how it works, and how I'm going to use it.
First - how I'm going to use it.
I'm going to use it to kill email. Email is something I know I couldn't live without, but people who regularly have to listen to me or read my blog know how I feel about it. If you spend a lot of time doing stuff, not just sat in front of a computer, and if your emails have jobs associated with them (ie, you cant just read it then file it - you have to actually do something after you get it) then getting hundreds of emails a day is a killer.
So my system is, I hope, going to give me a way to allow people to get in touch in touch with me in a way that doesnt clog things up. If I provide ways to bypass email, hopefully it will become easier to work it.
Second - how it works.
It works by plugging a cluster of social feeds into my iPhone to alert me whenever someone is saying something to me or about me. It takes messages from the social web, including mentions of me and my sites, tweets, private messages and, if I want, mentions of other stuff, and feeds it into my pocket and, if I want, to my desktop when I'm there, and all with a heavy leaning on Twitter. In other words, my inbox will have messages of 140 characters or less, and it will come from Twitter and the social web.
Third - how I built it.
[Caveat - this is an experiment! It isn't fully working yet, but it's pretty much there]
1. Start with an iPhone. I'm using a 3GS which is pretty fast. I'm tetchy when things go slow.
2. Download Boxcar and set it to notify you for Twitter mentions and DMs. It's an app which takes social feeds such as Twitter direct messages and mentions, and converts them into push messages - or in other words alerts that ping you when something new arrives in a similar way to SMS messages. I've been using it for a few months now as it's useful if you use Twitter. It effectively raises Twitter up into a similar level of visibility to the text message if you have your phone in your pocket and arent always in front of a browser window. [Boxcar costs a nominal amount]
- I should mention here, the best bit about Boxcar is it feeds you Twitter mentions and @'s instantly in a popup, and I find huge value in that alone, even if you do none of the below -
3. Go to a range of social search sites and do searches for your name and URLs you own. Save the RSS feeds. I went to Google Blog Search for blogs, news and web; Board Reader for forums; Flickr for photos, YouTube for videos, and a few more.
4. Set up a new Twitter account. I call mine @drewbuzz. This will only ever post content from your RSS feeds, which, remember, is messages aimed at you but scattered across the web.
5. Plug all these RSS feeds into Twitter Feed, one at a time. Then plug the Twitter Feeds into the new Twitter account. Tailor the prefix in Twitter Feed so that when a message is posted, it has your main Twitter handle. I have used the phrase @drewb ahoy... This is important because if you don't have the mention of your main Twitter handle, the system won't work.
That's it. So to illustrate.
Message is posted for me on a forum / photo of me posted on Flickr / blog post / video posted. It triggers an RSS feed which goes into Twitter Feed which goes into my secondary Twitter account with the prefix "@drewb ahoy!" That gets seen by Boxcar and so sent instantly to my phone as a popup message. If I'm at a PC it's there too in my @drewb inbox inside my main Twitter account. It happened this morning when a post mentioning me on Matt Churchill's blog went up and I got to see it through this system pretty nicely.