01/20/14 19:00:16

Web Automation

Sven inspired me to write this. He had a post recently named "iOS Automation Week". This is not about x-callback, but web automation instead. Some folks I have talked with were also explaining how they “automate the web”. I thought I could give you an insight what I do in this regard.

Honestly I don’t try to automate too much, because the more stuff I automate, the less I know about the stuff I automate. For instance I could automatically share all articles I star on Instapaper to Twitter, but I don’t want to do that. I feel like that’s automated spam. My followers don’t deserve automated spam. Instead I choose to share specific articles only. But I do automate some stuff. After all, that’s what we nerds do, right?

Articles and Other Consumable Media

I use Pocket and Instapaper as “reading queue”. My experiment with Safari’s Reading List didn’t yield good enough results. Pocket is my first place to put stuff. It’s where I put videos, articles, shared stuff from Twitter, etc.

Occasionally, about once a week, I go through the bookmarked stuff and decide what to do with it. When I find an interesting article, it goes on Instapaper. When I find something else of interest it usually stays in Pocket, or gets consumed right away.1 I’m meticulous about the stuff that I consume, because I put way more stuff on the queue than I can possibly consume. I’m a huge fan of deleting stuff. The thing is I don’t want to automate this part. My ex girlfriend used to say “no matter how much knowledge you have archived somewhere, it is worth nothing if you are not aware that you have it”. She’s right. No matter how much knowledge one archives on Evernote. It is worth zero if one has no idea that this particular knowledge is there and doesn’t know how to access it. That’s why so many people get caught up in tags, and referencing, and whatnot. People want to remember their stuff. Services like Evernote claim they make it easy to archive knowledge. It is for these reasons why I cherry-pick every single article. Stuff that is not good enough gets deleted. Why would I want to waste my precious life time with stuff that is just barely good enough?

The sharing process is similar. I have an inbox queue with about 10 articles. Do I see the number increase, I delete stuff. Articles that I read and want to share I automatically share using Buffer. Buffer is nice because it can share to Twitter, Facebook, and App.net. Most times I share to LinkedIn as well, though XING is the most prevalent business network in Germany. I tried sharing to XING using an RSS feed, but their RSS importer is just abysmal. When I share to Buffer I turn off link shortening. It feels a little bit more spammy to me to use buff.ly instead of the real URL. I want my followers to feel nice about themselves. If you follow me, you can be sure that what I share was shared with full consciousness that it represents what I stand for and that it’s of interest to people who follow me.

I also edit the URL’s to not include stuff like:


The reason I do this is manyfold. For one I want my followers to have a clean experience. Second I don’t want to skew some site’s analytics. Third I’m German (and a nerd) and we do stupid stuff like that.

Finding Knowledge

The question now is: am I against archiving old articles as reference? No, absolutely not. As written earlier, I left Evernote for good and am using a Dropbox folder to keep reference material now.

The thing is, I rarely put stuff in there. To be honest that’s not how I roll. When I sit in front of my PC and am like “how tall was I in inches again?”, I open a new tab in Safari and just type my size in the search box and hit return. I get the information immediately. I do this in 90% of the cases. It just never happens that I go “oh, I got this thing archived here”. Knowledge that I don’t know that I have, I don’t access. Acquiring knowledge through a quick research on the Internet is just so much faster.

The Nerdy Part

OK, now that you know why I don’t like to automate. Let’s talk about the stuff I do automate (in regards to the web).


I use Brett’s Slogger, because, I think, it is a wonderfully nerdy, cobbled together, piece of software that misuses Day One’s original intention of being a personal diary, to an extent that I just have to use it. That’s it. I can’t resist. It’s got arms and hair, it’s a little bit stinky too. Just what I like. It archives my tweets, my Facebook posts, the articles I read on Instapaper, my RunKeeper activity, all in one place. I can still write diary entries by hand, or use Daily Diary. Slogger makes Day One become my personal logging. Day One represents what I am.


If you follow me on Twitter you know that I’m a huge fan of TweetDeck. HootSuite is even better. HootSuite allows to connect to so many places. It’s ridiculous. One nice thing is, it can import an RSS feed and post somewhere it can post to.

I want to have the posts I write here to be on all of MOSX’s social outlets. I have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a Google+ page. Tumblr can post to Twitter and Facebook natively, but not to Google+. HootSuite can post to Google+.


  1. Brainy Quote to Pushover: Sends me Brainy Quote’s Quote of the Day as Pushover notification. I enjoy reading quotes a lot. When I find a quote I particularly like, it eventually ends up in Day One.
  2. Archive Foursquare checkins to Google Calendar: Whenever I check in somewhere, the checkin gets archived in a Google calendar. I don’t overuse Foursquare, but I check in to certain places. My office and gym particularly. More important are the “unusual” places I visit that I want to archive somewhere. With a calendar I can go ahead and reconstruct what I did on a vacation.
  3. Archive new bookmarks as Markdown: This one checks for new bookmarks on Pinboard, and uses Heck Yes Markdown to process them to Markdown. The text file is then saved to Dropbox.


  1. Job Hunt: I have a Twitter search set up on Zapier that outputs an RSS feed. I read the “job hunt” feeds in my desktop reader, Vienna. More on finding a job online.
  2. Github New Pull Request to Pushover Push Notification: Should be self-explanatory.
  3. Send To Dropbox: This one is built on the idea Federico’s Send Any Webpage From iOS To Your Mac, with a couple of minor differences. I was also using SendToDropbox for a long time, but realized they stopped working at some point.2 I was looking for an alternative and found Zapier to do a decent job. Basically this workflow allows me to send an email to a specific address at Zapier. All emails that get sent to this address get their content saved on Dropbox. The folder is monitored by Hazel, which scans the email for links which it then opens using the default web browser. This way I can easily send a “tab” to my Mac.

I hope you found some good stuff in this post.

  1. Remember the two-minute rule

  2. They are back now.