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Posts from the ‘Productivity’ Category

Cook Up Your Productivity: Auto-Pilot Daily Internet Tasks With ifttt

We all have our own routine tasks, often daily, that can take up a considerable amount of our time and usually tend to be quite boring or are difficult to stay on top of. We dream of the day a handy personal assistant or even a well-trained chimpanzee, depending on the task simplicity, could punch the keyboard at 100 strokes a second to take care of it all for us. Day dream no more, ifttt is here to put the internet to work for you.

What’s ifttt (if this then that)?

Using a simple trigger and action format, ifttt allows you to connect any two web services together to perform tasks on auto-pilot. For example, add a photo to Instagram and have it uploaded into a Facebook album, automatically. You create a trigger (Instagram) which causes an action (Facebook). The combinations you can create are only limited to your imagination and the channels – the web services and devices you use every day – that are on ifttt.

Take a look through the ifttt channels to see the web applications you can use to create triggers and actions. A trigger + action = task, and you can create your own recipes (task formulas) to share with your friends or community.

ifttt recipes for Summify

Share summaries direct to your Facebook Page, instead of your personal profile (not yet possible within Summify itself), and customize the message!

Automatically save your articles for later reading:


Some other popular recipes involving:

Google Reader
Read it Later

Take a look at your work-flow and let your imagination loose to see what combinations you can come up with. Can you think of some other helpful tasks that would help you with your Summifying? Create a new recipe on ifttt and let us know below.

How To Be Awesome On Social Media In 20 Minutes A Day

This is a guest post by Leo Widrich, co-founder of Buffer. More about him at the bottom of this post.

As sharing is predicted to absolutely explode in the coming 2012 year, many smart people have predicted a “Shareapocalypse”. Or to speak with the words of Nova Spivack, who says:

“In the Sharepocalypse hundreds (if not thousands) of online friends share content with us across various social networks, culminating in massive information overload.”

So how can we best battle this information overload out there? With a few awesome tools, I believe it can be done. A lot of great apps have emerged to organize, consume and share your content much more efficiently than before.

Here are my top pointers for you to make the most of Social Media in just 20 minutes a day:

5 minutes: Find the best content from your Social Networks

If you really don’t want to spend any more than 5 minutes per day to get the best content from around the web, Summify is your top tool. It pulls in all the content from your Twitter, Facebook and Google Reader stream. It then passes it through their smart algorithm and comes up with the best stories based on your reading habits.

Through this, you will always be kept up to date and get your daily dose of news straight to your inbox. With the new “on demand” stories button, you can even choose to get another summary of news, if the one you received isn’t quite right for you.

Timing: Personally I love doing this early in the morning, just when I get up.


5 minutes: Share the best content more effectively on Twitter and Facebook

Now, the worst thing that could happen, is if I were to take 5 minutes to read my great Summify summary, and then blast all the top stories out to my followers, 5 at once and flood my stream. If you still want to keep your day productive, spending as little time as possible, there are a lot of smart ways to make sharing easier for yourself.

What I like to do once I have received my social summary, is to drop those awesome articles into my Buffer. Buffer will then go ahead and post them for me at the best times to Facebook or Twitter, well spaced out over the day, and my followers will receive the updates, one at a time, easy to digest.

Timing: Filling up my Buffer with Summify stories happens early in the morning too, just after I finish reading my summary.


10 minutes: Engage, comment, like, retweet and reply

The last 10 minutes, which I normally spend in the evening, after a lot of my content has been posted and got responses, I spend engaging with my followers. It is often hard to do this in a focused way, as engaging normally happens very impulsively.

So here are a few things that I do to stay focused and get more out of my time engaging with friends and followers:

  • • Reply individually to your new followers, by looking at their bio and finding something you really appreciate about what they do.
  • • Pick out 3 Facebook stories, like them and comment with a sign of appreciation.
  • • Answer a question someone asked in your Twitter stream, or try pointing them to someone who could possibly help.
  • • Browse your stream or Twitter lists and add whatever you find interesting as retweets into your Buffer. The integration of Buffer makes this super easy.

Timing: I normally do this in the late afternoon, early evening. It is a great task to relax and normally a lot of fun.


Your results

If you try out this technique by just spending 20 minutes a day, you will be amazed, by how much can achieve. Doing this, has helped me increase my click rate on Tweets tremendously. Being focused when you engage also has helped me to grow my network a lot faster than I had anticipated.

Combining Summify and Buffer, will give you a Social Media power combination of sharing and finding the best content you can possibly find – in the least amount of time spent.

To track your progress, simply take a peak at your Buffer analytics. It will show you how many clicks, retweets and the reach your posts have gotten. And especially if you are swapping to Buffer to share Summify stories from now onwards, I am sure you will see a jump in mentions, replies and retweets.

Personally, after I have been a lot more focused and a lot more positive with my commenting, retweeting and replying, I saw lots of improvement on both my follower count and click rate.

Over to you now. Do you think trying this 20 minute technique for 1 week could make a difference to your Social Media results?

About the Author:

Leo Widrich is co-founder of Buffer, keeping the community alive and buzzing by blogging fabulous Twitter tips on the Buffer blog. He loves writing and football and he’s a super helpful guy, so do say hello! You can catch him on Twitter at @LeoWid.

Summify Adds Read it Later Integration for Summaries

Too busy to read it now? Like your reading list all in one spot? Prefer to read offline? Your reason for wanting it doesn’t really matter, the point is, RiL junkies rejoice, it’s here – Read it Later is now integrated with Summify email and web summaries (iPhone soon), bringing you a more flexible reading experience.

Read it Later is one of the more popular read-later services, just releasing a new visually appealing, media-friendly look. It also boasts a whack of official and fan-made apps, handy bookmarklets and is available on Android, iPhone/iPad, and all major browsers. Let’s get down to it.

Adding your Read it Later Account to Summify

Similarly to how we’ve integrated with Instapaper, add your Read it Later account in the “Read Later” section of your account settings.

Once you click the RiL button and punch in your account details you’ll be able to send any story straight to your Read it Later list, regardless of where you read your summary:

Email summary – click “Read it Later” below a story’s excerpt

Web summary – click the share button under each story followed by the Read it Later icon

Share Bar – while reading any story, click the share button and then Read it Later

iPhone – Read it Later coming soon in the upcoming 1.5 release

We’ve been getting a lot of requests for Read it Later support, so we hope you’re feeling as good as we are as we cross this addition off our list. If you want to stay in the loop with Read it Later you can follow @readitlater on Twitter or check out their blog.

As always, keep the feedback coming and drop us a line anytime we can be of any help.

Happy Summifying – whenever that is!

Needed: The Busy-Person’s News Reader

Photo Credit:

Albert Wegner (from Union Square Ventures) has a great post up where he talks about  the need for an Opposing View Reader, a news reader where you can see stories from different angles, with different opinions. While it’s a very important problem (and a really tough one to solve!),  we also wanted to draw attention to a similarly urgent issue – the need for a “Busy-Person’s” Reader. But first, let’s debunk a myth…


The Perfect News Reader

The usual review or feedback of a product in the news space ends up being something like this:

it’s great for use-cases X & Y, but I won’t use it for all my news reading because of reason Z“.

Ever since we’ve been in the news reading space, we’ve seen this common theme of the “Perfect Reader” that should exist, but nobody has built it… yet!

It’s arguably understandable why people could expect a perfect reader — lots of industries are like this: social networking = Facebook, search = Google, news = ??? — but  after talking to news readers, from casual Twitter users to “1000-feeds-need-to-read-them-all” junkies, we believe there’s no such thing as a perfect reader. It doesn’t exist . News reading behaviours are too diverse! On average, we’ve found that people actually have 2-4 news sources that they use daily to get their news, in very different ways. For example, it could be Twitter for real-time news, Reddit for funny pictures and cool comments and Summify for when you’re busy and just want to be on top of what’s happening… whatever the mix is that suits you, we think it’s OK! It’s OK to have more than one tool in your news toolbox, and it turns out that’s how most people actually consume it in the offline world as well: newspaper, TV, radio, etc.

Why a “Busy-Person’s” Reader?

It all starts from the explosion in social sharing that’s happening on the Internet right now. There’s lots of content, growing at an exponential rate, and an increasing focus on real-time breaking news, whatever is happening NOW. Well, that means a lot of interruptions and I think we all know that interruptions and frequent context switches significantly affect productivity, especially in activities that require a high level of concentration (most modern jobs).

At the same time, nobody wants to be left out of the “loop” and not be aware of what’s going on today in the (my) world. So how do you balance lots of information, constant interruptions and the need to still be productive during the day? With a “Busy-Person” Reader, of course!

We think Seth Godin explained it best  (Day old news is fresh enough):

The value of breaking news (news = whatever is new to you) is dramatically overrated, and the cost of keeping up with what someone else thinks is urgent is just too high.

If it’s important today, it will be important tomorrow. Far more productive to do the work instead of monitoring what’s next.

We’d like to hear what do you think. Is there a need for a “Busy-Person’s” Reader? If so, what would it look like? We obviously have some ideas on the subject (hint: check our homepage), but we’d really love to hear other opinions.

Code Reviews: A Framework for Startups

You know how your teachers and parents always told you to get a friend to proofread your paper before you handed it in for marks? Well, it’s age-old advice for a reason.

There’s a lot of electronic papers, ie. code, being handed in here at Summify and when most of that code will be affecting a @#$@ load of data, reviews become critically important. Until last week, our squad captains, Mircea Pasoi and Cristian Strat, were reviewing all the Summify code – not the most sustainable practice. It was time to bring the entire team into the code review process, but we needed a structure to help guide the move. The following framework has been working well for us and we wanted to share it with you.

Our tool of choice for code reviews is Review Board.

Getting Your Review On

1) Goals

Eliminate bugs as early as possible

Share knowledge to learn other sections of the code, new libraries, tricks, and algorithms

2) Take your time

Doing so will speed things up. It may sound like a paradox, but finding bugs in later stages, such as post-release, can cost 10-100 times more than it would cost to catch them during review. The following data on fixing bugs is from the book Code Complete.

If you ever catch yourself thinking “Oh, I’m kind of busy, should I really bother nitpicking this piece of code?” the answer is always Yes. You might find a bug which will save your team hours upon hours of work down the road – think longer term.

3) Ensure correctness

When done properly, a code review is one of the most effective ways of detecting bugs. A proper code review will detect about 55% of bugs, double the effectiveness of unit tests (see the below table from Code Complete).

Everyone has experienced those moments when someone looks at your code for 10 seconds and points out a ginormous filthy bug, right under your nose, despite the fact that you were looking at it for the last 3 hours. Sadly for them, it doesn’t mean they’re 12,000 times smarter than you; they just have the fresh eye and the clear mind.

When you’re reviewing someone’s code, you’re the fresh onlooker and you’re in a very good place to spot bugs, so do it.

4) Demand quality

Don’t be afraid to ask for unit tests, good refactoring, and adherence to coding style. Never accept code that’s of lower quality than the average code found in the repository.

Demanding quality during reviews begets quality further down the road, leading to faster test writing, second nature coding style and fewer lazy habits, refactoring code when necessary. Remember, you’re not slowing things down, you’re just forcing people to learn how to write good code, fast.

Also, always ask for screenshots when the change involves UI.

Besides being a code reviewer, it’s equally important to submit good code for review. Here are some tips:

Submitting Quality Code – That’s Your Job

1) Don’t rely on reviewers to find bugs – submit code with confidence

You should be so sure of your code quality, personally unable to find any more bugs, that you’d be happy to deploy it into production right away, even without a review process. Your reviewer may come up with something you haven’t thought of, but never lower your own standards.

2) Reviewers have a tough life

Understand that your reviewer only sees a diff and some bug types are very hard to detect this way. For instance, if your change requires that you search for all occurrences of function X in the code, your reviewer cannot confirm you did an exhaustive search. That’s your responsibility.

It’s also your responsibility to think about the implications of your changes. Does it break the iPhone? Does it break the archiving process? Does it grind the website to a halt? Realizing these implications is 80% of an engineer’s job. This is the meat, the hard questions engineers must think through. Remember the time when you thought something over for five hours and then made a two-line change? The hard part was figuring out if that was the right change, and that’s your job; it’s not the reviewer’s.

If you find yourself thinking “Hmm… I’m gonna change this but I don’t know if I’m breaking stuff,” then you’re not doing your job, and you’re offloading your work to the reviewer.

3) Run the tests

Reviewers won’t do this for you and they can’t figure out if you break tests. Better yet, implement continuous integration – we use Jenkins.

4) Leave no comment behind

When submitting a second or third diff for the same change, your reviewer assumes that for every comment he or she wrote you either

a) implemented the change, or
b) replied to it

Don’t expect the reviewer to go through the list of previous comments and validate that you’ve addressed each one. That’s your job.

5) Attach screenshots if you’ve made a UI change.

6) Learn and improve

Learn from mistakes and shape up your code. Shoot for a 90% “perfect ship-it” rate. Every time your reviewer has to return your code, a kitten dies. When you pass 90% it means the code review process really works and everyone’s doing a great job.

Sharing the code review responsibilities across our team is really paying off and soon we’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of where we were just a few weeks ago. It feels like we’ve upgraded to Summify v1.1. A few more upgrades like this and we’ll be an unstoppable kick-ass team, sort of like a Canadian version of The A-Team, or an organized crime syndicate – the Summify Mafia. Anyways… until then, we’ll continue asking ourselves “how can we improve team processes and communication to increase productivity?”

Are you doing code reviews? Share your thoughts, productivity tips and questions below.

P.S. Please, think of the kittens.


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