Editor’s Note: Nir Eyal writes about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business at NirAndFar.com. He is the author of the forthcoming book “Hooked: How to Drive Engagement by Creating User Habits”. Follow him on Twitter @nireyal.
If the Internet had a voice, I am fairly certain it would sound like the HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
“Hello, Nir,” it said to me in its low, monotone voice. “Glad to see you again.”
“Internet, I just need a few quick things for an article I’m writing,” I’d reply. “Then it’s back to work. No distractions this time.”
“Of course, Nir, but while you are here, won’t you look at what Paul Graham just wrote?”
“No, Internet,” I’d resist. “I’m just here to find some specific information. I can’t be distracted.”
“Of course, Nir,” the Internet would say. “But this article about LOLCats addiction is related to your work. Give it a click, won’t you?”
“Interesting.” I’d say hesitantly. “Just a quick read and then it’s back to work.”
Three hours later I would realize the time I’d wasted clicking and curse the Internet for sucking me into its mind vortex yet again.
Ironically, I research and write about seductive technology and yet I struggle to resist its temptations. Much of my work is written for entrepreneurs and designers looking for ways to boost user engagement with their products. The rest of my writing is intended to increase awareness of the habit-forming potential, and at times, unintended consequences, of an increasingly connected world.
But just as having an understanding of how illicit drugs work does not necessarily prevent addiction, I find myself just as susceptible to the illusive pull of the Web. I’ve written about methods for preventing unwanted tech intrusions in the boardroom and even the bedroom, but I found myself struggling with distractions at the desktop, making it difficult to achieve the concentration I needed to work. Indeed, research suggests even small interruptions increase mistakes and degrade performance.
For knowledge workers like me, our work and play display on the same screens. Computers and phones allow us to do our jobs, but also give us instantaneous access to boredom-relieving entertainment. In fact, most of the top 25 websites in America sell escape from our daily drudgery.
Online content is habit-forming because it follows what I call the “hook framework,” a four-step user flow composed of a trigger, action, reward, and investment. To end my own bad habit of spending too much time wandering the Web, I had to break the hook, ensuring I didn’t pass through its four alluring steps.
Fortunately, I found my antidote in the venom. Ironically, the sites that syndicate my essays — perhaps where you are reading this right now — depend on you not doing what I did, hoping you’ll continue clicking from article to article, racking-up their ad revenue. But to end my own habit, I strung together several technologies to end the behavior pattern that kept me chasing intriguing headlines.
The first thing I did was set a new rule for how I consume content. My rule is to never read online. Of course, I still need to read things I find on the Web, I’ve just time-shifted how I do it.
I signed up for Pocket and installed their browser extension. When clicked, Pocket scrubs the text of what I’d like to read and saves it for later. I made sure the Pocket button is conspicuously visible on my web browser to act as a reminder of my “never read online” rule.
I replaced my old action of reading essays with the new action of saving them for later. Thus, my temptation to digest the content wasn’t thwarted, it was satisfied knowing it was safe and sound, waiting for me until later.
Next, I used the Pocket Android app to provide access to the content at just the right time. But here’s the kicker: I do not do the reading. I let the app read it to me.
The app’s text-to-speech capabilities are astounding and the HAL 9000 voice of the Internet has been replaced by a British chap with a cheery disposition. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, the Apple iOS version does not have text-to-speech but on my Android the audio plays commercial-free while I’m working out or driving. Listening this way also has some surprising benefits.
Pocket’s Android app with text-to-speech (TTS) capabilities
I’ve discovered that checking off articles from my cue is decidedly satisfying, similar to the tiny pleasure of clearing unread messages from my email inbox. Getting through my list of articles acts as a small reward encouraging me to hit the gym more often and saving me the time and temptation of reading at my desk.
However, reading at my desk had perks which at first I found lacking in Pocket. For example, I often saved articles to Evernote or shared to social networks like Twitter, but doing so at the gym required too many time-wasting steps. To solve this dilemma, I recruited another brilliant technology. IFTTT (If This Then That) stitches together dozens of apps to communicate easily together. For example, every time I mark an article as a “favorite” in Pocket, it instantly saves to my Evernote account. The IFTTT recipe is available here. When I’d like to share an article I’ve just listened to with any number of social networks, all I do is send it to Buffer, which concurrently fires off another IFTTT recipe.
This simple solution involved no coding and I’m sure you can think of ways to customize these tools for your own needs. My hack is just one method for conquering the seductive draw of reading “just one more thing.” On the Web, where distractions and temptations are boundless, we need new tools to help us do our best work. By replacing my previous actions with a more thoughtful behavior, I’ve increased my productivity and kept HAL’s seductive call at bay.
Disclosures: As of the time of publication, I have no financial or personal interests in any of the companies mentioned.
The rest is here: This Will Be The Last Article You Read
IFTTT has received $7 million in funding to build out its capability for customers to automate the flow of notes, photos, text files and other media between different services in a way that gives the user the ability to control information and how it flows.
Andreessen Horowitz led the round with NEA and Lerer Ventures also participating. The company has now received a total of $9 million in funding.
This capability to control how data flows is incredibly important as more devices connect to the Internet. Any device, machine, you name it, needs a way to connect to the web. IFTTT wants to be that connector for the emerging Internet of Things universe.
IFTTT works like this. You set up a channel — there are now more than 60 available, such as LinkedIn, Dropbox, RSS feeds and a host of others. Then you choose a trigger for where to send the picture from Instagram or the feed update. For example, I might set it up so the notes I create get sent to Dropbox. IFTTT calls these connectors recipes.
In a blog post, Andreessen Partner John O’Farrell said that customers have created two million recipes to connect web sites and apps. Users have created tens of thousands of recipes that they have shared on the IFTTT site.
For example, when I post on App.net, my post instantly appears on Twitter too, thanks to IFTTT. Every time I post a photo (or am tagged in one) on Facebook, IFTTT downloads it to my Dropbox without my even having to think about it. Here’s what hat recipe looks like:
IFTTT CEO and Founder Linden Tibbets founded the company in 2010. He said the funding will go to extending its channel platform that it first began developing earlier this year. I wrote about the channel program when it added Box.com. It was the second channel that had the business customer in mind. IFTTT also has a Yammer channel as well.
Box on IFTTT launched with three actions on par with its popular Dropbox Channel. Users can upload a file, create a text file, and append a text file. The Box channel can be used to archive Twitter messages, photos, blog posts or even data from other services.
The next step is to build out a channel for people to add any service that has an API. The goal: to create a developer community that will build new services on top of the IFTTT platform.
IFTTT is now primarily a consumer service, but the platform will extend its scope to the enterprise, opening new possibilities for SaaS providers and enterprise app makers.
IFTTT does compete in a tight space. Sarah Perez wrote just this week about Wappwolf, an IFTTT-like service that includes not only online file storage services like Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, Skydrive and others, but also photo-sharing sites like Instagram, Flickr, Picasa and Facebook. Other services that play in this market include Dropbox Automator and Google Drive Automator.
But IFTTT is by far the leader and has well-defined a metaphor for moving objects between places much as we do in the physical world.
While Instagram appears to have no plans to ever support Twitter Cards for displaying images on Twitter again, IFTTT (If This Then That), a service known to some as duct tape for Internet, has come to the rescue: If you still want to see your filtered pics on Twitter, Instagram be damned, a recipe created by Daniel Bentley of Circa will do the trick.
What’s so interesting about this recipe is that unless Instagram completely bans IFTTT, the recipe can’t be stopped, as it grabs your Instagram photo and uploads it to Twitter. As you can see below, Instagram has temporarily been cut out of the picture — it’s not going to like this.
— Harrison Weber (@HarrisonWeber) December 8, 2012
To use the recipe, simply activate it through your IFTTT account and share an Instagram photo with the hashtag #twitter. You’ll end up with results similar to what’s shown above.
Just two days ago, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said on stage at LeWeb in Paris that he wants to make sure Instagram directs “users to where the content lives originally, so they get the full Instagram experience.” Systrom continues, saying “it’s just about where do you go to interact with that image? We want that to be on Instagram.com because it has a better user experience currently.”
We’re curious as to how long this workaround lasts, but until then, here’s your solution.
Note: Instagram images are still displaying for some users on Twitter, but Instagram has informed TNW that it will disable this feature entirely.
Image credit: Thinkstock
The rest is here: You can still view Instagram photos on Twitter, using this IFTTT recipe
Openera, an Ottawa-based startup which automatically moves email attachments into cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, Salesforce and more, has raised $250,000 in seed funding, which the CEO Peter Lalonde jokes is “equal in significance to raising about a million if we were raising in the U.S.” He may be right – the company has been winning pitch competitions all across Canada for its service, which could be characterized as something like a IFTTT for the enterprise.
You may have heard that slogan applied before to a Y Combinator-backed startup known as Zapier, which more fully embraces the IFTTT model of triggering actions based on connections between two different cloud services. Openera, meanwhile, focuses for now only on connecting email to the cloud, and specifically, email attachments.
The system works with Gmail/Google Apps, Microsoft Exchange, or any other IMAP-connected email. With user- or I.T.-defined rules, it looks for specific attachments and moves them into online services, accordingly. Emails can be sent to Dropbox, Box, SkyDrive, Google Drive and Evernote. In addition, an open API allows it to also connect with other services behind the firewall like SharePoint, for example.
The company was founded by Peter Lalonde (CEO) and Marc Lennox (CTO), who each have a history of enterprise experience under their belts. Lalonde previously worked at IBM, OpenText, GridIron (FileTrek) and elsewhere, while Lennox co-founded and grew the aviation maintenance management software company MXI Technologies to a $40 million business before its recent exit earlier this year.
Lalonde says he was inspired to start Openera based on his own experience at OpenText. “I realized that our main competitor wasn’t Documentum, IBM or Microsoft,” he says, “it was the users, and users not putting files where they should be. Our users wouldn’t adopt, and if they wouldn’t adopt the project would typically fail,” he adds. “Content management relies on people putting the content into the content management system.”
The system users actually seemed to prefer using, of course, is email. “People tend to follow the path of least resistance, and they resist change. So what if rather than changing user behavior, we could extract value from it?” he thought to himself. “I looked at existing user behavior, and existing user behavior is email.”
The problem with content management systems today is that it’s the company that cares where the files are, not the users. They’re not motivated to move them to the right repositories when they know how to find them in their inbox. But the larger a company grows, the more pressing the need is to locate and organize corporate documents – especially for compliance purposes.
That’s where Openera comes in. There are no limitations on the file types supported or file size. It doesn’t work via plugin or by CC:’ing a specific address when emailing files around, as some startups have done in the past (like CC:Betty, for example, before pivoting). Plugins and CC:ing require user adoption; Openera doesn’t. Although users are welcome to sign up and configure their own rules, Openera authenticates on the server-side so an I.T. admin could instead create rules that work across an organization.
These rules can be very granular, too. It’s not as simple as saying “Word docs go here.” Instead, rules are customized by looking for keywords in file names, subject lines, based on where the email originates (e.g. From the “lawyers?” Then put in “Legal” folder in SharePoint), and more. The goal is to allow a high level of complexity when it comes to this rule-setting, but to hide that complexity from the user.
In addition to the organizational aspects of the service, Openera also offers a file search functionality online and on mobile, via its iPhone app. An Android version is in the works.
Lalonde declined to provide user numbers or other metrics, given that the company only launched into a public beta this fall, however he says that it’s “growing quickly.” As for the $250,000, the funding was led by BDC, and includes participation from other, primarily Canadian, angel investors. The funding is a part of a larger, $750,000 round still in progress.
Despite the earlier joke about the size of the initial funding, Lalonde believes it will go well. “The enterprise is getting hot right now – which I find kind of funny, because I never thought of the enterprise as hot – but that’s where the money is right now. We’re well-positioned here.”
View original post here: Targeting The Enterprise, Openera Is An IFTTT For Email Attachments