Attention Conservation Notice: This is a long and heavily detailed step-by-step guide to creating your own digital personal-assistant that will let you keep tabs on your distributed presence across the internet without having to log in to each site on a daily basis.
In an earlier post I wrote about Presence, giving some tips on how you can link websites together to get the maximum benefit out of all the online communities out there. Hopefully now your content is flowing through the internets, gathering more eyeballs and helping to spread the Grinder message.
But that’s only half the picture. What’s the point of being present everywhere if you can’t respond to all the comments you get?
Once again, you can either login to every site all day long and check your messages or find a simpler way.
So now I’ll guide you through the creation of your very own digital personal-assistant, one that will notify you almost instantly when someone comments on your posts, pictures or videos.
We’re going to do this using Twitter, because it can notify you when you’re online, via IM and offline, via SMS.
A quick side-note: if you’re using Twitter, but aren’t getting notifications for everyone you’re following OR aren’t following everyone that follows you then make sure you track your own username. It’s literally just sending “track USERNAME” to Twitter, then you’ll never miss those @replies again.
Moving right along.
Creating your digital personal-assistant
The first thing you want to do is go to Twitter and create a new account. This is your digital personal-assistant. Choose a cool name and give it a pretty user-pic if you want.
Now set it to follow your twitter account, then logout and login to your twitter account and set that to follow your sexy new assistant.
Lastly and most importantly, log back into the assistant account and check the Protect my updates box; the tweets it will generate are for your eyes only.
Now get on over to Twitterfeed to create an account there. This is how your assistant’s tweets will be generated.
If you have a Livejournal, Vox, WordPress, Blogger or Yahoo account follow the instructions to login.
Otherwise you’re going to have to create yourself an OpenID – do that and then login.
Now you’re ready to start plugging in RSS Feeds and get your instant notifications on. Almost.
Creating an email2rss address
As we’re about to learn, not every site has an RSS Feed for you comments. But every site has email notifications. And thanks to MailBucket you can convert your emails into an RSS Feed. (thanks MailBucket!)
First you need to choose an account name. MailBucket is pretty basic in this regards; there’s no duplicate username notification. So you have to use trial-and-error to see if the account name is free or not.
Just enter http://mailbucket.org/MAILBUCKET_USERNAME.xml into your browser and if it says “No messages are stored for this address” then you’ve got it.
Now add http://mailbucket.org/MAILBUCKET_USERNAME.xml to your Twitterfeed account.
The email address used to populate the RSS Feed is MAILBUCKET_USERNAME@mailbucket.org. But here’s where we add just one more layer:
I think this will work best if you use your Gmail account’s Filter functionality to auto-forward your emails to your mailbucket address.
This is for two reasons: 1) it will give you a backup archive and 2) it will give you a fall back in case MailBucket dies in the future.
Go to Settings→Filters→Create New Filter in your Gmail account.
Here’s the trick: in the To Address field you add GMAIL_USERNAMEfirstname.lastname@example.org and set it to Forward to MAILBUCKET_USERNAME@mailbucket.org, and to Archive them – you won’t need these emails appearing in your InBox, but they’ll still be there and be searchable.
GMAIL_USERNAMEemail@example.com is now your email2rss address.
Side-note: If you don’t have a Gmail address and/or don’t want to bother with another email account then don’t stress. You can create a Gmail account in minutes, do the above, then create another Filter to forward any all emails to your preferred email account. Or you can just use MAILBUCKET_USERNAME@mailbucket.org as your email2rss address.
OK, we’re nearly there.
Collecting the comments left on your works
This last part is pretty repetitious, but remember we’re doing all this now to make life simpler in the future.
Go to your blog’s front page. Look in your sidebar or at the bottom of the page, depending on your theme layout. Or you can just search for Comments RSS. Grab that url and add it to your Twitterfeed account.
Login to Flickr. Go to You→Recent activity on your photos. There’s your feed at the bottom, add it to your Twitterfeed account.
Login to Zannel. Go to Account. Go to manage account→edit and update it to use your new email2rss address. Then, go to alert settings and select yes for when I get a comment on my zannel and when someone comments on my updates.
Login to VIBR. Go to Account/Settings→Account Info and update it to use your new email2rss address. Now, go to Account/Settings→Notification Settings and check all the boxes under Comments.
Login to MySpace. Go to Edit Profile→Account Settings and update it to use your new email2rss address.
Login to YouTube. Go to Account→Email Options and update it to use your new email2rss address.
That’s it really. You should be good to go now. No longer do you have to log in to each site to see what activity there’s been on your posts.
One last thing, changing your email address on all these accounts may seem weird; especially if you’d already been getting the email notifications. The intended benefit here is to streamline all the comments you get into one place. And to move from a browser-based email account, to a thin-client IM/SMS setup.
I hope these tips help you to manage your Presence online.