Automate collecting wonderful things

Sponsored by For information about Rackspace, go to Rackspace.com/open.

One unique and special treat in working as Boing Boing's web developer has been to see how truly prolific writers do their work. Not only are they all hugely practiced at writing, but they've each developed a process and a format for creating or curating content that enables them to write more and quickly. I've spent the last couple years trying to cheat a bit at collecting large volumes of curated content by putting as much of the work as possible onto computers.

My main experiment with rapid blogging is the animated GIF section of my media blog. I love animated GIFs, and I'd picked up a habit of saving my favorites to a folder on my desktop. A year and a half ago I moved that folder to my Dropbox's Public folder, which syncs all the files out to the cloud and lets anyone view them in their browser. Then I set up an IFTTT action to slurp new files into the blog. And then I forgot about it and went about my business.

With basically no added effort I've posted over three thousand GIFs to my blog. It averages six new posts a day, sometimes I'll post thirty at a time when I find a bunch of good ones. IFTTT can connect to lots of other services, so I've set it to push out GIFs to my Tumblr as well. It's a great treat to scroll back through hundreds of fun images I've saved, and I often find myself pleasantly surprised by what I've posted.

This method of curating things gives some neat advantages over other sharing services. When you set up the rules for posting and IFTTT or another automated system does the legwork, you create limitations to what you can post in the process. It forces an editorial voice: now I know I'm going to only post GIFs by saving them to that folder, so all I have to worry about is whether they fit the collective whole. Applying this process to other content types proves to be very successful: a friend and I have collected nearly an album a day on our shared music blog for nine months through some really simple custom scripts to ease the process. I never run short of excellent tunes now that we've collected it so quickly.

Building large collections of content, even if it's focused at dumb GIFs or indie music albums, is easier than ever. Spend some time thinking about the parts of the process you can automate for your collections and start enjoying them more.