Are you familiar with the service IFTTT, short for “If This Then That”? I’ve been using it for years to automate large parts of my online life. You understand how the concept of a “push notification” works on your phone, right? Some event happens, and you are alerted to that fact. Maybe the football game is over and you want to know the score. Maybe you got a text from a person on a particular favorites list.
What IFTTT does is extracts that out to a web service so it’s not limited to your phone, and the possibilities are endless. You can say things like “When the weather service says it’s going to rain tomorrow, text me to remember my umbrella” or “Every time I connect or disconnect from the car bluetooth, add a row to a Google spreadsheet” (so I can track my commute times).
Where’s the Shakespeare, you ask? I’m getting to that part.
You may know that I’m a mod on the /r/shakespeare Reddit sub. But that’s not the only place Shakespeare discussion takes place – you can find him popping up in /r/books, /r/homework, /r/askhistorians and a million other places. And I hate missing out on a chance to learn a new Shakespeare thing, or help answer a Shakespeare question.
So here’s what I do. IFTTT has “trigger” attached to reddit search. Every time a post comes up with Shakespeare in it (with a few “ignore x y and z” filters), I save the post. In this case, I add it to my “Pocket” read-it-later list, but you can just as easily set it up in an email digest, or a text or notification or whatever you prefer.
Here’s the fun part, though. Ignore where it was posted, and just jump in the conversation. If you assume that it’s been posted to /r/shakespeare you’re going to naturally assume that the person asking, and all the people responding, are knowledgeable and interested. But that goes out the window when you’re outside our sub. You have to pretend like you’re at a random cocktail party and you have no idea who knows (or cares) anything about Shakespeare.
If you like talking about Shakespeare, it’s a real blast. I’m having a grand old time. I feel like I’m bringing more Shakespeare into the world. Sometimes you’ll find people who really don’t care. Sometimes you’ll find people who are excited to bump into somebody who also wants to talk about Shakespeare. In other words, just like life! It’s great practice not always being surrounded by the same group of people who you already know like the same things you do. Branch out! Talk to new people!
Try it, it’s fun!