Like anyone who has had property like this stolen from them, after getting over the initial shock and feelings of being a victim, I started going through the proper channels to document and report the crime. Upon contacting the police, I asked the responding officer what I could do to be proactive in finding the bike, even though I knew it would be unlikely I’d find it. The officer told me one of the biggest things would be to monitor online forums and classified sites such as Craigslist for postings matching my bike’s description.
I immediately went to Craigslist, and started searching through the bicycle postings for the Seattle-Tacoma area, but was overwhelmed with what appeared to be more than 100 listings made in just the last day. Keeping an eye on that much content would be difficult, not to mention the effort that would be required to follow any other forums or sites.
Then I remembered a post that from the ZAGG Blog last year about IFTTT.com. IFTTT (which stands for If This Then That) is a web site that provides a service that lets you set up certain actions and links between other web-based services so that you can automate portions of your web life. Once I learned about the site last year, I started using it to archive all the photos taken on my iPhone into my Dropbox account automatically, as well as to archive my tweets into an Evernote folder. As I was trying to figure out how to more efficiently monitor web content for the possibility that my stolen bike could show up, I thought of IFTTT.
I logged into IFTTT and went to the “create recipes” section and looked at my options. My first thought, for Craigslist, was that I could take an RSS feed of a Craigslist section (in this case, Seattle-Tacoma bicycles) and receive an update every time a new item was posted. The particular format of feeds Craigslist uses wasn’t compatible, however, so I searched for an alternative and discovered that there is actually a Craigslist integration with IFTTT. I was able to perform the exact search I wanted to receive updates for (the term “Cannondale” in Seattle bikes) and set IFTTT up to send me a text message anytime a new posting is made that meets that criteria.
Further, I have been able to identify other message boards and forums and use the RSS feature to keep me alerted about postings that might be evidence of my bike for sale online.
Now, there are definitely applications where this type of process could be useful for other users outside of stolen bicycles. If you are someone who constantly trolls Craigslist for bargains or free items, for example, you could set up a similar feed and have links to the items delivered to you by SMS, email, or even aggregated in an Evernote file.
I don’t know if I will find my bike this way, but I thought it was pretty neat and worth sharing that the technology is readily available (and free) for making the searching process a little less painful.