barcodeOK, I have to admit it. I’m still catching on to the whole twitter thing. I get it, and see the value, but I’m having trouble determining what is interesting enough in my daily routine to be deemed “tweetable” or if anyone really cares. But that’s not why I’m writing this post. I want to talk about automation and how it can change your daily work habits.

First of all I want to admit that I am not a stranger to automation by any means. In fact I have a career paved with streamlining processes for creative professionals. I was previously the Vp of Marketing for a software company called Equilibrium, who’s tag line was “The art of automation”, and pioneered the software category “image servers” which automated the way that images are processed for multi-media and Internet delivery. So I am well versed on how automation helps on both a theoretical and execution level.

But how is automation currently helping me in my daily work? A number of ways, and I’d like to share a couple of them. We had recently re-engineered our communication strategy, as I wrote about in Re-engineering the D-Tools Communication Strategy. As part of us moving to a more structured method of communicating – from our blog to our news and PR, we started incorporating more Web 2.0 technologies into our communication mix (The above-mentioned blog post goes into these in more detail). Besides making it easier to publish the content in the first place (our WordPress blog is really easy), it is seamless to re-purpose. So where as before to send out a press release I would need to create the original in Word and send it to our PR service, then take that and convert it to HTML, then post that to our website, then take the original word doc and  manually add that to our previous newsletter application, well you get the idea. A whole lot of unnecessary re-purposing.

But since we have incorporated our blog and RSS as our publishing process, I now can post our press releases to multiple places in a single step. I now simply enter the press release to our blog and it automatically gets published to our corporate website, and by tagging it as D-Tools News it gets picked up by our RSS feed and automatically added to our press archive and newsletter.

The other area of major time saving is in the publishing of our D-Tools monthly newsletter. Prior to the blog putting this together was a completely manual, time-consuming process, requiring at least two days of work – gathering, writing and editing the individual articles, then getting them formatted into our previous newsletter hosting service (which was basically an HTML-based system – no SEO or ability to effectively re-purpose the content).

Now we are utilizing the same blog-to-RSS process for the newsletter. So now the process is this: any news or other blog content that we want for the monthly newsletter just needs to be categorized “newsletter” and our RSS feed will take all the content from the past 30 days and include it in a single capture. I can specify the number of articles for the feed, and then it’s just a matter of taking the RSS feed and converting it to HTML for the formatting. This part is also easy as we have found a great resource for this from www.rssinclude.com.

So now the only manual work is getting that new HTML pasted into our Newsletter template, then mailing out to our newsletter subscribers. What was once a two-day project is now reduced to a matter of minutes once the actual content is complete, freeing up valuable time and resources to focus on other, more profitable activities – which is a beautiful thing.

Update: We upgraded our corporate website to Joomla 1.5 and that broke the RSS include integration in the D-Tools Press Section.  It took some mucking around but we managed to re-configure Joomla and RSS Include to get the D-Tools Press section automated once again.  Follow these instructions to create an RSS feed for a Joomla Website:

Creating an RSS feed for Joomla websites

Step 1: Choose an rss feed link (i.e feed://www.d-toolsblog.com/category/d-tools-news/feed/)

Step 2: Go to www.rssinclude.com and register (for free) and select the “create a new RSSbox.” button.

Step 3: Choose an RSSbox from the choices listed.  http://www.rssinclude.com/my_rssboxes/create_new_box

3.1: Simple Vertical List: This type of RSSbox fits bests for news feeds. You can style dimensions, font-sizes, colors and background-colors. Also best used for Joomla sites.  http://www.rssinclude.com/my_rssboxes/edit_box?id=39198&tab=feeds

3.2: Follow the directions listed to create an RSSbox

Step 4: Once your style is set, click the “Include!” tab to select the given code. For Joomla sites, choose the “WordPress” button. Select/copy the code.  (i.e http://output86.rssinclude.com/output?type=wp&id=39199&hash=9ea9ca66b50e11bb0c5ac941f158a5dc

Step 5: Go to your Joomla admin page and log into the administrator back end and create a new menu tab.

1- Menus (top nav)
2- Choose the section where rss feed should go
3- Select NEW from the button at upper right
4- In the “Select Menu Item Type” section, choose “Wrapper”
5- Create a title
6- To the right, under “Parameters (Basic)” Paste in the code from rssinclude (wordpress code) into the space given “Wrapper URL”
7- Click “Save” upper right icon to publish the feed.

Note: Depending on the width of the current page, the rss feed may be adjusted in the parameters section of Joomla to fit or the width may be adjusted in rssinclude website.