Systematic 82 - John Voorhees - Coding Legalese

Systematic, Episode 82

Systematic, Episode 82

Earlier this week, Brett Terpstra interviewed me for Episode 82 of Systematic. We talked about some of our favorite iOS games, parallels between law and programming, iOS development and a wide assortment of picks. I had a terrific time chatting with Brett. You can listen below or download the episode and check out links to everything we discussed here. Thanks again to Brett for having me on Systematic.

iTunes Affiliate Linking

iTunes Store affiliate linking got much easier last Fall when Apple switched from LinkShare to PHG. Now, linking to the iTunes Store is as simple as appending "&at=" plus your affiliate code to any iTunes Store link. Campaigns can be used to track the performance of specific links you publish by adding "&at=" plus an arbitrary campaign name. The result looks like this The only wrinkle is that if your link does not contain a "?", you need to use "?at=" instead of "&at=".

Beyond the simple syntax, there are a number of tools and tips that make affiliate linking even easier. Here are some of my favorites:

  • David Smith, iTunes Affiliate Linking. David covers all of the basics on affiliate linking. This is the first place to start if you are not already in the iTunes affiliate program. Be sure to also check out his post on Smart App Banners, which are a great way to promote your apps.
  • Federico Viticci, Federico has a couple of great articles on iOS with Ole Zorn's Editorial text editor. The first, from Federico's review of Editorial is a workflow that takes a link copied from the iTunes App Store and converts it to an affiliate link.
  • Federico Viticci, If you are writing about an app that you already own, getting its price can be a hassle because the iTunes App Store displays an open or download button. Federico created a workflow for looking up app prices on the fly from within Editorial.
  • Dr. Drang, Old LinkShare affiliate links no longer work. Dr. Drang has a script that can be run against markdown files to convert those old links into PHG links. Dr. Drang also has a great TextExpander snippet for creating affiliate links here.
  • Affiliate Mac App: Bytesize Software makes a nice little menu bar app called Affiliate that detects any iTunes App Store link on your clipboard and converts it into an affiliate link. According to recent release notes, Bytesize is also working on an iOS version.

Automating a Plain-Text Journal with IFTTT

IFTTT is a web service that you can use to chain together other web services ("channels" in IFTTT parlance) into what IFTTT calls "recipes". When an event or action occurs on one service it allows you to trigger an event or action in another service. For instance, you can set up IFTTT to watch your RSS feed so when you publish a new blog post, IFTTT will post a link to the post on Twitter automatically. IFTTT also has a free iOS app that allows you to create recipies from your iPhone and adds triggers for iOS system apps, like Photos and Contacts, and for iOS features like location services.

I've always liked the idea of tracking my digital trail partly as a means of remembering what I did on a particular day but also simply because I enjoy fiddling with data. With IFTTT, I have created a plaint-text journal that automatically logs data from multiple services in the background to a fully text-searchable document in Dropbox.

The key to my daily log is IFTTT's "Append to text file" Dropbox action. With it, you can pull data from a whole host of services and let IFTTT write to a text file in the background.

Currently I have IFTTT log the following:

  • the daily weather forcast
  • my Twitter posts
  • my daily weight
  • photos I post to Instagram and Flickr
  • articles I favorite in Instapaper
  • Pinboard links
  • songs scrobbled on
  • full text of my blog posts to
  • Watch later and liked videos on Vimeo and YouTube
  • posts
  • the full text of reviews of my iOS apps
  • Foursquare check-ins
  • GitHub notifications

The result is a firehouse of my digital tracks across the web, which looks something like this:

@johnvoorhees : @viticci Really remarkable they can handle a site with MacStories’ traffic. That’s great. 
via Twitter 
January 24, 2014 at 05:55PM 

- - - - - 

Parquet Courts - He's Seeing Paths 
Album: Light Up Gold + Tally All The Things That You Broke 
Scrobbled: January 24, 2014 at 05:47PM 

- - - - - 

Mini vMac - early Macintosh emulator
If you want to emulate a classic Mac on your modern Mac in something nicer than a browser, Mini vMac is your best bet 
via Pinboard
January 24, 2014 at 03:54PM 

- - - - -  

Setup is simple:
1. If you haven't done so already, sign up for an IFTTT account at and Dropbox at
2. Because your plain-text journal entries will write to Dropbox, I suggest setting the IFTTT Dropox channel up first, but the order is not important. To activate the Dropbox channel, go to the channels section on and follow the instructions to link your Dropbox account to IFTTT.

The Dropbox Channel

3. Next, create a folder somewhere in your Dropbox. Mine is called "Daily Data". You can also create an empty text file for your journal, but if you do not, IFTTT with create one for you.
4. You also need to set up each of the IFTTT channels you want to feed into your journal, which is similar to the process of linking your Dropbox account to IFTTT.
5. The final step is to create an IFTTT recipe for each of the service you will use for you journal. IFTTT walks you through the process letting you choose the data you want to pull as the "if" portion of each recipe. 
 6. The key for your journal is getting the "that" portion of the recipe correct. Choose "append to text file" from the Dropbox actions and making sure you point to the Dropbox folder you set up for your journal. 

Append to a text file Action

When you are finished you should have something that looks like the following recipe that I set up for

Last. fm Recipe

That's all there is to it. The beauty of using plain text files is their small size. Since mid-October my IFTTT rules have generated a 60,000 word text file that is still less than 500 KB.

Of course, there is always more than one way to skin a cat. If you would prefer to pipe the same types of data to a journaling app, a great choice is Day One, which is available on iPhone, iPad and the Mac. To automate getting your data into Day One, check out Brett Terpstra's Slogger service.

UPDATE: To avoid your plain text journal from being overwritten by IFTTT, set up a Hazel rule to periodically change the name of your text file. I have a Hazel rule that prepends the date to the file on the first day of the month. The next time an IFTTT rule fires and wants to right to your journal, it will create a new file with the name you previously picked and use that until your Hazel rule changes the name of the file again.

Also, IFTTT now works with Automatic, the car dongle that tracks your driving via bluetooth and a companion app. I've added it to my plain text journal as a way to remember where I've been and track my gas milage and spending.