Enhanced Online Communications - IM and Twitter

by marjo martinez, in Tech Talk, posted 11/10/09

Introduction

E-mail has gained popularity with the spread of the Internet and has essentially been the preferred method of on-line communications ever since. However, in recent years, e-mail has been looked upon as a bit of a thorn in the side of companies due to the increase of spam and virus attacks. As a result, many organizations are adopting new and unique ways to communicate on-line, particularly through the use of Instant Messaging and Twitter technologies.

This article introduces the new ‘Send IM’ and ‘Twitter’ actions encompassed in AutoMate 7 and BPA Server 7 and details how these actions can further broaden the capacity of such communication services by allowing you to automate the ability to send instant messages and post blogs. 

 

Instant Message Automation

Instant Messaging is a type of communications service that enables you to create a sort of private chat room with another individual in order to communicate in real time. At first, this type of technology didn't really have much of a home in the business world. Recently, however, a growing number of users were taking into account that IM seemed faster and more efficient than e-mail. And although e-mail is still the most prominent form of business communications, more organizations are slowly loosening up to the thought of instant messaging as a capable and proficient communications tool.

In a business standpoint, instant messaging is essentially the text version of a phone call. Organizations that work in groups or on specific projects may prefer IM over e-mail because it allows information to be communicated in real-time.

One of the concepts that have been floating around for a while now is the capability to send automated IM responses. The new ‘Send IM’ action does exactly this. Its main purpose is to automate the process of sending instant messages upon schedule or when a particular event or condition takes place on the system, saving time and eventually increasing productivity. Not only can this action send an IM via Windows Live Messenger, it supports ICQ, AIM, Yahoo Messenger and Google Talk as well. Moreover, this action supports sending to multiple recipients simultaneously.


To set a ‘Set IM’ action:
1.  Open the properties of the ‘Send IM’ action (as shown in Figure 1). 

Figure 1. The Send IM action.
 
 

2.  In the General tab under the Service parameter, enter the IM service that this action will use to send the instant message.
 

3.  In the Username/Password parameter, enter the username and password of the IM account in which to send a message from.
 

4.  In the To account parameter, enter a valid account ID, account name, e-mail address or other form of identification (depending on the IM service used) which corresponds to the recipient that this action will send an instant message to. To send to more than one account, enter a semi-colon (;) between each account.
 

5.  The Send IM action actually combines three actions, which includes the logon, message transmission and logoff process. The Delay parameter specifies the amount of delay time to set for this action to ensure that proper logon, IM transmission and logoff occurs. The default value is 5 seconds, which means that a 5 second delay will occur between logon and IM transmission and another 5 second delay will occur after transmission and before logoff, which totals 10 seconds.

NOTE: To ensure reliability, the lowest recommended value is 2 seconds.


6.  Click Ok when finished.
 



Twitter Automation

Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read other users' updates known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author's profile page and delivered to the author's subscribers who are known as followers. Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends or, by default, allow open access. Although Twitter was originally intended for communication among individuals, a number of organizations have begun to actively participate on the platform.

The new ‘Twitter’ action encompassed in AutoMate 7 and BPA Server 7 can be used to perform automated status message updates on a valid Twitter account. This action can update a status message upon schedule or when a certain event occurs. For example, the Twitter action can be used to perform internal updates on network issues for IT staff or external Twitter communications on new products or other subjects for marketing purposes.

In a business standpoint, Twitter allows customers the ability to get instant access pertaining to products, services, competitors, brands or real-time information about the organization itself. Twitter can be used to share important information, statistics, updates or ideas with others within a particular department, organization, business or industry. This action can also be used to perform a variety of other Twitter actions, such as Get Status, Delete Status, Send Direct Message, Get Friends, Get Followers and much more.

To set a ‘Twitter’ action:
1. Open the properties of the ‘Twitter’ action (as shown in Figure 2).

 

Figure 2. The Twitter action.

 
2. In the General tab properties, select the Twitter procedure that should be performed during runtime. This can be done by simply selecting one of the drop-down options contained in the Action parameter. Note that different parameters may appear in the General properties depending on the Twitter action chosen.

The available Twitter actions are:

  • Update Status - Posts the Status string as the body of a tweet on behalf of the user.
  • Get Status - Returns a single status with all the useful information.
  • Delete Status - Deletes a status. The returned status will have the complete status details.
  • Get Direct Messages - Get direct messages sent/received by user.
  • Send Direct Message - Sends a direct message.
  • Get Timeline - Gets Friends, Users or Public timeline. Returns a list of most recent statuses from a user, friend or by any non-protected use.
  • Get Replies - Return a list of the most recent statuses that are addressed to the authenticated user.Get Mentions - Returns a list of the recent statuses that mention the authenticated user
  • Get Friends - Gets a list of friends.
  • Get Followers - Gets a list of followers.
  • Follow User - Follow a specific user.
  • Stop Following User - Stop following a specific user.


Assuming the Twitter action selected was Update Status, the General tab properties then becomes populated with the Status Meassage parameter (as shown above). Here, you can enter the desired text-based post of up to 140 characters.

3. In the Authentication tab, enter the username and password of the Twitter account in which to update status message or "tweet" on.

4. Many of the Twitter API methods accept one or more optional parameters. The Parameters tab allows selection of such parameters. For example, by default, Twitter returns only 20 statuses in timelines. To obtain a greater number, we are required to make multiple calls and “page” through the dataset. To get the first page of your friend’s timeline, on the General tab, simply select Get Timeline under the Action parameter and Friends under the Type parameter. To get the next 20, on the Parameters tab, select Count under the Name field and enter 2 under the Value field.

The following are instruction for the Parameters tab:

  • To add a parameter, click Add and/or click the area directly below the Name field, then select from the drop-down list of available parameters. Thereafter, enter a value for that parameter in the Value field. Repeat the instructions to add another parameter/value.
  • To move a parameter/value combination up or down the list, select the parameter or corresponding value and click Move Up or Move Down.
  • To remove a parameter/value combination, select the parameter or corresponding value and click Remove.


5. Upon completion, click Ok to save.
 



Conclusion


AutoMate is traditionally well known for its E-mail, FTP and HTTP actions, which allows online communications and interactions to take place via e-mail FTP and web servers. The introduction of both the Send IM and Twitter actions allows even more ways for businesses to communicate online. Instant messaging automation allows messages to be sent automatically under designated conditions. This feature is useful for alerting IT staff to technical problems, switching to IM as a backup in the event of a corporate email problem, and more. Twitter automation allows tweets to be automatically posted to a Twitter account. In a nutshell, this action can help schedule Tweets to be sent out over a period of time. This is ideal in situations when you head away for a few days or when you want Tweets to be sent during peak hours. Other potential uses include automation of company announcements or automated welcome messages to new followers.