Email to HTTP. Gimme. KTHXBAI.

mmm...

I really want a service that POSTs the body text of an email to a specified URL. Why? It’s holding me up in at least 3 mashup projects.

It’s a question of, ahem, “data momentum”: many web sites and services send their updates to people via email, probably because it’s judged to be private and may be easier to do than creating RSS feeds for everything; plus, it makes sense for one-shot notifications, where you don’t have another way to get in touch with a person without them logging in.

Information can be carried in these emails that’s useful to other services. As an example, take Twitter – direct messages are sent as emails to the account owner. But what if the account owner is a bot? If they want to respond to direct messages, the normal method would be polling using the Twitter API. This is pretty inefficient, and you are limited to the number of times an hour you can do this. Responding to emails seems a much better use of resources.

What could you do with the text of an email? Usually, the text is not going to be in a state that another web service could directly interpret, so it will need to be passed through an intermediate service for some text manipulation. Fortunately, Yahoo! Pipes works fairly well as a text manipulation tool, accepts POSTs as input and can POST to another service as output.

A while ago, I found smtp2web, which appears to do what I want but, unfortunately, requires you to verify that you own the target, which for the ways I want to use it, I don’t. (Attempts to get in touch with the authors haven’t raised any response, although the source is on Google Code.) Another promising lead is mailbucket.org, although this currently only converts emails to RSS. If something like Notify.me POSTed to a URL, we could hook those two services together.

If someone wants to make something I could use, I’d appreciate that. If anyone also wants this, please speak up and grow this demand mob.

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6 Comments

  1. Posted March 26, 2009 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Dood! You have the power. Scratch this itch yourself. If you’ve got a few gaps in what you know, just fill them in with some learning. This seems like a perfect opportunity for you.

  2. Posted March 26, 2009 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    @cdent Bah! Smell the demand pie! Come and be inspired!

  3. Posted March 29, 2009 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    I’ve just deployed this myself at http://www.s2w.m.ac.nz/ – I’ve disabled the URL check, but to prevent abuse it’s setup to use my m.ac.nz “Google Apps” domain accounts – I can give you one if you want.

    I intend to build up the UI a bit to match http://dns.m.ac.nz/ and to add some features that are useful to me.

  4. Posted March 29, 2009 at 1:59 am | Permalink

    To see if it does what you want send an email to s2wtest (at s2w.m.ac.nz), and then look in http://static.patrick.geek.nz/s2wtests/tests/ to see what it generates. (The Request array is the query string, the post body is the, er, post body.)

  5. Posted March 30, 2009 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    Not sure if it is what you want, but you can post to a blogspot.com blog by sending an email to an email address configured in your blogger.com setup. And it will post attached photos (though it will do some size reduction if you post a big photo). And then of course you can slurp into your mashup via the rss feed of the blog.

  6. Posted March 30, 2009 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    @patrick You genius! Nice one. I’m glad you’ve disabled the URL checking thing, I don’t really think it makes sense to get you to verify you own the site you’re POSTing to, just that you own the email address you’re using.

    Yes please, I’d love a m.ac.nz email address!

    @simon That’s cool, I hadn’t thought about using email-to-blog systems. It’s still hard to figure out how you’d get the information from there into Yahoo! Pipes in an automated way, although it does get it back on to the web, which is a start…


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