How I Automate Security In Five
Security In Five is a brand I started in 2017 that has this blog, the podcast with almost 700 episodes produced, a Twitter account and social network presence around the Internet. It seems to be a big undertaking to manage and keep the content creation going, I am not going to lie, it is, but I do it in such a way that makes it efficient as possible.
Security In Five right now is equivalent to a hobby for me. I have a full-time professional career, personal life, family with kids in traveling sports and everything else that keeps up busier than we should yet I can still keep it together. I was asked how I do it and began to explain the process and realized that it’s more complicated to explain in a few minutes, so I will write it up.
This post will detail how I produce Security In Five, all the tools I use and how they interact. I will start with the information gathering tools and end with the orchestration aspects that drive my little machine.
The TL;DR summary – I don’t work on the podcast every day, yet I have daily episodes. I automate everything, anywhere I can.
Here is a list of the tools/services that I use.
- Libsyn (https://libsyn.com/) – Libsyn is the service I use to host the podcast files. It’s a paid service and I currently have the cheapest offering. This allows me 250MB of storage a month and one of the reasons Security In Five is 5-minute episodes is to stay under 250MB/mo. for all the episodes. Libsyn is one of the better podcast hosting services, they are one of the oldest and allows the podcast to get published to its own RSS, a dedicated page, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, this blog, Twitter and many other destinations automatically. I record a week’s worth of episodes in one sitting, usually on the weekend, and schedule out the episodes to release each day.
- SiteGround (https://www.siteground.com/) – SiteGround hosts my blogs. I recently moved to this from another for speed and expanded hosting offerings. I can have unlimited blogs off one account. SecurityInFive.com and BinaryBlogger.com along with a few other non-tech sites are hosted here. It’s a paid service but these hosting sites are a dime a dozen, pick your direction and go with it. Domain purchase and renewal costs are cheap, $10/year now, if you want an online presence you need a go-to place you own like a website or blog. Each blog is WordPress driven for easy and fast rollouts, just stay on top of your patching and be cautious on the plug-ins you use. SiteGround has a one-button WordPress install.
- Inoreader (https://www.inoreader.com) – Inoreader is my current RSS reader. I live and die by my RSS feeds. This is the primary method for my mass consumption of news and blog posts. I use the free version and it works just fine. Any RSS reader that you use will work but it all starts here. I have my subscriptions organized in folders and can easily scan what’s new in what area easily and go from there. Inoreader has a nice iOS app as well which helps the process when I am mobile, traveling, waiting at kid’s basketball games to start, etc…
- Flipboard (https://www.flipboard.com) – Flipboard is another subscription-style news aggregator that is read like a magazine. I enjoy it a great deal although it’s slower to read through new items. It’s meant for reading it like a book but most of the same items I can get into Inoreader. I have my own Security In Five magazine that I add to and share with news items I see but won’t do a podcast episode around it. If you use Flipboard you can subscribe to my magazine and may get nuggets you won’t find elsewhere, I tend to add stories that are not ‘mainstream’ that are everywhere else.
- Pocket (https://www.pocket.com) Pocket is the core repository that kicks off my automation. As I browse and read throughout the day I save articles to Pocket for later. This service is critical to the rest of the automation for selecting podcast episodes.
- Reddit (https://www.reddit.com) Reddit has become a valuable resource. The level of information posted out there shadows anywhere else but the social aspect, asking questions, getting feedback has been very useful. I also post all the podcast episodes to the Security In Five Reddit page.
- Airtable (https://www.airtable.com) Airtable is the central hub of my organization. This is an online relational database. You can quickly set up a database for complex projects or more simple tracking like a spreadsheet. I use Airtable for many tracking projects.
- IFTTT (https://www.ifttt.com) IFTTT is the main engine for my automation. I live and die by IFTTT. IFTTT (If This Then That) is a very simple automation service that can monitor hundreds of services and based on actions you define, it does an action for you. For example, it will watch your RSS feed and when a new post is created to make a Twitter post automatically. My entire process depends on IFTTT.
- Evernote (https://www.evernote.com) Evernote is the notebook of life. If you are not familiar with Evernote, you should get familiar with it. Every podcast episode is planned out here, archive lists, notes and the other cut and paste items are all in Evernote.
- Other services – Facebook Pages, Canva, Dropbox, Box, Twitter, and my Pateron Page.
- Currently, I use Adobe Audition to record the podcast episodes but the first two years I used Garage Band on a Mac.
The automation process
Here’s how all this works together. There are three main services that drive this engine. Pocket, IFTTT, and Airtable.
- As I read websites, whether it’s from my Inoreader feeds or browsing, if I come across a topic or story I think would make a good podcast episode I save it to Pocket. Pocket has a browser extension, I use Firefox mainly, I hit and saves it into Pocket. The key is the tag I place on it. I tag all podcast worth articles with podcast. This is vital for the rest of the automation to work.
- IFTTT has a recipe setup that watches my Pocket. Anytime a new article is saved with the tag podcast it will take that and create a database row with the article title and the URL for the source in Airtable in my podcast episode tracker database.
- When it comes time to pick the episodes for the week I simply goto Airtable and review the collected list of articles that are ready for me.
- I then pick the 5 I will record, I write them into my podcast episode list in Evernote for tracking and record them.
- I clean up the episodes out my the Airtable table and remove them from Pocket from time to time.
That’s it. I browse like I normally do but saving tagged stories in Pocket with IFTTT watching it is what collects my material through the week. Aside from setting it up, which takes about 20 minutes, there is nothing special I do other than clicking a browser extension.
After I record an episode I rely on Libsyn and IFTTT to get the episode across the Internet. In Libsyn it will post to my RSS feed that I have that registered with Spotify, iTunes, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and more. Libsyn will also add the show to Goole Play, creates a blog post on Securityinfive.com, Tumblr and Twitter.
IFTTT also watches the podcast RSS and creates Reddit posts, Facebook Page updates and other social media updates across the web.
It may seem complicated but I set up this process to minimize my work on the front end to create daily episodes. The fact that I am approaching 700 produced episodes, at the time of writing this post, I can say my process works (for me). There is no right or wrong way to do anything as long as it works for you, it’s the correct one.
I wanted to detail out how this works to also show that anyone can do this. I am not special nor do I use anything over the top to make the show. I read the Internet as I do anyway, save things I think are interesting, and record them into a podcast show with my personal twist to it.
Be aware, be safe.