Watching the Watchlist

Posted by mvexel on 12 July 2014 in English (English)

I like the Watchlist on the wiki - it helps me keep track of changes to pages I care about. When you are logged in, you will see a link to your Watchlist in the top right corner:

watchlist link

If you click on it, you get an overview of changes to the pages you added to your watchlist:


You can filter the output in various ways to make the result less cluttered.

Adding pages to your watchlist is simple - just click the star at the top of a page:


The biggest drawback is that you actually have to go to the page. I would rather be notified of changes on my phone.

This is where the Atom feed comes in. On your Watchlist page, you will find it in the left margin:

watchlist atom

The Atom link provides the latest items on your watchlist as a feed, meant for software to do something useful with. Much like RSS. Actually, if you use an RSS reader, you can probably add the Atom link to your reader.

I don't use RSS readers, but I do use IFTTT, or If This Than That. IFTTT is a very smart web site that you can feed all kinds of information from the internet, and perform actions on it based on triggers. For example, it can send you a text message whenever it is going to rain, based on weather data it gathers. IFTTT calls these things Recipes. People have come up with tons of useful recipes, and IFTTT is constantly adding interesting input options.

Let me show you how I created a simple IFTTT Recipe to get a notification on my phone every time someone updates an OSM wiki page I am watching.

First, if you don't have an account with IFTTT yet, create one.

Once you are logged in, you will be able to create new Recipes:


The first step in creating a Recipe is defining your 'this' or input:


Click 'this' and choose 'Feed' from the list:

choose feed

You can choose to pull this trigger on each new Feed item or just one that matches a certain string.

choose each or filter

Choose 'new feed item'. In the next step, you paste the Atom URL:

copy link

paste link

Then click to Create the Trigger.

This is the 'this' step that takes care of the input. IFTTT will monitor your Watchlist through the Atom feed and pull this Trigger every time it sees something new. I am not quite sure how often it goes and looks, but it's about every 10-15 minutes in my experience.

Next is the 'that' step, or what do you want to do when the Trigger is pulled?

that step

options that

There are a lot of options, most of which you will need to 'activate' by downloading an app for your phone, linking another account, or something similar so that IFTTT knows what to talk to on your end. IFTTT has native apps for iOS and Android that it can talk to to send you notifications. This is probably your easiest option if you want notifications on your phone.

notifications apps

You activate these 'Channels' by downloading the app from your app store and linking it to your IFTTT account. I use a third party notification app called Pushover myself, because it has an API that can receive notifications from elsewhere as well. If you don't care about that, go with the IFTTT apps or even the SMS Channel option. The example here assumes Pushover, but the steps are the same.

Once you have selected a 'that' Channel, you may need to choose between various output options. Pushover for example has two, normal and 'high priority'. In the app, you can have these two types trigger different alert types / sounds.

pushover prio

In the next step, you get to craft what your notification looks like:

notification definition

The text with a grey background will be replaced by text from the feed when the notification gets sent out. There are some more of these placeholders available under the + button:


Unfortunately, there is no 'preview' available, so sometimes it takes a little guess work to see what the results will look like.

I ended up with this:

notification result

The final step is to create the Recipe.

Now, when someone edits a wiki page on the OSM wiki that is on your watchlist, you will know right away!

notifications in action

(Note that these notifications are not about editing wiki pages :) I did not take a screen shot of those yet. The notifications you see here show whenever someone edits OSM in your area - something I wrote about on my old blog a while ago.

Comment from jgpacker on 12 July 2014 at 18:08

You can also set the wiki to notify you by email on your preferences page, turning on the checkbox "Email me when a page or file on my watchlist is changed".

I wish this was a default setting. 😐

Comment from mvexel on 12 July 2014 at 23:29

jgpacker - wow, I never knew that was possible! Thanks.

Comment from AndiG88 on 13 July 2014 at 16:13

I wish this was a default setting.

Depending on the Wiki and page that might result in a lot of "spam" and users complaining.

Comment from jgpacker on 14 July 2014 at 11:31

Depending on the Wiki and page that might result in a lot of "spam" and users complaining.

Yes, but can't the OSM wiki mantainers make it a default setting? I think it would help users. I struggled a bit in the beginning until I was sure I wasn't getting notification from pages on my watchlist and how to enable them.

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