Put email notifications onto the dashboard!

My use case was to keep my daughter informed of what’s happening at school using the dashboard in her room. The same approach could be used for any use case where you want to transform email notifications into a feed on the dashboard.

Her school sends notifications to students and parents using remind.com, which generates email and/or SMS messages. They are using it at the classroom level to communicate upcoming due dates, remember to bring something to class on Friday, etc. The school can also send more administrative things like school closing for weather, etc. It seemed like the perfect data source to display on a dashboard in the kid’s room to keep her plugged in to these sorts of things. I reached out to remind.com to see if they offered an RSS feed, but they don’t. So I thought I was stuck.

But then I thought there must be a way that I could subscribe to the email notifications and transform those into an RSS feed that I could display on the dashboard. Eventually I found zapier.com, which some of you may be familiar with, but I wasn’t. They offer a way to build what I would call macros in a simple GUI, and the best part is they are cloud-based so I don’t have to run a macro on a local PC. Using their platform it was quite easy to do! Here are the steps at a high level:

  1. Setup a new gmail address specifically for the notifications you want to display
  2. Sign up for Zapier - there is a free tier!
  3. Create a Zap. The trigger is a new email arrives at your gmail address, and the action is to add an item to an RSS feed. They provide you with the RSS feed URL (which you can customize). When setting up the action, you can specify what metadata from the incoming email should appear where in the RSS item. I found that the Raw Snippet made the best RSS item body because it excludes a lot of the noise.
  4. Setup a new news feed in SharpTools, pointing to the URL provided by Zapier.com
  5. Add the news feed to the dashboard

Super easy, and the end result is perfect! The first item in the feed in the screenshot is the final format using the Raw Snippet (below is an earlier test using the plain text message body).