Automate all the things

A weekly no-code automation delivered to your inbox (with thoughts on no-code every now and then)
Apr 21, 2021 • Issue #49 by Aron Korenblit

Escape valves in no-code

I don't remember who exactly but someone at Airtable once qualified Airtable scripting as an escape valve.

escape valve - a valve in a container in which pressure can build up (as a steam boiler); it opens automatically when the pressure reaches a dangerous level.

It's an escape valve in the sense that it enables (almost) anything to be built on Airtable with enough effort. If you can't quite get to what you want with existing functionality you can brute force it with some custom code. Want to identify duplicates on the fly? Call Youtube's API? Create template tasks from a project? You can't do any of those with existing functionality but if you're motivated, you can write (or reuse) a script.

Once I understood the concept I started seeing escape valves everyone! Zapier provides an open code step while Webflow offers custom code to be added to any page.

You might be thinking so escape valves are...code?

Sorta! Escape valves must be a level of abstraction above the no-code tool. The only time you would inject custom code in your page is if Webflow itself cannot generate that code for you using the GUI!

But that doesn't mean you're off on your own. Airtable, Webflow, Zapier all host and run the code for you. They abstract everything except the code. That's no easy feat!

This brings me to my favorite escape valve: the incoming webhook trigger in Airtable. With this new trigger, you can integrate pretty much any service! Mailchimp, Memberstack, Webflow, Stripe, Slack, {insert your favourite SaaS tools here} offer webhooks. Simply tell the service to send updates to the URL provided by Airtable and you've now integrated the two services! Airtable will parse the response for you just like it would any other service it's fully integrated with.

Does this mean that there's no need for new triggers? Well no, webhooks aren't perfect and don't make every usecase for every service possible (note that incoming webhooks + custom code do make most services integrable!).

Until the moment every service is integrated (and that will take a while!), you can rely on webhooks to get you most of the way there.

So if you're feeling pressure to integrate a tool into Airtable and don't know how, remember that the incoming webhook may be the release valve you're looking for!

1,000 readers: a milestone

The newsletter hit an exciting milestone last week: 1,000 subscribers. I'm honored that you take the time once a week to read this newsletter. I did not believe that the intersection of "enjoys no-code automation" and "wants to read a long form newsletter about it" had so many people but I couldn't be more excited.

Earlier this year, I shared that I wanted the stream to a place where the we congregate to learn. In order to achieve that, I couldn't be the only host. You all know much more than I can ever show: Chris Messina taught us Alfred App, Victoria Plummer showed us how to structure bases, Ben Collins taught us to write scripts in google sheets and much more.

After 49 editions of this newsletter written solely by me, I think it's time we do the same here. So starting next week, I will be opening up the newsletter to guest posters! The near future line up includes Zoelle Egner (@zoelle), David Peterson (@edavidpeterson), Shawn Wang (@swyx), and the always trusty Stephen O'Grady (@orishnal). I hope to alternate a guest poster every other week.

I hope you'll give as much attention to the guest posters as you have to me. I, for one, cannot wait to read their point of view. If the stream is any indication, it'll be better for it.

If you'd like to pen a piece for this newsletter, reply to this email with what you'd like to write about and why you're qualified to write about it!

Keep building!


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