I’ll chime in that I think Yahoo pipes is a really neat idea. As every decent UNIXhead knows, pipes let you combine small command-line tools easily by routing the output of one tool into the input of another tool. For example “cat census-names | cut -d’,’ -f2 | sort | uniq -c | sort -rg” might take a list of peoples’ names, extract just the last names, sort the list, unique-ify the list and produce a count of how many times each name occurred, then sort by the biggest number. Voilà, from a raw list of names you’ve now got a list of the most popular last names. Pipes are one of the things that makes Linux/Unix roxor.
The idea of Yahoo Pipes, as far as I can tell from a quick look, is to allow that same pipe behavior on RSS feeds. The system also outputs RSS urls. There are operators like sorting, counting, truncating, etc. If you wanted to make a mash-up of different feeds, this would be a neat way to prototype it.
What’s an example use case? Well, I’ve got one right here in my back pocket. Suppose you had multiple RSS calendar feeds, and wanted to combine those multiple feeds into one feed. Yahoo Pipes has a “union” operator, so I’m assuming you could pipe in (say) four feeds and get back one feed that was a superset of all the items that you fed in. A couple months ago, I went searching for a package that did set operations on RSS feeds (specifically looking to combine multiple different calendar feeds), and didn’t really see anything great at that point. This tool would solve that problem.
I took it for a test drive right after Jeremy posted about it and hit an error message partway through, but I’m sure they’ll get it smoothed over pretty quickly. I was able to save a “module” (which appears to be a little chunk of pipe processing which is connected to an RSS output). Then you can click publish and you get an obfuscated url back. I tested the obfuscated url and it generates RSS just fine; the test module I made is safely tucked into Google Reader now. This is the closest to fun that RSS has ever been for me, but my eyes glaze over at the sight of XML.
It isn’t terribly hard to do operations on RSS feeds, but Yahoo Pipes
- has a fun UI for playing with slicing and dicing feeds
- doesn’t require a ton of work to save/publish modules (you do need a Yahoo ID though)
- produces easy-peasy urls that output RSS, so those urls could in turn be used by other people or in larger modules. Bonus geek points for staying true to the Unix pipe idea in that way.
O’Reilly has a good write-up as well. Congrats to the Yahoo folks that built Pipes. Nice stuff.