Until recently, people had been asking on Vallywag and Digg what Yahoo Pipes might be. Well, now we know. Yahoo Pipes is a powerful way to munge and aggregate feeds using a very slick graphical interface. Editing feeds in as a workflow means you can get some powerful results very quickly. For sources it currently supports Flickr, Google Base, Yahoo Search and Yahoo Local, as well as fetching arbitrary URLs (which you can also munge with a URL builder). All sorts of user inputs are supported, as well as iterative blocks to annotate and replace content, content analysis (which finds significant terms, and has long been a useful Yahoo API in its own right), content filters, BabelFish, string manipulation, date formatting, and more. The list goes on and will hopefully keep growing. Imagine taking the feed for your favourite blog and automatically having a relevant photo from Flickr added to each post. This not only makes such a thing possible, it’s one of the many included examples.
To try it out, I decided to create a simple pipe. I went for the standard feed-scrubbing example; BoingBoing with Xeni’s posts removed (nothing against Xeni, it’s been a long-running hobby of BB readers to make it more worksafe by filtering out her content, originally using Greasemonkey).
Other than couple of small usability gripes, I really love the system already, and am looking forward to making some cool things with it.
What gripes, you ask? Well, for one thing to populate a for-each module I have to drop the other module into it directly from the side bar; it doesn’t work if you drag them in from your workspace. A small thing, and it only took me 30 seconds to figure it out, but it’s not obvious. It’s a compliment to the system really, and when something is this close to being perfect a couple of tiny flaws make you notice how good it really is.
Now the internet is not just a series of tubes, it’s held together by a series of pipes.