With Microsoft recently making a bid of nearly US$46B to buy rival Yahoo, I was hesitant to start a new series for Performancing that I’ve been planning around Yahoo Pipes. Hopefully Microsoft will not “bury” Pipes – which is about a year old now – like they have with other useful software I’ve used in the past and which they bought up. With that in mind, here’s a quick “why use it” introduction to Yahoo Pipes.
Yahoo Pipes is essentially a handy way to take data in various formats (XML, RSS/XML, CSV, etc.) from the web and filter and manipulate it. It’s really that simple, in terms of functionality. But even that in itself is what makes Pipes so powerful. Here is a very short list of what Pipes can be used for:
- Custom search engines for collecting information related to a set of keywords.
- RSS filters for customizing web feeds.
- RSS radars for researchers or online bargain-hunting shoppers.
- Dynamic web maps.
- Custom multimedia content streams (images, video, audio).
- Producing source data for custom HTML badges, even a “recent posts” badge for a blog network.
- Monitor for top blogs in a niche.
This hardly begins to describe what you can do with Yahoo Pipes on its own. If you marry Pipes with custom code and/or other web services that are RSS-based, you have the raw building blocks for creating a new generation of web application prototypes. What’s more, the interface is visually-based, so you do not need to know how to write code to use Pipes.
The drawback is that Yahoo Pipes is still in beta and as such, modules are often deprecated and replaced with new ones that are not 100% identical in functionality. Nevertheless, learning the basic functionality of Pipes modules and how to integrate a Pipe with other web services can lead you to add custom features to your blog – without having to hire someone to code. You become more of a conductor than a musician.
So that’s what the rest of this series will do: teach you how to use Yahoo Pipes with hard examples. While I do have a fairly lengthy list of examples coming up, if there’s anything you really want to see done with RSS/XML data, please feel free to comment here. I’m taking requests, and I will build a working Pipe for what you need, if it’s possible and reasonable. If there’s custom code needed, I’ll do what I can on the Pipe side and offer an algorithm for the rest of the code.