Why Should Bloggers Use Yahoo Pipes?

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:

  1. Custom search engines for collecting information related to a set of keywords.
  2. RSS filters for customizing web feeds.
  3. RSS radars for researchers or online bargain-hunting shoppers.
  4. Dynamic web maps.
  5. Custom multimedia content streams (images, video, audio).
  6. Producing source data for custom HTML badges, even a “recent posts” badge for a blog network.
  7. 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.

7 thoughts on “Why Should Bloggers Use Yahoo Pipes?

  1. Great article. I’ve just built a couple of dozen pipes to help me collect and distribute data to my website visitors – and to share my own information across a couple of websites I own and don’t want to spend time continuing to update.

    For me it’s a time-saver. I’ve probably saved 8 hours/day already and produced a much better set of content to my site visitors.

    I was told about pipes just a couple of days ago and am looking forward to learning more things I can do with them and use them for. So now I’m off to read more of your blog for ideas!

    Thanks a lot.

  2. Exactly. Pipes is more of a prototyping tool, especially at present, since it’s in beta, with annoying changes to existing modules every once in a while.

  3. The great thing about doing TiPs, apart from it being useful, is it opened up some serious opportunities for a monitoring service. Although I’m not sure I would rely on Pipes for a commercial venture, but just getting in ‘under the hood’, so as to speak, was inspiring. It was dead easy too, though I did have some help hooking it all up into a custom db.

    It can also be replicated and extended for other themes.

  4. Garri, I really like what you’re doing with travelinpapers. I saw it a few months back. Proof that Pipes can be very useful for custom sites.

  5. Raj, we used pipes for our own project:


    It has proved to be such a useful resource for ourselves and would be useful for anyone involved in the field of travel including travel bloggers. Sadly though, having contacted a few travel bloggers to let them know about TiPs it fell on deaf ears. We did get some coverage but mainly from people in the travel PR business.

    Anyway, it was one of the most fun projects I’ve done and the quickest!

    Great thing is, the template has now been created where we can roll this out for more countries, since it is fed into a database, and add more publications.

    By the way, have you used Dapper yet?

  6. That’s an excellent starting point, and I can embellish with advanced examples as well, such as truncating each source feed to, say, the three most recent items.

  7. looking forward to this. it would be really cool to see a Pipe that blends feeds together from any supplied plain text list of feeds.

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