Prompted by a handful of “what the heck is that” type conversations I had observed, I decided to take Yahoo Pipes for a spin. I’m overall pretty impressed with a bunch of the UI elements of the tool, though there are many that are left confusing…and overall, the tool itself is very simple despite it’s complicated looks. Here’s the low-down.
Pipes makes a number of existing RSS feeds(Yahoo search, Google Base, and Ebay, for example), as well as your own selectable feeds via a “fetch” command, able to be sorted, mashed, and translated through a number of user inputs or filters. This whole process reminds me very Peavy’s MediaMatrix, which I used in my previous experiences with Theater Sound Engineering.
Media Matrix, like Pipes, takes digitally converted signals from microphone inputs, puts them into a digital processor chip with a loaded “schematic”…which acts as a map of sorts through some virtual hardware. The signal’s properties could be manipulated by their pitch, gain, and a ton of other fancy filters. Similarly, Pipes takes the feed input you select, compartmentalizes the data and then passes it through a number of filters which can be selected, tweaked, and connected via a visual “schematic” of the workflow (the word workflow should allude to something like Apple’s Automator…and rightfully so. If you can figure out automator, you could use Pipes, and MediaMatrix for that matter).
The value in this tool is really going to grow as its ability to process more and more types of feeds grows. It’s not clear to me (and this is an opportunity to point me to sources to self-educate) about the contribution factor. A means of creating and then SHARING the workflows you create with Pipes could make it much more popular, but more importantly, a way to create and import your own feed processors and filters. Yahoo has done a good job of documenting and opening up their tools via APIs in the past, hopefully they will do the same here. Another valuable tool would be to create a set of hooks so that external web pages could hook directly into Pipes-processed feeds.
Finally, I could see this as a visual tool for figuring out process flows for beginner-developers. Having the ability to create a workflow and then hit “export” to php/sql code which I could dump into my application…could prove handy for rapid prototyping of feed-driven web tools.
I’m excited to see how this project evolves, and if Yahoo opens it up for more public contribution. If so, I’d be excited to use a more matured tool.
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