Yahoo Ruins My Life with Yahoo Pipes

Dear Yahoo, I hate you.

I mean, it’s not like I didn’t have anything to do. I’ve been trying to learn the Second Life scripting language, have a whole mad scientist’s lab of experiments I’m doing on Google, and I STILL haven’t figured out what I’m going to give my husband for Valentine’s Day.

And then YOU come along with your Yahoo Pipes product — or, as I’ve renamed it, Yahoo Nerd-Crack Pipes — and now I despair of getting anything done. That little pfft sound you heard was my free time vanishing like a snowball on Mercury.

Still and all, I might as well write this up for ResearchBuzz. I was going to go to sleep — after all, it’s almost 4am — but as soon as I lay down and closed my eyes I thought of a great pipe idea… drat you all.

Bitterly, Tara

I don’t know how recently Yahoo put together Yahoo Pipes — I first read about it at Jeremy Z’s blog — but it looks like an early beta: there’s some documentation missing and a couple of spelling errors. Still, there’s enough here that I’m intrigued and overwhelmed with ideas.

Yahoo Pipes ( ) allows you to query online resources and “pipe” your results through several filters, or take a set of results from one resource and apply it to a set of results on another resource, or aggregate several results. (You’ll need to have a Yahoo account to use this service.) Yahoo Pipes has an initial set of sources you can use, but to a certain extent you can also use any resource that outputs as an RSS feed — which means, thanks to tools like Feed43, almost anything.

You accomplish this by dragging and dropping a series of modules onto a grid and linking them together. There are also submodules you can create and apply them to your pipes. Some of this is intuitive, but a lot of it is not. (It took me a while to wrap my head around how to feed the results of an RSS feed into a search engine and get an output.) There is a limited amount of documentation available, though tutorials are promised eventually. There’s also a fairly active message board.

Oh heck, this is kind of hard to explain. To see what it looks like, take a look at a couple of pipes I made. The first pipe is a simple eBay search, which you can see at . The second is a pipe that takes the overall list from Yahoo Buzz and runs each item on the list through eBay. That one you can see at . The first pipe, the one for eBay, is used as a submodule for the second pipe, the one for running Yahoo Buzz through eBay. (These pipes did not work properly in Opera, and worked fine in Firefox.)

You can view pipes, make copies of pipes and edit them yourself (this is great for learning how some of the functions work, dissembling other people’s pipes) or run the pipes. Running the pipes means generating the results, the output you can get as an RSS feed or as JSON (JavaScript Object Notation).

I have spent a crazy amount of time with Yahoo Pipes in the last several days. My initial enthusiasm was replaced by frustration, which was replaced by the desire to hit my computer with a hammer, which in turn was replaced by enthusiasm again as I did a lot of trial/error learning. I can imagine — I have imagined — literally dozens of search tools I could create with this. I have an idea for a Second Life gadget I’d create using Yahoo Pipes. (More about Second Life in another post.) There were aspects of the Pipes that I kept looking for (if/then was the biggest one, real simple if/then). I hope this is only an early iteration of what could end up being a very exciting tool. That sucks up all my free time while I sit around and crank out search gadgets.

As I noted before Yahoo Pipes doesn’t have any tutorials up yet, but Mr. Speaker has a lovely tutorial available. Thanks Mr. Speaker!

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