Yahoo! Pipes : A Giant Erector Set for the Web

logo_1.gifI’m not a programmer but I love to tinker. Much to the chagrin of my parents, I liked nothing better than taking things apart and seeing how they worked. The thing that made the early web so much fun was the View > Page Source command in the browser which allowed me to take apart any website and figure out how it was put together.

APIs and XML pushed that all into the background for weekend duffers like me. All the parameters that went into building an interactive page were hidden from me. Many sites would expose bits of what was going on in the URL field and I could still play around by swapping out variables that I could see in plain text but the ability to parse out the results and display them in format that I wanted was beyond my basic skills and I could only work on one page at a time, unable to string the output of one page to the input of another.

Today’s release of Yahoo! Pipes is just the product I need to begin to muck around again. Choose any RSS feed as a data source and break down the URL into it’s basic components. Drag in any of the various modules to substitute parameters, filter, join, sort, or otherwise transform the results and harness the output as an RSS feed which you can easily subscribe or embed into your site.

Pipes has embraced the View Source culture. Every published Pipe on the system can be cloned, stripped apart and repurposed for your own use. You can nest pipes inside one another or string them together so that early pipes become the building blocks for more complex routines.

Want to read a mashed up feed of the top autoblogs filtered to specific luxury European autos? No problem.

Looking for the latest flickr photos and weather conditions at Whistler? You got it.

My own itch was trying to figure out if I should buy something off of my local Craigslist, bid for it on eBay, or just buy it outright. Instead of daily searches on a series of sites, I now have one place to go.

Big ol’ caveat. This is not a finished product! Edward, Daniel, Jonathan, Pasha, and Kevin have created a beautiful platform but this is just the first step in an exciting direction which is already generating lots of debate. Pipes levels the playing field and invites the masses into the sandbox. Let’s all play nice together and bend those tubes around and make something wonderful.

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