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Yahoo! Pipes the web your way

an image of the Yahoo! Pipes logoRight now, Seb Döll over at Pixel Milk is currently kickin’ the tyres of Yahoo! Pipes. And who can blame him?

But when I first happened upon Yahoo! Pipes, I wasn’t totally won over. But having since hacked together a live version of my regular feed, and then after watching the Google TechTalk video clip on Seb’s ‘blog, it’s clearer now the scale & scope of Yahoo! Pipes.

Ironically, what’s most intriguing about the Google TechTalk video isn’t the topic of discussion itself (although it’s very insightful,) but the complete lack of company politics.

But that’s what happens when you don’t tell the marketing people what’s going on and then let a load of software developers steal a projector, the coffee machine, 2lb of biscuits and ensconce themselves in an auditorium for the morning.

What you have is Google biggin’ up technology from arch-rival Yahoo! and then Yahoo! Pipes pulling in various services, including several belonging to Google.

This to me is precisely what I want to see; collaboration at a lower level than that of some fluffy, superficial marketing effort, which would in all likelihood lack the substance we’re seeing here.

To the casual eye, Yahoo! Pipes is just a way of merging RSS feeds, but that’s not anything like even the tip of the iceberg.

In the video clip, the guy from Yahoo! explains how he came about with the idea of Pipes as a way of fulfilling a need. At the time, he was looking for somewhere to live in Palo Alto, California as close to a park as possible. The regular way of doing this would mean him sifting through 20-odd or more classified adverts for properties a day.

A better way to do this would be to pull in data for classified adverts for properties from Craigslist, check against Yahoo! Local to narrow down the locations that fit the proximity to the park criteria, do some more filtering to eliminate trailer parks et cetera and then bundle the whole thing up as a feed.

This takes RSS beyond news and into the territory of informative, narrow-focus, personalized streams of not just data, not even information (no, data and information aren’t the same thing) but knowledge.

To me, this is remarkable. In fact, it’s so remarkable, it’s disruptive.

This is the kind of technology that has the potential to strip away a whole layer of middleware, and / or middleman mediation.

The kind of technology that makes you the service provider. Might even save you the odd monthly subscription fee.

And for the end user, the studious researcher, the committed analyst and the pixel-pushin’ designer, this means an immediacy, a simplicity and a dream of concise knowledge mining that’s no longer a just a pipe dream…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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