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PipesUg I have just spend a few infuriating hours playing with Yahoo latest utility, Yahoo Pipes. Tim O’Reilly said this was a milestone in the History of the Internet. (Ug isn’t he the same bloke that coined the phrase ‘Web 2.0'? Ug, what does that mean?)

In a nutshell Yahoo Pipes is a utility that lets you build your own custom searches, it allows you to aggregate search-engines searches and RSS into one stream of output. So for example, if I wanted to see all what had been posted about ‘Girl Geek Dinners’ from a number of different sources, I would grab all the RSS feeds of people I know who go to them and also add in search- engine results from say Google, Yahoo and Live, pipe them all together and created one mashed up data stream. Easy, no reason to go to one specific search engine like Google or go through the list of the people I subscribe to in my RSS reader to see what they have written about ‘Girl Geek Dinners’ and I can get go back to my pipe and re-run it time and time again, it even build it’s own RSS feed so I can run my pipe from my RSS Reader, fantastic! Infact other people can use your pipe as well, you can even go back and edit it and continue to refine it.

The system it system is a graphical one, where you drag control boxes from a toolbox box at the side of the screen, configure them, then link them together to form a nice linear logical workflow.

Other the last ten years or so I’ve seen afew graphical development environments all with the same aim, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to write code using a flow-chart’, from IBM’s Visual Age to UML and the plethora of tools that used that (Visio ironically being the most popular) more recently the Biztalk orchestrator or Whitehorse in Visual Studio 2005, the simple fact is that they have either been far to complicated and un intuitive to be pragmatically practical for daily use so therefore used only by the diehard geek who loves to master the complex or on the other hand these graphical environments have been to simplistic to be of any real use, so whoever strikes the balance is going to make a killing.

Yahoo Pipes is just awful, it’s made a meal of what could have been something so simple. For a start it’s just not obvious what you have to do, the tutorial is just 4 examples and a dialog box, handy then. The toolbox and the controls in aren’t exactly intuitive and the help doesn’t help much, it appears in this next to useless small box in the bottom left hand-corner of the screen. Whilst I’m having a good moan, what kills the whole thing for me is the performance, yep, so it’s using Ajax but it’s just soooooooooo sllllllooooooowwww to do just about anything, maybe if I up-sticks and moved to the US the latency is bound to better then perhaps I’m in with a chance of not loosing enough patience to master it. Whoever when actually running the pipe itself it doesn’t hang-around and produces the result set very quickly, which I found very surprising.

Having had my bitch I have to say it’s a very ambitious thing that Yahoo have produced and it is a freebie and in BETA so fortune favors the brave, the potential is staggering. Yahoo are on to something with the idea it’s just the execution, they will have to work hard on the usability issues as the main priority otherwise this will become a white-elephant in afew months.

So who is going to use Yahoo Pipes? Well initially, it’s clearly not going to be for everyone other than the most geeky of us, however, those brave souls that do create feeds are going to delivery quite an impressive service for the rest of us specially as the data result-set comes in RSS so we can all enjoy the benefits of the creation.

In summary, one to watch then. Hmmm, I wonder how long before we see the other big boys do something in the same vein?   

Posted on Sunday, February 18, 2007 6:16 PM Main | Back to top

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