Remember Yahoo Pipes? You Should If You Want to Tame Your Info

Yahoo-Pipes

If you like to tinker with and automate your web, and if you are a fan of services like IFTTT, then you may or may not have heard of Yahoo Pipes. Yahoo Pipes has been around for a dog’s lifetime in Internet years – it was first introduced in early 2007. While venerable, it is still mighty useful if you spend a few moments getting to know what it can do for you.

So, what can it do for you? It’s tagline is “rewire the Web.” Pipes describes itself as a powerful composition tool to aggregate, manipulate, and mashup content from around the web. Or, stated differently, it allows you to remix feeds and create data mashups so you can better control the flow of information to your virtual doorstep.

By joining together simple commands, combine multiple feeds into a single feed and then sort, filter and translate it. Use Pipes to  geocode favorite feeds and browse the items on an interactive map. Use Pipes to create widgets and badges with feed information on your web site. And this is just the beginning of it.

You start with a Yahoo account login. Then you access the visual editor wherein you can drag and drop preconfigured modules and “wire” them together. Each module performs a task like “Fetch” or “Feed Auto Discovery” or input date, location, number, text or URL. Operator modules transform and filter pipe data. URL modules manipulate the URL. Combine text strings, define and format dates, convert text strings to geographic location and perform mathematic functions. After you build a “Pipe” by stringing together modules in the visual editor, you can save it on Yahoo’s servers. You can output your data in several different formats. You also can publish your Pipe to benefit net-kind. You can discover a feed in module one, filter the feed in module two, three and four, add other functions and then connect the Pipe to the output module. You are then greeted with a Pipe that will pull and filter information and present it to you the way you want to see it. Then subscribe to the Pipe’s output in your favorite feed reeder and get only the news you want, when you want.

If you don’t feel much like building your own, check out the large number of community Pipes published by members and tailor them to your own use. Search for Pipes on the Browse tab, or check out the tagged Pipes along the left navigation pane. For example, type in “find jobs” and pull up a bunch of Pipes that will allow you to do just that. Pre-built Pipes allow you to simply add the required information into fields and run the Pipe to get the output.

What if you want to get really creative and use a search module to pull up any mention of your company or firm on the Web or on Twitter, mash the two feeds together and output them in a fancy little widget on your website? Real time, and real handy for web monitoring and promotion.

It is a little hard to explain without visual aids, so check out the video below to see how to build one yourself. And, remember, you can already use a pre-existing Pipe – chances are someone has already built the mousetrap using Pipes. Kinda like a virtual Rube Goldberg machine for your Internet information.

 

Clearing Your Virtual Magazine Bin

In my humble opinion, the single best source of information both on and off the Web is a healthy collection of news and blog feeds automatically pouring into Google Reader. But, much like my tangible desktop, briefcase and magazine bin, my virtual periodical inbox is stuffed full to bursting. It can’t be helped: I see an interesting post or feed and I MUST subscribe. My pack rat mentality flows over into virtual space. Dozens of feeds and thousands of posts later, I lose complete site of the bottom of the pile.

So I welcomed this morning a post from Lifehacker (link here) with tips on how to tame the tangle mass that is my Google Reader inbox. Some tips I knew, but others were fresh and I immediately applied them. For example, use the “Trends” button underneath “Your Stuff” in the left hand column to quickly view the least updated, most obscure or least attended-to feeds and lose them like a bad habit. Lifehacker also suggests creating a folder system that encourages you to spend more time on the stuff you want: consider folders called “favorites” containing all your must-read subscriptions, then tier the remaining content in order of importance or subject matter. I employ a subject-based foldering system, but I do tier my Reader follows into “Top Peeps” and all the rest.

Another great tip for the higher order geek is using Yahoo! Pipes (link here) to further customize your feeds with built-in filtering. Another, somewhat simpler, option is FeedRinse (link here), which strains by author, tags, and keywords. Lifehacker reminds that WordPress feeds also offer tagging – in other words, if you are reading a WP blog within a particular category, simply add /feed/ to the end of the URL and you can secure a feed of only that category.

The Lifehacker article finally spurred me to start the long overdue Spring feed cleaning that I had contemplated for some time. It didn’t hurt my momentum when I learned this morning that the Reeder app on my iPhone stops updating when there are 5,000 unread items. Oops.