Scripting News for 2/8/2007

NBC has the first network news show to go HD. 

Too much hype 

Note at 6PM Pacific: Yahoo Pipes missed its own opening day.

Back to the drawing boards for one of the most over-hyped non-events in the history of the Internet.

Pipes investigation 

I see that Yahoo has a new web app, called Pipes, that looks to me like a feed construction kit.

It takes RSS inputs, processes them in ways that are specified by the user, and produces feeds as its output.

How useful is this? Not sure. In all the years that I’ve used RSS apps, I’ve never wanted this functionality. But then I never wanted Feedburner either, and that’s proven very popular.

One of the first things I want to know is what is the quality of the RSS output they produce? Did they, like Apple did with iTunes, add a lot of proprietary stuff to their RSS? Ive been looking for some output on the web, but so far haven’t found any. I’m optimistic because Yahoo has been an outstanding RSS comunity member.

Note: the server is back up, although slow, at 8:20AM Pacific. The RSS they generate looks fine.

At 10:40AM it’s down again.

From a quick persual of the functionality last night and the fact that the server isn’t responding right now (5:45AM Pacific), it seems this app uses lots of CPU on the server.

I agree with Nik and Richard that this is an application platform, and that Pipes users are likely to be fairly technical scripting-level users.

Clearly it should take OPML as input, that’s the usual way of exchanging lists of feeds.

I’m interested in knowing what other Scripting News readers have learned from experimenting with Pipes.

Speaking at Public Media 

Good news, I’m speaking at the Public Media conf on Feb 23 in Boston, as outlined here and here, I guess it was compelling. Thanks to Doc Searls for his help.

It also looks like I may lead a discussion at Microsoft’s Mix 07 conference this year, after not getting an invite in 2006. This time I knew there was a problem in advance, and apparently asked the right question of the right people, privately.

My proposed topic is “Let’s design the perfect podcast player.” No one makes it now, not Apple, not Microsoft, but a lot of people who listen to podcasts have an idea of what they want. It makes for a good, spirited, productive discussion.

BTW, the conference ends on my 52nd birthday, which is a once in a lifetime thing because my birthday is the 2nd day of the 5th month. Yeah I was a math major. And because I’m a programmer I’m superstitious. 🙂

21 responses to this post.

  1. Yes, server is down… the gang is on it. A little more attention and traffic than they expected.


  2. Ive been looking for some output on the web, but so far haven’t found any.

    I haven’t had time to look them over in any detail, but Brady Forrest has a pair of posts on O’Reilly Radar about this – the second one has a link to an output file that makes use of the GeoRSS format.


  3. You might think you don’t need it, but I think it’s a *tremenduous* step forward for RSS. I just had a discussion about this yesterday – RSS + Pipes has the potential to become what the command line + I/O redirection were for Unix.

    Lots of small, manageable tools that can be used to build bigger and better things.

    Except I really don’t want it to run on somebody elses server – I’ve got plenty of feeds I can’t share. (I’m sure my company would throw a hissy fit if I changed the build message feed with the outside, for example)


  4. I want to try it, because NetVibes has completely changed the way I get information from the internet, with is easy-to-customize presentation. Maybe Pipes can do more, or make the result a little prettier to look at. I’m no programmer, but I have learned how to copy and paste RSS feeds, so I hope that’s all I will have to do on Pipes to get at least some of the functionality. And I hope the server comes back up soon!


  5. Ron, when their server is down, the links to feeds don’t work. So until it comes back up we’re in the dark.

    Robert, I read a comment on ReadWriteWeb about software that does something similar but runs on your machine. Apparently it’s been out for about a year.


  6. Sorry. It worked for me when I posted my comment, but it was very slow.


  7. Actually I’ve been using Feed Rinse for some time now :

    What Pipes is doing however is adding more flexibility and a nice GUI.

    But I am pleased they have done it, as many will benefit from these techniques with Yahoo featuring it, plus competrition is always good to see..



  8. Posted by Stephane Rodriguez on February 8, 2007 at 10:22 am

    On Y! Pipes,

    If someday, someone writes a Pipes plugin that is such that one can click a web link in a RSS item, reaches the target web page, grabs the corresponding feed item if any, or creates a pseudo-RSS feed that can open in the RSS reader seamlessly, then this day, this very day, it will have made RSS reading not a travesty experience anymore.

    I know, I am dreaming…


  9. Radio had this functionality to output things explicitly into new ‘mix’ feeds. In as much as some part of the construction of mix feeds is algorithmic, this would be useful in automation.

    The question to ask is where’s the sweet ‘80%’ spot. I suspect that in remixing its probably something as simple as sending to a designated group…like send that chain letter rss to my whole family (:-)) or copy all linux software announcements to my private linux feed aswell as to the one i share with my company.

    I suspect a better use might be partial automation though, where a remixed feed is presented to me for action or an automation is carried out after my annotation.


  10. Dave-

    Just wanted you to know that more “reality minded” individuals are working hard to restore/repair/clean up the wikipedia article on you. When you mentioned it the other day, I had to see for myself, boy did you have a point. There are some people that think you are merely a “Contributor” to OPML. Don’t get me wrong, I think we all know that many people have worked hard to improve and grow OPML, but I don’t think you are going to embellish your own CV posted at blogs.harvard… I don’t blame you for sending a few flares up, I think in the end it will make for a better, more accurately crafted article. I know its hard to believe but some people care about accuracy over at Wikipedia.

    Peace Out~



  11. I’m intrigued. I wonder if it would let me build a personal techmeme/google news, where I could pick the primary sources for stories, and then a larger number of second stories that I’d want linked to for more information.


  12. oops- sorry for the double post but I had to, this was the funniest line in the discussion about the origins of Podcasting.

    “Kevin Marks invented podcasting in 2003 at Bloggercon”

    If that doesn’t get a laugh, what will?



  13. Yeah, Wikipedia can be like Idiocracy. Sad that people treat it as autoritative. I’ve given talks where they wrote the program notes from the Wikipedia page. It’s really a problem.


  14. Dave, I am very excited by Pipes, I am hoping that it will increase the demand for *data* feeds, feeds that take advantage of rss modules and provide a wide variety of useful standardized nuggets of info like georss and such. This is the kind of thing that I have been working on with RSSBus ( There is more about that on my blog if interested (


  15. Posted by Ross on February 8, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Dave, you mentioned the generated feed looked okay, but from here it doesn’t even look like valid XML (lots of unclosed tags).


  16. Dave,

    Quite a while ago you made some very intriguing comments about using blogging software / RSS as a replacement for email.

    I wonder if you see any potential for Pipes in some sort of federated solution between an open-id type system to manage accounts and various RSS providers to actually serve the content?


  17. Posted by Anton2000 on February 8, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    …you could use a laptop (or a cell phone for that matter) to control the stereo.


    Hello Dave, please I give me a hint. Of course you enter the AV Denon server website through the webbrowser on the handy, useing the handy as a kind of magic wand. Question: Is the connection between handy and AVDenon through a WLAN or Bluetooth connection?

    Looking forward to a hint 🙂 Regards, Anton


  18. Is it me, or has Pipes borrowed liberally from Apple’s Quartz Composer UI?

    In any case… novel and it I suppose Pipes even has a chance to shake things up just a bit.


  19. Posted by Jim Posner on February 8, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    I find it hard to overstate the potential. the content coming out of the pipe can be very deep.


  20. Sounds like Yahoo needs to get more fiber into their diet.


  21. Posted by Jake on February 9, 2007 at 9:03 am

    NBC local news in NYC is in HD too


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