Yahoo Pipes useful but frustrating

I’ve been playing with Yahoo Pipes for a few months now and have gone from being ecstatic to frustrated. I still think Pipes is a useful tool, especially if you want to aggregate a number of RSS feeds into one, but lately I’ve spent more time dealing with Pipes than I was hoping to have to spend by using a tool like Pipes.

Part of the problem is that Pipes is deceptively simple. Programming via GUI…drag a feed from here, drop it into a module, add a few conditions and voila you’ve got a mashup. Of course, the devil is in the details, as I am finding out.

Take, for example, my EdTech pipe, which I use to aggregate a number of blog feeds that I read. It’s a pipe that had been working fine up until a week ago. Not sure what update or fix was rolled out by Yahoo, but it broke the pipe and the feeds weren’t parsing correctly. So, for the past week when I have a few minutes I’ve been trying to fix the pipe. This morning, out of frustration, I completely dismantled and reassembled it. Turns out, the problem was probably more me than Pipes as I was trying to sort 7 different feeds based on dates, and each feed used a different type of date field to identified the published date. Despite the fact that a number of them were Atom feeds, apparently even Atom feeds can set a published date to use a different field. So when I tried to do a sort on the pubDate field, I ended up only getting the feeds that actually used that field.

Fortunately, there is a handy dandy Rename function. So I went through all the feeds, found the appropriate dates fields, renamed them to a new field called theDate and sorted on that. Bingo, all my feeds sorted nicely in chronological order.

So, despite the fact that I find Pipes a bit flaky, I’m beginning to suspect that the problem has more to do with my hacker level programming skills than the actual application.

CC BY 4.0 Yahoo Pipes useful but frustrating by Clint Lalonde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Wrangler of learning technologies by day, Dad, cyclist, soccer fan and, lately, home roaster of coffee by night. INFJ. I am the Manager of Educational Technologies at BCcampus, working primarily on open education projects. This blog is a personal blog and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BCcampus.