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.


Clint Lalonde

Just a guy writing some stuff, mostly for me these days on this particular blog. For my EdTech/OpenEd stuff, check out