If you are as much an online marketing dork as I am, a fun way to spend your afternoon is with the soft-launched Yahoo! Pipes. Pipes is an interactive feed aggregator and manipulator with which you can meshed and changes feeds to create an output that is more powerful, useful and relevant.
Consider what could be done if you could remix popular RSS feeds, screen the data for only that which you want, and create mashup supplying the output which you find most valuable.
Using a simple visual editor in which you drag pre-configured modules onto a canvas and wire them together, you could use Pipes to run your own web projects, or publish and share your own web services without ever having to write a line of code. Each Pipe consists of two or more modules, each of which performs a single, specific task. For example, the Fetch module will retrieve a feed URL, while the Sort module will re-order a feed based on criteria you provide.
Each module has one or more “terminals,” represented by circles on the border of the module. You wire modules together by clicking on one module’s output terminal and another’s input terminal. The output from the first module then serves as the input to the second module.
Sounds simple right? To be honest, the learning curve can be steep and the jury is still out on the most valuable use (It could be valuable in creating localized updates giving you product prices specific to a zip code or all concert events within a few miles of a city). Though the user interface makes it easy to bring content into the canvas, it can be frustrating when modules don’t work together. Spend some time with the documentation first and then practice.
I’ve created an Online Commerce feed to which you can now subscribe.
It mashes my own feed with those from Brian Smith’s ComparisonEngines.com and the Shop.org authors.
The result? Well, see for yourself.
Here’s a Search Marketing Mashup organizing your favorite search marketing blogs into a single feed.
Interesting? Sure. Helpful? Probably. But try this one instead.
I’ve added BabelFish and translated the Comparison Shopping feed to German (here is the translator added to the Search feed). Where this really gets interesting is that you have access to clone and edit my Pipe so you can change or improve the output for yourself; in this case, changing the translator to any language available and making my Search Marketing feed available in over a dozen different languages.
In addition to localizing feed content and translations, I’m playing with how effective this can be as a tool for advertisers to slice and dice their feeds. Say, for example, you sell music but only have the resources to create one feed, arguably, Pipes could be used to filter the same single feed a dozen different ways by type of music, artist, price point, etc. In some ways, the technology appears to compete with SimpleFeed
Once you’ve built a Pipe, save it to the Yahoo! servers and name it as you would any other feed adding a description and tags to help others find it. Pipes offers output in RSS, RDF, JSON and Atom formats for a variety of flavors and by publishing your you enable others to clone it, add their own improvements, or use it as a subcomponent in their own creations.