The Internet, as we know, is a series of tubes. Text, pictures, video and audio flow into your computer and keep you informed and entertained.
RSS can regulate those tubes, so you only get the flow you want, but the best things happen when you mix two sets of content to create something even more useful. It’s called a mashup.
Combine crime statistics with maps and you get one of my favourite websites, chicagocrime.org. Search by crime type, street, whatever you like, and it’ll return not just a Google map with crimes pinpointed on it but links to local press articles and police reports.
Combine news with geographical data and you get mappedup.com, a beautiful flash animation in which think bubbles with headlines in them pop up out of a map of the world.
This combination of data has always been the preserve of people who know a bit about programming, but Yahoo have launched Pipes, an online mashup creation service, that aims to make it as easy as opening a Bloglines account. Well, perhaps not quite that simple.
Go to pipes.yahoo.com and click on ‘create a new pipe and you’re confronted with a large blank window, criss-crossed with pale blue like a piece of graph paper. In this environment you drag and drop feeds and operators to create your personalized content stream.
Yahoo will even host it for you and allow other people to browse around it, just as you can browse other people’s, like the Yahoo maps traffic warnings feed.
At least it would if it was working. Today was launch day, and some bloggers have been able to get through to it, but usually I’m just getting errors and blank pages. It’s a very exciting project that I’m sure would lead to all sorts of creative things, if only they could commit enough servers to it to get it moving.
‘The pipes are clogged!’ the error says. ‘We’ve called the plumbers.’ Let’s hope they unplug things quickly.
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