If it’s easy, it’s probably wrong

Me trying to get Pipes to work, yesterday. Click image for source.

Me trying to get Pipes to work, yesterday. Click image for source.

Owing to a bit of downtime – clients disappearing instead of continuing projects, yes I agree, it’s very rude isn’t it – I’ve been fighting with Yahoo Pipes and Netvibes to try and get some sort of effective monitoring solution together.

In theory it’s pretty simple. Yahoo Pipes lets you do all sorts of fancy stuff with RSS, so you can specify keywords in just one place and do searches across every known platform that has a decent search feature allied with RSS. Netvibes is a funky front-end that lets you bring together the outputs from Yahoo Pipes, alongside nice charts, and just about anything else you care to add if you know a smattering of HTML.

In practice it’s been a nightmare.

Firstly, Yahoo Pipes. I’ve complained about it many times before but it really is the only game in town when you want to bring feeds together, split them apart, change them, filter them and so on. But it’s so clunky, and more often than not it plain old doesn’t work. When I try to save something I invariably get an error, but I’ve learned that, in a marvellous twist of irony, the error message itself is in error and usually the pipe saved ok.

But there are other issues. The interface breaks, there is a huge lag between changing something and seeing the results come through in the RSS feed, and the whole system goes down often enough to be irritating. I get a strong feeling Yahoo have decided they don’t make much money out of it so they’re happy leaving it in its semi-parlous state for now at least.

On to Netvibes. That started freaking out earlier this week, and was down today with an internal server error. Again, as with Yahoo Pipes, there are other players in the field but Netvibes is the best. In fact I love everything about Netvibes except its recent flakiness. I just hope it pulls itself together and starts working properly.

So the real issue has been Yahoo Pipes. The workaround is that I don’t use them. I just grab the RSS direct from wherever – Google Blog Search, Flickr, YouTube etc – and then at least I’m avoiding the idiosyncracies of Pipes. But that takes ages, and if I change any of the keywords I have to set all the feeds up again from scratch. Much better to have a modular system that lets you do this once and once only, then purrs through every known platform and gathers it all up for you.

But that would be easy. And easy is seldom right, right?

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2 thoughts on “If it’s easy, it’s probably wrong

  1. I’ve been frustrated with it too.

    At one point, there was a Microsoft beta that did similar things to feeds, but it was even harder to figure out initially — and now I can’t seem to find it at all.

  2. Yes, I remember coming across that as an alternative – cannot remember its name either – and it has been discontinued.

    I’m running a load of tests comparing ‘direct’ subscription vs yahoo pipes vs other aggregators to try and get a fix on what’s going on. It seems that the pub date in RSS items is misleading, so an item that is classed as published ‘today’ could in fact have been issued several days or even weeks ago. If I cannot nail that one then the whole project is dead in the water, unfortunately.

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