If you look at my blog roll, you may notice a few planets: Planet Cataloging, planet code4lib, and Planet RDF. These topical aggregators are quite handy, saving me much of the trouble of seeking out new and relevant blogs. I just subscribe to the feed for the aggregator and let the maintainer do all the hard work.
Aggregators do have their drawbacks, though. A fair number of blogs that I’ve no interest in reading get lumped in with those of value to me. Since some blogs are included in more than one feed, I also end up getting duplicates in my feed reader (Google Reader, if you’re curious). All of the clutter can be a nuisance and a time-waster. I need a way to filter out the chaff.
Ed Summers kindly suggested that I try out Yahoo Pipes (thanks, Ed). Pipes is a visual editor that lets you take input from various feeds (RSS, Atom, RDF, or iCal) and other data sources (XML, JSON, iCal, or KML), run the information through a series of filters, and output the results in RSS 2.0, RSS 1.0, JSON, and Atom.
I’ve now built my first pipe. Smaller Planets grabs the feeds from the aforementioned planets, removes any items with del.icio.us in the title (I prefer not to see what everyone bookmarked today) and removes any duplicates (based on the URL of the post). After just a couple of minutes getting Pipes figured out, I now have my custom feed to subscribe to.
Filtering out other content is easy, too. You can add rules to the Filter module to block, for example, posts from certain blogs. A rule that says “item.link contains xplus3.net” would block out anything I post to this blog. Feel free to clone Smaller Planets and customize it to create your personalized feed.
I’ve only just scratched the surface, but Pipes looks to be a powerful application; I look forward to playing around with it more. If you create any interesting or useful pipes, please leave a comment here; I’d love to see it.