A little assistance please?


Everybody on slack recently got a message from Slack about using Slack bots for reminders, to-do lists, etc. It’s a small thing but interesting to see more and more of the thoughts in the famous article Tim Burners-Lee wrote in Scientific America (so popular it actually costs money to read it!) about the Semantic web. (The closes we’ve got to that reality is Google now, which is highly propitery of course.)

It also reminds me of Matt’s post about bots being like plants. which I mentioned previously.

Theres been a long running task on my todo list to take advantage of telegram bots in leui of jabber/xmpp bots, it’s hardly surprising as they are very useful and who wouldn’t turn down some assistance now and there?

Google reaches deeply into the app data

There is something special about the experience of Google now and now something extremely magical about Google now on tap.

I’ve just gotten a chance to play around with an early build of Now on Tap, Google’s wild new feature that, in essence, does Google searches inside apps automatically. It works like this: when you’re in an app — any app — you hold down the home button. Android then figures out what is on the screen and does a Google Now search against it. A Now search is slightly different from your usual Google search, because it brings back cards that are full of structured data and actions, not just a list of links.

When I first watched the keynote, I thought of the Tim Burners-Lee Semantic Web vision (paid pdf only now).

The real power of the Semantic Web will be realized when people create many programs that collect Web content from diverse sources, process the information and exchange the results with other programs. The effectiveness of such software agents will increase exponentially as more machine-readable Web content and automated services (including other agents) become available.

Its not the semantic web thats for sure, the problem is that its amazing and the user experience is magical but its all within Googles own stack. This rather bothers (even) me for many of the ethics of data reasons. I’m sure app developers may be a little miffed too?

Following my thought, Wired had a intriguing headline Google’s Ingenious Plan to Make Apps Obsolete.

What makes Google Now’s pull away from apps even more compelling is that it was joined at I/O by a series of gentle pushes in the same direction. Google’s doing everything it can to get us all back to the web.

Now if I think the Wired piece is interesting but they are shouting down from the wrong tree. Google are climbing another tree somewhere else. Ok enough with the analogies what do I mean?

If I saw Google on tap working in the browser instead of on top of apps I would be extremely impressed and be really making solid ties between Tim Berners-Lee’s agents in the semantic web. But instead we are left with something slightly disappointing, like a parlour trick of sorts.

Don’t get me wrong its impressive but its not the big deal which I first thought it was. I’m sure the Chrome team are already working on ways to surface semi structured data to Google now, and when they do… wow!

Yahoo catches on to the idea of internet pipelines

Yahoo Pipes

I can't believe I missed Yahoo's Pipeline beta. Chris from Touchstone actually dropped me a email and asked if I've seen it. But all I get now is…

Our Pipes are clogged! We've called the plumbers!

Well in the meantime a lot of people are talking about it (Techmeme). Tim O'Reilly has a long piece about it on his Radar blog. He starts with,

Yahoo!'s new Pipes service is a milestone in the history of the internet. It's a service that generalizes the idea of the mashup, providing a drag and drop editor that allows you to connect internet data sources, process them, and redirect the output. Yahoo! describes it as “an interactive feed aggregator and manipulator” that allows you to “create feeds that are more powerful, useful and relevant.” While it's still a bit rough around the edges, it has enormous promise in
turning the web into a programmable environment for everyone.

In agreement, but I'm worried Yahoo might be focusing too much on aggregation that general purpose pipelining of any data source online. Tim then talks about why he's excited and points at some of my also favorite posts in this area. Jon Udell's keynote at the 8th Python conference and the JavaOne keynote which really gelled with my thoughts about
Pipelines at the time. This is also another reason why I got fed up of the Gillmor Gang without Jon Udell. Anyway back to Tim's post, here's a couple of other things I found interesting.

But perhaps more significantly, to develop a mashup, you already needed to be a programmer. Yahoo! Pipes is a first step towards changing all that, creating a programmable web for everyone.

This is certainly very true, coming from a design background I just couldn't understand why pipelines were not used more in application development. I actually thought the move towards objects in programming would be the start of this, but I guess not.

Using the Pipes editor, you can fetch any data source via its RSS, Atom or other XML feed, extract the data you want, combine it with data from another source, apply various built-in filters (sort, unique (with the “ue” this time:-), count, truncate, union, join, as well as user-defined filters), and apply simple programming tools like for loops.

RSS and XML are easy targets for a beta service. But whats really needed is more input adapters. Microformats, FOAF, S5, WebAPIs, XMPP, etc. The transformers are predictable bar the user-defined filters (which I would assume would be XSL?). There's other services like RSS Mix and Feed Rinse which do the same thing. Chris is right filters are old hat.

Talking of Chris, in his post he seems quite down on his own pipeline: Touchstone. Personally I think their further down the line because the interesting part of the pipeline is being able to mix local and remote content not just remote. Also the widget style UI is very powerful. You could use Yahoo Pipes and I guess Yahoo Widget Engine to create something like Touchstone but your missing the Relevancy engine (APML) which did a great job of finding me screenshots of Windows
Mobile 6.

I'm a little worried about the focus on the GUI used for Yahoo Pipes. It sounds good but there needs to be thoughts about interopability. I don't want to create a great Pipeline and then be locked into Yahoo Pipes forever more.

Anyway, I can't talk much more about it till I get a chance to play with it first hand. Good work Yahoo.

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