Yahoo Pipes for China and Chinese

From the Weifang Radish

First, I just want to say that Yahoo Pipes is going to be the internet technology of 2007. This way I’ll have bragging rights on New Year’s Day 2008 when I’m right and can link back to this post. :)

What is Yahoo Pipes? If you have used Unix, Linux or the terminal in Mac OS X, then you’ll probably be familiar with the idea of pipes, ie., “|” on the command line. Well, it’s basically the same idea, but for the internet. If you’re going “Huh?” then I suggest you just go to the website and look at the examples of all the different and wicked cool ways in which this brand spanking new technology is already being used.

For China-based users, Yahoo Pipes provides yet another way to get around the GFW. For example, you can use Yahoo Pipes to create RSS feeds that aren’t subject to the GFW. For example, all blogs hosted on, as well as their feeds, are blocked in China, which of course includes this blog you are reading right now.

Yahoo Pipes, however, is not blocked in China, and probably never will be since it is primarily a technical service, not a content providing service. Thus, by piping a feed through Yahoo Pipes one can get around the GFW. As an example, have a look at The Weifang Radish Piped Feed on Yahoo Pipes. You can even subscribe to this feed. One downside to this though is that the feed only contains about the first 300 characters, or approximately 50 words, of a post. There might be a way to change this, but I haven’t found it yet, or maybe this functionality will be added in the future.

Note: The Feedburner feed to this blog is not blocked in China and contains the entirety of each post. If you live in China and enjoy this blog it would make more sense to subscribe to the Feedburner feed instead.

But here’s an even better use for Yahoo Pipes. Two Fish is a hosted blog kept by an Asian-American academic who writes interesting posts on China, among other things. Unfortunately, the author of Two Fish has not created a Feedburner feed. Actually, in theory anyone could create their own Feedburner feed for Two Fish for their own use if they wanted to read it in China, but I have tried this in the past and found that, for whatever reason, when burning a feed for a blog over which I do not have administrative control, I can not get the feed to work. This is probably just my own imbecility. Anyway, I did get it to work in Yahoo Pipes: view the Two Fish Piped Feed on Yahoo or subscribe to it via RSS.

Better still, but more complex, would be to use Pipes to create an on-the-fly glossary of new vocabulary for Chinese language articles. I don’t even know if this use of Yahoo Pipes is feasible yet, but it would be damned cool. Here’s an outline of my idea:

Input = Chinese language article.

Step 1: Query database of characters one definitely knows.

Step 2: Find all characters in article not already in database.

Step 3: Use online Chinese-English dictionary to make a glossary of characters not in database.

Output = article glossary containing: character - pinyin - English definition.

I already do this manually.

Pipes is what would link the steps together. You’d need different tools for each of the steps, like an online text file that you have (probably painstakingly) created for step 1, some sort of online file comparison tool for step 2, and of course an online Chinese-English dictionary for Step 3. Of course, this same thing could have been done before with a script and a similar set of tools, but Yahoo Pipes makes it easier for non-programmers like myself to create such a tool. Also, since all elements of this tool would be online you could use this tool from any internet connected computer. And most importantly, Yahoo Pipes makes it easy to share such a tool with people all over the world.

If you read this post and are inspired to flesh this idea out and get it working you can have the credit for being the über geek who got the coolest thing in CSL since pinyin working, but I want the credit for the idea. Seriously, this blog is protected under a Creative Commons license.