Jun 212011

For various projects lately I’ve been using Yahoo! Pipes to automatically create aggregations of multiple RSS Feeds to that can then be reused somewhere else like a Facebook Page’s Notes section (where you can only add one RSS feed) or a sidebar on a blog (e.g. the project updates shown on the GECO blog).

I know that some of you will be dab hands with Yahoo! Pipes but it can be a bit scary to get started with so I thought I’d share my “How To…” guide for building aggregated RSS feeds with Pipes here.

Building a Good Aggregation of Feeds

The first thing to do is identify which feeds you want to combine. This is a matter of deciding what is available and what your audience actually wants to see. Generally an aggregation of blog posts, youtube videos and similar content (that is posted infrequently and stays relevant for a while) will work well. Twitter tends to be updated frequently and dominate a feed so Twitter generally works better as a separate channel (unless you are using it sparingly for key announcements or update your other channels frequently).

Once you have identified your feeds…

How to Create an RSS Aggregation Pipe (click on any image for a larger view)

  1. Go to Yahoo! Pipes
  2. Login with your Yahoo! Login (or you may need to register for a new one)
  3. Choose to “Create a pipe” and a new screen will appear that looks a little like a squared paper.
    The squared area is where you will pull in different types of feed, tools, etc. On the left hand side you have a range of menus of options, operators, sources, outputs etc. 

  4. Click on “Sources” and from the list click on “Fetch Feed”. This will bring up a wee blue box.
  5. Paste or type the URL for your first feed into the blank text part of this box
  6. Repeat the above process until all Feeds have been added.

  7. Next click on “Operators” and from the list click on “Union”. This is a box with lots of connecting dots at the top.

  8. Click on the dot underneath one of your “Fetch Feeds” boxes – a blue pipe will appear. Keep the mouse button held whilst you connect the other end to one of the dots of the “Union” box.
  9. Continue connecting your Fetch Feed elements to the Union operator until all feeds are connected.
  10. Click on “Operators” link and select “Sort”. This will allow you to organise the posts from your various feeds.
  11. Select to Sort by “item.pubDate” (the publication date) in “descending” order – this will display the newest post first as you would expect in RSS feeds.
  12. Now connect the dot under the “Union” box to the top of the “Sort” box in the same way as before.
  13. Click on “Operators” link and from the list click on “Create RSS”. Set Title to “item.title”; Description to “item.description”; Link to “item.link”; PubDate to “item.pubDate”; Author to “item.author”.
  14. Now connect the dot under the “Sort” box to the top of the “Create RSS” box in the same way as before.
  15. Next connect the dot under the “Create RSS” box to the top of the “Pipe Output” box in the same way as before.

You should now have a pipe for combining feeds!

Test the pipe by clicking on the “Pipe Output” box. There will be a sort of bubbling pipe animation at the bottom of the screen and then an output (or an error) will show.

Once everything works as you expect click “save”.

Once the Pipe has been saved you will be given several new options:

Clicking on Run Pipe… will take you to the Pipe page showing the output and saving/publishing options for your Pipe which should look a little like this:

For most Pipes you will want to click on “List” to check that your Pipe is working as expected.

From here you can choose to change the URL for your pipe to something more memorable (to do this click on “edit” next to the “Pipe Web Address”). You can also choose to Publish your Pipe (which will allow others to see/clone it) and to receive your Pipe output in a variety of useful formats. For an RSS feed click on “Get as an RSS”.

The RSS feed will look fairly weird because although you can rename the URL to your pipe but the RSS feed will usually be a long numeric URL like this:


However the actual RSS feed should work well and that URL means you have a single aggregated RSS feed that can be plugged in to Facebook or any Feedreader or feed displaying tool of your choice.

A Few Tips on Pipes

You can access your Pipes by clicking on My Pipes anywhere on the site. You can Clone a Pipe (make a copy to edit and use) or you can Clone other peoples Pipes (so you could copy and adapt the one used above).

Pipes is about to switch to the Version 2 Pipes Engine so when you are offered the chance to upgrade to V.2 it is worth considering. However V.2 is not quite as reliable as V.1 yet.

 June 21, 2011  Posted by at 6:48 pm How to... Tagged with: , , , ,  Add comments

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