Section is the New Plan

Arguably, plan thinking is seeping into the general culture as services like google maps and vehicular GPS become inescapable. What about section? Do you think about your elevation? You will as soon as sea levels start rising!

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Every now and then I get an itch to work on a web project again. After being egged on by John and Tim to take a look at Yahoo Pipes I decided to take a look. Pipes provides a visual interface for building connections between web services like Flickr and Yahoo Maps with the open ended ethos of the unix pipe command.

The screenshot above is showing a graph of the elevation of my life over the past few months: the heights of the various places I’ve spent time in. To create that graph, data is pulled from two separate websites (dopplr and, assembled by a third (bbcom), and drawn up nice and pretty by a fourth (Google’s mediocre viz API). This is exactly what I was talking about when I wrote about the infrastructural web last year. It’s glorious.

If you want to make your own graph you’ll need a Dopplr account with some trips in it and then take a visit to my site.

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Above is a view of the Pipes interface. Look familiar?

Thanks to Dana for the name.

3 Comments so far

  1. son1 on October 21st, 2008

    Really, really impressive Bryan. I think this is beyond what I had imagined was easily possible with Pipes. Awesome work.
    One thing I remember thinking about with Pipes was how useful the Web Services module would end up being. It seems to me that half of the strength of the UNIX piping mechanism is the large ecosystem of utilities which grew up around it. Any UNIX programmer worth his or her salt knows the golden oldies: [e]grep, find, awk or sed, cut, uniq, sort, and things like xargs. In Pipes, the Web Services module seems like it would make it possible to assemble a similar “library” of useful, non-trivial Pipes.
    Civilization advances when we all stop reinventing the wheel each time we need to go somewhere, and all that…
    Incidentally, while we’re on the subject of UNIX and pipes and utilities, you might find this amusing (and amazing) too.

  2. on October 28th, 2008

    Your broader point is one I am constantly having to make with some of the mobile-industry folks who are new to GIS.
    The tendency in “locative media” in general to treat cities as programmatic extrusions of the ground plane collapses, particularly, in the face of the East Asian megalopolis, but really anywhere there’s a rich diversity of utilization along the z-axis. Which is most places. Very frustrating trying to get this point across to folks newly besotted with teh Powar of Mapping.

  3. son1 on October 29th, 2008

    Just wait until we’ve become a space-faring civilization, spreading our culture from star to star by means of interstellar starships that travel at near-light-speeds.
    We’ll all be very frustrated by the folks who are newly besotted with teh Powar of 3-D Mapping and who simply treat the world as a static extrusion of a three dimensional Euclidean space. There’ll be a rich diversity of utilization along the t-axis, and that’ll really screw with the core assumptions of our mapping software…

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