BusinessWeek describes the team that built Yahoo! Pipes as the company's "inner startup". I can certainly vouch for the fact that they act much more like a highly motivated startup team than a big-company product group. Here's the story.
Late afternoon Pacific time yesterday I posted about Yahoo! Pipes' failure to sort date fields in date order. Quick as a flash, Kevin Cheng from the Pipes design team was first to comment on my posting with a message headed Date sorting is a known bug:
Phil, you're absolutely right. Fixing date sorting (and normalizing common formats) is one of our top priorities. We totally agree that the utility is greatly enhanced with that feature =) Don't give up hope for that dream yet!
I didn't see Kevin's message until I got up this morning here in London, and I updated the posting to acknowledge his message before taking my kids out to their Saturday playgroup. I was wondering whether being 'one of our top priorities' meant it would get fixed this month, this coming week, or if I was really lucky in the next few days. It certainly wasn't going to happen over the weekend, I assumed. But I was wrong.
By the time we all got back — late morning here in the UK but still the middle of the night in Silicon Valley, sometime between 4 and 5 am PST — another team member, Edward Ho, had posted a new comment to let me know Sorting on Date should work now:
This issue should be resolved now. If you have any problems, feel free to drop me a mail.
I ran a quick check, and sure as can be, sorting feeds by <pubDate> in the format that didn't work yesterday now works just fine. I don't think I've ever experienced such a fast turnaround to a reported problem and it demonstrates how fired up the Pipes team really is, which bodes well for the future of this tool as a superb addition to the Web 2.0 pantheon. I can hardly wait now to get back to the feed aggregator I started building yesterday and finish it off — once I have I'll report back here.
But before I go, I'll stop for a moment to remark how perfectly this shows off the benefits of hosted services compared to installed software. That bug is now fixed for all users of Yahoo! Pipes the next time they log in. No one has to download any patches or reinstall their copy. You simply go back to your Pipes console, refresh the feed, and the new improved sort function executes straight away.
Of course the change will break your application if for some reason you thought it would be cool to build, say, a ranking of the earliest blog entries posted on a Monday this year. That rather esoteric function won't now work, because for most real-world applications ordering dates alphanumerically is a bug, not a feature. Even in the Web 2.0 era, real utility still beats esoterically cool.