Patching, programming visually by connecting virtual patch cords between onscreen objects, has generally been the domain of the few. Max/MSP/Jitter and Pd lovers and modular soft synth fans all patch regularly. But the mainstream audience? Now, Yahoo is letting you “remix” and “mash-up” RSS feeds from the Web, and guess what interface they’re using?

Yahoo Pipes and Quartz Composer, separated at birth:

Yahoo Pipes at top, Quartz Composer at bottom — though you’d be hard-pressed to spot the difference if you didn’t know these tools already. Yahoo is definitely “borrowing” from QC’s interface.

Yahoo Pipes, via Download Squad (and half the Web, I know; we’re slow)

Quartz Composer

Now, of course, this isn’t just interesting for its interface. Various tools, including Quartz Composer itself, can make visuals out of RSS feeds. So, strap in here: you build a custom RSS feed using Yahoo Pipes, then make that into custom, live RSS-generated Interweb visuals using Quartz Composer, Processing, etc. Now that you can host Quartz Composer visuals inside some VJ apps (hello, VDMX5), you can add a crazy RSS remix to your next live visual set. And you have to know very little to accomplish it all — nifty.

We’ll be Pipes remixing here at CDM over the coming weeks, so if you have any cool pipes of your own, be sure to share them. Now … will the club you’re playing at have wifi?

Elsewhere: People tend to see software based on their background and experience. So, if you’ve spent time using Microsoft Access, you see Yahoo Pipes as a relational database — even if I see it as an interactive patching environment. That said, it’s clear that Pipes is riffing on the exact design of Quartz Composer, not Access. Patching software itself has been around since the early 1980s (before even Max, Miller Puckette authored Patcher in 1986, and I assume even that may have some earlier inspiration). But relational database is a pretty decent metaphor for what Pipes does.

  • Jarbas Jr.

    Nice article!

    About the patching origins in music software, in Max at Seventeen, Miller cited Oedit (1980) by Richard Steiger and Roger Hale.

    And Mark Coniglio (Isadora author) cited in this interview the Hookup(1986) by David Levitt.

    Thank you for the good site!
    j.jR.

  • Jarbas JÃ&fno

    Nice article!

    About the patching origins in music software, your assumption is right. In Max at Seventeen, Miller cited Oedit (1980) by Richard Steiger and Roger Hale.

    Also, Mark Coniglio (Isadora author) cited in this interview the Hookup(1986) by David Levitt.

    Thank you for the good site!!
    j.jR.

  • Thanks, Jarbas — I knew there were some others. It seems the Interwebs don't have screen grabs of the earlier programs, sadly. The Hookup and Patcher both deserve special mention because they were intended for real-time media. What's striking to me is that Pipes is an almost direct rip-off of QC's very distinctive look. But conceptually, these have very early antecedents.

    I wish there were more modern tools for visualizing code function graphically and merging those worlds; there are many things that do this but usually the relation of one to the other is very basic. One would think with OOP that there would be innovative new ways of doing this.