Tag Archives: Plazes

Mixing Pipes and Plazes

I keep meaning to write a more detailed post about the changes that have been going on at Plazes, but in the meantime here’s a little doobrey I hacked up the other day.

Plazes now has a REST API (the old, pre-Activities version used to have an XML-RPC API). However, the information it provides is sometimes a little verbose for my purposes… I’d quite like to be able to simply ask the Plazes server “where am i?” and be told in a really simple format. Right now it looks like I need to know my user ID, and then go get http://plazes.com/users/<id>/activity.xml, and then get the name of the <plaze> element from the verbose XML that is returned. Something that just returned my current Plaze would be neater (for things like the ecto Applescript that I based off of Peter Rukavina’s Adium Applescript of days gone by, which used the old WhereAmI API).

So I turned to Yahoo! Pipes to see how I could abbreviate the output. I’ve created a simple Pipe which can return a small piece of JSON containing a user’s location when a user id (short name or number) is provided.

The base Pipe is here. It is not very useful in raw form as Pipes returns RSS by default, so running it will result in an apparently empty result on the web page. Try the JSON option instead.

You can add a user parameter (it defaults to my ID number, 6032), e.g. http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.run?_id=ZCgigzK93BGPeu60ouNLYQ&user=6032&_render=json

Running this query results in a JSON collection containing something like:

"items":[
   {
      "city":"Farnborough",
      "last_updated":"2008-01-07T14:28:00Z",
      "user":"Andy Piper",
      "plaze":"Andy's Office",
      "description":"",
      "title":""
   }
]

Annoyingly, Pipes only allows me to publish JSON or RSS (I’d prefer just simple text, but hey-ho).

Something more I’d like to do with this is to use Project Zero instead of Pipes, and make it more configurable to enable me to get more information on the user and plaze if needed.

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Plazes on /Talkshow

Looks like Plazes will be featuring on Stowe Boyd’s/Talkshow on Thursday. I’ll try to tune in live, but if I can’t, I’ll definitely be picking up the podcast later.

Oh Plazes, where art thou…

I had an email this morning announcing that the new Plazes is online, so it looks like all of the features should now be public.

There are just a few things that still bother me – I think if the team could sort these out, they might get a bit more uptake:

  1. Some of us have been kept up-to-date via email. The Plazes blog has been very quiet on the subject of the whole upgrade. I’m grateful for the alpha/beta exposure, but it seems like more awareness could have been built up around the new version by more coordinated use of blogs, email and other media.
  2. The Plazer for Windows and Mac has been re-released, but the Mac one in particular has had some problems. It would be nice if these were open sourced, or a better way of reporting issues existed than the comments in the new Mac group.
  3. The API has changed. I’ve seen inconsistent messages on the blogs or via email that certain parts of the API have been / will be removed before certain dates. The WhereAmI XML-RPC PHP endpoint has certainly been removed, and as a result my little Applescript for ecto is not currently working. The success of Web 2.0 sites is usually a lot to do with their APIs and the ease of use… right now, Plazes could be opening this up a lot more and letting the community play with the new features programmatically. The upcoming Hack Day is a case in point – participants could be making use of APIs offered by Plazes if they were made available.
  4. [added in a later edit] They seem to have stripped out some of the privacy features. Before, I could choose which of my IM accounts or email addresses to reveal publically or to contacts… this option seems to have gone. An unwelcome regression in function.

I still think Plazes is a cool site, but there’s so much more they could be doing to build their own momentum.

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