I’ve previously called in-betweeners pipes (as in Unix pipes) or transformers, but I wanted to stop doing that because I didn’t want to focus on the chaining. Instead I wanted to think about drop-in technology encapsulated into web services.

Some examples are:

Okay, I have two comments about these in-betweeners. First, they require almost no interface. In fact, they shouldn’t require any interface. I should be able to drop them into other applications with ease. How? Perhaps whenever I tag a photo with ‘whiteboard’ at Flickr, it’s automatically piped through scanr and the returned image added to my stream. Perhaps if I tag it ‘whiteboard+ocr’ then it’s piped through scanr and then turned into machine-readable text. Likewise if I tag ‘lazymask’ or whatever. I’m not sure how this would work. We’d need some standard call-response protocol, but that’s just convention. It can happen anytime.

Second, I don’t yet understand the business model. It’s like the Amazon S3 thing: how can my website look after billing a user on behalf of S3 or Scanr? What secure and easy protocols could we use for that? I’d love to make a stack of in-betweeners that other people could hook into their applications – or rather, that users could hook into the applications themselves in a Greasemonkey-for-in-betweeners kind of way – but I can’t yet see how it’d work.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far has been image based. There are text in-betweeners too.

Sam Ruby’s Venus filters sit at the head of a stream of Atom/RSS entries and pipe them off… this one to the full-text search, this other to the reblog, these ones to the ego-feed. I’ve talked about weblogs as a series of pipes and how this can be implemented in Atom before, so I’m pleased to see these parts broken out.

There are also MP3-to-text transcription services and the possibilities of data-mining yourself… my email is already piped through spam filters to change it and update my spam database; what else could my email be piped through?

I look forward to a day where interface-less web apps are just as important as interface-ful ones.

Matt Webb, S&W, posted 2006-09-21 (talks on 2006-09-03, 2006-09-17)