Shark Bites, Plumbing, and Syndication


Quite a balancing Act

I’ve been renovating my bathroom over the last month, and last weekend I finished replacing the shower valve. This is fairly minor work for anyone with some experience, but given I have none it was full blown plumbing for me. I was considering getting someone to do it because I have no experience soldering, and the prospect of sweating pipes stresses me out. That said, a few people suggested using push-fit plumbing connectors called Shark Bites. They require no soldering at all, just get the right pieces and you can connect your pipes like an Erector Set. I was fairly skeptical, so I spent a little time on a few plumbing forums and found a number of professionals and DIY folks alike swear by Shark Bites for certain jobs.


An Anatomy of a Shark Bite

They depend on air pressure to latch onto PVC or copper pipes, and as I foundout, they have quite a grip. I decided to try them out. I cut out my old shower valve and replaced it with a new one, using the seven or eight Shark Bites I bought to connect the valve to the hot and cold water pipes as well as the shower and tub spouts. With an investment of $70 in materials and a couple of hours time I successfully replaced the plumbing in my shower. What’s more, it doesn’t leak. Crazy.

My Shower Valve Shark Bites

My Shower Valve Shark Bites


So, while I was doing this I kept on thinking about RSS pull syndication versus API push syndication. Despite my best attempts to escape my day job through house projects, I can never truly resist a bad metaphor. The overhead of sweating pipes, which required disassembling the shower valve in addition to soldering, would have taken me at least twice as long to finish. What’s more, I probably wouldn’t have been successful in the end. I would have been turned off and decided to either abandon bathing all together, or pay someone else to do it. For many faculty, this is what happens when it comes to setting up pull syndication using FeedWordPress for course blogs (but most don’t give up bathing!). It’s not impossible, but it takes work and you have to know how to solder pipe, even if you understand how the basic plumbing of syndication works.


FeedWordPress Interface, anything but simple

But with API-based push syndication in applications like Known—much like the push-fit Shark Bite connectors—the process is far more streamlined. I can actually expect both faculty and students alike to manage their own syndication plumbing and install the various connections with the push of a button. What’s more, the conceptual reasons for these connections is not necessarily lost on them, they just aren’t being asked to do the soldering.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 10.46.56 PM

Known onboarding for API Push Syndication, Shark Bite simple.

It can be a fine balance between “build your own” and in-a-box solutions. But when it comes to syndication and making the plumbing easier for faculty and students to seamlessly manage, control, and aggregate their work—we can do a lot more to make that experience better. This is one of the things that really excites me about Indie Web applications like Known.

Another thing that I appreciated while demonstrating Known this morning at the Davidson Domains workshop is how much simpler it is than WordPress, which comes as a relief when trying to get a group of people to explore a new technology. It took me about 5 minutes to explain Known this morning, whereas the discussion of WordPress went on for more than an hour and we didn’t get much beyond creating posts and adding media. This kind of simplicity is part of the magic of an interface like Tumblr’s that Known is based around, and sometimes less is a lot more when it comes to doing your own plumbing on the web.

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4 Responses to Shark Bites, Plumbing, and Syndication

  1. Pingback: New blog post: "Shark Bites, Plumbing, and Syndication"

  2. Jaimie says:

    Very interesting! I would agree that FeedWordPress is tricky having finally figured it out after a semester has passed. In fact, I think I would actually use a subdomain for aggregated feeds in the future so that I can use the class blogging theme for the look I want for class blogs and control the rest of my site content separately. Anyway, enough of that… about Known. Can you share any examples of courses using Known so we can get an idea of what it looks like and the utility?

  3. Jared Stein says:

    I used Shark Bite connectors on my last plumbing project, opting for time-savings over cost-savings, and I love your analogy. There was definitely a moment of nervousness when, having made the connection, I thought, “That was too easy. There’s no way it’s going to work the first time.” But it did.

    So I read into your post a bit of that immediate anxiety around testing out a new technology that seems almost too good to be true. Even though the technology may be new and may be simple, it’s not learning-free. You had to discover if the Shark Bites were legit, and I’m sure, like me, you took some time (and maybe damaged one or two) testing them out on loose pipes before putting them on the prod — er, installed pipes. There’s also something analogous in the testing phase, too. You’ve installed the thing, you turn the water on, and maybe you feel all the joints for leaks. Then, finding none, you hold the pipe in your hand to sense the vibration of water moving through it because you almost can’t believe that it’s working.

    Cool stuff, Jim. Oh, and congrats on 9 years of Bava. Nine’s a special number. I’ve always loved how all multiples of 9 reduce back down to 9, and if you’re into number symbolism nine simultaneously marks the upper limit and the limitless potential of adding just one more.

    Here’s looking forward one more and one more 🙂

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