Practical tips for scraping data

Posted to Coding  |  Tags: ,  |  Nathan Yau

It’s an unpleasant feeling when you have an idea for a project and the data you need is sitting right in front of you on a bunch of random-looking webpages instead of a nice, delimited file. You could either forget about your idea (which is what most people do), you can record manually, or you can take an automated route with a bit of scraping know-how.

I often find myself taking the tedious, manual route out, but sometimes scraping is clearly the best option. David Eads from the NPR Visuals Team describes how they use a model-control approach to scraping data.

Step 1: Find the data and figure out the HTML and/or JavaScript format and pattern. Step 2: Setup a way to parse and spit out the formatted data. Step 3: Optimize.

Oh, and before all that, make sure it’s legal.

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