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.

Favorites

Life expectancy changes

The data goes back to 1960 and up to the most current estimates for 2009. Each line represents a country.

19 Maps That Will Blow Your Mind and Change the Way You See the World. Top All-time. You Won’t Believe Your Eyes. Watch.

Many lists of maps promise to change the way you see the world, but this one actually does.

Who is Older and Younger than You

Here’s a chart to show you how long you have until you start to feel your age.

Marrying Age

People get married at various ages, but there are definite trends that vary across demographic groups. What do these trends look like?