Sunday, March 28, 2010

Web Data Mining

Web data mining is the application of a variety of different techniques in order to discover what kind of information Internet users are looking for. Web data mining may be used to get several different specific kinds of data (such as text only data, or multi-media data), and has a wide variety of potential applications. Data mining has been used almost since the Internet first started and more people are using these kinds of techniques every year. Companies who wish to attract more potential customers can use information gained from data mining in order to better target their advertising campaigns. University students who are doing research on how people use the Internet can use data mining to produce accurate statistics. Even if your sole purpose is to drive traffic and you are not doing any advertising at all, data collected from a data mining operation can give you all the information you need to form effective keywords.

Data mining may also be referred to as "scraping". So how is data mining/scraping accomplished? Software is the most popular method of doing so and there are a number of different companies out there that offer data mining services. Mozenda and Kapow Technologies are two popular companies devoted to data mining. This data can be totally invaluable to commercial advertisers because it gives them the information they need in order to put their product/products in front of as many web users as possible. After all, how can you target ads toward people when you have no idea what they are searching for? How can you start a viral campaign via social media if you do not know how people use the web. Knowing how people use the web is vital to the success of just about any website, commercial or non-commercial.

This is especially true for the little people - small businesses and new websites who are trying to make a name for themselves. Data mining can help large companies as well, but the small company stands to reap much greater benefits. Large companies have already established themselves and will already have a customer base they can count on without the need for advertising. This is almost certainly not true for the small business owner/website operator. So what about the ethical side of all this? It is largely a matter of personal opinion, but virtually everyone agrees that web data mining can be used both ethically and unethically. Many people can agree that as long as data that is not considered personal (sexual preference, religion, political affiliation, etc.) is not harvested then there are no ethical concerns.

So from that point of view, what people in general search for (like popular search trends) and tend to look at is certainly ethical. Unethical from this point of view would mean that a particular company (or companies) harvest data in order to build complex profiles based on personal information in order to promote their product(s). However, even though this point of view is popular does not mean everyone views this issue the same way. Some people believe all data mining is unethical and infringes on privacy. Others believe that data mining is totally acceptable and that people who have nothing sinister to hide have no reason to be concerned. Civil rights organizations are deeply concerned about government use/abuse of data mining technology to spy on it's citizens. This is an interesting issue and there is no telling what the future may hold for data mining. At this point in time, most forms of internet data mining are totally legal and used by a large number of individuals and corporations all around the world.

web data mining

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Screen Scraping for Web Content Extraction

The Internet is one of the largest sources of information. That information is found in the images, text and feeds that are associated with the web site. The problem with a typical web page is that valuable information is displayed in human readable format and it is difficult to process automatically. All the colors, layout, and images are extraneous information that the computer would have to filter through to find and collect the information that it is important. Screen scraping is a way for all that information to be consolidated and processed in a fast and effective manner.

Web pages today display the content and the information to the user through what is known as Hyper Text Markup Language. This complex and often confusing code provides the typical internet browser with information that is important to how the page is displayed to the human readers on the screen. All of this formatting code is not of value to an automated data processor and for business. This is where screen scraping comes in.

The vast number of sites presents a challenge for those trying to collect information. Traditionally this task would require hours of sitting in front of the computer, loading each page onto the screen and performing manual research. While this is often the most detailed and accurate method of online research it is time consuming.

Screen scraping is performed by an automated system of programs that loads the code of a web page and filters through the content, looking for the desired information. Most of the code that is found on the web page is structural or graphical and does not have any real value. Images, font, and color are all parts of this structural code. Found within this are small pieces of key information. This information is taken by the program and stored for analysis and report generation. By automatically filtering through the code required to display a web page, key facts and figures can be lifted and processed in a timely manner.

With such a complex and sensitive task as screen scraping in high demand, it is no surprise that there are several highly rated and professional companies that provide this valuable service. The applications of screen scraping are endless. Corporations, private companies, and individuals can use these services to perform market research or gain precious information on current trends and events. Economic information can be gathered using a screen scraping service from sites that continuously update there site with stock up dates or interest rates. The current weather forecast can be found automatically using screen scraping. Strategic information about market competition can be taken from the internet. The value and information that this service provides is key to businesses and individuals alike.

Mozenda is a company that can provide the valuable services of screen scraping and web data processing. By using advanced programs any web page can be captured and the text and images saved for future use or analysis. Images can be automatically downloaded from the internet. Valuable data can be stored in XML or RSS formats using Mozenda's services. In addition to the information collection process, Mozenda offers market research and intelligence. For companies needing information bu are unable to sift through the countless websites one by one, the services offered by Mozenda can get help companies get the valuable information fast and get back to what they do best.

Kapow Technologies is another group providing companies with screen scraping and data analysis services. By removing the unnecessary code from the web page, the information can be taken and saved for future use. By utilizing advanced logic, the extraneous data is removed leaving on the key parts that corporations, businesses, and individuals need.

Information moves at the speed of light and screen scraping is a way for that information to be gathered in a precise and automatic way. Using the professional services that provide screen scraping is a tool that keeps up with the pace of information and organizes that information into a format that is quickly analyzed and processed.

Screen Scraping

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Screen Scrapers that help collect data

Screen scrappers are useful computer software that helps collect data that are character based from the output displayed by other programs. Screen scrappers are designed to extract and collect specific data, and to present the collected data in a richer display format using tables or graphs. They can also simply collect data to be indexed for storage. Screen scrappers are increasing in popularity and usage and are also referred to by other names such as a content miner, website ripper, automated data collector, web extractor, website scraper and HTML scrapper.

When activated, a screen scraper will search through website codes, filtering out extraneous codes to provide a better looking presentation. A scrapper only looks for useful data, ignoring the other codes that are useful for presenting the original page in its original layout. A web scrapper just collects the data and presents it without all the accessories that come with the original HTML code.

Screen scrappers are used for a number of applications. A popular example of its use can be seen in the way search engine spiders work. Search engine spiders crawl millions of websites and their pages, collecting data and indexing them. When a person conducts a search, the indexed data are presented as search engine results.

A large number of screen scrappers search through the HTML codes of websites to collect data. Some can however search through scripting languages apart from HTML such as PHP and JavaScript. The collected or mined data will then be presented as HTML, which can be accessed using a web browser or can be stored as text to be accessed offline.

Screen scrappers save a lot of time and energy. People no longer need to search for appropriate sites, click through links to search and collect needed data. The web miner will automatically search through websites based on relevant keywords and generate charts, spreadsheets, graphs and other data needed to compare or use in presentations and reports. Screen scrappers can also effectively access information stored on system that can no longer be accessed, because of incompatibility issues caused by new software or hardware.

While screen scrappers are very useful to legitimate businesses and website owners, they can also be used for illegal and unfavorable purposes. Legitimate business, website owners and search engines make good use web miners to provide useful services and to effectively collate needed data quickly and with relatively less effort. However, some individuals, companies and web owners wrongly use screen scrappers to mine and collect email addresses from websites to use for spam advertising.

The wrong use of screen scrappers by some have led to an ongoing argument within the web community about the ethics and legalities involved with using screen scrappers. Some argument also exists over copyright issues as screen saver can copy the hard work of one person from a website, and then present it in another format on another website. Since screen scrappers neglect data such as adverts on the webpage, people who rely on adverts to generate revenue are complaining because their ads get left out. For these reasons, many website owners are taking measures to prevent their website from being scrapped. At the end of the day, even though it is true that some make use of screen scrappers for negative purpose, it remains a very handy tool that can effectively and legitimately save you time and money.