AJAX Scraping with scRUBYt! – LinkedIn, Google Analytics, Yahoo Suggestions

scrubyt-logo-transparent.png As announced on the scRUBYt! blog, there is a brand new release of scRUBYt!, (among other additions) enabling AJAX scraping. I’d like to present a few examples of kicking the data out of non-trivial-to-scrape pages: LinkedIn, Google Analytics and Yahoo (which in itself is not a big deal – unless you want to scrape the suggestions that pop up after entering a keyword into the search text field).

Without further ado, let’s get down to business!


Let’s say you’d like to scrape your LinkedIn contact list – first name, last name and e-mail of every contact you have. What makes this task complicated (but not for scRUBYt!) is that the contact list is inserted with AJAX after the page is loaded into the browser, and thus it is ‘invisible’ to a standard HTML parser like Hpricot/Nokogiri, so don’t try with those. Instead, check out how you might do it with scRUBYt!:

property_data = Scrubyt::Extractor.define :agent => :firefox do
  fetch          'https://www.linkedin.com/secure/login'
  fill_textfield 'session_key', '*****'
  fill_textfield 'session_password', '*****'

  click_link_and_wait 'Connections', 5

  vcard "//li[@class='vcard']" do
    first_name  "//span[@class='given-name']"
    second_name "//span[@class='family-name']"
    email       "//a[@class='email']"

puts property_data.to_xml

Result: for the above records:


is the following:

    *** alex's email ***
    *** peter's e-mail ***
    *** jim's e-mail***

The magick is happening on line 7: you click the ‘Connections’ link and wait 5 seconds, until the list is loaded with AJAX. Then you can scrape the contacts as you would do normally.

Frames won’t stop us – Google Analytics

Besides being AJAXy, google analytics throws some more complexity into the mix: The login fields are in a frame, which is again not trivial to scrape – fortunately scRUBYt! abstracts all that frame handling away and makes this really easy:

data = Scrubyt::Extractor.define :agent => :firefox do
  fetch 'https://www.google.com/analytics/reporting/login'
  frame :name, "login"

  fill_textfield 'Email', '*****'
  fill_textfield 'Passwd', '*****'
  submit_and_wait 5

  pageviews "//div[@id='PageviewsSummary']//li[@class='item_value']", :example_type => :xpath

puts data.to_xml

All you had to do is to ‘go into’ the frame named login. It looks like any navigation step (and basically we can consider it one) after which the scraping is executed on the document in the frame.
We again used an _and_wait method – it takes some time until everything is loaded after logging in.

Scaping an AJAX pop-up

Technically this is not much different from the first scenario, but it’s interesting nevertheless. The task is to scrape the suggestions that yahoo pops up after you enter something into the search field:


Here is the scraper:

require 'rubygems'
require 'scrubyt'
require 'cgi'

Scrubyt.logger = Scrubyt::Logger.new

yahoo_data = Scrubyt::Extractor.define :agent => :firefox do
  fetch 'http://www.yahoo.com'
  fill_textfield_and_wait 'p', 'ruby', 5

  suggestion_list "//div[@id='ac_container']//li/a", :example_type => :xpath do
    href "href", :type => :attribute do
      escaped_string /&p=(.+?)$/ do
        suggestion lambda {|x| CGI::unescape(x)}, :type => :script

p yahoo_data.to_hash

The result:

[{:suggestion=>"ruby tuesday"}, 
 {:suggestion=>"pokemon ruby"},
 {:suggestion=>"ruby bridges"},
 {:suggestion=>"max and ruby"},
 {:suggestion=>"ruby falls"},
 {:suggestion=>"ruby rippey tourk"}, 
 {:suggestion=>"ruby lane"},
 {:suggestion=>"pokemon ruby cheats"},
 {:suggestion=>"ruby skye"},
 {:suggestion=>"ruby lin"}]

You can download the above (and other) examples from the scRUBYt! examples github repository:

git clone git://github.com/scrubber/scrubyt_examples.git

Please check out scRUBYt’s homepage for more info!

30 thoughts on “AJAX Scraping with scRUBYt! – LinkedIn, Google Analytics, Yahoo Suggestions

  1. This is great, but unfortunately, sCRUBYt is too intimidating and has no documentation. For this reason me and many people I know are still kinda stuck on mechanize and Hpricot.

  2. Kokpit,

    A few thoughts:
    – We are working on better documentation all the time – for example the skimr branch (rewriting scRUBYt! from scratch – see http://rubypond.com/articles/2008/12/09/web-spidering-and-data-extraction-with-scrubyt/) is developed with BDD so you have the test descriptions for everything
    – scRUBYt! is not Rails or something in that range – you can find out 90% of the functionality relatively quickly by digging around in the source code
    – it’s an open source software, so we are happy to accept documentation, suggestions or fixes to make it less intimadating – so why not contribute instead of complaining?
    – almost every open source framework could have been ditched with the same reasoning before it got really popular. Fortunately there were enough people to help to reach the tipping point for those projects – this is not true for scRUBYt! yet (though there is a similar amount of bitching, so at least we are even in that area ;-))


  3. By the looks of it you’re writing in markdown, and have forgotten to escape the underscores in We again used an _and_wait method so its rendered it as andwait. Just need to sprinkle a couple of \’s in there 🙂

  4. This is a great example and will be very helpful on my current scraping project. Does anyone have any experience dealing with pop-up windows. I’m running into error and was hoping someone may have already dealt with a similar situation.

    I’m getting the following error when I try to select an option box on
    a pop-up window.
    Error: Unable to locate element, using :name, “ddlslot1”

    Here is the code:
    Scrubyt.logger = Scrubyt::Logger.new
    data = Scrubyt::Extractor.define :agent => :firefox do
    fetch ‘http://www.tvg.com’
    sleep 1
    filltextfield ‘Login1$txtAccountNumber’, ‘142883’
    textfield ‘Login1$txtPIN’, ‘8240’
    selectoption ‘Login1$ddlState’, ‘Massachusetts’
    sleep 5
    fetch ‘/Authenticated/program/default.aspx’
    # click image to spawn a pop-up window that allows you to change the
    tracks selected on current page.
    #Select Dubai as a track # Error occurs
    here where I try to make a selection on the pop-up window
    option ‘ddlSlot1′,’Dubai’

    once the selection(s) are made push this button to confirm the

    selection and return to main page.
    results “//body”
    It seems like the focus is not on the pop-up so I am not able to make
    the selection on the selection box. Any help would be

  5. Jim,

    I am not sure you have this in your actual script too, but here you have


    (and not click by xpath)

    does that help?

    If not, please post this to the ML, it’s too messy to answer all over the place (PM, mailing list, lightouse, blog comments 🙂

  6. Pingback: Will Google stop SERP scrapers by going Ajax? | I Can Has Rankings?

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