• Do Not Dwell in the Parse…

    | Updated on August 23, 2023

    To paraphrase Buddha: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

    Do you know the importance of parsing? Are you aware of how to use subscribed software so that it is understandable to human eyes? If not, then just go through this article. Here you will be discovered some software that helps you to stay legal, and trustworthy with the other sites and make the data-driven from them standardized. 

    This also helps you to stay away from any cyber activity as the data you used have been completely parsed by the software. There are so many companies too that offer parsing services and make you rely on the data provided by them. 

    That’s good advice if you want to study mindfulness and gain inner peace, but if you want to learn how to extract data from websites for the best business intelligence around, you have to dream of the future somewhat, it’s called ‘planning’!

    Data parsing, performed immediately after ‘web scraping’ as it’s widely known, is a method of extracting large amounts of data from the internet into a format that is useful for the person or company making the extraction. It may be for gaining information on a competitor, or for business planning research to assess pricing and product popularity trends. But to be successful at gaining that sort of information, there are certain ethical, legal, and technical issues to consider before setting out on your data parsing journey.

    Assuming you’re not outsourcing the task to a third party, first, you have to choose which technical package to use to undertake the parsing itself. You might also want to find a platform that integrates digital adoption software to make your learning process as quick and easy as possible. Let’s take a quick look at what web scraping and data parsing entails:

    If you look at the terms and conditions of most websites, you’ll find that they often have a clause explicitly forbidding web scraping software from accessing their site. For example, Skyscanner’s website’s terms of service state:

    “You [also] agree not to use any unauthorized automated computer program, software agent, bot, spider or other software or application to scan, copy, index, sort or otherwise exploit our Services or Platforms or the data contained on them…”

    Many companies get around this by using what’s known as a ‘residential proxy server’ that ‘fools’ the target website into detecting the data collection as nothing other than a busy potential holidaymaker looking for a flight. Nevertheless, if your web scraping activity is expressly forbidden in a website’s terms of service, you could, in theory, run into substantial legal hot water if you get caught and identified.

    You might also run into contraventions of privacy laws (having downloaded data without someone’s permission) and fall foul of copyright legislation if you re-use any material you might have gained from the data you have parsed.

    Which Package?

    Several established web scraping platforms exist, such as ParseHub, BeautifulSoup, Selenium, and Scrapy. Choose one with the best reviews for help and support, in case they don’t offer a digital adoption platform (DAP) running alongside them. A DAP is a teaching layer allied to the primary software, which offers help and tooltips to novice users and even for seasoned operators to draw upon after software updates and user interface (UI) changes.

    Crucially, a DAP is hyper-personalized using artificial intelligence (AI), so it helps individual users in different ways, according to their needs and abilities. Having a DAP running alongside a software package is like having a friendly, knowledgeable colleague sitting alongside you, only offering assistance when it’s needed. This prevents users from receiving irritating and redundant tooltips and helps pop-ups that aren’t required. DAPs make the adoption and learning of new software packages very much simpler than hours spent creating support tickets or trawling through help forums.

    What Exactly is the Parsing Bit All About?

    Web scraping usually involves a bot downloading a huge amount of data from a website that when viewed in its raw format would be unintelligible to most human eyes. The original data comes in the form of HyperText Markup Language (HTML), XPath (coding language), Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) selectors, and all manner of technical twaddle that would make a non-scientists head spin.

    Paring converts raw HTML into a format such as JSON, (JavaScript Object Notation), which is a code-light, text-based format that can be read by people like any other text passage. Parsing also involves taking data sourced from JavaScript pages and converting it into a CSV (Comma-Separated Values) file, as you would use in a standard Excel spreadsheet (or if you are an Apple user – Mac Numbers).

    In short, parsing makes the data gleaned from websites understandable to the human eye and allows its content to be copied/pasted into almost any other form of standard ‘office’ software.

    To Outsource or Not to Outsource? That is the Question.

    In summary, if you’re in a business that needs a one-off research project, you’re almost certainly better off approaching a company that offers web scraping and data parsing services, then paying them to find the data you need, then they present it to you in a usable format. This also means that you’re less likely to be involved in any cyber-security scandals!

    But if it’s an ongoing part of your business strategy to be able to keep an eye on trends and competitors every month or every week, you’re probably going to need to access a web scraping platform. Try to stay legal, or at least use a good virtual private network (VPN) and a residential proxy server to stay anonymous in your activities.

    Finally, learn how to use the software you’re subscribed to for its optimum output, and make sure that you leverage the data you find by running high-quality analytics. After all, data is the new Digital Gold. There’s no point in having the stuff up to your neck but being unable to capitalize on the priceless business intelligence languishing within it.

    Adam Green
    Adam believes it's pretty cool to be a software expert, but it's much cooler to share all the expertise he has gathered in all his years of experimenting and learning.
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