Web Scraping Using Django

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Creating your Django models¶

Create your model classes¶

When you want to build a Django app using Django Dynamic Scraper to fill up your models with data you haveto provide two model classes. The first class stores your scraped data, in our news example this is aclass called Article storing articles scraped from different news websites.The second class is a reference class for this first model class, defining wherethe scraped items belong to. Often this class will represent a website, but it could also represent acategory, a topic or something similar. In our news example we call the class NewsWebsite. Below is thecode for this two model classes:

As you can see, there are some foreign key fields defined in the models referencing DDS models.The NewsWebsite class has a reference to the Scraper DDS model, which contains the mainscraper with information about how to scrape the attributes of the article objects. The scraper_runtimefield is a reference to the SchedulerRuntime class from the DDS models. An object of this class storesscheduling information, in this case information about when to run a news website scraper for the next time.The NewsWebsite class also has to provide the url to be used during the scraping process. You can eitheruse (if existing) the representative url field of the model class, which is pointing to the nicely-layoutedoverview news page also visited by the user. In this case we are choosing this way with taking the urlattribute of the model class as the scrape url. However, it often makes sense to provide a dedicated scrape_url(you can name the attribute freely) field for cases, when the representative url differs from the scrape url(e.g. if list content is loaded via ajax, or if you want to use another format of the content - e.g. the rssfeed - for scraping).

The Article class to store scraped news articles also has a reference to the SchedulerRuntime DDSmodel class called checker_runtime. In this case the scheduling object holds information about the nextexistance check (using the url field from Article) to evaluate if the news articlestill exists or if it can be deleted (see Defining/Running item checkers).

Last but not least: Django Dynamic Scraper uses the DjangoItem class from Scrapy forbeing able to directly store the scraped data into the Django DB. You can store the item class(here: ArticleItem) telling Scrapy which model class to use for storing the data directly underneath theassociated model class.


For having a loose coupling between your runtime objects and your domain model objects you should declarethe foreign keys to the DDS objects with the blank=True,null=True,on_delete=models.SET_NULLfield options. This will prevent a cascading delete of your reference object as well as the associatedscraped objects when a DDS object is deleted accidentally.

Deletion of objects¶

If you delete model objects via the Django admin interface, the runtime objects are notdeleted as well. If you want this to happen, you can use Django’spre_delete signalsin your models.py to delete e.g. the checker_runtime when deleting an article:

Defining the object to be scraped¶

If you have done everything right up till now and even synced your DB :-) your Django admin should looksimilar to the following screenshot below, at least if you follow the example project:

Before being able to create scrapers in Django Dynamic Scraper you have to define which parts of the Djangomodel class you defined above should be filled by your scraper. This is done via creating a newScrapedObjClass in your Django admin interface and then adding several ScrapedObjAttrdatasets to it, which is done inline in the form for the ScrapedObjClass. All attributes for theobject class which are marked as to be saved to the database have to be named like the attributes in yourmodel class to be scraped. In our open news examplewe want the title, the description, and the url of an Article to be scraped, so we add these attributes withthe corresponding names to the scraped obj class.

The reason why we are redefining these attributes here, is that we can later define x_path elements for eachof theses attributes dynamically in the scrapers we want to create. When Django Dynamic Scraperis scraping items, the general workflow of the scraping process is as follows:

  • The DDS scraper is scraping base elements from the overview page of items beeing scraped, with each baseelement encapsulating an item summary, e.g. in our open news example an article summary containing thetitle of the article, a screenshot and a short description. The encapsuling html tag often is a div,but could also be a td tag or something else.
  • If provided the DDS scraper is then scraping the url from this item summary block leading to a detail page of theitem providing more information to scrape
  • All the real item attributes (like a title, a description, a date or an image) are then scraped either fromwithin the item summary block on the overview page or from a detail page of the item. This can be defined laterwhen creating the scraper itself.

To define which of the scraped obj attributes are just simple standard attributes to be scraped, which oneis the base attribute (this is a bit of an artificial construct) and which one eventually is a url to be followedlater, we have to choose an attribute type for each attribute defined. There is a choice between the followingtypes (taken from dynamic_scraper.models.ScrapedObjAttr):

STANDARD, BASE and DETAIL_PAGE_URL should be clear by now, STANDARD(UPDATE) behaves like STANDARD,but these attributes are updated with the new values if the item is already in the DB. IMAGE represents attributes which willhold images or screenshots. So for our open news example we define a base attribute called ‘base’ withtype BASE, two standard elements ‘title’ and ‘description’ with type STANDARDand a url field called ‘url’ with type DETAIL_PAGE_URL. Your definition form for your scraped obj classshould look similar to the screenshot below:

To prevent double entries in the DB you also have to set one or more object attributes of type STANDARD orDETAIL_PAGE_URL as IDFields. If you provide a DETAIL_PAGE_URL for your object scraping, it is often agood idea to use this also as an IDField, since the different URLs for different objects should be unique bydefinition in most cases. Using a single DETAIL_PAGE_URL ID field is also prerequisite if you want to use thechecker functionality (see: Defining/Running item checkers) of DDS for dynamically detecting and deleting items not existingany more.

Also note that these IDFields just provide unique identification of an object for within the scraping process. In yourmodel class defined in the chapter above you can use other ID fields or simply use a classic numerical auto-incrementedID provided by your database.


If you define an attribute as STANDARD(UPDATE) attribute and your scraper reads the value for this attribute from the detail pageof the item, your scraping process requires much more page requests, because the scraper has to look at all the detail pageseven for items already in the DB to compare the values. If you don’t use the update functionality, use the simple STANDARDattribute instead!


The order attribute for the different object attributes is just for convenience and determines theorder of the attributes when used for defining XPaths in your scrapers. Use 10-based or 100-based stepsfor easier resorting (e.g. ‘100’, ‘200’, ‘300’, …).

Defining your scrapers¶

General structure of a scraper¶

Scrapers for Django Dynamic Scraper are also defined in the Django admin interface. You first have to give thescraper a name and select the associated ScrapedObjClass. In our open news example we call the scraper‘Wikinews Scraper’ and select the ScrapedObjClass named ‘Article’ defined above.

The main part of defining a scraper in DDS is to create several scraper elements, each connected to aScrapedObjAttr from the selected ScrapedObjClass. Each scraper element define how to extractthe data for the specific ScrapedObjAttr by following the main concepts of Scrapy for scrapingdata from websites. In the fields named ‘x_path’ and ‘reg_exp’ an XPath and (optionally) a regular expressionis defined to extract the data from the page, following Scrapy’s concept ofXPathSelectors. The ‘request_page_type’select box tells the scraper if the data for the object attibute for the scraper element should be extractedfrom the overview page or a detail page of the specific item. For every chosen page type here you have to define acorresponding request page type in the admin form above. The fields ‘processors’ and ‘processors_ctxt’ areused to define output processors for your scraped data like they are defined in Scrapy’sItem Loader section.You can use these processors e.g. to add a string to your scraped data or to bring a scraped date in acommon format. More on this later. Finally, the ‘mandatory’ check box is indicating whether the datascraped by the scraper element is a necessary field. If you define a scraper element as necessary and nodata could be scraped for this element the item will be dropped. You always have to keep attributesmandatory if the corresponding attributes of your domain model class are mandatory fields, otherwise thescraped item can’t be saved in the DB.

For the moment, keep the status to MANUAL to run the spider via the command line during this tutorial.Later you will change it to ACTIVE.

Creating the scraper of our open news example¶

Let’s use the information above in the context of our Wikinews example. Below you see a screenshot of anhtml code extract from the Wikinews overview page like it is displayed by the developer tools in Google’sChrome browser:

The next screenshot is from a news article detail page:

We will use these code snippets in our examples.


If you don’t want to manually create the necessary DB objects for the example project, you can also runpythonmanage.pyloaddataopen_news/open_news_dds_[DDS_VERSION].json from within the example_projectdirectory in your favorite shell to have all the objects necessary for the example created automatically.Use the file closest to the current DDS version. If you run into problems start installing the fittingDDS version for the fixture, then update the DDS version and apply the latest Django migrations.


The WikiNews site changes its code from time to time. I will try to update the example code and text in thedocs, but I won’t keep pace with the screenshots so they can differ slightly compared to the real world example.

1. First we have to define a basescraper element to get the enclosing DOM elements for news itemsummaries. On the Wikinews overview page all news summaries are enclosed by <td> tags with a classcalled ‘l_box’, so //td[@class='l_box'] should do the trick. We leave the rest of the field for thescraper element on default.

2. It is not necessary but just for the purpose of this example let’s scrape the title of a news articlefrom the article detail page. On an article detail page the headline of the article is enclosed by a<h1> tag with an id named ‘firstHeading’. So //h1[@id='firstHeading']/text() should give us the headline.Since we want to scrape from the detail page, we have to activate the ‘from_detail_page’ check box.

3. All the standard elements we want to scrape from the overview page are defined relative to thebase element. Therefore keep in mind to leave the trailing double slashes of XPath definitions.We scrape the short description of a news item from within a <span> tag with a class named ‘l_summary’.So the XPath is p/span[@class='l_summary']/text().

4. And finally the url can be scraped via the XPath span[@class='l_title']/a/@href. Since we only scrapethe path of our url with this XPath and not the domain, we have to use a processor for the first time to completethe url. For this purpose there is a predefined processor called ‘pre_url’. You can find more predefinedprocessors in the dynamic_scraper.utils.processors module - see Processors for processor reference - ‘pre_url’ is simply doing what we want,namely adding a base url string to the scraped string. To use a processor, just write the function namein the processor field. Processors can be given some extra information via the processors_ctxt field.In our case we need the spefic base url our scraped string should be appended to. Processor contextinformation is provided in a dictionary like form: 'processor_name':'context', in our case:'pre_url':'http://en.wikinews.org'. Together with our scraped string this will createthe complete url.

This completes the xpath definitions for our scraper. The form you have filled out should look similar to the screenshot above(which is broken down to two rows due to space issues).


You can also scrape attributes of your object from outside the base element by using the .. notationin your XPath expressions to get to the parent nodes!


Starting with DDSv.0.8.11 you can build your detail page URLs withplaceholders for main page attributes in the form of {ATTRIBUTE_NAME}, see Attribute Placeholders for further reference.


Adding corresponding request page types¶

For all page types you used for your ScraperElemes you have to define corresponding RequestPageType objectsin the Scraper admin form. There has to be exactly one main page and 0-25 detail page type objects.

Within the RequestPageType object you can define request settings like the content type (HTML, XML,…),the request method (GET or POST) and others for the specific page type. With this it is e.g. possible toscrape HTML content from all the main pages and JSON content from the followed detail pages. For more informationon this have a look at the Advanced Request Options section.

Web Scraping Using Django Using

Create the domain entity reference object (NewsWebsite) for our open news example¶

Now - finally - we are just one step away of having all objects created in our Django admin.The last dataset we have to add is the reference object of our domain, meaning a NewsWebsiteobject for the Wikinews Website.

To do this open the NewsWebsite form in the Django admin, give the object a meaningful name (‘Wikinews’),assign the scraper and create an empty SchedulerRuntime object with SCRAPER as yourruntime_type.

Connecting Scrapy with your Django objects¶

For Scrapy to work with your Django objects we finally set up two static classes, the one being a spider class,inheriting from DjangoSpider, the other being a finalising pipeline for saving our scraped objects.

Adding the spider class¶

The main work left to be done in our spider class - which is inheriting from the DjangoSpider classof Django Dynamic Scraper - is to instantiate the spider by connecting the domain model classes to itin the __init__ function:

Web Scraping Using Django For Beginners

Adding the pipeline class¶

Since you maybe want to add some extra attributes to your scraped items, DDS is not saving the scraped itemsfor you but you have to do it manually in your own item pipeline:

The things you always have to do here is adding the reference object to the scraped item class and - if youare using checker functionality - create the runtime object for the checker. You also have to set theaction_successful attribute of the spider, which is used internally by DDS when the spider is closed.

Running/Testing your scraper¶

Web Scraping Using Django Download

You can run/test spiders created with Django Dynamic Scraper from the command line similar to how you would run yournormal Scrapy spiders, but with some additional arguments given. The syntax of the DDS spider run command isas following:

  • With -aid=REF_OBJECT_ID you provide the ID of the reference object items should be scraped for,in our example case that would be the Wikinews NewsWebsite object, probably with ID 1 if you haven’tadded other objects before. This argument is mandatory.
  • By default, items scraped from the command line are not saved in the DB. If you want this to happen,you have to provide -ado_action=yes.
  • With -arun_type=(TASK SHELL) you can simulate task based scraper runs invoked from thecommand line. This can be useful for testing, just leave this argument for now.
  • With -amax_items_read={Int} and -amax_items_save={Int} you can override the scraper settings for theseparams.
  • With -amax_pages_read={Int} you can limit the number of pages read when using pagination
  • With -astart_page=PAGE and/or -aend_page=PAGE it is possible to set a start and/or end page
  • With -aoutput_num_mp_response_bodies={Int} and -aoutput_num_dp_response_bodies={Int} you can logthe complete response body content of the {Int} first main/detail page responses to the screen for debugging(beginnings/endings are marked with a unique string in the form RP_MP_{num}_START for using full-textsearch for orientation)
  • If you don’t want your output saved to the Django DB but to a custom file you can use Scrapy`s build-inoutput options --output=FILE and --output-format=FORMAT to scrape items into a file. Use this withoutsetting the -ado_action=yes parameter!

So, to invoke our Wikinews scraper, we have the following command:

If you have done everything correctly (which would be a bit unlikely for the first run after so many single steps,but just in theory… :-)), you should get some output similar to the following, of course with otherheadlines:

In your Django admin interface you should now see the scraped articles listed on the article overview page:

Web Scraping Using Python Django


Web Scraping Using Django For Beginners

Your first scraper with Django Dynamic Scraper is working. Not so bad! If you do a second run and therehaven’t been any new bugs added to the DDS source code in the meantime, no extra article objects should be addedto the DB. If you try again later when some news articles changed on the Wikinews overview page, the newarticles should be added to the DB.