Tag Archives: scraperwiki

Mapping the Tesco Corporate Organisational Sprawl – An Initial Sketch

A quick sketch, prompted by Tesco Graph Hunting on OpenCorporates of how some of Tesco’s various corporate holdings are related based on director appointments and terminations:

The recipe is as follows:

– grab a list of companies that may be associated with “Tesco” by querying the OpenCorporates reconciliation API for tesco
– grab the filings for each of those companies
– trawl through the filings looking for director appointments or terminations
– store a row for each directorial appointment or termination including the company name and the director.

You can find the scraper here: Tesco Sprawl Grapher

import scraperwiki, simplejson,urllib

import networkx as nx

#Keep the API key [private - via http://blog.scraperwiki.com/2011/10/19/tweeting-the-drilling/
import os, cgi
    qsenv = dict(cgi.parse_qsl(os.getenv("QUERY_STRING")))

#note - the opencorporates api also offers a search:  companies/search

def getOCcompanyData(ocid):
    return ocdata

#need to find a way of playing nice with the api, and not keep retrawling

def getOCfilingData(ocid):
    print 'filings',ocid
    #print 'filings',ocid,ocdata
    #print 'filings 2',tmpdata
    while tmpdata['page']<tmpdata['total_pages']:
        print '...another page',page,str(tmpdata["total_pages"]),str(tmpdata['page'])
    return ocdata

def recordDirectorChange(ocname,ocid,ffiling,director):
    print 'ddata',ddata
    scraperwiki.sqlite.save(unique_keys=['fid'], table_name='directors', data=ddata)

def logDirectors(ocname,ocid,filings):
    print 'director filings',filings
    for filing in filings:
        if filing["filing"]["filing_type"]=="Appointment of director" or filing["filing"]["filing_code"]=="AP01":
            director=desc.replace('DIRECTOR APPOINTED ','')
        elif filing["filing"]["filing_type"]=="Termination of appointment of director" or filing["filing"]["filing_code"]=="TM01":
            director=desc.replace('APPOINTMENT TERMINATED, DIRECTOR ','')
            director=director.replace('APPOINTMENT TERMINATED, ','')

for entity in entities['result']:

The next step is to graph the result. I used a Scraperwiki view (Tesco sprawl demo graph) to generate a bipartite network connecting directors (either appointed or terminated) with companies and then published the result as a GEXF file that can be loaded directly into Gephi.

import scraperwiki
import urllib
import networkx as nx

import networkx.readwrite.gexf as gf

from xml.etree.cElementTree import tostring

scraperwiki.sqlite.attach( 'tesco_sprawl_grapher')
q = '* FROM "directors"'
data = scraperwiki.sqlite.select(q)


for row in data:
    if row['fdirector'] not in directors:
    if row['ocname'] not in companies:

scraperwiki.utils.httpresponseheader("Content-Type", "text/xml")


print tostring(writer.xml)

Saving the output of the view as a gexf file means it can be loaded directly in to Gephi. (It would be handy if Gephi could load files in from a URL, methinks?) A version of the graph, laid out using a force directed layout, with nodes coloured according to modularity grouping, suggests some clustering of the companies. Note the parts of the whole graph are disconnected.

In the fragment below, we see Tesco Property Nominees are only losley linked to each other, and from the previous graphic, we see that Tesco Underwriting doesn’t share any recent director moves with any other companies that I trawled. (That said, the scraper did hit the OpenCorporates API limiter, so there may well be missing edges/data…)

And what is it with accountants naming companies after colours?! (It reminds me of sys admins naming servers after distilleries and Lord of the Rings characters!) Is there any sense in there, or is arbitrary?

Tinkering With Scraperwiki – The Bottom Line, OpenCorporates Reconciliation and the Google Viz API

Having got to grips with adding a basic sortable table view to a Scraperwiki view using the Google Chart Tools (Exporting and Displaying Scraperwiki Datasets Using the Google Visualisation API), I thought I’d have a look at wiring in an interactive dashboard control.

You can see the result at BBC Bottom Line programme explorer:

The page loads in the contents of a source Scraperwiki database (so only good for smallish datasets in this version) and pops them into a table. The searchbox is bound to the Synopsis column and and allows you to search for terms or phrases within the Synopsis cells, returning rows for which there is a hit.

Here’s the function that I used to set up the table and search control, bind them together and render them:

    google.load('visualization', '1.1', {packages:['controls']});


    function drawTable() {

      var json_data = new google.visualization.DataTable(%(json)s, 0.6);

    var json_table = new google.visualization.ChartWrapper({'chartType': 'Table','containerId':'table_div_json','options': {allowHtml: true}});
    //i expected this limit on the view to work?

    var formatter = new google.visualization.PatternFormat('<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/{0}">{0}</a>');
    formatter.format(json_data, [1]); // Apply formatter and set the formatted value of the first column.

    formatter = new google.visualization.PatternFormat('<a href="{1}">{0}</a>');
    formatter.format(json_data, [7,8]);

    var stringFilter = new google.visualization.ControlWrapper({
      'controlType': 'StringFilter',
      'containerId': 'control1',
      'options': {
        'filterColumnLabel': 'Synopsis',
        'matchType': 'any'

  var dashboard = new google.visualization.Dashboard(document.getElementById('dashboard')).bind(stringFilter, json_table).draw(json_data);


The formatter is used to linkify the two URLs. However, I couldn’t get the table to hide the final column (the OpenCorporates URI) in the displayed table? (Doing something wrong, somewhere…) You can find the full code for the Scraperwiki view here.

Now you may (or may not) be wondering where the OpenCorporates ID came from. The data used to populate the table is scraped from the JSON version of the BBC programme pages for the OU co-produced business programme The Bottom Line (Bottom Line scraper). (I’ve been pondering for sometime whether there is enough content there to try to build something that might usefully support or help promote OUBS/OU business courses or link across to free OU business courses on OpenLearn…) Supplementary content items for each programme identify the name of each contributor and the company they represent in a conventional way. (Their role is also described in what looks to be a conventionally constructed text string, though I didn’t try to extract this explicitly – yet. (I’m guessing the Reuters OpenCalais API would also make light work of that?))

Having got access to the company name, I thought it might be interesting to try to get a corporate identifier back for each one using the OpenCorporates (Google Refine) Reconciliation API (Google Refine reconciliation service documentation).

Here’s a fragment from the scraper showing how to lookup a company name using the OpenCorporates reconciliation API and get the data back:

ocrecURL='http://opencorporates.com/reconcile?query='+urllib.quote_plus("".join(i for i in record['company'] if ord(i)<128))
    print ocrecURL,[recData]
    if len(recData['result'])>0:
        if recData['result'][0]['score']>=0.7:

The ocrecURL is constructed from the company name, sanitised in a hack fashion. If we get any results back, we check the (relevance) score of the first one. (The results seem to be ordered in descending score order. I didn’t check to see whether this was defined or by convention.) If it seems relevant, we go with it. From a quick skim of company reconciliations, I noticed at least one false positive – Reed – but on the whole it seemed to work fairly well. (If we look up more details about the company from OpenCorporates, and get back the company URL, for example, we might be able to compare the domain with the domain given in the link on the Bottom Line page. A match would suggest quite strongly that we have got the right company…)

As @stuartbrown suggeted in a tweet, a possible next step is to link the name of each guest to a Linked Data identifier for them, for example, using DBPedia (although I wonder – is @opencorporates also minting IDs for company directors?). I also need to find some way of pulling out some proper, detailed subject tags for each episode that could be used to populate a drop down list filter control…

PS for more Google Dashboard controls, check out the Google interactive playground…

PPS see also: OpenLearn Glossary Search and OpenLearn LEarning Outcomes Search

Exporting and Displaying Scraperwiki Datasets Using the Google Visualisation API

In Visualising Networks in Gephi via a Scraperwiki Exported GEXF File I gave an example of how we can publish arbitrary serialised output file formats from Scraperwiki using the GEXF XML file format as a specific example. Of more general use, however, may be the ability to export Scraperwiki data using the Google visualisation API DataTable format. Muddling around the Google site last night, I noticed the Google Data Source Python Library that makes it easy to generate appropriately formatted JSON data that can be consumed by the (client side) Google visualisation library. (This library provides support for generating line charts, bar charts, sortable tables, etc, as well as interactive dashboards.) A tweet to @frabcus questioning whether the gviz_api Python library was available as a third party library on Scraperwiki resulted in him installing it (thanks, Francis:-), so this post is by way of thanks…

Anyway, here are a couple of examples of how to use the library. The first is a self-contained example (using code pinched from here) that transforms the data into the Google format and then drops it into an HTML page template that can consume the data, in this case displaying it as a sortable table (GViz API on scraperwiki – self-contained sortable table view [code]):

Of possibly more use in the general case is a JSONP exporter (example JSON output (code)):

Here’s the code for the JSON feed example:

import scraperwiki
import gviz_api

#Example of:
## how to use the Google gviz Python library to cast Scraperwiki data into the Gviz format and export it as JSON

#Based on the code example at:

scraperwiki.sqlite.attach( 'openlearn-units' )
q = 'parentCourseCode,name,topic,unitcode FROM "swdata" LIMIT 20'
data = scraperwiki.sqlite.select(q)

description = {"parentCourseCode": ("string", "Parent Course"),"name": ("string", "Unit name"),"unitcode": ("string", "Unit Code"),"topic":("string","Topic")}

data_table = gviz_api.DataTable(description)

json = data_table.ToJSon(columns_order=("unitcode","name", "topic","parentCourseCode" ),order_by="unitcode")

scraperwiki.utils.httpresponseheader("Content-Type", "application/json")
print 'ousefulHack('+json+')'

I hardcoded the wraparound function name (ousefulHack), which then got me wondering: is there a safe/trusted/approved way of grabbing arguments out of the URL in Scraperwiki so this could be set via a calling URL?

Anyway, what this shows (hopefully) is an easy way of getting data from Scraperwiki into the Google visualisation API data format and then consuming either via a Scraperwiki view using an HTML page template, or publishing it as a Google visualisation API JSONP feed that can be consumed by an arbitrary web page and used direclty to drive Google visualisation API chart widgets.

PS as well as noting that the gviz python library “can be used to create a google.visualization.DataTable usable by visualizations built on the Google Visualization API” (gviz_api.py sourcecode), it seems that we can also use it to generate a range of output formats: Google viz API JSON (.ToJSon), as a simple JSON Response (. ToJSonResponse), as Javascript (“JS Code”) (.ToJSCode), as CSV (.ToCsv), as TSV (.ToTsvExcel) or as an HTML table (.ToHtml). A ToResponse method (ToResponse(self, columns_order=None, order_by=(), tqx=””)) can also be used to select the output response type based on the tqx parameter value (out:json, out:csv, out:html, out:tsv-excel).

PPS looking at eg https://spreadsheets.google.com/tq?key=rYQm6lTXPH8dHA6XGhJVFsA&pub=1 which can be pulled into a javascript google.visualization.Query(), it seems we get the following returned:
google.visualization.Query.setResponse({"version":"0.6","status":"ok","sig":"1664774139","table":{ "cols":[ ... ], "rows":[ ... ] }})
I think google.visualization.Query.setResponse can be a user defined callback function name; maybe worth trying to implement this one day?

Visualising Networks in Gephi via a Scraperwiki Exported GEXF File

How do you visualise data scraped from the web using Scraperwiki as a network using a graph visualisation tool such as Gephi? One way is to import the a two-dimensional data table (i.e. a CSV file) exported from Scraperwiki into Gephi using the Data Explorer, but at times this can be a little fiddly and may require you to mess around with column names to make sure they’re the names Gephi expects. Another way is to get the data into a graph based representation using an appropriate file format such as GEXF or GraphML that can be loaded directly (and unambiguously) into Gephi or other network analysis and visualisation tools.

A quick bit of backstory first…

A couple of related key features for me of a “data management system” (eg the joint post from Francis Irving and Rufus Pollock on From CMS to DMS: C is for Content, D is for Data) are the ability to put data into shapes that play nicely with predefined analysis and visualisation routines, and the ability to export data in a variety of formats or representations that allow that data to be be readily imported into, or used by, other applications, tools, or software libraries. Which is to say, I’m into glue

So here’s some glue – a recipe for generating a GEXF formatted file that can be loaded directly into Gephi and used to visualise networks like this one of how OpenLearn units are connected by course code and top level subject area:

The inspiration for this demo comes from a couple of things: firstly, noticing that networkx is one of the third party supported libraries on ScraperWiki (as of last night, I think the igraph library is also available; thanks @frabcus ;-); secondly, having broken ground for myself on how to get Scraperwiki views to emit data feeds rather than HTML pages (eg OpenLearn Glossary Items as a JSON feed).

As a rather contrived demo, let’s look at the data from this scrape of OpenLearn units, as visualised above:

The data is available from the openlearn-units scraper in the table swdata. The columns of interest are name, parentCourseCode, topic and unitcode. What I’m going to do is generate a graph file that represents which unitcodes are associated with which parentCourseCodes, and which topics are associated with each parentCourseCode. We can then visualise a network that shows parentCourseCodes by topic, along with the child (unitcode) course units generated from each Open University parent course (parentCourseCode).

From previous dabblings with the networkx library, I knew it’d be easy enough to generate a graph representation from the data in the Scraperwiki data table. Essentially, two steps are required: 1) create and label nodes, as required; 2) tie nodes together with edges. (If a node hasn’t been defined when you use it to create an edge, netwrokx will create it for you.)

I decided to create and label some of the nodes in advance: unit nodes would carry their name and unitcode; parent course nodes would just carry their parentCourseCode; and topic nodes would carry an newly created ID and the topic name itself. (The topic name is a string of characters and would make for a messy ID for the node!)

To keep gephi happy, I’m going to explicitly add a label attribute to some of the nodes that will be used, by default, to label nodes in Gephi views of the network. (Here are some hints on generating graphs in networkx.)

Here’s how I built the graph:

import scraperwiki
import urllib
import networkx as nx

scraperwiki.sqlite.attach( 'openlearn-units' )
q = '* FROM "swdata"'
data = scraperwiki.sqlite.select(q)


for row in data:
    if topic not in topics:

Having generated a representation of the data as a graph using networkx, we now need to export the data. networkx supports a variety of export formats, including GEXF. Looking at the documentation for the GEXF exporter, we see that it offers methods for exporting the GEXF representation to a file. But for scraperwiki, we want to just print out a representation of the file, not actually save the printed representation of the graph to a file. So how do we get hold of an XML representation of the GEXF formatted data so we can print it out? A peek into the source code for the GEXF exporter (other exporter file sources here) suggests that the functions we need can be found in the networkx.readwrite.gexf file: a constructor (GEXFWriter), and a method for loading in the graph (.add_graph()). An XML representation of the file can then be obtained and printed out using the ElementTree tostring function.

Here’s the code I hacked out as a result of that little investigation:

import networkx.readwrite.gexf as gf


scraperwiki.utils.httpresponseheader("Content-Type", "text/xml")

from xml.etree.cElementTree import tostring
print tostring(writer.xml)

Note the use of the scraperwiki.utils.httpresponseheader to set the MIMEtype of the view. If we don’t do this, scraperwiki will by default publish an HTML page view, along with a Scraperwiki logo embedded in the page.

Here’s the full code for the view.

And here’s the GEXF view:

Save this file with a .gexf suffix and you can then open the file directly into Gephi.

Hopefully, what this post shows is how you can generate your own, potentially complex, output file formats within Scraperwiki that can then be imported directly into other tools.

PS see also Exporting and Displaying Scraperwiki Datasets Using the Google Visualisation API, which shows how to generate a Google Visualisation API JSON from Scraperwiki, allowing for the quick and easy generation of charts and tables using Google Visualisation API components.

Get started in data scraping – and earn £75 for the pleasure

OpenlyLocal are trying to scrape planning application data from across the country. They want volunteers to help write the scrapers using Scraperwiki – and are paying £75 for each one.

This is a great opportunity for journalists or journalism students looking for an excuse to write their first scraper: there are 3 sample scrapers to help you find your feet, with many more likely to appear as they are written. Hopefully, some guidance will appear too (if not, I may try to write some myself).

Add your names in the comments on Andrew’s blog post, and happy scraping!


Scraperwiki now makes it easier to ask questions of data


Image from @EatSafeWalsall

I was very excited recently to read on the Scraperwiki mailing list that the website was working on making it possible to create an RSS feed from a SQL query.

Yes, that’s the sort of thing that gets me excited these days.

But before you reach for a blunt object to knock some sense into me, allow me to explain…

Scraperwiki has, until now, done very well at trying to make it easier to get hold of hard-to-reach data. It has done this in two ways: firstly by creating an environment which lowers the technical barrier to creating scrapers (these get hold of the data); and secondly by lowering the social barrier to creating scrapers (by hosting a space where journalists can ask developers for help in writing scrapers).

This move, however, does something different. Continue reading

The inverted pyramid of data journalism

I’ve been working for some time on picking apart the many processes which make up what we call data journalism. Indeed, if you read the chapter on data journalism (blogged draft) in my Online Journalism Handbook, or seen me speak on the subject, you’ll have seen my previous diagram that tries to explain those processes.

I’ve now revised that considerably, and what I’ve come up with bears some explanation. I’ve cheekily called it the inverted pyramid of data journalism, partly because it begins with a large amount of information which becomes increasingly focused as you drill down into it until you reach the point of communicating the results.

What’s more, I’ve also sketched out a second diagram that breaks down how data journalism stories are communicated – an area which I think has so far not been very widely explored. But that’s for a future post.

I’m hoping this will be helpful to those trying to get to grips with data, whether as journalists, developers or designers. This is, as always, work in progress so let me know if you think I’ve missed anything or if things might be better explained.

UPDATE: Also in Spanish.

The inverted pyramid of data journalism

Inverted pyramid of data journalism

Here are the stages explained: Continue reading