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Mediacloud Backend

Welcome to the mediacloud_backend repository! In this short README you'll find information about the project, how to install and run it.


This project aims to download as many feeds (RSS or Atom) as possible. This is the "backend" of mediacloud project since the goal here is to discover and download the feeds (and not to create a visualization or analyses with the data retrieved).

The backend project is divided into 3 simple steps:

  • Step 1: Discover Web pages that contain feed URLs (by now we use Google search);
  • Step 2: Access each of the URLs retrieved above and search for feed URLs (like ending with .rss, .atom etc.);
  • Step 3: Given the list of feed URLs generated by the step above, download all feeds.


You can install everything in your system or create a Docker image using the provided Dockerfile - jump to "Using Docker" if you prefer to install everything in a container instead of in your system.

Installing in your system

Compilers and needed libraries

We need to install some libraries, compiler and services. To do it on Debian-based systems (such as Ubuntu), run as root:

apt-get install python-dev build-essential libxml2-dev libxslt1-dev zlib1g-dev libssl-dev


We also need to download and compile httrack, as we use it to crawl the Web pages. To install it, run as root:

wget -O httrack.tar.gz
tar xfz httrack.tar.gz
cd httrack-*
make install
ln -s /usr/local/lib/libhttrack.* /usr/lib/
cd ..
rm -rf httrack*


We also use MongoDB database (to store our data), so you need to install and run it. On Debian/Ubuntu GNU/Linux systems, execute as root:

apt-get install mongodb

To verify if the installation succeeded and if it's running, execute:


NOTE: In the first time that you run MongoDB server (it runs automatically when you install it) it can take a while to preallocate database files, so wait for 1 or 2 minutes if the execution of mongo is returning an error such as "couldn't connect to server".

If everything went fine, you'll have a MongoDB client shell connected to your local MongoDB server (if not, an error will be displayed). To exit the shell, just type Ctrl+c.

virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper

If you don't have virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper installed in your system, do it before running the commands above. If you're on a Debian or Ubuntu GNU/Linux system, just execute as root:

apt-get install python-pip
pip install virtualenv virtualenvwrapper

And then add to the end of your ~/.bashrc file:

export WORKON_HOME=$HOME/.virtualenvs
source /usr/local/bin/

You need to reload your shell to the modifications take action or execute source ~/.bashrc just after adding these lines to the file.

Python requirements

After having all system dependencies installed, you need to create a virtualenv to this project and install our Python dependencies:

mkvirtualenv mediacloud_backend
pip install -r requirements.txt

Using Docker

To build a new image using Docker, just execute in the root of this repository:

docker build -t mcb .

Then it'll build an image called mcb with everything you need installed (and the code copied to /srv/mediacloud_backend).

To run a container from this image, execute:

docker run -t -i mcb /bin/bash

As we don't run any service on the container by default (with the command above you only run Bash - nothing more is run on the container), you need to run MongoDB server before using any script that needs it. Execute on the container's shell:

mongod -f /etc/mongodb.conf &

Then you can go to /srv/mediacloud_backend/capture and run any of the scripts there (you don't need to active a virtualenv), for example:

cd /srv/mediacloud_backend/capture

Full Text Indexing

Full text indexing must be enabled in the current version of MediaCloud. You need to configure a Sphinx server for this. The project is tested with version 2.2.3-beta of Sphinx which can be downloaded from . After installing Sphinx, you need to start the search deamon using the provided configuration file (indexing/sphinx.conf):

/usr/bin/sphinx-searchd --nodetach --config indexing/sphinx.conf

and then create the index (you will need to create the necessary directories):

cd indexing/
mkdir -p index_articles index_feeds log/binlog

Using the scripts

To execute the scripts of this project you need to activate the virtualenv created in the installation step. Do it with:

workon mediacloud_backend

Step 1: Search for URLs which contain links to feeds

Script usage:

python capture/ [-s <subject>]

This command searches Google for pages matching RSS and <subject> (if specified), returning many pages of results. Don't run this too often if you don't want to get your IP banned. If <subject> is ommited a general search for "RSS" is done. This script only searches for sites in Brazil (domain ending with .br).

The URLs found are inserted in a collection called urls (on MongoDB), which will be used by the capture/ script.

To check the URLs discovered, run MongoDB client with the command mongo MCDB (MCDB is the name of the database) and execute the command db.urls.find() inside MongoDB shell.

Step 2: Search for feeds URLs

Given a list of URLs (on a text file or in a MongoDB collection), this script fetches each URL and tries to find feed URLs inside the page. The URLs are scanned using httrack and then inserted in the feeds collection on MongoDB (database MCDB). Feeds are checked for duplicates before insertion into the collection.

Script usage:

python capture/ [-dN] [-f text-file-with-URLs]

The -d parameter specifies the depth of scanning (default is 2).

ATTENTION: Before executing this script, edit the file capture/ and define the MongoDB server in which the feeds should be stored.

Step 3: Download feeds

Download (in a multi-threaded way) all the feeds from the URLs discovered by Step 2.

Script usage:

python capture/

The articles downloaded will be stored in MongoDB collection articles inside MCDB database. Insertion in the database checks for duplicate URLs and doesn't re-insert them. We recommend that this is run as a cron job every so often.

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