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Highly scalable Node.js scraping framework for mobsters
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Readme.md

Build Status

Yakuza

Yakuza is a heavy-weight, highly-scalable framework for scraping projects. Whether you are building small or massive scrapers, yakuza will keep your code clean, ordered and under control.

Installation

npm install yakuza

Looking for the docs?

Documentation

Scraper structure

Yakuza introduces several concepts to help you build your scraper's structure

Tasks

A task is the smallest unit in any scraper. It determines one specific goal for the scraper to achieve, such as logging in or retrieving a list of articles. Some task name examples: getArticleList, getUserProfile, login, getLinks.

Tasks can run one after the other or in parallel. Tasks can even be instanced multiple times for a single job to be performed. For example, if we want to create a scraper that comments random stuff in a blog which needs a logged in user to comment, then login should always run before a createComment task. Maybe we want to create multiple comments for different blog posts at the same time. Yakuza allows us to do something like this:

  1. Login
  2. Get list of blog posts
  3. Comment random gibberish in all blog posts found in parallel

The criteria which defines how a task is run and how many times it is instanced has to do with something called builders. We will get into that later in this document.

Agents

All tasks belong to an agent and it is the agent itself that determines the order in which tasks run and how they run. An agent usually represents a website, so in the case where we were scraping multiple blogs, the agent names could be techCrunch or hackerNews.

All agents usually have the same tasks with different implementations per agent. For example, both techCrunch and hackerNews will have a getArticleList task.

Agents have a plan which determines which tasks will run in parallel and which will run sequentially. This is defined per agent as in some cases the synchrony required between tasks may vary depending on the website being scraped.

Scrapers

Scrapers hold agents together. In most projects you will have one scraper, since a scraper represents all the websites you will scrape and how you will scrape them (via its agents and their tasks).

Following the previous example, we would create a scraper called articles whose purpose is to scrape articles from different blog sites.

Structure summary

Summing up, the structure in which Yakuza works is as follows:

  • Scraper1
    • Agent1
      • Task1
      • Task2
    • Agent2
      • Task1
      • Task2
  • Scraper2
    • Agent3
      • Task3

API

Let's get our hands dirty by looking at Yakuza's API

Yakuza

To use Yakuza we must first require it in our code:

var Yakuza = require('yakuza');

It is important to point out that Yakuza is a singleton and therefore all requires of Yakuza will point to the same instance. The idea behind this is to allow the developer to define his file structure freely, whether it is one file for the whole project or multiple files for each task, agent and scraper used.

Scrapers

The first step is to create a scraper, as all other pieces of our structure should be associated to one.

Yakuza.scraper('articles');

Agents

We can now start creating our agents

Yakuza.agent('articles', 'techCrunch');

Remember the plan property we mentioned before? Now is a good time to use that. The plan property is an array of task names. Each task in the array runs after the previous one. If an array is placed inside the plan array, all tasks inside it will run in parallel.

This plan runs loginand getArticlesList sequentially:

Yakuza.agent('articles', 'techCrunch').plan([
  'login',
  'getArticlesList'
]);

This one runs login before the other tasks, but runs getArticlesList and getUsersList in parallel as they are in the same sub-array:

Yakuza.agent('articles', 'techCrunch').plan([
  'login',
  ['getArticlesList', 'getUsersList']
]);

Agents can also define something called routines which in turn define a set of tasks to be run. For example you could want to define three routines: onlyArticlesList, onlyUsersList, usersListAndArticlesList

They would be defined like this:

Yakuza.agent('articles', 'techCrunch').routine('onlyArticlesList', ['login', 'getArticlesList']);
Yakuza.agent('articles', 'techCrunch').routine('onlyUsersList', ['login', 'getUsersList']);
Yakuza.agent('articles', 'techCrunch').routine('usersListAndArticlesList', ['login', 'getUsersList', 'getArticlesList']);

Dont worry, routines will make more sense after we understand how to run a scraper

Tasks

Tasks are where you are going to spend most of your time. They hold the scraping logic and basically do all the dirty work.

// Creating a task
Yakuza.task('articles', 'techCrunch', 'getArticlesList');

Tasks have two important concepts: the main method, and the builder. First, let's start with the builder. As we mentioned previously, the builder is a method which defines how a task will be instanced. Tasks come with a default builder which simply instances them once.

The task being built will be instanced depending on what the builder method returns:

  • If it returns an array, it will instance the Task as many times as there are elements present inside the array.
  • If it returns anything other than an array, it will instance the Task once. ** Note that if an empty array is returned, the task will be skipped **

Also, what is returned by the builder will be provided to the Task instances.

A builder method is defined as follows (mind the name "job" in the method's parameter, as jobs will be explained right after this section):

// Job is an accessor to some properties provided by the current job running
Yakuza.task('articles', 'techCrunch', 'getArticlesList').builder(function (job) {
  return [1, 2, 3]; // Instances the task three times, one with each number as parameter
  return []; // Skips the task completely
  return [{a: 1}, {a: 2}]; // Instances the task twice with each object as parameter
  return true; // Instances the task once (this is the default)
});

The second and most important concept is the main method, which defines the scraping logic itself. The main method receives the following arguments:

task has the following methods:

  • success(data): marks the task as successful and emits a success event with the data passed to it
  • fail(error, errorMessage): marks the task as failed, stops the current job and emits a fail event with the error object and error message passed
  • share(key, value, [options]): shares a value to tasks in the next execution block

params passes whatever value was returned by the builder to instance this task For example, if the builder returned [1, 2, 3] then three tasks would be instanced with params being the values 1, 2 and 3 (one for each)

http wrapper over needle which is used for http requests. Other tools can be used instead of http, though it is recommended since it will log your requests, improve emitted errors and provide you with some utilities that might be useful. It has the following utility methods: getLog(): provides a log of the current requests made by the task instance get, post, put, patch, head: generate http requests with the corresponding http verb, arguments are pattern matched and can be:

  • an options object: It can have the same properties as needle but also accepts:
    • url: 'url to which the request should be made'
    • data: 'data to be sent to the url (will be stringified in querystring format if passed to get and will be used as form data if passed to post
  • an url string: If an url is provided then no options should be passed.
  • callback: Callback method to be called when the request is finished, parameters received are:
    • err: error object, null if no error is present
    • res: response object, contains all response and request details provided by needle
    • body: body of the response as supported by needle The http object's request methods return a promise implemented with Q Each task must at some point call either task.success or task.fail for the scraper to work correctly. If both are called by the same task instance, an error will be raised

Some examples:

var cheerio = require('cheerio');

Yakuza.task('articles', 'techCrunch', 'getArticlesList').main(function (task, http, params) {
  http.get('www.foo.com', function (err, res, body) {
    var $, articleLinks;

    if (err) {
      task.fail(err, 'Request returned an error');
      return; // we return so that the task stops running
    }

    $ = cheerio.load(body);

    articleLinks = [];

    $('a.article').each(function ($article) {
      articleLinks.push($article.attr('href'));
    });

    task.success(articleLinks); // Successfully return all article links found
  });
});

Using parameters

Yakuza.task('foo', 'loginExampleCom', 'login').main(function (task, http, params) {
  var username, password, opts;

  username = params.username;
  password = params.password;
  opts = {
    url: 'http://www.loginexample.com',
    data: {
      username: username,
      pass: password
    }
  };

  http.post(opts, function (err, res, body) {
    if (err) {
      task.fail(err, 'Error in request');
      return;
    }

    if (body === 'logged in') {
      task.success('loggedIn');
      return;
    }

    task.success('wrongPassword'); // Still not an error though, we correctly detected that the password was wrong
  });
});

Jobs

Jobs are not part of the scraper structure itself but rather a product of it. Jobs are a one-time use you are giving to your scraper, so each time you want to scrape, you create a job. Jobs can receive parameters which can later be passed all the way down to the tasks, thus customizing the task's behavior (explained in the extras section).

Creating a job:

  // At this point our scrapers/agents/tasks are completely defined

  // Here we create a job that will use the agent 'techCrunch' from our 'articles' scraper
  var job = Yakuza.job('articles', 'techCrunch');

  // .. At this point the job still doesn't know what to do. We can do either
  // this:
  job.enqueue('login').enqueue('getArticlesList');
  // or this
  job.enqueueTaskArray(['login', 'getArticlesList']);
  // or if we had defined a routine we could do
  job.routine('onlyArticlesList');

At this point the job is almost ready to run, just one thing is missing: events. We need some way to listen to what's happening inside our job so we can make use of the data retrieved and be able to react to errors.

To listen to events you must use the job.on method.

List of events:

job:success: When the job finished successfully arguments:

  • response: For now this is undefined, this may in the future return statistics of the job or other useful data

job:finish: When the job finished, whether by fail or success

  • response: Same as job:success

job:fail: When the job failed arguments:

  • response.task: Instance of the task that failed
  • response.error: Error returned via task.fail(), (to get the error stack trace, use response.error.stack)
  • response.requestLog: Array of all requests and responses that led to the failure

task:<taskName>:success: When a task finishes successfuly

  • response.task: Instance of the task that succeeded
  • response.data: Data provided via the task.success() method

task:<taskName>:fail: When a task finishes on fail

  • response.task: Instance of the task that failed
  • response.error: Error returned via task.fail(), (to get the error stack trace, use response.error.stack)
  • response.requestLog: Array of all requests and responses that led to the failure

Events support wildcards, meaning you can do things like: task:*:fail to listen to any task which fails or job:* to listen to all events concerning the job itself.

An example:

  var job = Yakuza.job('someScraper', 'someAgent');

  job.on('job:fail', function (response) {
    // Handle job failure
  });

  job.on('task:*:fail', function (response) {
    console.log(response.task.taskId + ' failed!');
  });

  job.on('task:*:success', function (response) {
    // Handle all successful tasks
  });

  job.on('task:login:fail', function (response) {
    console.log('Failed to log in');
  });

  // Enqueue tasks and run job

Running a Job: To run the job simply use the job.run() method, please keep in mind jobs are not reusable.

  job.run(); // Job will start running

Hooks

Hooks are run in specific moments of an instanced task's life (before emitting events to the outside), and they can modify the scrapers default behavior. To specify a task's hooks use its setup method.

Yakuza.task('scraper', 'agent', 'someTask').hooks({
  'onFail': function (task) {
    // ... do stuff
  },
  'onSuccess': function (task) {
    // ... do stuff
  }
});

onFail

Runs when a task fails, onFail can be used to do some fancy stuff like retrying failed tasks right away.

The task object passed to the onFail hook has the following properties:

  • runs: Amount of times the task has run (starts from 1)
  • params: Parameters with which the task was instanced for the first time (doesn't change)
  • rerun([params]): Re-runs the task with original parameters (passed by the builder), if an object is provided, it will replace the task's parameters with the object passed.
  • error: Error thrown by the task's fail event, (if passed)

onSuccess

Runs when a task succeeds, onSuccess can be used to stop the job's execution even though the task was successful. This can be useful when we need to stop our execution depending on the data we receive.

The task object passed to the onSuccess hook has the following properties:

  • data: Data returned by the task's success() method
  • stopJob(): Method which, if called, stops the job execution in once the current executionBlock is done

Here's an example on when this could be useful:

  Yakuza.task('scraper', 'agent', 'login').hooks({
    'onSuccess': function (task) {
      // We stop the job if the loginStatus returns `wrongPassword`
      // remember: in many cases wrongPassword might NOT be an error, identifying what's the login status
      // can be part of a successful scraping process as well.
    
      if (task.data.loginStatus === 'wrongPassword') {
        task.stopJob();
      }
    }
  }).main(function (task, http, params) {
    var opts;
    
    opts = {
      url: 'http://someurl.com',
      data: {
        username: 'foo',
        password: 'bar'
      }
    };
    
    http.post(opts)
    .then(function (result) {
      if (result.body === 'wrong password') {
        task.success({loginStatus: 'wrongPassword'});
      } else {
        task.success({loginStatus: 'authorized'});
      }
    })
    .fail(function (error) {
      task.fail(error);
    })
    .done();
  });

When calling task.stopJob() the task:<taskName>:success event is, of course, still fired.

Advanced

If you reached this section, then you should already be able to use Yakuza's basic features and create a working scraper. The following are other important features Yakuza provides which will help you with more complex stuff in your scrapers.

Job parameters

Job parameters are specific information you want to pass to certain tasks in your code to customize their behaviour or allow them to work in a more generic fashion.

Passing parameters to a job:

  var job = Yakuza.job('someScraper', 'someAgent', {search: 'peanuts'});

Job parameters can now be passed to tasks via the builder method in the following way:

Yakuza.task('someScraper', 'someAgent', 'searchTheNews')
  .builder(function (job) {
    return job.params.search; // Instances the task ONCE with params = 'peanuts'
  })
  .main(function (task, http, params) {
    var opts = {
      url: 'http://www.some-search-site.com',
      data: {
        search: params
      }
    };

    // The following request will be: GET http://www.some-search-site.com?search=peanuts
    http.get(opts, function (err, res, body) {
      // Do stuff ..
      task.success(result);
    });
  });

Sharing between tasks

Very frequently you need a certain task to access something from a previous task. Exposing values from a task:

Yakuza.task('articlesScraper', 'fooBlog', 'getArticleUrls', function (task, http, params) {
  // ... Get list of articles from fooBlog here
  task.share('articleUrlList', articleUrls); // Exposes retrieved list of article urls to the other tasks
  // ... Do other stuff
});

At this point, all tasks from the next execution blocks will have access to the values shared. Tasks from the same execution block will not be able to access the variables since they run in parallel and it is uncertain if the value has been shared or not. So, if you need a value shared by a certain task, put that task in an earlier execution block.

You can access shared variables in your tasks' builders like this:

Yakuza.task('articlesScraper', 'fooBlog', 'getArticleData')
  .builder(function (job) {
    var urls = job.shared('getArticleUrls.articleUrlList'); // <task that shared the value>.<key of the value>

    return urls; // Will instance the `getArticleData` task once for each url retrieved
  })
  .main(function (task, http, params) { // Here params = some article url
    // ... Scrape article urls to get article data
    task.success(data); // emit data to the outside
  });

in the previous example we are instancing the getArticleData task once per url we got, and all of these are run in parallel. The only problem with this is that we will recieve one task:getArticleData:success event per instance, meaning we would have to join all the results in an array as we would get them separately.

This might not be ideal depending on our use case, so we should create another task returns all our results from our getArticleData instances in one array

First, we have a little problem... What happens when we share a value on a key which is already used by another instance of the same task? Well, by default the value gets overwritten. Say a task shares some value to the key foo, and there are two instances, then we wouldn't know which is the final value because it depends on which task finished last:

  // instance1: value equals 1
  // instance2: value equals 2
  task.share('foo', value);

To fix this we need to change the way in which values are being shared. This can be done by adding an options object to the share() method.

Current properties accepted in the share method:

method: Can be a string or a function. If a string then Yakuza will search for the sharing methods it knows about, if a function is given Yakuza will use it as the sharing method. pre-built sharing methods (More pre-built methods pending):

  • replace (default): Replaces previous value with new value

To define reusable custom sharing methods, you can use the scraper's addShareMethod which receives:

  • methodName: Name of your sharing method (the one you use in the method property in your options object)
  • shareFunction: A function that returns the new value of the shared value. Arguments for it are:
    • currentValue: Current value saved, (undefined if nothing has been shared yet)
    • newValue: New value to be shared

An example of a custom sharing method which would allow us to join all urls in an array:

Yakuza.scraper('articlesScraper')
  .addShareMethod('joinInArray', function (currentValue, newValue) {
    var current = currentValue;
    if (current === undefined) {
      current = [];
    }

    current.push(newValue);
    return current; // Shared value will always be an array
  });

Now we should share our results with our new sharing logic

Yakuza.task('articlesScraper', 'fooBlog', 'getArticleData').main(function (task, http, params) {
  // Do stuff and get article data
  task.share('allArticles', articleData, {method: 'joinInArray'});
  // ...
});

Perfect, our articles are now all in one single shared value. We should now retrieve it with a tiny final task. Let's call it getJoinedArticles

Yakuza.task('articlesScraper', 'fooBlog', 'getJoinedArticles')
  .builder(function (job) {
    return job.shared('getArticleData.allArticles'); // Retrieve array of articles
  })
  .main(function (task, http, params) {
    task.success(params); // Simply expose the data to the outside
  });

Running task instances sequentially

Sometimes because of server limitations, we might want several instances of the same task to run sequentially. Take our previous example about articles, where we instanced getArticleData multiple times. Let's say the server doesn't allow us to view multiple articles in parallel because god knows why. We would need to change the default behavior of task instances and run them one after the other.

This can be achieved in the agent plan by changing the selfSync property:

Yakuza.agent('articles', 'fooBlog').plan([
  'getArticlesList',
  {taskId: 'getArticleData', selfSync: true}
]);

Saving cookies

A lot of times we need to preserve cookies so that they exist for other tasks. This can be achieved by a method called saveCookies().

Example: Yakuza.task('scraper', 'agent', 'login').main(function (task, http, params) {

  // .. Send a login form
  task.saveCookies();
  // .. Do more stuff
  task.success('authorized');
});

Any new task will now have its http object initialized with the cookies that were present at the time saveCookies was called. Notice that only tasks from the next execution block will be afected.

Retrying tasks

In many cases the websites we scrape are sloppy, implemented in very wrong ways or simply unstable. This will cause our tasks to sometimes fail without warning. For this reason Yakuza provides a way of re-running tasks when this happens via it's onFail hook.

When a task is rerun, it restarts to the point in which it was instanced. Except (for some properties like startTime which marks the moment when the task was first run)

Yakuza.task('scraper', 'agent', 'login').hooks({
  onFail: function (task) {
    if (task.runs <== 5) {
      // Will retry the task a maximum amount of 5 times
      task.rerun();
    }
  }
});

You can find the task object's properties on the Hooks section

Glossary

Execution Block

An execution block is a set of tasks that run in parallel. For example, take the following plan:

Yakuza.agent('scraper', 'agent').plan([
  'task1', // Execution block 1
  ['task2', 'task3'], // Execution block 2
  'task4' // Execution block 3
])

Execution blocks run sequentially, meaning one execution block will only run when the previous block was run or skipped. * Tasks are skipped if not enqueued or if their builders return empty arrays. Execution blocks are skipped if all tasks inside it are skipped as well.

Contribution

At this time, Yakuza is in its early days. For this reason all contributions and issues are more than welcome, they are needed. Yakuza is a very ambitious project that requires a lot of real-life usage to understand how it can be improved.

Because of the size of this project, maintainability is an important concern. For that reason these guidelines must be followed for a pull request to be merged:

Branch structure

Each pull request will come in its own branch and with a specific naming convention.

Existing branches: master: Only for production-ready releases, commits in this code are part of a release development: This is the branch you will target your pull requests to. It contains the latest changes that will probably be part of a new release but are not yet available to the public.

Branch naming convention: hotfix/<branch name>: For hotfix pull-requests, basically any quick fixes style/<branch name>: For fixes in code styling, (make linters pass) feature/<branch name>: For feature pull-requests, these are bigger and should only contain changes regarding the feature implemented bug/<branch name>: For bug fixes refactor/<branch name>: For repo improvements and refactoring in general

Requisites for a PR to be accepted

  • If it is a feature, it should follow what we think will help Yakuza go forward, this means truly useful features that will help more people, and not something that only helps your use case. ** We recommend creating a discussion about your idea before actually coding**
  • All tests must pass. Add tests to whatever you add to the framework (See testing guidelines below).
  • Merge conflicts should be fixed on your end.
  • Please note that your PR may be on discussion for a while, but don't worry: if it is heading the right way it will make it to the master branch.

JSDocs

JSDocs should be added for any new methods/classes you add to Yakuza.

Testing

To test Yakuza run the following command: npm test and make use all tests pass.

We use Mocha as our test runner and Chai as our assertion library.

We use ESLint as our linter.

Known Issues

  • Cookies with some special characters (like :) are not correctly parsed. This has to do with a bug in the needle package and a PR with the fix is currently waiting to be merged
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