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FetLife Export - Technical Documentation

The FetLife Export suite requires Perl (5.10.1 or later). If you want to install it on a website so others can use your copy, it also requires PHP (version 5.2 or later) and the Apache web server running on a UNIX-like operating system. For all features to work out-of-the-box, you’ll need to install the suite into and run it from its own domain or subdomain.

If you’re on a shared host, you may wish to compile your own Perl to do this, although in the vast majority of cases, you can probably skip directly to installing requred CPAN modules. Following are step-by-step instructions for installing from source.

Installing from Source

Installing from source is the most reliable way to ensure everything is functional. It also may be required if your system lacks the necessary prerequisites for running

Installing Perl

tar -xvzf perl-5.14.2.tar.gz
cd perl-5.14.2
make test # This is optional, but a good check. :)
make install

Installing required CPAN Modules

Most systems will have the modules you need. However, if you experience errors running, you may also want to install all the required components yourself. To do this, run the following commands after you’ve installed your Perl:

cpan App::cpanminus
cpanm WWW::Mechanize
cpanm HTML::TreeBuilder
cpanm String::Escape
cpanm Unicode::Escape
cpanm LWP::Protocol::socks # Optional. Only needed if you'll use a SOCKS proxy.

Configure the tool

  • Edit the shebang line in to point to the perl you want to use.
  • Make sure the script is executable by running chmod u+x


Once installed, you can use the tool from a command line by invoking it as follows:

./ username

Obviously, replace username with your username. If your username begins with a hyphen (-), preface your username with two dashes and a space (--). For instance, if your username is -username, then invoke the tool with a command as follows:

./ -- -username

You’ll be prompted for a password. If you supply a valid password, running the program will give you some output that looks something like the following example:

$ ./ fetfails
userID: 959391
Loading profile: .
Loading conversations: . 2 conversations found.
Loading wall: . 0 wall-to-walls found.
Loading activity feed: ... 9 statuses found.
2 pictures found.
1 writing found.
0 group threads found.
Downloading 9 statuses...
Downloading 2 pictures...
Downloading 1 posts...

You can optionally direct to make requests through a proxy, such as Privoxy or Tor.

./ --proxy= fetfails # Use an open HTTP proxy.
./ --proxy=socks://localhost:9050 fetfails # Use a local SOCKS proxy, like Tor.

The Web portion of the suite is mostly a simple wrapper around this command-line tool that provides an HTML interface to its options.

Additional command line arguments allow you to set an output directory as well as declaring an alternate export target (a user account to export other than your own). For example, to log in to FetLife as fetfails but to archive the activity of the FetLife user whose ID is 1 (JohnBaku) in a directory named my-archive-folder, invoke as follows:

./ fetfails my-archive-folder 1

(This works because JohnBaku's FetLife user ID number is 1. To find a FetLife user ID, look at the URL of their FetLife profile URL. The trailing numeric part of their profile URL is their user ID number.)

Configuring the optional Web utility

Default options are provided in several files. To use them, simply run the following commands on your web server:

cp htaccess-default .htaccess


If you’re running PHP as a CGI or FastCGI, such as by using mod_fcgi, you may begin to frequently experience an “Internal Server Error” if a user with a large FetLife history attempts an export. This may appear in your Apache error log as “Premature end of script headers.” To resolve this, try setting the various timeouts, such as the FcgidIOTimeout directive, to high values in your server config:

<IfModule mod_fcgid.c>
# Set a high timeout for large FetLife export calls.
# This may help avoid 500 Internal Server Errors.
# 3600 seconds = 1 hour
FcgidIdleTimeout 3600
FcgidIOTimeout 3600

After you edit your server config file, remember to restart the web server, or at least reload the config file so the changes take effect:

/etc/init.d/httpd2 reload

See also Apache mod_fcgid read data timeout error.

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