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To install portia_porter:

pip install portia2code


The purpose of this project is to give more options to users of Portia and Scrapy.

In some cases when a spider is created with Portia it doesn't extract the data correctly or some custom logic is needed to join different pages together. This project allows you to get around those issues by converting spiders from the JSON format used by Portia to Scrapy spiders written in Python. With the Python code it can allow users to create their own custom logic for extracting data.

For scrapy users it can give you the ability to bootstrap a spider using Portia. Rather than going to a site in your browser and manually finding the CSS/XPath selectors you can use the Portia tool to do that work for you and export the spider as python code ready to be customised.

Port your project

Once You have installed the tool you can port your project using the command:

portia_porter PROJECT_DIR OUT_DIR

You can download your portia project as python using

curl https://portia/api/projects/$PROJECT_ID/download?format=code

How it works

Spiders built with Portia consist of JSON definitions of which urls a spider should crawl and how it should extract data from the data at those urls. When running these spiders the JSON definitions are compiled into a custom Scrapy spider with trained samples used for extraction. The trained samples are used with the scrapely library to extract data from similar pages. To build one of these trained samples an annotated page must be passed to scrapely so it knows what data to extract. In older versions of Portia these annotations were found in the page by adding an attribute to each element called data-tagid=N where N is a unique incrementing integer for each open or self closing tag on the page. Newer versions of Portia have changed this and now use unique selectors for each annotated element on the page. Using these unique selectors we are able to build an extraction tree that can use item loaders on a page to extract the annotated data.

Customising Your Spiders

If you want to change the functionality you can do so as you would with any other scrapy spider. The spiders produced by Portia2Code are a custom scrapy.CrawlSpider, the code for which is included in the downloaded project.

The example below demonstrates how to make an additional API request to a metrics site when there is a meta property with the name metrics on the page.

In the example the extended spider is separated out from the original spider, this is just to demonstrate the changes that you need to make when modifying the spider. In practice you would make changes to the spider in the same class.
from scrapy.linkextractors import LinkExtractor
from scrapy.spiders import Rule

from ..utils.spiders import BasePortiaSpider
from ..utils.processors import Field
from ..utils.processors import Item
from ..items import ArticleItem

class ExampleCom(BasePortiaSpider):
    name = ""
    start_urls = [u'']
    allowed_domains = [u'']
    rules = [
        Rule(LinkExtractor(allow=(ur'\d{6}'), deny=()), callback='parse_item',
    items = [
        [Item(ArticleItem, None, u'#content', [
              Field(u'title', u'.page_title *::text', []),
              Field(u'Article', u'.article *::text', []),
              Field(u'published', u'.date *::text', []),
              Field(u'Authors', u'.authors *::text', []),
              Field(u'pdf', u'#pdf-link::attr(href)', [])])]

import json
from scrapy import Request
from six.moves.urllib.parse import urljoin

class ExtendedExampleCom(ExampleCom):
    base_api_url = ''
    allowed_domains = [u'', u'']

    def parse_item(self, response):
        for item in super(ExtendedExampleCom, self).parse_item(response):
            score = response.css('meta[name="metrics"]::attr(content)')
            if score:
                yield Request(
                    url=urljoin(self.base_api_url, score.extract()[0]),
                    callback=self.add_score, meta={'item': item})
                yield item

    def add_score(self, response):
        item = response.meta['item']
        item['score'] = json.loads(response.body)['score']
        return item

What's happening here?

Here is an example meta tag <meta name="metrics" content="area/1234"> on this site. The content attribute needs to be joined with a base_api_url to produce the full url where the metrics are hosted.

The base_api_url is hosted at a different domain to the rest of the site so we need to add the domain to allowed_domains so that it doesn't get filtered by the offsite middleware.

Since the goal here is to add an additional field to the items that are extracted from the definitons the first step is to overwrite the parse_item function for this class. The most important part of this is to loop over the parse_item function in the superclass, for item in super(ClassName, self).parse_item(response):. After this the custom logic is added. First, checking if the meta property metrics is present. If it is present then another request is sent with the current item stored in the request meta, after the request is resolved the score property is added to the item in the add_score method from the json response and the item is returned. If the property is not present then the item itself is returned.

The parse_item method uses the items definitions to extract data from the response. The parse_item function from BasePortiaSpider only outputs scrapy.Item items so you don't need to handle scrapy.Request or other types of items when calling the function.

This pattern is quite common in spiders built with Portia. There are some pages where to get some data like this the page would need to be loaded in Splash which will greatly increase the time it takes to crawl a site. Using this approach the additional data can be received using a single small request rather than needing to load all additional javascript and CSS just to have this data stored in the page.

Missing Features

Some features from Portia are still not available though this porting mechanism but will hopefully be added in the future:

  • Load pages using Splash depending on crawl rules
  • Follow links automatically
  • Text data extractors (annotations generated by highlighting text)

Future Improvements

  • Only Portia 2.0 spiders are supported for now but we will be adding support for Portia 1.0 spiders.