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linguacrawl

linguacrawl is a tool implemented in Python3 that allows to crawl a number of top-level domains to download any text documents in the languages specified by the user. The objective of this tool is to get as much data of interest in the minimum time possible. To achieve this, a scout strategy is adopted to stop crawling web hosts that are not productive enough. The user can specify which are the languages of interest and a number of documents to be downloaded. After downloading this number of documents, the amount of data in the targeted languages is checked and if the criteria set by the user are not fulfilled, the web host is discarded for crawling.

Another interesting feature of linguacrawl as regards performance is that it is implemented following a provider-consumer architecture. When crawling a website, it is important to keep a waiting time between consecutive requests to avoid causing trouble in the host server of the website. This means that the crawler may be inactive for some between requests. Since linguacrawl targets top-level domains, many websites can be crawled at the same time. Using a provider-consumer architecture allows to spend the waiting time between requests to a website in downloading documents from other sites. In this way, as the crawler discovers new web hosts to be crawled it becomes more and more productive (until reaching the limits set by the user).

Installation and usage

To install linguacrawl first clone the code from the repository:

git clone https://github.com/transducens/linguacrawl.git

then, get into the downloaded directory and install the dependencies by running:

cd linguacrawl
pip3 install -r requirements.txt

Finally, use pip3 again to install the tool:

pip3 install .

In order to run the tool, just run the command followed by the path to the configuration file:

linguacrawl /home/user/config.yaml

Note that there is a sample configuration file in the directory config; it can be adapted for any specific crawling project. The following section describes all the options that can be included in the configuration file.

Configuration

To use linguacrawl, we need to prepare a configuration file. This configuration file must be in yaml format and will contain different options related to the crawling process, the targeted contents, etc. This section describes all the options that can be included in the configuration file.

Basic options

These are general options that are related the basic aspects of configuration of the tool and the crawling task to be carried out.

seed_urls and seed_urls_from_file

seed_urls is a list of seed URLs from which to start crawling. The larger this list, the faster the process of crawling new data. During crawling, linguacrawl discovers new websites to be visited by looking for new URLs in the documents available from the seed ULRs. If only one seed URL is set, this process of discovering new sites o visit will be slower (or even could not be possible, if the seed website do not contain links to other sites in the accepted TLDs). Therefore, it is advisable to add as many different URLs to the list as possible. An example:

seed_urls: ['https://www.ffff.es/', 'https://www.dddd.cat/']

If this list is too large, the alternative seed_urls_from_file option is provided. This option allows to define the path to a text file that contains the list of seed URLs (one URL per line):

seed_urls_from_file: '/home/user/my_seed_urls.txt'

langs_of_interest

Option langs_of_interest is a mandatory option, and allows to specify the code of the languages of interest of the crawl. If we are interested in crawling every document in English, Spanish and Catalan, we will set this option to the following list:

langs_of_interest: ['en','es','ca']`

accepted_tlds

Option accepted_tlds allows to define the list of top-level domains (TLDs) accepted during crawling. This means that any websites in a different TLD will not be visited. For example, if we want to constraint our crawling to the .cat and .es TLDs, we can set this option to:

accepted_tlds: ['es','cat']

accepted_content

Option accepted_content allows to specify the type of content accepted. By default, this option is set to (text/html):

accepted_content: '(text/html)'

output_dir

Option output_dir is a mandatory option, and allows to define the output dir where the files produced during crawling will be stored, for example:

output_dir: '/home/user/crawl_output'

Three files may be created for every web host visited:

  • one or more files with extension .warc.gz containing all the documents downloaded in WARC format,
  • a file with extension .state that contains the internal state of the crawler when crawling is stopped, to allow resuming the crawl at some point in the future, and
  • a file with extension .bitextor.gz that consists of a TSV list of fields: URL, language code, HTML and text extracted with the library html2text; some of these fields can be used by the tool Bitextor to try to identify parallel data. In the near future, this tool will prove a script to transform these fields into the format expected by Bitextor.

verbose

If verbose is set to false, only errors will be reported through stderr; if it is set to true, much more information will be provided about the process (be careful, this information could be huge if many parallel jobs are run in parallel). For example:

verbose: False

max_jobs

Option max_jobs allows to determine how many crawling processes can be run in parallel. This value will be defined according to the computational resources of the machine were the tool is used. For example, in a machine with 12 threads, this option can be set to 12:

max_jobs: 12

resume_crawling

If this option is set to true, the crawling tool will look for the file with extension .state for every new web host to be visited. If this file exists, it will load the previous state of the crawler for it and will only visit pages that have not been visited before. As regards the WARC file produced, a new file will be created every time the crawling is resumed. New files will be named with extension .1.warc.gz, .2.warc.gz, etc. The same applies for files with extension .bitextor.gz. To activate resuming, set the option as follows:

resume_crawling: True

Web crawler configuration

Options to configure the behaviour of the crawling robot/s used.

user_agent

Option user_agent is a mandatory option, and allows to specify the user agent for the crawler launched. The user agent is an important information provided to web servers at the time of requesting access to a page. This allows servers to limit access to contents through robots.txt. For example, we could set Google's bot user agent string by seting this option to the following string:

user_agent: 'Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)'

crawl_delay

crawl_delay option allows to specify the delay (in seconds) between consecutive requests to a web domain. This delay only affects to requests to the same web domain and is aimed at preventing to hinder the web servers that host the website. The default value for this property is 3 seconds, but it can be modified by seting the option in the configuration file, for example:

crawl_delay: 5

max_time_per_site

max_time_per_site option allows to specify the maximum crawling time (in seconds) devoted to a single web domain. When this time is reached, crawling is stopped for this web site. For example, if we want to stop crawling a site after 24 hours, we can set the option:

max_time_per_site: 5184000

connection_timeout

connection_timeout allows to set the connection time out (in seconds) for a given web server. For example, to set this variable to 10 seconds:

connection_timeout: 10

prefix_filter

With option prefix_filter, one can automatically discard links that start with a specified prefix. This option accepts a list of prefixes that can be defined as a regular expression. For example, to avoid adding links to e-mails, we could set the following option:

prefix_filter: ['mailto:']

max_folder_tree_depth

Option max_folder_tree_depth allows to set te maximum folder depth for a URL to be taken into account. Defining this option helps to avoid falling in loops that keep concatenating a string to a URL (in this case, a string that corresponds to a folder). For example, to set this option to 20, use:

max_folder_tree_depth: 20

max_attempts

Option max_attempts allows to define the maximum number of attempts to visit a web page. If it is not possible to download a page after the maximum number of attempts, it is discarded. For example, to set this option to three attempts, use:

max_attempts: 3

url_blacklist

Option url_blacklist allows to specify a list of web domains that will not be taken into account. The following could be an example of web domains that we may want to discard in our crawling:

url_blacklist: ['wordpress','blogspot','facebook','google','wikipedia','youtube','perehodi','twitter','instagram']

Note that, by defining a web domain, for example google, we are discarding web hosts such as www.google.com, www.google.cat, mail.google.com, etc.

Language scout options

One of the most relevant features of linguacrawl is that it is designed to get language-specific text data from the Internet. In order to make crawling as productive as possible, it implements a scout strategy that stops crawling a web host if, after downloading a given number of documents, no enough useful data has been downloaded. The following options allow the user to configure this scouting method.

scout_steps

Option scout_steps determines the number of pages to be downloaded from a web page before the scouting criterion is evaluated. After this is done, the web host may be discarded (crawling will be stopped on this site) or accepted to keep crawling, but the scout criterion will not be evaluated again. Example:

scout_steps: 200

min_langs_in_site

Option min_langs_in_site is used by the scout criterion. If we are interested in identifying websites with multilingual content and we have defined a list of languages for option langs_of_interest, we can specify the minimum number of those languages that need to appear in a web host to be accepted by the scout criterion. For example, we could set that English, Spanish and Catalan are our languages of interest, and specify that at least two of them have to appear in a web host to consider it useful:

min_langs_in_site: 2

mandatory_lang

Option mandatory_lang is related to the previous option min_langs_in_site, and allows to specify a language that is that is required to appear in a web host in order to be considered useful by the scout criterion. When running a multilingual crawling, we may be mostly interested in one of the languages. Following the previous example, if we are crawling English, Spanish and Catalan data, we may be mostly interested in Catalan (for example, if we plan to build Catalan-English and Catalan-Spanish parallel corpora). In that case, we would define the option as follows:

mandatory_lang: 'ca'

min_percent_mandatory_lang

Option min_percent_mandatory_lang is related to the previous option mandatory_lang and allows to define the expected percentage of documents in the mandatory language at the moment of evaluating the scout criterion. For example, we can specify that, at least, 10% of the documents downloaded from a web host need to be in the mandatory language to be considered a useful web host:

min_percent_mandatory_lang: 10

License

This software has been released un GPL3 license.

Acknowledgements

Developed by Universitat d'Alacant as part of its contribution to the GoURMET project, which received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 825299.

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