Web Scraping with Elixir & ChatGPT

Sep 25, 2023 ยท 3 min read

Elixir is a great language for web scraping thanks to its functional programming, concurrency support and robust libraries. ChatGPT is an AI assistant that can provide explanations and generate code for scraping tasks. This article covers web scraping in Elixir with help from ChatGPT.

Setting Up Elixir for Web Scraping

You'll need Elixir installed along with these libraries:

# HTTPoison for HTTP requests
{:httpoison, "~> 1.8"}

# Floki for HTML parsing
{:floki, "~> 0.10.0"}

# CSV for CSV parsing
{:csv, "~> 2.4"}

Introduction to Web Scraping in Elixir

Web scraping involves sending HTTP requests to websites and extracting data from the HTML, JSON or XML responses. Useful Elixir libraries:

  • HTTPoison - Making HTTP requests
  • Floki - HTML parsing and traversal
  • Scrapyx - High-level web scraping framework
  • Typical web scraping workflow:

  • Send HTTP request to download a page
  • Parse response and extract relevant data
  • Store scraped data
  • Repeat for other pages
  • Using ChatGPT for Web Scraping Help

    ChatGPT is an AI assistant created by Anthropic to be helpful, harmless, and honest. It can provide explanations and generate code snippets for web scraping:

    Getting Explanations

    Ask ChatGPT to explain web scraping concepts or specifics:

  • How to use Floki to extract text from paragraph tags
  • Strategies for scraping content spread across pagination
  • Generating Code Snippets

    Give a description of what you want to scrape and have ChatGPT provide starter Elixir code:

  • Scrape product listings into a CSV file
  • Parse date strings into DateTime when extracting
  • Validate any code before using.

    Improving Prompts

    Ask ChatGPT to suggest ways to improve your prompt if it doesn't provide helpful responses.

    Asking Follow-up Questions

    Chat with ChatGPT to get explanations for any other questions you have.

    Explaining Errors

    Share any errors and ask ChatGPT to debug and explain the problem.

    Web Scraping Example Using ChatGPT

    Let's walk through scraping a Wikipedia page with ChatGPT's assistance.

    Goal

    Extract the chronology table from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_the_universe

    Step 1: Download page

    ChatGPT: Elixir code to download this page:
    <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_the_universe>
    
    # ChatGPT provides this code
    response = HTTPoison.get!("<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_the_universe>")
    

    Step 2: Inspect HTML, table has class wikitable

    Step 3: Extract table data to CSV

    ChatGPT: Elixir code to extract wikitable table to CSV
    
    # ChatGPT provides this code
    html = response.body
    
    table = Floki.find(html, "table.wikitable") |> Floki.parse_fragment()
    
    headers = table |> Floki.find("thead th") |> Enum.map(&Floki.text/1)
    
    rows = table |> Floki.find("tbody tr") |> Enum.map(fn row ->
      row |> Floki.find("td") |> Enum.map(&Floki.text/1)
    end)
    
    # Write rows to CSV
    

    This shows using ChatGPT to get Elixir scraping code quickly.

    Conclusion

    Key points:

  • Elixir provides functional, concurrent web scraping
  • ChatGPT can explain concepts and provide Elixir code
  • Inspect HTML to understand how to extract data
  • Follow best practices like throttling requests, randomizing user agents
  • Web scraping allows gathering data from websites at scale with Elixir
  • ChatGPT + Elixir is great for creating web scrapers.

    However, some limitations:

  • Handling anti-scraping measures like CAPTCHAs
  • Avoiding IP blocks when running locally
  • Rendering complex JavaScript pages
  • A more robust solution is using a web scraping API like Proxies API

    Proxies API provides:

  • Millions of proxy IPs to prevent blocks
  • Automated solving of CAPTCHAs
  • JavaScript rendering with headless browsing
  • Simple API instead of running your own scrapers
  • Easily scrape any site:

    response = HTTPoison.get!("<https://api.proxiesapi.com/?url=example.com&key=XXX>")
    

    Get started now with 1000 free API calls to supercharge your web scraping!

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