Snake Charming – coding for plebs

Posted: March 21, 2011 in My Data Journey
Tags: , , ,

The web has two faces. One it shows to programmers, the other to us mere mortals. As a source, the face it shows to programmers is so much more revealing. In this way, I’m trying first to understand the language of the web before I can scrape it.

Now scraping is a lot harder than actually building a web page so I need to get my head around the nuts and bolts. Coding looks scary and without having studied it at university it’s hard to know where to start. So here’s what I’ve found:

W3schools is a brilliant online resource that even advanced programmers refer to. It covers HTML, XHTML, CSS, Javascript, JQuery, SQL, and PHP. Basically all you need to know to build the web face mortals see. To scrape a site you need to know how it was constructed. You can pick apart a site’s recipe in Chrome or by using Firebug. So going through the tutorials on this site will help you understand what’s cooking. You don’t need to make anything yourself although if you want to build a view in ScraperWiki the HTML is useful for creating tables and the SQL for using the SQLite view.

I’m aware that plebs don’t use command consoles and I don’t plan on needing to. I worry about making my computer angry. I like to use stuff on the web so that I don’t break my shit. So here’s a console and tutorial for writing Python.

This is really helpful and the console can be used to play with Python without having to install it. You can use it to try out this Python tutorial and then build up your skills by using the Python documentation. A more learner friendly version is Dive onto Python. I find this very programmey but by playing around on ScraperWiki I will hopefully be able to get through all I need to become a killer data journalist. Whatever happens, I’ll let you know.


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