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Hack 41. Scrape Yahoo! Buzz for a Google Search

A proof-of-concept hack scrapes the buzziest items from Yahoo! Buzz and submits them to a Google search.

No web site is an island. Billions of hyperlinks link to billions of documents. Sometimes, however, you want to take information from one site and apply it to another site.

Unless that site has a web service API like Google's, your best bet is scraping. Scraping is where you use an automated program to remove specific bits of information from a web page. Examples of the sorts of elements people scrape include stock quotes, news headlines, prices, and so forth. You name it and someone's probably scraped it.

There's some controversy about scraping. Some sites don't mind it, while others can't stand it. If you decide to scrape a site, do it gently; take the minimum amount of information you need and, whatever you do, don't hog the scrapee's bandwidth.

So, what are we scraping?

Google has a query popularity page called Google Zeitgeist ( Unfortunately, the Zeitgeist is updated only once a week and contains only a limited amount of scrapable data. That's where Yahoo! Buzz ( comes in. The site is rich with constantly updated information. Its Buzz Index keeps tabs on what's hot in popular culture: celebs, games, movies, television shows, music, and more.

This hack grabs the buzziest of the buzz, the top of the Leaderboard, and searches Google for all it knows on the subject. And to keep things current, only pages indexed by Google within the past few days [Hack #16] are considered.

This hack requires additional Perl modules: Time::JulianDay ( and LWP::Simple ( It won't run without them.

2.23.1. The Code

Save the following code to a plain text file named



# Pull the top item from the Yahoo! Buzz Index and query the last

# three day's worth of Google's index for it.

# Usage: perl


# Your Google API developer's key.

my $google_key='insert key here';


# Location of the GoogleSearch WSDL file.

my $google_wdsl = "./GoogleSearch.wsdl";


# Number of days back to go in the Google index.

my $days_back = 3;


use strict;


use SOAP::Lite;

use LWP::Simple;

use Time::JulianDay;


# Scrape the top item from the Yahoo! Buzz Index.


# Grab a copy of


my $buzz_content = get("") 

  or die "Couldn't grab the Yahoo Buzz: $!";


# Find the first item on the Buzz Index list.

my($buzziest) =  $buzz_content =~ m!\?p=.+">(.+?)<\/a>!i;

die "Couldn't figure out the Yahoo! buzz\n" unless $buzziest;


# Figure out today's Julian date.

my $today = int local_julian_day(time);


# Build the Google query.

my $query = "\"$buzziest\" daterange:" . ($today - $days_back) . "-$today"; 



  "The buzziest item on Yahoo Buzz today is: $buzziest\n",

  "Querying Google for: $query\n",



# Create a new SOAP::Lite instance, feeding it GoogleSearch.wsdl.

my $google_search = SOAP::Lite->service("file:$google_wdsl");


# Query Google.

my $results = $google_search -> 


      $google_key, $query, 0, 10, "false", "",  "false",

      "", "latin1", "latin1"



# No results?

@{$results->{resultElements}} or die "No results";


# Loop through the results.

foreach my $result (@{$results->{'resultElements'}}) {

 my $output = 

  join "\n",  

  $result->{title} || "no title",


  $result->{snippet} || 'no snippet',


    $output =~ s!<.+?>!!g; # drop all HTML tags

    print $output;


2.23.2. Running the Hack

The script runs from the command line ["How to Run the Hacks" in the Preface] without need of arguments of any kind. Probably the best thing to do is to direct the output to a pager (a command-line application that allows you to page through long output, usually by hitting the spacebar), like so:

% perl | more

Or you can direct the output to a file for later perusal:

% perl > buzzgle.txt

As with all scraping applications, this code is fragile, subject to breakage if (read: when) HTML formatting of the Yahoo! Buzz page changes. If you find you have to adjust to match Yahoo!'s formatting, you'll have to alter the regular expression match as appropriate:

my($buzziest) =  $buzz_content =~ m!\?p=.+">(.+?)<\/a>!i;

Regular expressions and general HTML scraping are beyond the scope of this book. For more information, I suggest you consult O'Reilly's Perl and LWP ( or Mastering Regular Expressions (

2.23.3. The Results

At the time of this writing, Maria Sharapova, the Russian tennis star, is all the rage:

% perl | less

The buzziest item on Yahoo Buzz today is: Maria Sharapova

Querying Google for: "Maria Sharapova" daterange:2453292-2453295


Maria Sharapova

everything about Maria Sharapova: photos, interviews, articles, statistics, results and 

much more! ... Maria Sharapova: 2004 Tokyo Champion! ...  

Maria Sharapova

everything about Maria Sharapova: photos, interviews, articles, statistics, results and 


Maria Sharapova Picture Page

Maria Sharapova Picture Page. Country: Russia. Date of Birth: April 19, 1987. Place of 

Birth: Nyagan, Russia. Residence: Bradenton, Florida USA. Height: 1.83 metres ...

2.23.4. Hacking the Hack

Here are some ideas for hacking the hack:

  • As it stands, the program returns 10 results. You could change that to one result and immediately open that result instead of returning a list. Bravo, you've just written I'm Feeling Popular, as in Google's I'm Feeling Lucky.

  • This version of the program searches the last three days of indexed pages. Because there's a slight lag in indexing news stories, I would index at least the last two days' worth of indexed pages, but you could extend it to seven days or even a month. Simply change my $days_back = 3;, altering the value of the $days_back variable.

  • You could create a "Buzz Effect" hack by running the Yahoo! Buzz query with and without the date range limitation. How do the results change between a full search and a search of the last few days?

  • Yahoo!'s Buzz has several different sections. This one looks at the Buzz summary, but you could create other ones based on Yahoo!'s other buzz charts (television,, for instance).

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