WWW2008 Refereed Papers - WWW 2008: Refereed Papers
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Refereed Papers

Track: Search: Crawlers

Paper Title:
iRobot: An Intelligent Crawler for Web Forums


  • Rui Cai(Microsoft Research, Asia)
  • Jiang-Ming Yang(Microsoft Research, Asia)
  • Wei Lai(Microsoft Research, Asia)
  • Yida Wang(Microsoft Research, Asia)
  • Lei Zhang(Microsoft Research, Asia)

We study in this paper the Web forum crawling problem, which is a very fundamental step in many Web applications, such as search engine and Web data mining. As a typical user-created content (UCC), Web forum has become an important resource on the Web due to its rich information contributed by millions of Internet users every day. However, Web forum crawling is not a trivial problem due to the in-depth link structures, the large amount of duplicate pages, as well as many invalid pages caused by login failure issues. In this paper, we propose and build a prototype of an intelligent forum crawler, iRobot, which has intelligence to understand the content and the structure of a forum site, and then decide how to choose traversal paths among different kinds of pages. To do this, we first randomly sample (download) a few pages from the target forum site, and introduce the page content layout as the characteristics to group those pre-sampled pages and re-construct the forum's sitemap. After that, we select an optimal crawling path which only traverses informative pages and skips invalid and duplicate ones. The extensive experimental results on several forums show the performance of our system in the following aspects: 1) Effectiveness – Compared to a generic crawler, iRobot significantly decreases the duplicate and invalid pages; 2) Efficiency – With a small cost of pre-sampling a few pages for learning the necessary knowledge, iRobot saves substantial network bandwidth and storage as it only fetches informative pages from a forum site; and 3) Long threads that are divided into multiple pages can be re-concatenated and archived as a whole thread, which is of great help for further indexing and data mining.

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