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Lets say I have such a data in somewhere on my computer:


It is a .txt file and has the value above. I want to say:

I scraped some of the data and wrote it on the screen, the result is :


I am wondering if the usage of "scrape" is correct in this context? Does it sound similar to "pull data from" ? Or what can I use instead of "scrape" if it sounds wrong here?

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How about copy and paste? – Daniel Sep 30 '11 at 17:52
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The sense of scrape you're thinking of involves extracting text or other data from an object that doesn't provide an API for direct extraction, like a Web page. It is a poor choice in this context for two reasons:

  1. It's a colloquial term that's only used by developers and other technical readers, so most nontechnical readers wouldn't understand it at all.
  2. "Scrape" usually implies that the extraction is being done by an automated tool. If you are doing it yourself "by hand," you would want to use a different word.

Excerpt would be a better word to use:

1 : to select (a passage) for quoting : extract

So you would say "I excerpted some of the data and wrote it on the screen".

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If the file is being interpreted programmatically rather than excerpted by hand, "read" might also be appropriate, as in, "With this piece of code, I read the data and wrote some of it to the screen." – aedia λ Sep 30 '11 at 16:50
I feel that excerpt is used far more commonly as a noun than a verb, and may seem strange to some users as a verb. I think in this case extract is a excellent solution – yoozer8 Sep 30 '11 at 16:57
@Jim - interestingly, the use of excerpt as a verb predates its use as a noun by more than 100 years, according to the OED—which is not particularly surprising, as the word is derived from the Latin verb excerpere, "to pluck out". – phenry Sep 30 '11 at 17:04
@phenny - I suspected that would be the case. – yoozer8 Sep 30 '11 at 17:16

The relatively new expression data scraping means using software to interpret/select usable information from a "data source" that's not primarily meant to be used in that way. For example, decoding a screen display or email text that's actually intended to be read by human eyes.

Doubtless plenty of people do such things for acceptable reasons, but I personally associate data scraping with spyware and other invasions of privacy, so I'd advise OP not to use the term.

OP could extract or select some characters from his text file. Normally one would parse the text to some extent, to decide which characters to select. In this context, parsing means attempting to analyse the text so you've got some idea which parts are greetings,names,etc. (and which are bank account numbers, if you have evil intentions).

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I associate it with legitimate but hacky programming/coding -- e.g., getting data from a screen-scrape of a vendor website because the vendor fails to provide an API to automate something. – jbelacqua Sep 30 '11 at 18:10

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