Harvest -- An Open Source Toolkit for Extracting Posts and Post Metadata from Web Forums

Albert Weichselbraun, Adrian M. P. Brasoveanu, Roger Waldvogel, Fabian Odoni

Automatic extraction of forum posts and metadata is a crucial but challenging task since forums do not expose their content in a standardized structure. Content extraction methods, therefore, often need customizations such as adaptations to page templates and improvements of their extraction code before they can be deployed to new forums. Most of the current solutions are also built for the more general case of content extraction from web pages and lack key features important for understanding forum content such as the identification of author metadata and information on the thread structure. This paper, therefore, presents a method that determines the XPath of forum posts, eliminating incorrect mergers and splits of the extracted posts that were common in systems from the previous generation. Based on the individual posts further metadata such as authors, forum URL and structure are extracted. We also introduce Harvest, a new open source toolkit that implements the presented methods and create a gold standard extracted from 52 different Web forums for evaluating our approach. A comprehensive evaluation reveals that Harvest clearly outperforms competing systems.

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