Scraping the Top of the Barrel

Web Scraping from databases is an advanced area of research. In most cases web scraping is only the initial activity and must followed by manipulation of the scraped data to answer questions of the scrapers. The technique is definitely on the “Big Data” end of research. No single web scraping program that we are aware of is useful in every case. Different levels of scraping difficulty can be handled by different programs – from Excel to R and beyond. There will be more on the field in coming weeks. Meanwhile, an interesting introduction into web scraping can be found at http://www.kaasogmulvad.dk/en/2014/03/11-tips-for-scrapers-at-the-next-level/

Opposition Research…a Major Contributor

Opposition Research, the methodology that gains popularity in some circles during election cycles, is not one of the better-documented areas. There are excellent opposition researchers – they may also research their own candidates to see what might be employed against them – but while their results are obviously visible their techniques and methods seem to be tightly held. Larry Zillox’ fourth edition of “The Opposition Research Handbook” is an outlier in that respect. While there is no checklist that guarantees research success, this book provides a good look at the matrix of research areas that need to be covered when looking at individuals and the techniques that go with them. While the book’s title suggests it is a good read for politicos, it actually is an eye-opener for anyone doing research on individuals. With about 300 resources in approximately 150 pages it has become a valuable addition to The Research School library. Can any reader suggest other books or websites that might be valuable in opposition research?

Not Everything is Believable

Just because it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck is no reason to believe it is a duck. This week a webpage – made to look like a New York Times article down to typefaces, page design and even bylines – circulated on social media claiming a hold-out endorser had indeed, and finally, come down on the side of one of the presidential candidates. The phony article appeared originally on Clone Zone, a website that allows users to make “clones” that appear to be other, established sites. Analysts need to be aware of this site and the potential it poses for making false information look real. The article about the deception appears at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/01/us/fake-new-york-times-article-claims-elizabeth-warren-endorsed-bernie-sanders.html?mabReward=CTM&moduleDetail=recommendations-0&action=click&contentCollection=Politics&region=Footer&module=WhatsNext&version=WhatsNext&contentID=WhatsNext&src=recg&pgtype=article