A Genre-based Clustering Approach to Content Extraction

Gupta, Suhit; Becker, Hila; Kaiser, Gail E.; Stolfo, Salvatore

The content of a webpage is usually contained within a small body of text and images, or perhaps several articles on the same page; however, the content may be lost in the clutter (defined as cosmetic features such as animations, menus, sidebars, obtrusive banners). Automatic content extraction has many applications, including browsing on small cell phone and PDA screens, speech rendering for the visually impaired, and reducing noise for information retrieval systems. We have developed a framework, Crunch, which employs various heuristics for content extraction in the form of filters applied to the webpage's DOM tree; the filters aim to prune or transform the clutter, leaving only the content. Crunch allows users to tune what we call 'settings', consisting of thresholds for applying a particular filter and/or for toggling a filter on/off, because the HTML components that characterize clutter can vary significantly from website to website. However, we have found that the same settings tend to work well across different websites of the same genre, e.g., news or shopping, since the designers often employ similar page layouts. In particular, Crunch could obtain the settings for a previously unknown website by automatically classifying it as sufficiently similar to a cluster of known websites with previously adjusted settings. We present our approach to clustering a large corpus of websites into genres, using their pre-extraction textual material augmented by the snippets generated by searching for the website's domain name in web search engines. Including these snippets increases the frequency of function words needed for clustering. We use existing Manhattan distance measure and hierarchical clustering techniques, with some modifications, to pre-classify the corpus into genres offline. Our method does not require prior knowledge of the set of genres that websites fit into, but to be useful a priori settings must be available for some member of each cluster or a nearby cluster (otherwise defaults are used). Crunch classifies newly encountered websites online in linear-time, and then applies the corresponding filter settings, with no noticeable delay added by our content-extracting web proxy.



More About This Work

Academic Units
Computer Science
Department of Computer Science, Columbia University
Columbia University Computer Science Technical Reports, CUCS-044-05
Published Here
April 21, 2011