It’s just data

Parsing Atom with Erlang

A simple program for parsing memes.atom.  Below is an annotated version.


Define a module named memes that exports a single function named scan which takes zero parameters.  Include the headers for xmerl, a library for processing XML.

memes_url() ->

Define a simple function that returns a constant string.  Some people prefer to use macros for things like this.

scan() ->
  { ok, {_Status, _Headers, Body }} = http:request(memes_url()),
  { Xml, _Rest } = xmerl_scan:string(Body),

Main program

format_entries([]) -> done;
format_entries([Node|Rest]) ->
  [ #xmlText{value=Title} ] = xmerl_xpath:string("title/text()", Node),
  [ #xmlAttribute{value=Link} ] = xmerl_xpath:string("link/@href", Node),
  Message = xmerl:export_simple_content([{a,[{href,Link}],[Title]}],xmerl_xml),
  io:format('~s~n', [xmerl_ucs:to_utf8(Message)]),

In lieu of looping constructs, Erlang programs tend to use sequential logic and pattern matching.

Clearly dumping XHTML fragments to stdout isn’t ideal (perhaps XHTML-IM instead?), and you wouldn’t want to dump every meme on every run, but those are problems for another day.

[from jaredhanson] Sam Ruby: Parsing Atom with Erlang


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Sam Ruby: Parsing Atom with Erlang

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Hey, Sam - just browsing about, and noticed your “http” link here ("fetch the memes_url() using...") actually points to “httpd.html”.  Thanks for all the Erlang experimentation. :)

Posted by Glen at

Fixed.  Thanks!

Posted by Sam Ruby at

This code is a bit less robust than one might like in practice.

a) http:request can fail, so you probably want a case statement to deal with errors

b) xmerl_xpath:string sometimes returns a list of multiple text nodes (for example when an entity is contained in the text, don’t ask me why), and when it does the pattern match will fail.

If you want to use this in a long-running process, both of these need to be dealt with one way or another.

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