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Title: Multi agent system for web database processing, on data extraction from online social networks
Author: Abdulrahman, Ruqayya
ISNI:       0000 0004 2731 0041
Awarding Body: University of Bradford
Current Institution: University of Bradford
Date of Award: 2012
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In recent years, there has been a flood of continuously changing information from a variety of web resources such as web databases, web sites, web services and programs. Online Social Networks (OSNs) represent such a field where huge amounts of information are being posted online over time. Due to the nature of OSNs, which offer a productive source for qualitative and quantitative personal information, researchers from various disciplines contribute to developing methods for extracting data from OSNs. However, there is limited research which addresses extracting data automatically. To the best of the author's knowledge, there is no research which focuses on tracking the real time changes of information retrieved from OSN profiles over time and this motivated the present work. This thesis presents different approaches for automated Data Extraction (DE) from OSN: crawler, parser, Multi Agent System (MAS) and Application Programming Interface (API). Initially, a parser was implemented as a centralized system to traverse the OSN graph and extract the profile's attributes and list of friends from Myspace, the top OSN at that time, by parsing the Myspace profiles and extracting the relevant tokens from the parsed HTML source files. A Breadth First Search (BFS) algorithm was used to travel across the generated OSN friendship graph in order to select the next profile for parsing. The approach was implemented and tested on two types of friends: top friends and all friends. In case of top friends, 500 seed profiles have been visited; 298 public profiles were parsed to get 2197 top friends' profiles and 2747 friendship edges, while in case of all friends, 250 public profiles have been parsed to extract 10,196 friends' profiles and 17,223 friendship edges. This approach has two main limitations. The system is designed as a centralized system that controlled and retrieved information of each user's profile just once. This means that the extraction process will stop if the system fails to process one of the profiles; either the seed profile (first profile to be crawled) or its friends. To overcome this problem, an Online Social Network Retrieval System (OSNRS) is proposed to decentralize the DE process from OSN through using MAS. The novelty of OSNRS is its ability to monitor profiles continuously over time. The second challenge is that the parser had to be modified to cope with changes in the profiles' structure. To overcome this problem, the proposed OSNRS is improved through use of an API tool to enable OSNRS agents to obtain the required fields of an OSN profile despite modifications in the representation of the profile's source web pages. The experimental work shows that using API and MAS simplifies and speeds up the process of tracking a profile's history. It also helps security personnel, parents, guardians, social workers and marketers in understanding the dynamic behaviour of OSN users. This thesis proposes solutions for web database processing on data extraction from OSNs by the use of parser and MAS and discusses the limitations and improvements.
Supervisor: Neagu, Daniel C.; Holton, David R. W.; Awan, Irfan U. Sponsor: Taibah University
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Data extraction ; Online social network ; Agent ; Formal specification ; Multi agent system (MAS) ; Application programming interface (API) ; Web database processing