What you can do with a “right-click”

You can often find good data from a website if you use a right-click.

Here is a quick example, below is a screenshot of a people-searching website. The results from a name search show that the website knows the person’s Facebook account, but you may have to pay for this info.

Instead, you can just right-click on the “Facebook” button and choose “inspect”

Now we see the publicly accessible coding that exists behind the website’s front facing page. A window pops up below showing the site’s coding and if we hover our cursor over a part of the code, we see that the corresponding part of the website will be highlighted so that we know what we are looking at. So you cannot see my cursor, but it is hovering over the highlighed part of the coding text that includes the word “Facebook” and now you see that this is the part of the code that tells the website to show the word “Facebook” on the screen.

What is more important is that 4 lines up from the highlighted line of code, you see a line of code that starts with:

<a class=”detail” href=

The term “href” signals that a link will follow it (In case you are curious, “href” stands for Hypertext REFerence)

As you see in the screenshot below, if we highlight the “href” line we see that it corresponds to the “Facebook” button on the webpage. So when the coding says “href=”, it means that the link in the button on the webpage screen will take you to the url that follows “href=”.

I you want to be overly literal about it, the code is communicating that the href is the location that the button takes you, so the code is saying that the href “=” (or “is”) the following url. Though I have obscured the full link, you see below that the link is for a specific Facebook account and therefore you now know the location of the Facebook account without actually haveing to click on the button itself.

This is just one example. You may notice that some company websites will have a page with photos of all of its staff members but you need to hover your cursor over a photo for the name and info of the staff member to appear. This is an increasingly common trend in corporate websites. If you encounter such a page, you can right-click and hit inspect. Doing so will bring you to the coding behind the website, which will include all of the info for each staff member, thereby allowing you to avoid the cumbersome process of hovering your cursor over each photo one at a time. This is especially useful if you are looking for a specific name.

If you find yourself needing to access, download, and manipulate (on your own computer) the data from a website (such as info on staff members), you can consider using the tool Parsehub. There is a great explanation of how you can use this tool even if you are a complete novice. See the guide “Saving time and rearranging websites” written by Samantha Sunne on ToolsForReporters.com (one of my favorite websites).

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