CBC news article comments analysis

A previous post details how to obtain comments from CBC news and opinion article. Related code can be found in this Github repository.

Comments for a specific opinion article are examined in detail below. View complete list of CBC comments visualizations here.

The opinion article was titled “On COVID restrictions, our governments keep firing up the gaslights and shifting the goalposts“. This article garnered 7,800 comments by 1,226 unique users. The comment and user counts include posts and replies. The comments were posted over a two day period beginning Dec 03, 2021 4:00 AM ET after which the comments were locked.

Referring to the line chart below, one can see that 50% (about 615) of the 1,226 users made 90% of the comments. Only 9% (about 105 users) of the users made 50% of the comments!

The “word cloud” chart below shows the names of the top 200 users by comment and reply count. The name size corresponds to user comment and reply counts.

Of the 7,800 comments 1,744 (22%) were “top-level” comments eg they were not directly replying to another comment. The rest 6,056 (78%) were replies to another comment. This indicates a lot of interaction between comments.

The next series of “network” charts below provide some insight into the  interactions between users, their comments and replies.

The network charts were created by using the Python NetworkX module. The code used create the NetworkX charts is in the another post.

The red circles (“nodes”) are users. The circle size corresponds to user comment counts. The lines (“edges”) connecting the red circles represent interactions between users as replies to comments. The line arrows indicate who was replying to who.

The first chart is a whole view of the 1,140 users that had at least one reply to their comment. It has 1,140 nodes and 6,000 edges so it makes for a very dense visualization and a big image size. Click on the image to open it in your browser where you will be able to zoom into it and download it if you want.

A closer look below shows more detail. The center of the chart has the users with the greatest number of comments and replies. The outer edges show users with fewer comments and replies.

And another closer looks shows even more detail of the sparse low comment and reply count users on the edges of the chart.

This final “word cloud” visualization shows the top 200 words in all of the comments.

CBC news comment and replies interaction network visualization

The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) news website articles often have a comments section.

Another post details a method to retrieve the comments. Comments include a timestamp when it was posted, comment text, and comment user name, and if it is a reply, then name of the comment user being replied to.

This information can be aggregated to get count of posts by comment user name or date/time. It can also be used to learn more about comment user interactions by visualizing the comment and reply user names in a network visualization using the Python NetworkX module. Code used is provided below.

The visualization below illustrates the relationships between 104 comments and replies by comment user for an article “Unvaccinated travellers over the age of 12 barred from planes and trains as of today” (Note comments data fro this visualization were obtained just after the article was posted when it had about 100 comments and replies. Today it has 2000+ comments.)


The red circles are “nodes” which represent the comment users. The node size corresponds to the user’s total number of comments or replies. The lines are “edges” and connect nodes. Edges represent reply from one user to another user. The edges have arrows that indicate the direction eg who replied to who.

The edge line widths represent the number of interactions between two nodes. Interactions are comment replies from one person to another (in either direction). The more interactions, the wider the edge line.

Most of the article comments sections that were analysed had one or more prolific commenters (represented by larger size nodes). In addition, there are comment users that have a greater number of replies (represented by edges).

Examples of visualizations provided below. View complete list of CBC comments visualizations here.

Click on the image to view full size as some of them are very big and you will be able to zoom in to get more detailed view.

On COVID restrictions, our governments keep firing up the gaslights and shifting the goalposts


In a fiery speech, O’Toole says Canada is ‘drowning in debt and division’ on Trudeau’s watch


Trudeau calls for global carbon tax at COP26 summit


RCMP union says it supports a Mountie’s ‘right’ to refuse vaccination


View more CBC comments visualizations here.


Python code to create the NetworkX charts is provided below and in Github repository.

import networkx as nx
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import math

# Drop comments without any replies
df.dropna(subset=['replied_to_user'], how='all', inplace=True)

# Build NetworkX graph
G = nx.Graph()

# Select data to use in graph from dataframe with full data
G = nx.from_pandas_edgelist(df, 'comment_user', 'replied_to_user', 'minutes')

# Create node size variable
d = nx.degree(G)

# create edges, and weights list for edge colors
# weights are minutes from first comment 
edges, weights = zip(*nx.get_edge_attributes(G,'minutes').items())

# create variable to increase graph figure size based on number of nodes to make more readable
factor = math.sqrt(len(G.nodes()) * 0.01)

# Create plot
plt_width = 25 * factor
plt_height = 25 * factor
fig, ax = plt.subplots(figsize=(plt_width, plt_height))

# create layout kamada_kawai_layout seemed best!
#pos = nx.spring_layout(G, k=.10, iterations=20)
#pos = nx.spring_layout(G)
pos = nx.kamada_kawai_layout(G)
#pos = nx.fruchterman_reingold_layout(G)

# draw edges
    node_size=[(d[node]+1) * 200 for node in G.nodes()], # tells edge to go join node on border

# draw nodes
    alpha = 0.7,
    edgecolors='white', #color of node border
    node_size=[(d[node]+1) * 200 for node in G.nodes()],

# draw labels

# create variables to use in chart title
min_comment_time = df['comment_time'].min()[:-3]
max_comment_time = df['comment_time'].max()[:-3]
comment_count = len(df)

# create chart title text
title_text = file_url + '\n' + str(comment_count) + ' comments & replies '+ 'from: ' + min_comment_time + ' to: ' + max_comment_time

# add chart title
plt.title(title_text, fontsize=26 * factor, color='white')

#  save the image in the img folder:
plt.savefig(file_path_image + 'network_' + file_name + '.png', format="PNG")


CBC news comments data scraping and word cloud visualization

The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) news website stories often have a comments section in many (but not all) of their news stories.

Unfortunately, the comment delivery method makes it very difficult to read all of the comments because it uses the “endless scrolling” format.

This requires clicking a “SHOW MORE” button at the bottom of the comments again and again to show more comments.

In addition, longer comments require clicking a “» more” link to reveal hidden text

and comments with multiple replies requires clicking a “SHOW 2 OLDER REPLIES”  to show more replies.

In order to see all of the comments and their complete text we would need a process that would effectively click through all of the buttons above until all of the comments and their content was displayed on the webpage.

Once all of the content was visible on the webpage it could be saved locally and Python BeautifulSoup could be used to extract all comments and their content and save it in a tabular data format.

Using Chrome browser’s  “Inspect”, “View pge source” (Ctrl-U) and “Developer tools” (Ctrl-Shift-i ) quickly revealed the relevant HTML tags behind the buttons identified above. These are the things that need to be “clicked” again and again until all the comments and their content are displayed on the webpage.

Relevant code is provided below and can be found in this Github repository.

View complete list of CBC comments visualizations here.

// div tag will have style="display: none;" if there are no more comments otherwise it is displayed
<div class="vf-load-more-con" style="display: none;">
<a href="#" class="vf-load-more vf-text-small vf-strong">Show More</a>

// div tag will have style="display: none;" if there are no more comments otherwise it is displayed
<div class="vf-comment-replies hidden">
<a class="vf-replies-button vf-strong vf-text-small" href="#">Show <span class="vf-replies">0</span> older replies</a>

// tag is displayed only when comment has hidden text otherwise the tag is not present
<a href="#" class="vf-show-more" data-action="more">» more</a>

The button clicking was somewhat automated using the Javascript below executed in the Developer tools console. The process currently requires pasting the code into the console and manually executing it. Step 1 required some babysitting to ensure it runs to completion satisfactorily.

The workflow to show all comments and their content is as follows:

    • Step 1: Run “STEP 1 – Show more comments” javascript in browser console.
    • Step 2: Run “STEP 2 – Show replies” javascript in browser console.
    • Step 3: Run “STEP 3 – Show more comment text” javascript in browser console.

At this point, all the comments and their content are displayed on the webpage.

    • Step 4: Save webpage locally.
    • Step 5: Run Python script to scape local webpage and save data as csv file.
    • Step 6: Open csv in Excel or analyse using your favourite data visualization tool.
//STEP 1 - Show more comments - pages with 1000's of comments gets slower and show button exceeds 5000 ms so requires manual rerun of script

var timer = setInterval(getMore, 5000);
function getMore() {
    moreDiv = document.getElementsByClassName('vf-load-more-con')[0];
    if(moreDiv.style.display === "none") {
        console.log('vf-load-more comments finished');
    console.log('More comments');

//STEP 2 - Show replies - loops to auto show all comments' replies

var buttons = document.getElementsByClassName('vf-replies-button');
console.log(buttons.length, 'vf-replies-button')
for(var i = 0; i <= buttons.length; i++) { 
    console.log('click', i ,'of', buttons.length) 
console.log('vf-rreplies-button finished');

//STEP 3 - Show more comment text - loops to show all commments' text

var buttons = document.getElementsByClassName('vf-show-more');
console.log(buttons.length, 'vf-show-more buttons')
for(var i = 0; i <= buttons.length; i++) { 
    console.log('click', i, 'of',buttons.length) 
console.log('vf-show-more comment text finished');

Once all the comments and their content are displayed on the webpage, Step 4 is to save the webpage locally. You need to save as complete html page to save the javascript otherwise the page will be blank.

Then Step 5 is to run the following Python code to extract comment data into csv file.

This uses Python BeautifulSoup to extract HTML tag data into a Pandas dataframe which is then saved locally as a csv file.

import sys, os
import csv
import re
from datetime import datetime, timedelta
from bs4 import BeautifulSoup 
import pandas as pd

file_path_html = 'C:/cbc_comments/html/'
file_path_csv = 'C:/cbc_comments/data/'

file_url = 'https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-carbon-tax-global-1.6233936'

file_name = file_url.replace('https://www.cbc.ca/news/','').replace('/','_') + '.html'

soup = BeautifulSoup(open(file_path_html + file_name, encoding='utf8').read(), 'html.parser')

publish_date_raw = soup.find('time', class_='timeStamp')['datetime'][:-5]
publish_date = datetime.strptime(str(publish_date_raw), '%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%S')
vf_comments = soup.find('div', class_='vf-comments')
vf_comment_threads = soup.find_all('div', class_='vf-comment-container')
vf_usernames = soup.find_all('button', class_='vf-username')

# create comment data list of lists
comment_data = []
replies = []

for thread in vf_comment_threads:
    # children = data_ids.findChildren()
    # div_data_id = soup.find('div', class_='vf-comment')
    data_id = thread['data-id']
    username = thread.find('button', class_='vf-username').get_text()
    comment_time_str = thread.find('span', class_='vf-date').get_text().replace('s ago', '')
    comment_time_int = int(re.sub('[^0-9]', '', comment_time_str))
    if 'minute' in comment_time_str:
        elapsed_minutes = comment_time_int
    if 'hour' in comment_time_str:
        elapsed_minutes = comment_time_int * 60
    comment_text_raw = thread.find('span', class_='vf-comment-html-content').get_text()
    comment_time = publish_date - timedelta(minutes=elapsed_minutes)
    if 'Reply to @' in comment_text_raw:
        comment_type = 'reply'
        replied_to_user = comment_text_raw.split(": ",1)[0].replace('Reply to @', '').strip()
            comment_text = comment_text_raw.split(": ",1)[1].strip()
            comment_text = 'no text'
        comment_type = 'parent'
        replied_to_user = ''
        comment_text = comment_text_raw.strip()

        file_name.replace('.html', ''), 

df_comment_data = pd.DataFrame(
    'publish time', 

    file_path_csv + file_name.replace('.html', '.csv'), 

Now that you have a nice tabular format csv data file you can do Step 6 and open the csv in Excel/Google Sheets or analyse the data using your favourite data visualization tool.

Comments Word Cloud

One of the visualizations I created was a comment word cloud. This used the csv file that was created above as a data source.

The Python NLTK  (Natural Language Toolkit) was used to remove stop words and punctuation, tokenize the comment text, and Python WordCloud was used to create the word cloud chart.

import csv
import string
from string import punctuation
import pandas as pd
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
from wordcloud import WordCloud
import nltk
from nltk.corpus import stopwords
from nltk.tokenize import word_tokenize, sent_tokenize
lemma = nltk.wordnet.WordNetLemmatizer()

# get paths and files
file_path_html = 'C:/cbc_comments/html/'
file_path_csv = 'C:/cbc_comments/data/'
file_path_image = 'C:/cbc_comments/image/'
file_url = 'https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-carbon-tax-global-1.6233936'
file_name = file_url.replace('https://www.cbc.ca/news/','').replace('/','_')

# read csv into df
df = pd.read_csv(file_path_csv + file_name + '.csv')

# Drop null comment text df records
df.dropna(subset=['comment_text'], how='all', inplace=True)

# Combine comment_text into list of comments
text_list = df['comment_text'].tolist()

# Combine all comment text into one huge text
text = ' '.join(comment.lower() for comment in df.comment_text)

# clean up comment text data
stop_words = set(stopwords.words('english'))
punctuation = list(punctuation)

tokens = word_tokenize(text)
filtered_text1 = [token for token in tokens if token not in stop_words]
filtered_text2 = [idx for idx in filtered_text1 if not any(punc in idx for punc in string.punctuation)]
filtered_text3 = [item for item in filtered_text2 if len(item)>1]
filtered_text4 = [x for x in filtered_text3 if not isinstance(x, int)]
filtered_text = [lemma.lemmatize(x) for x in filtered_text4]

# Create wordcloud
wordcloud = WordCloud(
    ).generate(' '.join(filtered_text))

plt.imshow(wordcloud, interpolation='bilinear')

# Save the image in the img folder:
wordcloud.to_file(file_path_image + file_name + '.png')

The word cloud for this story’s comments looks like this.

Canadian Government First Nations long term water advisory data

The Government of Canada is working with Canadian First Nations communities to end long-term drinking water advisories which have been in effect for more than 12 months since November 2015. This includes projects to build or renew drinking water infrastructure in these communities.

The First Nation drinking water advisories were a big part of the 2021 Canadian federal election campaigns. The current government had made big promises to fix all of the advisories in 2015. The opposition criticized them for not having achieved that goal to-date. However there was poor communication about the actual number and status of the advisory projects. So I wanted to find some data to learn the actual status for myself.

TLDR the results can be seen on a Github.io hosted page.  A screenshot is provided below. The code to retrieve and transform the data to create that web page are in my Github https://github.com/sitrucp/first_nations_water repository.

Finding the data I needed only took a  few minutes of Google search from an Indigenous Services Canada  website that mapped the water advisories by counts of advisories by FN community, project status, advisory dates, and project type.

While the web page also included a link to download the map data, after a bit of web page scraping and inspection, I learned that the downloadable map data was created by web page Javascript from another larger data source referenced in the map page code https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca//DAM/DAM-ISC-SAC/DAM-WTR/STAGING/texte-text/lTDWA_map_data_1572010201618_eng.txt.

This larger data source is a text file containing JSON format records of all Canadian First Nations communities and is many thousands of records. As a side note this larger file appears to be an official Canadian government dataset used in other government websites. The map data is limited to only about 160 First Nations communities with drinking water issues.

So rather than download the 160 record map page data, I retrieved the larger JSON format text file and used similar logic as that for the map web page code to get the 160 records. This was done in two steps.

Step 1: retrieve JSON format text file using a Python script water_map_data.py to retrieve and save the data file locally. I may yet automate this using a scheduled task so the map gets regularly updated data as advisory status changes over time.

Step 2: process the saved data file and present it in an HTML web page as Plotly.js charts and an HTML tabular format using Javascript in this file  first_nations_water.js

Finally, I also separately created a Excel file with Pivot Table and Chart that you can download and use to do your own analysis. Download this Excel file from the Github repository. The file contains an Excel Power Query link to the larger text JSON file described above. You can simply refresh the query to get the latest data from the Indigenous Services Canada  website.

COVID-19 Data Analysis and Visualization Summary

This is a list of Canadian COVID-19 related data analysis and visualization that I created during 2020/21 pandemic.

Canada COVID-19 Case Map – COVID-19 new and total cases and mortalities by Canadian provincial health regions.

Canada COVID-19 Vaccination Schedule – Canada’s current and historical vaccine doses administered and doses distributed. Also includes two distribution forecasts: 1) based on Canadian government vaccine planning and 2) based on Sep 30 2021 goal to vaccinate all 16+ Canadians. Uses COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group data.

Canada COVID-19 Vaccination vs World – Canada’s current and historical ranking vs all countries in the Our World in Data coronavirus data  by total doses, daily doses and total people vaccines adminstered.

Global COVID-19 Vaccination Ranking – Ranking of all countries in the Our World in Data coronavirus data by daily vaccine dose administration. Includes small visualization of all time, population, vaccines used and trend. Can sort by these measures.

COVID-19 New Case Rate by Canadian Health Regions Animation – SVG animation of new cases visualized as daily rate for each Canadian provincial health regions. Like a horse race, faster moving dot means higher daily rate.

COVID-19 New Case Rate by Country Animation – SVG animation of new cases visualized as daily rate for each country in the Our World in Data dataset. Like a horse race, faster moving dot means higher daily rate.

COVID-19 New Case Rate by US State Animation – SVG animation of new cases visualized as daily rate for each US state. Like a horse race, faster moving dot means higher daily rate.

Apple Mobility Trends Reports – Canadian Regions Data – Apple cell phone mobility data tracking data used to create heat map visualizations of activity over time.

WHO Draft landscape of COVID-19 Candidate Vaccines – AWS Textract used to extract tabular data from WHO pdf file. Python and Javascript code then used to create webpages from extracted data.

Montreal Confirmed COVID-19 Cases By City Neighbourhoods – Code and process used to scrape Quebec Health Montreal website to get COVID-19 case data for Montreal city boroughs.

Use Excel Power Query to get data from Our World In Data – How to use Excel’s Power Query to get Our World in Data Github csv files automatically and update with simple refresh.