Chapter 9. Getting Data

To write it, it took three months; to conceive it, three minutes; to collect the data in it, all my life.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

In order to be a data scientist you need data. In fact, as a data scientist you will spend an embarrassingly large fraction of your time acquiring, cleaning, and transforming data. In a pinch, you can always type the data in yourself (or if you have minions, make them do it), but usually this is not a good use of your time. In this chapter, we’ll look at different ways of getting data into Python and into the right formats.

stdin and stdout

If you run your Python scripts at the command line, you can pipe data through them using sys.stdin and sys.stdout. For example, here is a script that reads in lines of text and spits back out the ones that match a regular expression:

import sys, re

# sys.argv is the list of command-line arguments
# sys.argv[0] is the name of the program itself
# sys.argv[1] will be the regex specified at the command line
regex = sys.argv[1]

# for every line passed into the script
for line in sys.stdin:
    # if it matches the regex, write it to stdout
    if, line):

And here’s one that counts the lines it receives and then writes out the count:

import sys

count = 0
for line in sys.stdin:
    count += 1

# print goes to sys.stdout

You could then use these to count how many lines of a file contain numbers. In Windows, you’d use:

type SomeFile.txt ...

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