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WWW::BBSWatch - Send, via email, messages posted to a WWW bulletin board


  use WWW::BBSWatch; # should really be a subclass

  sub WWW::BBSWatch::article_list { # generates warning (rightly so)
    my $self = shift;
    my $content = shift;
    return ($$content =~ m%<A HREF="($self->{bbs_url}\?read=\d*)%gs);

  BBSWatch->new(-MAIL => 'me',
    -BBS_URL => '')->retrieve;

See better, working examples below.


There are many interesting discussions that take place on World Wide Web Bulletin Boards, but I do not have the patience to browse to each article. I can process email and newsgroups many times faster than a WWW bulletin board because of the lag inherent in the web. Instead of ignoring this wealth of information, WWW::BBSWatch was created. It will monitor a World Wide Web Bulletin Board and email new postings to you. The email headers are as correct as possible, including reasonable From, Subject, Date, Message-Id and References entries.

This module requires LWP::UserAgent and MIME::Lite.


$b = WWW::BBSWatch->new

Arguments are:

-BBS_URL: The URL of the bulletin board's index page. This field is required.

-MAIL: The email address to send mail to

-MDA: Sets the mail delivery agent by calling MIME::Lite::send(HOW, HOWARGS). If a scalar value is passed in, it is passed as send("sendmail", $mda_value). If an array ref is provided, send(@$mda_value) is called.

-DB: Basename of the database that keeps track of visited articles

-WARN_TIMEOUT: Number of seconds before warning message is sent proclaiming inability to contact BBS_URL page. Default is 10,800 (3 hours).

-MAX_ARTICLES: Maximum number of articles to send in one batch. Default is essentially all articles.

-VERBOSE: Controls the amount of informative output. Useful values are 0, 1, 2. Default is 0 (completely silent).


This method emails new bulletin board messages. If the optional parameter catchup is true, messages will be marked as read without being emailed. Nothing useful will happen unless the article_list method is defined to return the list of articles from the BBS's index page.

WWW::BBSWatch uses the LWP::UserAgent module to retrieve the index and articles. It honors firewall proxies by calling the LWP::UserAgent::env_proxy method. So if you are behind a firewall, define the environment variable http_proxy and your firewall will be handled correctly.



Method that returns a list of complete URLs for the articles on the bulletin board. It is passed a reference to the contents of the bbs_url page. The base version does not do anything.


Method that returns the header info for the message. It is passed a scalar reference to the entire HTML for the message. The method should return a list of

        * the poster's email address
        * the poster's name
        * the article's subject
        * the article's timestamp
        * any response-to message URL

Any values in the return list can be undef, but the more info returned, the more useful the email headers will be. The base version of the method doesn't do anything.


Method that is used to process the article before it is mailed. It is passed a reference to the contents of the article. It should return a list of the MIME type of the article and a reference to the contents of the article. For example, you could refine this method to run the article through HTML::FormatText so that text messages are sent instead of HTML ones. The default method returns the list of text/html and its argument untouched.


Here are examples of how I personally use WWW::BBSWatch. A useful assumption is that WWW bulletin boards are programmatically generated so the HTML of the articles tends to be very regular and predictable. This allows regular expression matching when pulling header info or processing articles instead of having to use HTML::Parser or HTML::TreeBuilder.

Monitoring the Perl Modules BBS ^

  package MyBBSWatch;

  use strict;
  use vars qw/@ISA/;
  use WWW::BBSWatch;
  @ISA = qw/WWW::BBSWatch/;

  sub get_header_info {
    my $self = shift;
    my $content_ref = shift;

    my ($name, $addr) =
      $$content_ref =~ m%<b>From</b>:\s*(.*) .*;<A HREF="mailto:(.*)">%m;
    $name =~ s/^"|"$//g;
    my ($subj) = $$content_ref =~ m%<H1>(.*)</H1>%m;
    my ($date) = $$content_ref =~ m%^<LI><b>Date</b>: (.*)</LI>$%m;
    $subj = "$subj [MODULES]"; # add tag for easy mail filtering
    return ($addr, $name, $subj, $date);

  sub article_list {
    my $self = shift;
    my $content_ref = shift;

    my $base = $self->_base();
    return map { "$base/$_" }
      ($$content_ref =~ m%<A NAME="\d*" HREF="(msg\d*.html)">%sg);

  # The index page of the Perl Modules list changes every month.
  # For everyone's benefit define a new method to figure out the index URL.
  sub _base {
    my ($y, $m) = (localtime)[5,4];
    return sprintf("",
                   $y+1900, $m+1);

  package main;

  my $b = MyBBSWatch->new(
    -MAIL      =>'tayers',
    -BBS_URL   =>MyBBSWatch->_base()."/index.html",
    -DB        =>'/home/users/tayers/perl/.modules',


Monitoring two BBS's run from the same engine ^

  package TheOakBBSWatch;

  # To watch multiple bulletin boards using the same engine requires
  # defining only one subclass of WWW::BBSWatch since the bulletin board
  # engine will generate the various boards in the same general format

  use vars qw/@ISA/;
  use WWW::BBSWatch;
  @ISA = qw/WWW::BBSWatch/;

  sub get_header_info {
    my $self = shift;
    my $content_ref = shift;

    my ($name) = $$content_ref =~ m%Posted By: <BIG>(.*)</BIG>%m;
    $name =~ s/^"|"$//g; # strip double-quotes

    my ($addr) = $$content_ref =~ m%<A HREF="mailto:.*subject.*>(.*)</A>%m;

    my ($subj) = $$content_ref =~ m%<H1 ALIGN=CENTER>(.*)</H1>%m;
    $subj = "$subj $self->{tag}"; # add a tag for filtering mail

    my ($date) = $$content_ref =~ /.*Date: (.*)$/m;

    my ($parent) = $$content_ref =~ m%In Response To: <A HREF="([^"]*)"%m;

    return ($addr, $name, $subj, $date, $parent);

  sub article_list {
    my $self = shift;
    my $content_ref = shift;
    return ($$content_ref =~ m%<A HREF="($self->{bbs_url}\?read=\d*)%gs);

  # Send articles from these bulletin boards as plain text. Hack the
  # HTML::FormatText to print out the href link as well as the "title". (Is
  # there a proper way to do this?) Changing the behavior this way works in
  # practice because the interesting links in BBS messages (the links that
  # people include in their message) are almost always fully specified. In
  # general this won't work since most links in documents are relative so
  # you need to keep track of the base.
  # Redefine the function in a backhanded way to suppress the "Subroutine
  # redefined" warning.
  use HTML::TreeBuilder;
  use HTML::FormatText;
    local $ = 0;
    *HTML::Formatter::a_start = sub {
      my ($self, $el) = @_;
      $self->out($el->attr('href')." - ");
    *HTML::Formatter::img_start = sub {
      my ($self, $el) = @_;
      $self->out($el->attr('src')." - ".($el->attr('alt') || "[IMAGE]"));

  sub process_article {
    my $self = shift;
    my $content_ref = shift;

    $$content_ref =~ s%<H2 ALIGN=CENTER><A NAME="Responses">.*$%</BODY></HTML>%s;
    $$content_ref =~ s%<A NAME="PostResponse"></A>.*$%</BODY></HTML>%s;

    my $tree = HTML::TreeBuilder->new->parse($$content_ref);
    my $text = HTML::FormatText->new(leftmargin=>0)->format($tree);
    return ('text/plain', \$text);

  package main;

  # Advertise the firewall
  $ENV{http_proxy} = 'http://httpproxy:411';

  # Grab the general list
  my $b = TheOakBBSWatch->new(
    -MAIL      =>'tayers',
    -BBS_URL   =>'',
    -DB        =>'/home/users/tayers/perl/general',
    -MAX_ARTICLES => 250,
    -VERBOSITY =>0,

  # Break OO design by using knowledge of the underlying data structure.
  # The correct way is to refine new() and pass in -TAG, but this is
  # SO MUCH easier. (Famous last words!) The 'tag' is used in the
  # get_header_info method.
  $b->{tag} = "[OAK-GEN]";


  # Grab the Tools list
  $b = TheOakBBSWatch->new(
    -MAIL      =>'tayers',
    -BBS_URL   =>'',
    -DB        =>'/home/users/tayers/perl/tools',
    -MAX_ARTICLES => 250,
    -VERBOSITY =>0,

  $b->{tag} = "[OAK-TOOL]";



perlre. At least a passing knowledge of regular expressions helps quite a bit.


 This module was written by
 Tim Ayers (


Copyright (c) 2000, 2001 Tim R. Ayers. All rights reserved.


This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.

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