Polling Input Example#

In this getting started guide, we’ll explore how to use Bytewax to create a simple dataflow that utilizes polling. Polling, in the context of data processing, refers to the regular and repeated querying of a data source to check for updates or new data. This is particularly useful when dealing with APIs or databases that update frequently but don’t have a change stream that can be consumed.

In our example, we will build a dataflow to fetch and process data from the Hacker News API. We will poll the publicly available hacker news API for the most recent items available and then process them as a stream.

Setting Up the Environment#

First, import the necessary modules. We’ll use logging for basic logging, datetime.timedelta for time manipulation, requests for HTTP requests, and various components from the Bytewax framework.

import logging
import requests

from typing import Optional
from datetime import timedelta
from bytewax import operators as op
from bytewax.connectors.stdio import StdOutSink
from bytewax.dataflow import Dataflow
from bytewax.inputs import SimplePollingSource

Creating a Custom Polling Source#

SimplePollingSource is one of the base classes available in Bytewax that we can use to build custom connectors. Below, we define a class HNSource that inherits from SimplePollingSource. This class will handle fetching the latest item ID from the Hacker News API.

class HNSource(SimplePollingSource):
    def next_item(self):
        return (

Building the Dataflow#

Initializing and Defining Inputs#

Initialize the dataflow and set up the pipeline.

flow = Dataflow("hn_scraper")
max_id = op.input("in", flow, HNSource(timedelta(seconds=15)))

Determining Most Recent IDs#

We can use the stateful_map operator to keep track of the last Id and determine the most recent IDs based on the received max item ID. stateful_map is like map in that it emits downstream the modified record, but it differs from map in that you can maintain some idea of the current state. All stateful operators partition state by a key, so notice the previous step is emitting "GLOBAL_ID" in the key position.

def mapper(old_max_id, new_max_id):
    if old_max_id is None:
        old_max_id = new_max_id - 10
    return (new_max_id, range(old_max_id, new_max_id))

ids = op.stateful_map("range", max_id, mapper)

Flat Map and Redistribute#

Our list of IDs can be split into single records with the flat_map operator and the resulting data can be redistributed amongst the workers defined when running the dataflow. This is particularly helpful for instances such as this where we might have a bottleneck in the downstream http request to fetch additional data.

ids = op.flat_map("strip_key_flatten", ids, lambda key_ids: key_ids[1])
ids = op.redistribute("redist", ids)

Fetching Item Metadata#

Now, let’s define a function to download the metadata for each Hacker News item, given its ID. If there is no associated metadata for whatever reason, we will filter these records out with the filter_map operator. This operator is like a combination of filter and map in that you can process the data like a map operator and if the processing fails or results in None, those items will not be emitted.

def download_metadata(hn_id) -> Optional[dict]:
    data = requests.get(

    if data is None:
        logging.warning(f"Couldn't fetch item {hn_id}, skipping")
    return data

items = op.filter_map("meta_download", ids, download_metadata)

Splitting the Stream#

We have different types of items retrieved from the API and we are intrested in dealing with them separately so we can leverage the branch operator to split out the comments from the stories. We can then print the streams out separately. Building on this, you would most likely publish the separate streams to separate Kafka topics or tables in a database.

split_stream = op.branch("split_comments", items, lambda item: item["type"] == "story")
stories = split_stream.trues
comments = split_stream.falses
op.output("stories-out", stories, StdOutSink())
op.output("comments-out", comments, StdOutSink())

Running the Dataflow#

To execute this dataflow, simply run the script just like a regular Python file with a few added arguments to scale the number of workers. Bytewax will handle the polling, data fetching, and processing in real-time. You should see the latest Hacker News stories printed to the standard output.

Here we can run with five worker threads in one process.

$ python -m bytewax.run periodic_hacker_news.py -w 5

A quick aside on scaling. You can scale things across threads and processes with Bytewax. There are limitations to the thread approach due to the global interpreter lock (GIL) that Python uses. In most instances, processes is the more suitable method of parallelization.


This example demonstrates the power and simplicity of Bytewax for building real-time data processing applications with polling.

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