Populating database outside of applicaiton

Im learning rails now and what id like to do is aggregate data from
external sources on a daily basis into my database. Within my users can
searhc and filter through that data to their hearts content.

Assuming i can get this external data say via rss feeds or good old
screen scraping what tools can i use to get it into my db outside of my
app? can I use active record for this? or is best to do it some other
way.

You can use a background process that runs independently of your web
listeners. You can use something like Background DRB or some other
background daemon. From there you can call any of your methods in your
application to populate the appropriate tables.

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