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Twitter bot tutorial: ALA 2018 edition

This tutorial and its materials are put together by Robin Davis (@robincamille) and Mark Eaton ( for the Python for Beginners: A Gentle and Fun Introduction LITA pre-conference workshop at ALA 2018.

See also: Davis, Robin, and Mark Eaton. Make a Twitter Bot in Python: Iterative Code Examples. Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy (Blueprints section). April 2016. (Verbose write-up featuring code from a previous version of this workshop.)

See original repo:

Written in Python 3.

Required libraries: tweepy 3.5, requests, time, os, random, csv

Create an account on PythonAnywhere

If you're participating in this in-person workshop:

  1. Go to and create an account by clicking on Start running Python online in less than a minute
  • Select Create a beginner account and fill out your details
  • Select Account on the top right
  • Select Teacher and enter b7jl so that we can add the sample code to your account

Bots left running on PythonAnywhere will keep running for a day or so (if the script you're using, like, is programmed to keep iterating through tweets) even if you close PythonAnywhere.

Not part of the in-person workshop? Download these files to your local machine or use this command: git clone

Create a Twitter account for your bot

  1. Go to and sign up for a new account of your choosing
  • Be sure to include your mobile number (required for using the API)
  • Email address must be unique to Twitter users; try adding random periods in your Gmail address, if you have one
  1. Go to and create a new app
  • This info isn't public so it can be messy
  • Go to Keys and Access Tokens
  • Create my access token
  1. Copy Consumer Key/Secret and Access Key/Secret to credentials.template and save as a new file named

  2. (Optional) Follow @litabots, which will follow & retweet bots made in this workshop

Basic bot:

This isn't really a bot yet, but it is a script that sends out one tweet using the Twitter API. Our code is tweeting!

  1. Go to the bot-tutorial-ala folder. Click on to see the code
  2. Clicking Run will run the bot. A console (output area) will appear at the bottom of the screen

Basic bot:

This script is a basic Twitter bot. It will tweet three things from a list inside the script.

  1. Go to the bot-tutorial-ala folder. Click on to see the code

  2. Take a look at the script; Robin and Mark will talk about what it's doing

  3. Run the bot!

Change it up!

  • In tweetlist, add new things for your bot to tweet
  • Increase/decrease time between tweets in time.sleep(15) (15 is the number of seconds)

Intermediate bot:

This script sends out five tweets from the first five lines of an external .txt file

  1. Go to the bot-tutorial-ala folder. Click on

  2. Also look at twain.txt to see the text

  3. Take a look at both files; Robin and Mark will talk about what the script is doing

  4. Select Run

Change it up!

  • Go to and choose a different text for your bot to tweet. Pick the "Plain Text UTF-8" option when selecting a text format.
    • On PythonAnywhere, you can select New Empty File. This will only work if you've entered a filename. Copy and paste your text (or any text of your choosing) into this blank file
    • Remove junk at the beginning (and the end) of the file. Save the file
    • Replace double linebreaks with single linebreaks. If your file is very short you can maybe do this manually.
    • For longer files you can click on Open bash console here and type: cd bot-tutorial-ala then grep . filename > newfilename. Open up the new file to make sure that it worked.
    • In, replace twain.txt with the newfilename
  • Make the bot send more or fewer tweets, or change which lines, by editing the numbers in for line in tweettext[0:5].
    • [0:5] means from the first thing up to (but not including) the fifth thing

Intermediate bot:

This script sends out tweets based on randomly selected titles (and their descriptions) from a CSV file

  1. Go to the bot-tutorial-ala folder. Click on

  2. Also take a look at az_database_list.csv to see the data file. This file is a list of electronic products at Kingsborough Community College. It was exported from LibGuides. Before sharing this, we removed a couple of columns that had internal library data. CSV, or comma separated values, is a great data format to work on in both Python and in Excel.

  3. Take a look at both files; Robin and Mark will talk about what the script is doing

  4. Try running it!

Advanced bot:

This script treats the poem This Is Just To Say (William Carlos Williams) as a mad-lib, filling in four blanks from four data sources: JSON files from @dariusk's collection of corpora.

Change it up!

  • Choose different word lists. Make sure to change the URLs in lines 16-19 and the list name in lines 22-25.
  • Choose a different piece of text to make into a mad lib.

Advanced bot:

This script tweets a random line from a .txt file whenever @ocertat (Mark) tweets.

Change it up!

  • Change what the bot tweets whenever it "hears" a new tweet from @ocertat.
  • Change who the bot listens to from @ocertat to someone else. (Please don't make a spam bot!)

Advanced bot: advanced_mashup_markov/

This script (advanced_mashup_markov/ uses a Markov chain to create a new file full of nonsense sentences from another text. twain.txt is included as the default source text.

This script doesn't tweet, it just makes a new text file. Point to the new .txt file you created to tweet out lines. (Note that the new filename is advanced_mashup_markov/twain_markov.txt or the filename of your choosing.)

Change it up!

  • Download or create a new .txt file that will use to generate nonsensical text. Library conference abstracts, perhaps?

Advanced bot:

This bot mixes up talk titles from ALA Annual Conferences 2016, 2017, and 2018. The mash-up titles are composed of two halves, each from a real ALA program talk.

The script chooses a random beginning and ending from data/ala_beginners.txt and data/ala_enders.txt each time it tweets. (These data files have been pre-prepared and cleaned; talk titles were split in half at :, ?, at, of, for, on, and and, sometimes generating multiple beginning and ending halves.)

Change it up!

  • Create a new data file, enders.txt, and populate it with new language data, like song titles. Each potential title ender should be on its own line in the .txt file.


Twitter bot tutorial made for ALA 2018 and usable by anybody




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