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Autumn: A Ruby IRC Bot Framework

Version 3.1.5 (May 3, 2009)

Author Tim Morgan (
Copyright Copyright ©2007-2009 Tim Morgan
License Distributed under the same terms as Ruby. Portions of this code are copyright ©2004 David Heinemeier Hansson; please see libs/inheritable_attributes.rb for more information.

Autumn is a full-featured framework on top of which IRC bots (called “leaves”)
can be quickly and easily built. It features a very Ruby-like approach to
bot-writing, a complete framework for loading and daemonizing your bots,
multiple environment contexts, a database-backed model, and painless logging


Autumn requires RubyGems and the Daemons and Facets*
gems, as well as some of the gems spun off from Facets. Install RubyGems then
run sudo gem install daemons facets anise english in a command line in order
to run Autumn.

If you wish to use a database backend for your bot, you will need the DataMapper
gem. To install, see the DataMapper website.

The included example bot Scorekeeper requires the DataMapper gem. It can
optionally use the Chronic gem to enhance its textual date parsing. The other
example bot, Insulter, is much simpler and can run under any Autumn

If you wish to install all possible dependencies, use rake setup

Directory Structure

An Autumn installation is like a Ruby on Rails installation: There is a
certain directory structure where your files go. A lot of files and folders will
seem confusing to people who have never used Autumn before, but bear with me. In
a bit I will explain in detail what all of this stuff is. For now, here is an
overview you can consult for future reference:

  • config/ – Configuration files and season definitions
    • global.yml – Universal settings that apply to every season
      • seasons/ – Contains directories for each season (see Seasons)
        • testing/ – Example season
          • database.yml – Example database configuration file
          • leaves.yml – Example bot configuration file
          • season.yml – Season configuration
          • stems.yml – Example IRC configuration file
  • doc/HTML documentation generated by RDoc
    • leaves/ – Autumn leaves documentation
  • leaves/ – Autumn leaves. Each subdirectory contains all the code and
    data for a leaf.
    • insulter/ – Very simple example leaf
      • See the scorekeeper directory
    • scorekeeper/ – Database-backed, full-featured example leaf
      • config.yml – Optional leaf-global configuration options
      • controller.rb – The leaf’s controller object
      • data/ – Optional directory for data storage (not used by Autumn)
      • helpers/ – Modules that extend the controller and views
      • models/ – Active record-type database objects
      • tasks/ – Additional rake tasks for this leaf (see Custom leaf tasks)
      • views/ – ERb views for each of the leaf’s commands
  • log/ – Directory where (most) Autumn logs are written (see the Logs
  • Rakefile – Contains the rake tasks used to control Autumn (see the Tasks
  • README – RDoc-formatted readme
  • README.textile – This file
  • script/ – Helper scripts for controlling Autumn
    • destroy – Destroys Autumn objects
    • generate – Creates Autumn objects
  • shared/ – Shared code libraries available to all leaves
  • tmp/ – Temporary files, such as PID files

Configuring Autumn for Your First Launch

Before you can run Autumn and try out the example leaves, you’ll need to set up
a few things. Here are the steps:

Creating your bot’s tree

To create a new tree, change to a directory where you want your bot to run from,
then use autumn create PROJECT to create the directory (PROJECT should
be replaced with your bot’s name) with the structure outlined above.

Configure Your Testing Season

In Autumn, your leaves run in an environment, called a “season.” Each season has
different leaves and different settings for those leaves. By default, Autumn
comes with a season called “testing” already set up for you. You can edit that
season or create a new one with script/generate season [season name]. The
files for your season are stored in the config/seasons directory.

First, edit the stems.yml file. This file stores information about your
IRC connection. Edit it to connect to an IRC server of your choosing. For more
information, see Stems below.

Next, edit the database.yml file. As mentioned previously, Scorekeeper
requires the DataMapper gem because it uses a persistent store. By default it’s
set up to use a SQLite 3 database, but you can use PostgreSQL or MySQL if you’d
like. If you’d prefer not to install any of these database solutions, delete the
database.yml file and remove the Scorekeeper leaf from the
leaves.yml and stems.yml files.

If you do choose to set up a database, you will have to run rake db:migrate
after your database.yml file is configured and your database is

Lastly, view the leaves.yml file. You shouldn’t have to make any
changes to this file, but it’s a good idea to look at it to see how leaves are
configured. You can do the same with the season.yml file. See Seasons
and Leaves below for more.

Starting the Server

Run the shell command autumn start to start the server. After a short
while, your leaf should appear in the channel you specified. You can type
“!points Coolguy +5” and then “!points” to get started using Scorekeeper, or
“!insult” to play with Insulter. Have some fun, and when you’re satisfied, stop
the server by typing “!quit”.

If you’d like to daemonize your server, you can use the shell commands
rake app:start and rake app:stop. For more information, see Tasks below.

Making Your Own Leaf

Making your own leaf using Autumn is easy. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how
to make a simple Fortune bot that responds to a few basic commands.

Step 1: Subclass Leaf

Create a new leaf by typing script/generate leaf fortune. This will create a
fortune directory in the leaves directory, along with the bare
bones of files needed within that directory. Edit the controller.rb
file. First we’ll create an array to hold our fortunes:

  "You will make someone happy today.",
  "Someone you don't expect will be important to you today.",
  "Today will bring unexpected hardships."

As you can see, our 3 meager fortunes are stored in the FORTUNES class
constant. Now, we’ll want it to respond to the “!fortune” command, and all you
have to do is create a method called fortune_command to make it work:

def fortune_command(stem, sender, reply_to, msg)

The pick method is provided by Facets, so you may need to add a require 'facets/random' line at the top of your file. Our method returns a
fortune at random, which is automatically transmitted to the channel or nick
where the command was received.

Of course, any self-respecting fortune bot announces its presence when it starts
up, so, in your Controller class, override the Autumn::Leaf#did_start_up
method to display a cheerful greeting:

def did_start_up
  stems.message 'FortuneBot at your service! Type "!fortune" to get your fortune!'

…and that’s it! You now have a fully functional fortune bot featuring — not
two — but three unique and exciting fortunes!

(For more on that stems.message bit, see Stems.)

Step 2: Add the Leaf to Your Season

If you want, you can add the fortune bot to your leaves.yml and
stems.yml files to try it out. Adding a leaf is easy; simply duplicate
the structure used for another leaf’s entry and change the values as
appropriate. A typical two-leaf configuration will look like:

  class: Scorekeeper
  respond_to_private_messages: false
  class: Fortune
  respond_to_private_messages: true

As you notice, each leaf instance is given a name. In this example the name
happens to be the same as the leaf’s type name, but you could run two copies of
a leaf like so:

  class: Fortune
  class: Fortune

This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for our fortune bot, but for more
complicated bots it can be useful.

We’ve created the leaf, but we have to add it to the stem for it to work.
(Remember, a stem is an IRC connection and a leaf is a bot.) So, in your
stems.yml file, add an entry for this leaf. Your new config will appear
something like:

  nick: Scorekeeper
    - Scorekeeper
    - Insulter
    - Fortune
  rejoin: true
  channel: somechannel

When you restart the server, the bot will come back online and will now also
respond to the “!fortune” command. This is a helpful tutorial on how stems and
leaves are separate. One leaf can have many stems, and one stem can have many
leaves. You can combine these two entities however you need.

Step 3: Upgrade to ERb Views

You’ve already learned that for your [word]_command-type methods, the bot
responds with whatever string your method returns. For more complicated
commands, however, you may want to upgrade to full view abstraction, a la Ruby
on Rails. This is what the views directory is for.

If you place a .txt.erb file in the views directory named
after your command, it will be parsed by ERb and rendered as the result. You can
pass variables to the ERb parser by using the Autumn::Leaf#var method. Let’s
upgrade our fortune_command method for that:

def fortune_command(stem, sender, reply_to, msg)
  var :fortune => FORTUNES.pick

We can then write a view, fortune.txt.erb, which will render the

<%= var :fortune %>

OK, so admittedly, this doesn’t really get us anywhere, but for more complicated
bots, this well help separate view and controller concerns.

For more information on view rendering, see the Autumn::Leaf#render method.


Each time you start Autumn, the process launches in a certain season (a.k.a.
environment context). This season is defined in the config/global.yml
file. You can temporarily override it by setting the SEASON environment
variable (e.g., SEASON=production autumn start).

It’s important to realize that an season is just a name, nothing more. You can
have as many seasons as you like, and name them anything that you like. Autumn
will load the config files for the season you’ve indicated as active. Autumn
doesn’t really care if it’s named “production” or “live” or
“testing-on-jeffs-machine”; it’s all the same to Autumn.

Your season’s configuration is stored in the season.yml file within
your season directory. Currently it supports one directive, logging. This sets
the minimum log level (such as debug or warn). If the log level is set to
debug, it also enables console output parroting. (See the Logging section.)

The power of seasons comes in custom configuration options. For instance,
consider that you have a testing and production season. In your testing season,
your season.yml file contains:

dont_http: true

and in production, it contains:

dont_http: false

Now, in your code, you might have a method like:

def scores_command(stem, sender, reply_to, msg)
  if options[:dont_http] then
    return "Some fake sports scores."
    # go on the web and find real sports scores

Standard Configuration Options


System-wide configuration is done in the config/global.yml file. It
supports by default the following directives:

season The season to launch in.
log_history The number of historical logfiles to keep (default 10).

In addition, the following options are available (but cannot be set in the yml

root The root directory of the Autumn installation.
system_logger The Autumn::LogFacade instance that records system messages.


Season-specific configuration is done in the
config/seasons/[season]/season.yml file. Currently it only supports one
directive, logging, which takes log levels like debug or warn.


Stem-specific configuration is done in the
config/seasons/[season]/stems.yml file. It’s important to note that
stem and leaf configurations are completely independent of each other. (In other
words, stem options do not override leaf options, nor vice versa.) Therefore,
you generally won’t add custom directives to the stems.yml file,
because you generally won’t be working with stems directly. The standard options

server The address of the IRC server.
port The IRC server port (default 6667).
local_ip The IP address to connect on (for virtual hosting).
nick The nick to request.
password The nick’s password, if it is registered.
channel A channel to join.
channels A list of channels to join.
leaf The name of a leaf to run.
leaves A list of leaves to run. (These are the names of leaf configurations in leaves.yml, not leaf subclasses.)
rejoin If true, the stem will rejoin any channels it is kicked from.
server_password The password for the IRC server, if necessary.
ssl If true, the connection to the IRC server will be made over SSL.
server_type The IRC server type. See resources/daemons for a list of valid server types. If you do not manually set this value, it will be guessed automatically.
case_sensitive_channel_names If true, channel names will be compared with case sensitivity.
dont_ghost If true, the stem will not try to GHOST a registered nick if it’s taken.
ghost_without_password If true, the stem will use the GHOST command without a password. Set this for servers that use some other form of nick authentication, such as hostname-based.
user The username to send (optional).
name The user’s real name (optional).
throttle If enabled, the stem will throttle large amounts of simultaneous messages.
throttle_rate Sets the number of seconds that pass between consecutive PRIVMSG’s when the leaf’s output is throttled.
throttle_threshold Sets the number of simultaneous messages that must be queued before the leaf begins throttling output.
nick_regex The regular expression used to match nicknames in server messages. By default, it conforms to the RFC-1459 definition.

The channel and channels directives can also be used to specify a password
for a password protected channel, like so:

  channelname: channelpassword


- channel1: password1
- channel2: password2

The port, server_type, and channel/channels options are set in the
config file but not available in the options hash. They are accessed directly
from attributes in the Autumn::Stem instance, such as the channels


Leaf-specific configuration is done in the
config/seasons/[season]/leaves.yml file and the
leaves/[leaf]/config.yml file, with the former taking precedence over
the latter. As mentioned above, leaf and stem configurations are completely
separate, so one does not override the other. The standard options are:

class The type of the leaf. It must be a subdirectory in the leaves directory.
command_prefix The text that must precede each command. Defaults to “!”.
respond_to_private_messages If true, the leaf will parse commands in whispers, and respond over whispers to those commands.
database A database connection to use (as defined in database.yml). By default Autumn will choose a connection named after your leaf.
formatter The name of a module in Autumn::Formatting that will handle output formatting and colorization. This defaults to mIRC-style formatting.

In addition, the following options are available (but cannot be set in the yml

root The root directory of the leaf installation.

The leaves.yml file is optional. When not included, each leaf in the
leaves directory will be automatically instantiated once.

Custom Configuration Options

All configuration files support user-generated directives. You can set options
at any level. Options at a more narrow level override those at a broader level.

Options are maintained and cataloged by the Autumn::Speciator singleton. You
could access the singleton directly, but most objects have an options
attribute providing simpler access to the Speciator.

For example, to access options in a leaf, all you do is call, for example,
options[:my_custom_option]. my_custom_option can be set at the
global, season, or leaf level.


The Autumn::Leaf class has many tools to help you write your leaves. These
include things like filters, helpers, loggers, and an easy to use IRC library.
The Autumn::Leaf and Autumn::Stem class docs are the most thorough way of
learning about each of these features, but I’ll walk you through the basics

The Many Methods of Leaf

By subclassing Autumn::Leaf, you gain access to a number of neat utilities.
These generally come in three classes: IRC commands that have already been
written for you, utility methods you can call, and invoked methods you can
override. Utility methods do things like add filters. Invoked methods are called
when certain events happen, like when your leaf starts up or when a private
message is received. You override them in your leaf to customize how it responds
to these events.

Invoked methods will_start_up, did_start_up, did_receive_channel_message, etc.
Utility methods before_filter, database, etc.
IRC commands quit_command, reload_command, autumn_command, etc.

See the class docs for more information on these methods.

In addition, your leaf is designated as a listener for its Autumn::Stem
instances. In short, this means if you want even finer control over the IRC
connection, you can implement listener methods. See the
Autumn::Stem#add_listener method for examples of such methods.

Finally, your leaf can implement methods that are broadcast by listener plugins.
An example of such a plugin is the Autumn::CTCP class, which is included in
all stems by default. Visit its class docs to learn more about how to send and
receive CTCP requests.


Filters are methods that are run either before or after a command is executed.
In the former case, they can also prevent the command from being run. This is
useful for authentication, for instance: A filter could determine if someone is
authorized to run a command, and prevent the command from being run if not.

Use filters to save yourself the effort of rewriting code that will run before
or after a command is executed. Filter methods are named [word]_filter and
they are added to the filter chain using the before_filter and after_filter
methods (like in Ruby on Rails). As an example, imagine you wanted your bot to
say something after each command:

class Controller > Autumn::Leaf
  after_filter :outro


  def outro_filter(stem, channel, sender, command, msg, opts)
    stem.message "This has been a production of OutroBot!", channel

The result of this is that after each command, the leaf will make a dramatic
exit. (Why did I use after_filter and not before_filter? Because as I said
earlier, a before_filter can stop the command from being executed; the only
way we know for sure that the command was executed — and therefore should be
outroed — is to use an after_filter.)

I made the outro_filter method private because I felt it shouldn’t be exposed
to other classes; this is not a requirement of the filter framework, though.

Now let’s say you wanted to prevent the command from being run in some cases.
The most obvious application of this feature is authentication. Autumn already
includes a robust authentication module, but for the sake of example, let’s
pretend you wanted to do your own authentication in your leaf. So, you write a
before_filter to determine if the user is authenticated. before_filter
methods have return values; if they return false, the filter chain is halted and
the command is suppressed. If you want to have your leaf display some sort of
message (like “Nice try!”), you need to include that in your filter.

As an example, here’s a simple form of authentication that just checks a
person’s nick:

class Controller < Autumn::Leaf
  before_filter :authenticate, :only => :quit, :admin => 'Yournick'

  def authenticate_filter(stem, channel, sender, command, msg, opts)
    sender == opts[:admin]

I’m introducing you to three new features with this sample:

  • You can use the :only option to limit your filter to certain commands. Note
    that you specify the command name as a symbol, not the method name (which
    would be quit_command in this case).
  • You can pass your own options to before_filter and after_filter; they are
    passed through to your method via the last parameter, opts.
  • The return value of a before_filter is used to determine if the command
    should be run. So be careful that your method does not return nil or false
    unless you really mean for the command to be suppressed.

Both of these examples use the parameters sent to your filter method. They are,
in order:

  1. the Autumn::Stem instance that received the command,
  2. the name of the channel to which the command was sent (or nil if it was a
    private message),
  3. the sender hash,
  4. the name of the command that was typed, as a symbol,
  5. any additional parameters after the command (same as the msg parameter in
    the [word]_command methods),
  6. the custom options that were given to before_filter or after_filter.

There are two built-in options that you can specify for before_filter and
after_filter, and those are only and except. They work just like in Rails:
The only option limits the filter to running only on the given command or list
of commands, and the except option prevents the filter from being run on the
given command or list. All other options are passed to the filter for you to

Filters are run in the order they are added to the filter chain. Therefore, a
superclass’s filters will run before a subclass’s filters, and filters added
later in a class definition will be run after those added earlier.

If you subclass one of your leaves, it inherits your superclass’s filters. The
Autumn::Leaf superclass does not have any filters by default, though by
default new leaves come with a simple authentication filter that checks the
user’s privilege level.


You don’t need to write a before_filter as shown above, because Autumn already
includes a robust authentication module. The Autumn::Authentication module
includes the Base class and four different subclasses of it. Each of these
subclasses handles a different type of authentication. You can choose the
authentication strategy you want on a leaf-by-leaf basis or for a whole season.

To specify the kind of authentication you want, you must add an authentication
directive to your config. If you want to set it for an individual leaf, add it
to the leaves.yml file. If you want all leaves to have the same
authentication strategy, add it to the season.yml or
global.yml file.

The authentication directive should be a hash that, at a minimum, includes a
key called type. This is the snake_cased name of subclass in
Autumn::Authentication that you wish to use. As an example, here is an entry
for an Administrator bot in a leaves.yml file, with ops-based

  class: Administrator
    type: op

This will instantiate the Autumn::Authentication::Op class for use with the
Administrator bot.

Other authentication strategies may require additional information. For
instance, if you want to used nick-based authentication, your
leaves.yml file might look like:

  class: Administrator
    type: nick
    nick: MyNick

See the class docs for each subclass in Autumn::Authentication for more info
on how you should set up your configs.

Persistent Stores

If you would like to use a persistent store for your leaf, you should install
the DataMapper gem and a DataObjects gem for your database of choice (MySQL,
PostgreSQL, or SQLite). DataMapper works almost identically to ActiveRecord, so
if you have any Rails programming experience, you should be able to dive right

Once you’ve got DataMapper installed, you should create one or more database
connections in your config/seasons/[season]/database.yml file. A sample
database connection looks like:

  adapter: mysql
  host: localhost
  username: root
  password: pass
  database: database_name

or, in a smaller syntax:

connection_name: mysql://root@pass:localhost/database_name

If you are using the “sqlite3” adapter, the database option is the path to the
file where the data should be written (example:
leaves/fortune/data/my_database.db). You can name your connection however you
want, but you should name it after either your leaf or your leaf subclass.
(More on this below.)

You should also create DataMapper model classes for each of your model objects.
You can place them within your leaf’s models directory. This works
almost exactly the same as the app/models directory in Rails.

Once your database, data models, and leaves have been configured, you can use
the rake db:migrate task to automatically populate your database.

Now, unlike Rails, Autumn supports multiple database connections. Two leaves can
use two different database connections, or share the same database connection.
Because of this, it’s important to understand how to manage your connections.
Autumn tries to do this for you by guessing which connection belongs to which
leaf, based on their names.

For example, imagine you have a leaf named “Fortune” and an instance of that
leaf in leaves.yml named “MyFortune”. If you name your database
connection either “Fortune” or “MyFortune” (or “fortune” or “my_fortune”), it
will automatically be associated with that leaf. What this means is that for the
leaf’s command methods (such as about_command) and invoked methods (such as
did_receive_private_message), the database connection will already be set for
you, and you can start using your DataMapper objects just like ActiveRecord

If, on the other hand, you either named your database connection differently
from your leaf or subclass name
or you are writing a method outside of the
normal flow of leaf methods
(for instance, one that is directly called by a
Stem, or a different listener), you will need to call the database method
and pass it a block containing your code.

This is terribly confusing, so let me give you an example. Let’s assume you’ve
got a fortune bot running a leaf named “FortuneLeaf”, so your
leaves.yml configuration is:

  class: FortuneLeaf

And you have a database connection for that leaf, named after the leaf’s class:

  adapter: sqlite3
  database: leaves/fortune_leaf/data/development.db

Let’s further assume you have a simple DataMapper object:

class Fortune
  include DataMapper::Resource
  property :id, Integer, :serial => true
  property :text, String

Now, if we wanted to write a “!fortune” command, it would appear something like

def fortune_command(stem, sender, reply_to, msg)
  fortunes = Fortune.all

Autumn automatically knows to execute this DataMapper code in the correct
database context. It knows this because your leaf’s name is FortuneLeaf, and
your database context is named the same.

But what if you wanted to use that connection for other leaves too, so you named
it something like “local_database”? Now, Autumn won’t be able to guess that you
want to use that DB context, so you have to specify it manually:

def fortune_command(stem, sender, reply_to, msg)
  database(:local_database) do
    fortunes = Fortune.all
    return fortunes[rand(fortunes.size)].text

If that is too tedious, you can specify the database connection manually in the
leaves.yml file:

  class: FortuneLeaf
  database: local_database

OK, now onto the second special case. Imagine you want your fortune bot to also
send a fortune in response to a CTCP VERSION request. So, you’d implement a
method like so:

def ctcp_version_request(handler, stem, sender, arguments)
  fortune = random_fortune # Loads a random fortune
  send_ctcp_reply stem, sender[:nick], 'VERSION', fortune.text

This will break — why? Because the ctcp_version_request method is in the
realm of the Autumn::CTCP class, not the Autumn::Leaf class. (You can see
this by investigating the CTCP class docs; it shows you what methods you can
implement for CTCP support.) Basically, the CTCP class calls your method
directly, giving the Autumn::Leaf class no chance to set up the database
first. So to fix it, make a call to database first:

def ctcp_version_request(handler, stem, sender, arguments)
  fortune = database { random_fortune }
  send_ctcp_reply stem, sender[:nick], 'VERSION', fortune.text

This will execute those methods in the scope of the database connection guessed
by Autumn::Leaf. Of course, you can manually pass in a connection name if

Another important note: You will need to make a call to database in any
child threads your leaf creates. The database context is not automatically
carried over to such threads.

Your Leaf’s Module; or, “What Do I Do About Namespace Conflicts?”

So, if you have two database-backed leaves, it’s entirely likely that both of
them will use some sort of DataMapper resource named Channel, or something
similar. You can’t define the class Channel twice in two different ways, so
how do you deal with this?

The answer is: It’s already dealt with for you. Go ahead and define the class
twice. Or three times.

The longer explanation is: Secretly, behind the scenes, all your leaf code is
being cleverly loaded into a module named after your leaf
. So, when, in your
controller.rb code, it says class Controller < Autumn::Leaf, you
should read it as class MyLeafName::Controller < Autumn::Leaf. When you define
your model with class Channel, it’s really read as class MyLeafName::Channel.

Don’t worry about table names or associations or anything, either. Just go ahead
and use it as if it weren’t in a module. The libs/datamapper_hacks.rb
file has all the necessary code changes to make this bit of trickery work.

Using Support Modules

Helper modules placed in your leaf’s helpers directory will
automatically be loaded and included in your leaf controller and views. To
create a helper module, place Ruby files to be loaded into the helpers
directory. Make sure your helper modules’ names end with the word “Helper”.

For instance, if your leaf’s name is “Fortune”, and you needed two helpers, a
database helper and a network helper, you could create two modules named
DatabaseHelper and NetworkHelper. Any modules named in this fashion and
placed in the helpers subdirectory will be loaded and appended to the
controller and its views automatically.

Debugging Your Leaf

If you make a simple code change to your leaf, you can reload it without having
to restart the whole process. See the Autumn::Leaf#reload_command
documentation for more information on when and how you can reload your leaf’s

If an error occurs on a live production instance, it will be logged to the log
file for your season. You can inspect the log file to determine what went wrong.

If the error happens before the logger is available, oftentimes it will appear
in the autumn.output or autumn.log files. These files are
generated by the daemon library and note any uncaught exceptions or standard
outs. They are in the tmp directory.

The most tricky of errors can happen before the process is daemonized. If your
process is quitting prematurely, and you don’t see anything in either log file,
consider running autumn start, allowing you to see any exceptions for

Unfortunately, it’s still possible that the bug might not appear when you do
this, but only appear when the process is daemonized. In this situation, I’d
recommend installing rdebug (sudo gem install rdebug) and stepping through the
code to figure out what’s going wrong. In particular, make sure you step into
the @Foliater@’s start_stems method, when it creates the new threads. It’s
possible your exception will rear its head once you step into that line of code.


Autumn::Stem is a full-featured IRC client library, written from the ground up
for Autumn. It makes extensive use of implicit protocols, meaning that most
features are accessed by implementing the methods you feel are necessary.

Most of the time, you will only work with stems indirectly via leaves. For
instance, if you want an “!opped” command that returns true if the sender is an
operator, it would look like this:

def opped_command(stem, sender, reply_to, msg)
  stem.channel_members[reply_to][sender[:nick]] == :operator ? "You are opped." : "You are not opped."

Let’s break this down. In order to figure out if someone is opped or not, we
need three pieces of information: their nick, the channel they are in, and the
IRC server they are connected to.

The stem parameter contains the Autumn::Stem instance that received this
message. It is our link to that server. Through it we can perform IRC actions
and make requests.

Autumn::Stem includes an attribute channel_members, a hash of channels
mapped to their members. The channel that received the message is passed via the
reply_to parameter. So we call channel_members[reply_to] and we receive a
hash of member names to their privilege levels. The sender parameter contains
information about the person who sent the command, including their nick. So we
use their nick to resolve their privilege level.

Complicated? Sure it is. That’s the price we pay for separating stems from
leaves. But what if you, like probably 90% of the people out there who use
Autumn, only have one stem? Why should you have to call the same damn stem each
and every time?

Fortunately, your pleas are not in vain. For leaves that run off only one stem,
the stem’s methods are rolled right into the leaf. So, that “!opped” command
method becomes:

def opped_command(stem, sender, reply_to, msg)
  channel_members[reply_to][sender[:nick]] == :operator ? "You are opped." : "You are not opped."

OK, so it’s not like a world-class improvement, but it helps.

The primary thing your leaf will probably do with a Stem instance is use it to
send messages, like so:

def about_command(stem, sender, reply_to, msg)
  stem.message "I am a pretty awesome bot!", reply_to

Fortunately, if you just return a string, Autumn::Leaf will automatically send
it for you, simplifying our method:

def about_command(stem, sender, reply_to, msg)
  "I am a pretty awesome bot!"

You would still interact with the stem directly if you wanted to do something
like announce your leaf’s presence to everyone. To do this, you’d have to send
a message to every channel of every stem the leaf is a listener for:

stems.each { |stem| stem.channels.each { |channel| stem.message "Hello!", channel } }

But! Autumn::Stem#message will automatically send a message to every channel
if you don’t specify any channels, simplifying our code to:

stems.each { |stem| stem.message "Hello!" }

It gets even better. You can call methods on the stems array as if it were a
stem itself!
This simplifies the line significantly:

stems.message "Hello!"

Pretty nifty, huh? This also works for functions as well as methods; for
instance, the Autumn::Stem#ready? function, which returns true if a stem is

stems.ready? #=> [ true, true, false, true ] (for example)

The nitty-gritty of stems

The section above dealt with stems as they relate to leaves. But when would you
need to deal with a stem directly? Generally, never. However, if you find that
Autumn::Leaf doesn’t have what you need, you may have to turn to
Autumn::Stem to get the functionality you are looking for. So let’s take a
look at how Stem works.

A stem interacts with interested parties via the listener protocol. Your leaf
signals its interest to a stem by calling Autumn::Stem#add_listener. When a
leaf or any other object becomes a stem’s listener, that stem then invokes
methods on the listener whenever an IRC event occurs.

Let’s take a simple example. Assume you wanted to build a basic textual IRC
client using Stem. You’d first want to indicate that your client is a listener:

class MyClient
  def initialize(stem)
    @stem = stem
    @stem.add_listener self

Now the stem will send method calls to your MyClient instance every time an
IRC event occurs. None of these methods are required — you can implement as few
or as many as you want. The different methods that Stem will send are
documented in the Autumn::Stem#add_listener method docs. One very important
method is the irc_privmsg_event method. Let’s implement it:

def irc_privmsg_event(stem, sender, arguments)
  puts "#{arguments[:channel]} <#{sender[:nick]}> #{arguments[:message]}"

Now we’ve got the most important part of our IRC client done — receiving

You can also send IRC events using stem. It’s simple: Every IRC command (such as
JOIN and PRIVMSG and MODE) has a corresponding method in Stem (such as join
and privmsg and mode). These methods aren’t in the API docs because they’re
implemented using method_missing. Their arguments are exactly the same as the
arguments the IRC command expects, and in the same order.

So how do we send a message? Well according to RFC-1459, the basic IRC spec, the
PRIVMSG command takes two arguments: a list of receivers, and the text to be
sent. So, we know our method call should look something like this:

@stem.privmsg recipient, message

Astute readers will note that the spec shows a list of recipients, and indeed,
you can call the method like so:

@stem.privmsg [ recipient1, recipient2 ], message

That’s the basics of how Autumn::Stem works, but there’s one other thing worth
mentioning, and that’s listener plugins. The details are in the
Autumn::Stem#add_listener method docs, but the short of it is that these are
special listeners that bestow their powers onto other listeners.

The best example of this is the Autumn::CTCP class. This class is indeed a
Stem listener: It listens to PRIVMSG events from the stem, and checks them to
see if they are CTCP requests. However, it also gives you, the author of
another listener (such as your leaf) the ability to implement methods according
to its protocol.

For example, say you wanted to respond to CTCP VERSION requests with your own
version information. You do it like so:

def ctcp_version_request(handler, stem, sender, arguments)
  send_ctcp_reply stem, sender[:nick], 'VERSION', "AwesomeBot 2.0 by Sancho Sample"

What’s going on here? Because the Autumn::CTCP class is a listener plugin, it
is sending its own method calls as well as implementing @Stem@’s method calls.
One such call is the ctcp_version_request method, which you can see in the
CTCP class docs. Somewhere deep in the annals of Autumn::Foliater, there is
some code similar to the following:

ctcp =
stem.add_listener ctcp

Thus, every stem comes pre-fab with a CTCP listener plugin. That plugin is
intercepting PRIVMSG events and checking if they’re CTCP requests. If they are,
it is invoking methods, such as ctcp_version_request, in all of the stem’s
other listeners, among which is your leaf. Hopefully you understand how this all
fits together.

The lesson to take home here is two-fold: Firstly, if you’d like CTCP support in
your leaf, know that it’s the Autumn::CTCP class that is providing the method
calls to your leaf, not the Autumn::Stem class. Secondly, this should
hopefully give you some ideas should you want to write your own listener plugin
to enhance @Stem@’s functionality.

Autumn’s Logging

Autumn uses Ruby’s Logger class to log; however, it uses Autumn::LogFacade
to prepend additional information to each log entry. The LogFacade class has
the exact same external API as Logger, so you can use it like a typical Ruby
or Ruby on Rails logger. Many objects (such as Leaf and Stem) include a
logger attribute:

logger.debug "Debug statement"
logger.fatal $!

See the LogFacade class docs for details.


The included Rakefile contains a number of useful tasks to help you develop and
deploy your leaves. You can always get a list of tasks by typing rake --tasks.
The various commands you can run are:

Application tasks:

rake app:start Starts the Autumn daemon in the background.
rake app:stop Stops the Autumn daemon.
rake app:restart Reloads the Autumn daemons.
rake app:run Starts the Autumn daemon in the foreground.
rake app:zap Forces the daemon to a stopped state. Use this command if your daemon is not running but autumn thinks it still is.

Database tasks:

LEAF=[leaf name] rake db:migrate Creates all the tables for a leaf, as specified by the leaf’s model objects

Documentation tasks:

rake doc:api Generates HTML documentation for Autumn, found in the doc/api directory.
rake doc:leaves Generates HTML documentation for your leaves, found in the doc/leaves directory.
rake doc:clear Removes all HTML documentation.

Logging tasks:

rake log:clear Clears the log files for all seasons.
rake log:errors Prints a list of error-level log messages for the current season, and uncaught exceptions in all seasons.

Custom leaf tasks

You can define your own leaf-specific tasks in the tasks subdirectory
within your leaf’s directory. Any .rake files there will be loaded by
rake. The tasks will be added within a task-group named after your leaf. Use
Scorekeeper as an example: If you type rake --tasks, you’ll see one other
task, rake scorekeeper:scores. The “scores” task is defined in the
leaves/scorekeeper/tasks/stats.rake file, and placed in the
“scorekeeper” task group by Autumn.

Also, if you open that file up, you’ll notice that you have to refer to your
leaf’s classes by their full names, including the leaf module. (See Your
Leaf’s Module
if you’re confused.)


Autumn includes some scripts to help you control it.


Bootstraps an IRb console with the Autumn environment configured. Stems and
leaves are accessile from the Foliater instance. DataMapper models can be used.
Does not start any stems (in other words, no actual server login occurs).

Usage: script/console [options]

where [options] may contain:

--irb Invoke a different Ruby terminal.

You can alter the season by setting the SEASON environment variable.

autumn start|stop|status|restart PROJECT [options]

The autumn command controls the Autumn daemon.
PROJECT is the path to your autumn bot’s root directory.

Usage: autumn [command] [options] -- [application options]

where [command] is one of:

start start an instance of the application
stop stop all instances of the application
restart stop all instances and restart them afterwards
status show the status of an application

and where [options] are:

-D, --daemonize Daemonize the bot
-m, --monitor Try to restart from crashes in daemon mode

Common options:

-h, --help Show usage


Destroys the files for leaves, seasons, and other objects of the Autumn

Usage: script/destroy [options] [object] [name]

[object] The object type to destroy. Valid types are “leaf” and “season”.
[name] The name of the object to destroy. For example, you can call script/destroy leaf Scorekeeper to remove a leaf named Scorekeeper.
--help, -h Displays this usage information.
--vcs, -c Remove any created files or directories from the project’s version control system. (Autodetects CVS, Git, and Subversion.)


Generates template files for leaves, seasons, and other Autumn objects.

Usage: script/generate [options] [template] [name]

[template] The template to create. Valid templates are “leaf” and “season”.
[name] The name to give the created template. For example, you can call script/generate leaf Scorekeeper to create a leaf named Scorekeeper.
--help, -h Displays this usage information.
--vcs, -c Add any created files or directories to the project’s version control system. (Autodetects CVS, Git, and Subversion.)

autumn start

Runs Autumn from the command line. This script will not exit until all leaves
have exited. You can set the SEASON environment variable to override the

Thread Safety

Autumn is a multi-threaded IRC client. When a message is received, a new thread
is spawned to process the message. In this thread, the message will be parsed,
and all listener hooks will be invoked, including your leaf’s methods. The
thread will terminate once the message has been fully processed and all methods

I have made every effort to ensure that Autumn::Stem and Autumn::Leaf are
thread-safe, as well as other relevant support classes such as Autumn::CTCP.
It is now in your hands to ensure your leaves are thread-safe! This basically
means recognizing that, while your leaf is churning away at whatever command it
received, things can and will change in the background. If your command requires
your leaf to have operator privileges, write your code under the assumption that
operator could be taken from your leaf in the middle of executing the command.
Write data in critical blocks, use transactions in your database calls … you
know the deal. Don’t assume things will be the same between one line of code and
the next.

Getting Ready for Deployment

There’s only a few things you need to do once your leaf is ready to greet
the Real World:

  1. Create a new production season. Configure your stems, leaves, and database
    as necessary for your production environment.
  2. In config/global.yml, set the season to your production season.
  3. If desired, in autumn start -D, set the -m option.
    This will spawn a monitor process that will relaunch Autumn if it crashes.

Other Information

Please consult the list of known bugs
and version history
for more information.

*_Why do you require Facets?, I hear you ask. Facets doesn’t add any super
awesome new features to Ruby like Daemons or DataMapper does. It does, however,
improve code reuse, and I’m a big fan of that. Why should a million different
Ruby projects all write the same Symbol#to_proc method or the same
keys@ method? I use Facets because that job has already been
done, and staying DRY means staying DRY between codebases, not just within


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