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YourDailyVergil Bot

Note: this is an archived project. The bot finished its task of Tweeting the Aeneid in 2017, and I rewrote it in Python to make amusing Vergil-based owl tweets.

Uses the Aeneid API to Tweet a line of Vergil's Latin, plus translation, about every hour. The goal is to Tweet the whole of the Aeneid in a year, for 2015.

(Ed. note: due to using AWS's prepackaged Node image, it kept stopping and actually took till mid-2017. Oh well, that's software development for ya.)

Also meant to be a learning tool for humanists who want to program.

Forked from Darius Kazemi's ExampleBot, with some features from his MetaphorAMinute Bot.

How to Run VergilBot Locally

Even if you don't want to connect to Twitter, you can run this with one line commented out, and see the output locally in your computer's console.

Note: you must be comfortable using your computer's command line interface to use this bot. If you've never used it, there are tutorials for Mac OSX and Windows.

If you don't already have have them, please install Node.js. This will install two programs: node, which runs JavaScript from the command line, and npm, which helps you install software that Node.js can run.

Make an empty project directory somewhere convenient for you, download this file, and unzip the contents to your project directory. Go to your project directory in the command line (the command in this case is cd). There should be three files there: .gitignore,, and bot.js.

In that directory type:

npm install twit


npm install request

This installs some code to the node_modules subdirectory, which you don't need to worry about. (It's Twit, the library that lets us talk to Twitter, and Request, the library that lets us make calls the the Aeneid API.)

If you're not connecting to Twitter, comment out the bot.js line that reads: var T = new Twit(require('./config.js')); by putting a // in front of it. (Otherwise the server will freak out when it tries to look for a missing file.)

Once this is done, you should be able to run node bot.js in the Terminal. If all goes well, you'll see the Aeneid begin running through your terminal window.

Connecting to Twitter

To connect to Twitter you need to register a Twitter account and also get its "app info".

So create a Twitter account for whatever account you want to tweet this stuff. Twitter doesn't allow you to register multiple twitter accounts on the same email address. I recommend you create a brand new email address (perhaps using Gmail) for the Twitter account. Once you register the account to that email address, wait for the confirmation email. You'll then need to add a phone number to be able to post to Twitter remotely. Hint: use a Google phone number if it recognizes your real one.

Then go here and log in as the Twitter account for your bot:

Once you're there, fill in the required fields: name, description, website. None of it really matters at all to your actual app, it's just for Twitter's information. Do the captcha and submit.

Next you'll see a screen with a "Details" tab. Click on the "Settings" tab and under "Application Type" choose "Read and Write", then hit the update button at the bottom.

Then go back to the Details tab, and at the bottom click "create my access token". Nothing might happen immediately. Wait a minute and reload the page. then there should be "access token" and "access token secret", which are both long strings of letters and numbers.

Now you'll need to add your own config.js file. You can do this in your text editor.

It will need to look like this:

module.exports = {
  consumer_key:               'YOUR_AUTH_STUFF_HERE',
  consumer_secret:            'YOUR_AUTH_STUFF_HERE',
  access_token:               'YOUR_AUTH_STUFF_HERE',
  access_token_secret:        'YOUR_AUTH_STUFF_HERE',

In between those quotes, instead of 'YOUR_AUTH_STUFF_HERE', paste the appropriate info from your app's Details page. This is essentially the login information for the app.

Now if you type the following in the command line in your project directory:

node bot.js

You should be see a Vergil Tweet appear in the account.

##How to Run VergilBot From a Server I can't give you every step here, but you'll have to upload the code to a service that lets you run Node apps (such as Heroku as AWS), install the dependencies, then start the bot. I've included forever as a dependency, so you can use

forever start bot.js

to keep it running.

Tutorial(ish) Suggestions for the Innocent and Doomed

If you're a humanist who wants to program, it can be hard to find projects that speak to your interests. I thought this could serve as a good example of something that combines core programming concepts with subject matter that's of interest (and not just the Latin -- the API provides three separate English translations.)

I've commented the bot.js file extensively, if you want to read through what it's doing. And you don't have to build a Twitterbot; doing anything with the Aeneid API is a good place to start programming. The Aeneid API itself is public and very simple. Accessing it will give you experience with APIs and getting info from them; understanding web page headers; loops; and even some error handling.

A big part of programming is breaking down large tasks into smaller ones, and iterating on an idea to make it progressively better. While building this, I used roughly the following steps (as you can see in the commit history):

  1. Grab the first line of every book from the API using a self-incrementing loop, and output them into the Terminal console.
  2. Build a function that returns to the first book after you hit Book 12.
  3. Add the ability to grab sequential lines from each book, instead of just the first line.
  4. Make the app smarter by allowing it to use a "not found" 404 error as a trigger for the 'start a new book' functionality.
  5. Grab the English translation for a successfully retreived Latin phrase, and add it to the output.
  6. Make the ultimate output a Tweet. Note that you can program the rest of the functionality without having to worry about that part.

I used Node (a kind of Javascript), but the first five tasks can be accomplished in any programming language -- making the input show up in the console means you don't have to futz with HTML. If you don't want to mess around with authentication and Twitter, you could make the lines show up on a webpage, as a variation.


A Twitter bot that Tweets Vergil on the hour



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