Skip to content


Repository files navigation

Carebot is an effort in thinking about alternative ways to look at analytics for journalism: both the measures and indicators used to understand story impact, and the way which analytics data is used in the newsroom.

Carebot takes your metrics and posts them to your team's Slack channels.

Quick Start Guide

To get Carebot up and running you will need to:

  1. Add the Carebot Tracker to your content.
  2. Set up the Carebot Slackbot to report data through notifications.

Note: You will need accounts with Google Analytics and Slack.

Carebot: The Slackbot

Using Carebot

Here's how to work with Carebot once you've invited it to your channels.

Handy commands


@carebot help

To find out details about a story:

@carebot slug story-slug-here

@carebot What's going on with slug story-slug-here?

@carebot Give me the scoop on slug another-slug-here please!

To see an overview of the last week:

@carebot hello!

Carebot will automatically track stories (see "Running Carebot", below). Sometimes you want to manually add stories to the queue:

@carebot track story-slug-here

Installing Carebot


The following things are assumed to be true in this documentation.

  • You are running OSX.
  • You are using Python 2.7.
  • You have virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper installed and working.
  • You have an Amazon Web Services account, and know how to create an S3 bucket and associated access keys.
  • You are using Google Analytics
  • You are using Slack

If you need assistance setting up a development environment to work with this for the first time, we recommend NPR Visuals' Setup.

First steps

Clone this repository and create a virtual environment:

git clone
cd carebot
mkvirtualenv carebot --no-site-packages
workon carebot

Install the dependencies

pip install -r requirements.txt

Add credentials

The bot requires several API credentials available as environment variables. An easy way to add them is to use a .env file. Copy sample.env to dev.env. Fill in the values (see detailed instructions below). Then, run source dev.env to make them availabe to the app.

Copy sample.env to staging.env and production.env to store keys for those environments. The appropriate .env file is copied to the server on deploy.

Add S3 credentials

Create an S3 bucket and add the bucket name, access key, and secret to your .env file. You might want to set up a user that only has read-write access to that bucket. No other Amazon services are needed.

Adding a slackbot integration

You'll need to add a slackbot integration to get a SLACKBOT_API_TOKEN:

  1. Browse to
  2. Navigate to "Bots"
  3. Select "Add integration"
  4. Fill in the username with "@carebot"
  5. Select "Add integration"
  6. Copy the API token to your .env

After adding the bot, invite it to your Slack channels. You might want to set up a private channel for testing. (Note that you can't make a channel private channel public later.)


The first time you run Carebot, you'll need to authorize the app with your Google account.

First, you'll need to create a Google API project via the Google developer console. There's a more detailed guide on the NPR Apps blog

Then, enable the Drive and Analytics APIs for your project.

Finally, create a "web application" client ID. For the redirect URIs use:

  • http://localhost:8000/authenticate/
  • http://localhost:8888/authenticate/

For the Javascript origins use:

  • http://localhost:8000
  • http://localhost:8888

Copy the Client ID and Client Secret from the project's Credentials tab to GOOGLE_OAUTH_CLIENT_ID and GOOGLE_OAUTH_CONSUMER_SECRET in your .env file.

After you have set these up, from the the project root, run:

source dev.env
fab app

And follow the on-screen instructions. If you have already set up an app using the NPR Apps template, you may not have to do this.

NPR API credentials

If you're running this internally at NPR, you'll want a key for the NPR API. This will be used to pull more details about articles, like primary image and a more accurate "published at" date. You can register for one here.

Troubleshooting problems with credentials

Run the optional screenshot tool

Scroll depth stats use an optional screenshot tool to take snaps of your pages. We've hardcoded in the URL to our service and you can run it on your own if you prefer. It runs well on Heroku or any other place you can run a Node app. However, it's totally optional and the bot will function just fine without it.

Running Carebot

Run the bot


After starting the bot, make sure to invite it to the channel you set in .env.

Configuring Carebot to load new stories

Configure Carebot to pull stores from various sources by customizing the TEAMS and SOURCES in

Under TEAMS, define team names and the channel messages for that team should post to. Make sure you have a default team (it can have the same properties as another team).

ga_org_id should be the ID of the team's Google Analytics account. You can find the ID you need using the Analytics API explorer: select the account, property, and view, then copy the number after ga: in the ids field.

Under SOURCES, define where content should be pulled from, and what team it belongs to. There currently are two supported sources:

  • spreadsheet pulls from a google doc using its doc_key
  • rss pulls from an RSS feed via a url. It recognizes many typical feeds.

Load new stories

This is usually run via a cronjob, but you can fire it manually to test it out:

fab carebot.load_new_stories

Get stats on stories

This is usually run via a cronjob after load_new_stories, but you can fire it manually:

fab carebot.get_story_stats

Carebot in production

Server setup

You'll need a couple packages:

  • SQLite: sudo apt-get install sqlite3 libsqlite3-dev
  • sudo apt-get install libjpeg-dev for pil
  • sudo apt-get install python-dev for pycrypto
  • sudo apt-get install libpng-dev for matplotlib
  • sudo apt-get install libfreetype6-dev libxft-dev for matplotlib
  • Any other basics: python, pip.

If you have trouble running carebot with matplotlib, this command may help:

echo "backend: TkAgg" > ~/.matplotlib/matplotlibrc

First deploy

Make sure you have a .env file with your production keys (see "add creditials"). Also make sure that you've run the server locally, and logged into Google through the OAuth flow. Note: although the filename for the token is the same, you cannot use the same creds as you do for Dailygraphics or the app template. The credential scopes for Carebot are a superset of our other applications--you can use Dailygraphics after logging into Carebot, but not vice versa.

Then, run:

fab production setup


To deploy carebot to production:

fab production deploy

Starting and stoppping

You may occasionally need to stop and start a remote carebot instance:

  • fab staging stop_service:bot
  • fab staging start_service:bot

Debugging deploys

We use upstart to keep carebot running on deploys. Sometimes carebot doesn't start. The debug process is fairly annoying, but here are some things that might help.

  • Logs should be available in /var/log/upstart/carebot.log
  • Not all errors go there :-/. You might want to try outputting each command in confs/bot.conf, eg ...command >> {{ SERVER_PROJECT_PATH }}/log.txt
  • The cron file is /etc/cron.d/carebot
  • Cron errors might end up in /var/log/syslog; check tail -100 /var/log/syslog
  • By default, cron errors will be in /var/log/carebot/

Developing Carebot

Tracking your stats with plugins

Are you collecting stats not built into Carebot? Great! You can write plugins to fetch and share the stats.

Plugins have two functions:

  1. Pull stats regularly and announce them to a channel

  2. Respond to inquiries ("@carebot, help!")

Here's how to write a new plugin:

Use the base class as a reference

The CarebotPlugin base class is in /plugins/ Extend CarebotPlugin to create a new plugin. You can also copy one of the existing plugins to a new file.

Listen for questions

If you want your plugin to listen for questions sent to Carebot, (for example, "@carebot, what should I have for lunch?") implement get_listeners on your class. The optional get_listeners function should return a list of regular expressions and corresponding handler functions that will match and respond to incoming slack messages. For a simple example, see the help plugin.

Regularly share stats about articles

Carebot will regularly check every story in the database. If the story has not been checked recently, the optional get_update_message function of each plugin will be called. You can return a mesage and attachments, for example with the latest stat for the article. Check the linger or scrolldepth plugins for example code.

If you're pulling stats from Google Analytics, the Query Explorer is a helpful way to test your parameters before coding them into Carebot.

Enable your plugin

To enable a plugin, list it in two places in

  1. Add the full path to the list of CAREBOT_PLUGINS

  2. Add the full path of the plugin to the plugins array on the teams you want to report that stat.

Here's an example:


    'default': {
        'channel': 'visuals-graphics',
        'ga_org_id': '100693289',
        'plugins': [

Load your stories into Carebot with scrapers

Carebot regularly runs scrapers to load new stories into its database. You'll probably have to write or customize a scraper to get Carebot to learn about your stories.

Scraper code is located in /scrapers. We've included an RSS scraper and a scraper that pulls articles from a Google Spreadsheet. You can copy or customize these to pull in your stories, or write a new scraper from scratch.

Scrapers are instantiated with the SOURCES pulled from app_config. All scrapers should implement a scrape_and_load method that returns a list of stories.

Once you've got a scraper, register it in /fabfile/ in the load_new_stories method.


To run tests:


These tests help you make sure that scrapers, plugins, and analytics tools are running as expected. We highly recommend writing simple tests for your plugins to make sure they respond correctly.

The cron file

Carebot loads new stories and checks for stats regularly by running the fabfile via cron jobs. These are set for staggered 15-minute runs. You can configure them by editing the crontab file.


If you make changes to existing models in, you will need to write a migration.

For now, migrations are not automatically run on deploy and may need to be run manually. Inside the environment, run python


Slackbot implementation of Carebot: Meaningful analytics for the newsroom







No releases published


No packages published

Contributors 4