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README.md
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README.md

THATCampVA Twitter Bot

This is a brief workshop that spun out of the Bots at THATCamp Virginia.

tl;dr

  1. Install Node.js
  2. Create an account for the bot on Twitter
  3. Register an application with the Twitter API
  4. Be sure to set the permissions to read/write
  5. Create an access token (if you created the token before you set the application to be read/write, you will need to regenerate the token)
  6. Install the twit node module
  7. Configure your bot with the consumer key, consumer secret, access token, and access token secret
  8. Unleash your bot to wreak havok upon an unsuspecting public

node.js

To test to make sure everything is working properly, create a file named hello.js and edit it with your favorite text editor to read like this:

console.log("Welcome to THATCampVA!");

Save it, and run this command in the terminal to execute the program:

$ node hello

You should see the console print Welcome to THATCampVA!; if you didn't, something went horribly wrong.

Twitter Account

This is a bot, so be careful that you're not spamming people and therefor feel the wrath of Twitter and getting banned. For this reason, it's a good idea to creeate an account on Twitter, just in case there is some faulty bot logic along the way.

Twitter API

Twitter gives developers the ability to register applications to programatically interact with their platform. Once you've created an application, take a look at the OAuth settings and note your consumer key and consumer secret (you'll need these).

After you have this, create an access token (it takes a few minutes for this to propogate Twitter's system, so be patient).

Project Setup

To speed things along, I set up a repository with a file to tell node's package manager (npm) what this application needs. You will need to clone the repository, then tell node to resolve the dependencies:

$ git clone https://github.com/waynegraham/twitter-bot.git
$ cd twitter-bot
$ npm install

I'll note that I have a few other things included, mostly development dependencies that I use as boilerplate for new projects using Grunt that helps automate a lot of the things I do in development.

The Bot

The Twit module actually ships with a bot, so getting up and going is really simple. In the console, change in to your project's node_modules/twit directory:

$ cd node_modules/twit

In that directory, we need to create a file named config1.js with the credentials we generated on Twitter.

module.exports = {
  consumer_key: "...",
  consumer_secret: "...",
  access_token: "...",
  access_token_secret: "..."
}

Note: Documentation for this is in the twit module's README.md file.

You can now fire up the twitter bot with the following command (assuming you're in the examples directory):

$ node examples/rtd2.js

You're now running a Twitter bot! The bot will execute every 40 seconds (the 40000 on the last line). If you want this to execute faster, set this number lower (like 10000, or 10 seconds).

What's Going On?

This program doesn't do much. Every 40 seconds it attempts to do one of three things:

  1. Tweet a random popular tweet from github
  2. Follow a friend of one of your followers
  3. Unfollow someone who hasn't followed you back.

Twitter Considerations

Twitter doesn't ban bots, but it does what it can to prevent spam. This is a bit of a balancing act when you're writing a bot. You just need to be careful not to show the behavior indicative of a spam bot.

Twitter's Rules

Right now the bot does one of three things: retweets, follows, and unfollows. If you set the refresh interval too low (like lowering to every 10 seconds), you might have your account suspended and get a note from Twitter that your practicing "aggressive following." There's not an actual stated limit, so Twitter has some latitude to enforce the limit as they see fit (as with their entire list of rules).

Twitter's API

Twitter's API at the 1.1 stage is reasonably stable, and notes all of the actions you can program. If you want to do something with the API, it's worth reading through the documentation to see what's possible.

Heroku

Right now the bot will run on your local computer when you have it running. If you want this to run on a server, Heroku provides a nice hosting service for this kind of thing.

To run on heroku, you will need to create a file named Procfile tell tell the service what to run. Create a file with the following in it:

web: node twitter-bot.js

TODO: finish deploying to heroku

node.js

Here are some resources for leveling up your node skills: