Chatterbot

Chatterbot is a Ruby library for making bots on Twitter. It's great for rapid development of bot ideas. It handles all of the basic Twitter API features -- searches, replies, tweets, retweets, etc. and has a simple blacklist/whitelist system to help minimize spam and unwanted data.

Build Status

Features

  • Handles search queries and replies to your bot
  • Use a simple scripting language, or extend a Bot class if you need it
  • Wraps the Twitter gem so you have access to the entire Twitter API
  • Simple blacklistling system to limit your annoyance of users
  • Avoid your bot making a fool of itself by ignoring tweets with certain bad words
  • Basic Streaming API support
  • Optionally log tweets to the database for metrics and tracking purposes

Using Chatterbot

NEW!! Chatterbot has a documentation website. It's a work-in-progress.

Make a Twitter account

First thing you'll need to do is create an account for your bot on Twitter. That's the easy part.

Run the generator

Chatterbot comes with a script named chatterbot-register which will handle two tasks -- it will authorize your bot with Twitter and it will generate a skeleton script, which you use to implement your actual bot.

Write your bot

A bot using chatterbot can be as simple as this:

exclude "http://"
blacklist "mean_user, private_user"

puts "checking my timeline"
home_timeline do |tweet|
    # i like to favorite things
    favorite tweet
end

puts "checking for replies to my tweets and mentions of me"
replies do |tweet|
  text = tweet.text
  puts "message received: #{text}"
  src = text.gsub(/@echoes_bot/, "#USER#")  

  # send it back!
  reply src, tweet
end

Or you can write a bot using more traditional ruby classes, extend it if needed, and use it like so:

bot = Chatterbot::Bot.new
bot.search("'surely you must be joking'") do |tweet|
 bot.reply "@#{tweet_user(tweet)} I am serious, and don't call me Shirley!", tweet
end

Chatterbot can actually generate a template bot file for you, and will walk you through process of getting a bot authorized with Twitter.

That's it!

Chatterbot uses the the Twitter gem (https://github.com/sferik/twitter) to handle the underlying API calls. Any calls to the search/reply methods will return Twitter::Status objects, which are basically extended hashes.

What Can I Do?

Here's a list of the important methods in the Chatterbot DSL:

search -- You can use this to perform a search on Twitter:

search("'surely you must be joking'") do |tweet|
  reply "@#{tweet_user(tweet)} I am serious, and don't call me Shirley!", tweet
end

replies -- Use this to check for replies and mentions:

replies do |tweet|
  reply "#USER# Thanks for contacting me!", tweet
end

Note that the string #USER# will be replaced with the username of the person who sent the original tweet.

home_timeline -- This call will return tweets from the bot's home timeline -- this will include tweets from accounts the bot follows, as well as the bot's own tweets: home_timeline do |tweet| puts tweet.text # this is the actual tweeted text favorite tweet # i like to fave tweets end

tweet -- send a Tweet out for this bot:

tweet "I AM A BOT!!!"

reply -- reply to another tweet:

reply "THIS IS A REPLY TO #USER#!", original_tweet

retweet -- Chatterbot can retweet tweets as well:

  search "xyzzy" do |tweet|
    retweet(tweet[:id])
  end

blacklist -- you can use this to specify a list of users you don't want to interact with. If you put the following line at the top of your bot:

blacklist "user1, user2, user3"

None of those users will trigger your bot if they come up in a search. However, if a user replies to one of your tweets or mentions your bot in a tweet, you will receive that tweet when calling the reply method.

exclude -- similarly, you can specify a list of words/phrases which shouldn't trigger your bot. If you use the following:

exclude "spam"

Any tweets or mentions with the word 'spam' in them will be ignored by the bot. If you wanted to ignore any tweets with links in them (a wise precaution if you want to avoid spreading spam), you could call:

exclude "http://"

followers -- get a list of your followers. This is an experimental feature but should work for most purposes.

For more details, check out dsl.rb in the source code.

Direct Client Access

If you want to do something not provided by the DSL, you have access to an instance of Twitter::Client provided by the client method. In theory, you can do something like this in your bot to unfollow users who DM you:

client.direct_messages_received(:since_id => since_id).each do |m|
    client.unfollow(m.user.name)
end

Authorization

If you only want to use Chatterbot to search for tweets, it will work out of the box without any authorization. However, if you want to reply to tweets, or check for replies to your bot, you will have to jump through a few authorization hoops with Twitter.

Before you setup a bot for the first time, you will need to register an application with Twitter. Twitter requires all API communication to be via an app which is registered on Twitter. I would set one up and make it part of Chatterbot, but unfortunately Twitter doesn't allow developers to publicly post the OAuth consumer key/secret that you would need to use. If you're planning to run more than one bot, you only need to do this step once -- you can use the same app setup for other bots too.

The helper script chatterbot-register will walk you through most of this without too much hand-wringing. And, if you write a bot without chatterbot-register, you'll still be sent through the authorization process the first time you run your script. But if you prefer, here's the instructions if you want to do it yourself:

  1. Setup your own app on Twitter.

  2. Put in whatever name, description, and website you want.

  3. Take the consumer key/consumer secret values, and either run your bot, and enter them in when prompted, or store them in a config file for your bot. (See below for details on this). It should look like this:

     ---
     :consumer_secret: CONSUMER SECRET GOES HERE
     :consumer_key: CONSUMER KEY GOES HERE
    

When you do this via the helper script, chatterbot will point you at the URL in Step #1, then ask you to paste the same values as in Step #4.

Once this is done, you will need to setup authorization for the actual bot with Twitter. At the first run, you'll get a message asking you to go to a Twitter URL, where you can authorize the bot to post messages for your account or not. If you accept, you'll get a PIN number back. You need to copy this and paste it back into the prompt for the bot. Hit return, and you should be all set.

This is obviously a bunch of effort, but once you're done, you're ready to go!

Configuration

Chatterbot offers a couple different methods of storing the config for your bot:

  1. Your credentials can be stored as variables in the script itself. chatterbot-register will do this for you. If your bot is using replies or searches, that data will be written to a YAML file.
  2. In a YAML file with the same name as the bot, so if you have botname.rb or a Botname class, store your config in botname.yaml
  3. In a global config file at /etc/chatterbot.yml -- values stored here will apply to any bots you run.
  4. In another global config file specified in the environment variable 'chatterbot_config'.
  5. In a global.yml file in the same directory as your bot. This gives you the ability to have a global configuration file, but keep it with your bots if desired.
  6. In a database. You can store your configuration in a DB, and then specify the connection string either in one of the global config files by setting :db_uri: postgres://username:password@host/database, or on the command-line by using the --db="db_uri" configuration option. Any calls to the database are handled by the Sequel gem, and MySQL and Sqlite should work. The DB URI should be in the form of mysql://username:password@host/database -- see http://sequel.rubyforge.org/rdoc/files/doc/opening_databases_rdoc.html for details.

Running Your Bot

There's a couple ways of running your bot:

Run it on the command-line whenever you like. Whee!

Run it via cron. Here's an example of running a bot every two minutes

*/2 * * * * . ~/.bash_profile; cd /path/to/bot/;  ./bot.rb

Run it as a background process. Just put the guts of your bot in a loop like this:

loop do
  search "twitter" do |tweet|
    # here you could do something with a tweet
    # if you want to retweet
    retweet(tweet[:id])
  end

  replies do |tweet|
    # do stuff
  end

  # explicitly update our config
  update_config

  sleep 60
end

NOTE: You need to call update_config to update the last tweet your script has processed -- if you don't have this call, you will get duplicate tweets.

Database logging

Chatterbot can log tweet activity to the database if desired. This can be handy for tracking what's going on with your bot. See Chatterbot::Logging for details on this.

Blacklists

Not everyone wants to hear from your bot. To keep annoyances to a minimum, Chatterbot has a global blacklist option, as well as bot-specific blacklists if desired. The global blacklist is stored in the database, and you can add entries to it by using the chatterbot-blacklist script included with the gem.

You can also specify users to skip as part of the DSL:

require 'chatterbot'
blacklist "mean_user, private_user"

You should really respect the wishes of users who don't want to hear from your bot, and add them to your blacklist whenever requested.

There's also an 'exclude' method which can be used to add words/phrases you might want to ignore -- for example, if you wanted to ignore tweets with links, you could do something like this:

exclude "http://"

TODO

  • document DSL methods
  • document database setup
  • web-based frontend for tracking bot activity
  • opt-out system that adds people to blacklist if they reply to a bot in the right way

Contributing to Chatterbot

Since this code is based off of actual Twitter bots, it's mostly working the way I want it to, and I might prefer to keep it that way. But please, if there are bugs or things you would like to improve, fork the project and hack away. I'll pull anything back that makes sense if requested.

Copyright/License

Copyright (c) 2014 Colin Mitchell. Chatterbot is distributed under the WTFPL licence -- Please see LICENSE.txt for further details.

http://muffinlabs.com