Chatterbot

Chatterbot is a Ruby library for making bots on Twitter. It is basic enough that you can put it into use quickly, but can be used to make pretty involved bots. It handles searches, replies and tweets, and has a simple blacklist system to help keep you from spamming people who don't want to hear from your bot.

Build Status

Features

Is Writing Bots a Good Use of My Time?

Quick answer: if you're planning on being spammish on Twitter, you should probably find something else to do. If you're planning on writing a bot that isn't too rude or annoying, or that expects a certain amount of opt-in from users, then you're probably good. I've written a blog post about bots on Twitter here: http://muffinlabs.com/2012/06/04/the-current-state-of-bots-on-twitter/

Using Chatterbot

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

Chatterbot has a very simple DSL inspired by Sinatra and Twibot, an earlier Twitter bot framework. Here's an example, based on @dr_rumack, an actual bot running on Twitter:

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

Or, you can create a bot object yourself, 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

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.

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

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) 2013 Colin Mitchell. Chatterbot is distributed under a modified WTFPL licence -- it's the 'Do what the fuck you want to -- but don't be an asshole' public license. Please see LICENSE.txt for further details. Basically, do whatever you want with this code, but don't be an asshole about it. If you spam users inappropriately, expect your karma to suffer.

http://muffinlabs.com