Do you know how to create a bot in Ruby?

by Apoorv Saxena on July 9, 2013

Do you know how to create a bot in Ruby?

This guest post is by Apoorv Saxena. He’s a Ruby Enthusiast, and has been coding in Ruby since 2009. In his free time, he builds hacks using Ruby and JavaScript; latest being Advanced Search for Facebook. He likes to blog about Sinatra, Ruby, Digital Marketing and Programming concepts. He would love to hear from you on Google Plus or through mail.

Introduction

Apoorv Saxena A bot can be defined as a continuously running script that is responsible for performing a specific task regularly or respond to an action triggered on a specific event. Bots are targeted to perform an action that is repetitive in nature or has a limited number of events to respond. See the Wikipedia article on bots that describes the different types of bots built to perform a variety of different tasks.

Today, we are going to create a bot that repeats a certain task after every X mins of time. The repetitive task that we have chosen to perform, is to get the links of the Most Trending Stories on Internet in Real Time (using Bitly’s Social Data APIs) and display them on our command line. Our bot will also send notification pop-ups on our screen whenever it fetches the latest data after every X mins of time. We will name our bot as Bitly-Bot as it uses Bitly’s APIs to bring us Trending Data in Real Time.

OurBot
OurBot

Running Bitly-Bot

You can clone Bitly Bot’s Code from GitHub for reference and run it as well on your machine, it contains the instructions to setup Bitly-Bot on your local machine, it also contains the links to create Bitly Application (required to access Bitly’s Social Data APIs) and install Growl Application on your Mac OS X (to send notification pop-ups from Bitly-Bot).

Understanding the Working of Bitly-Bot

We start with the initialization of a class named Bitly that is responsible for handling the API calls interaction, it sends request to Bitly  containing our Application Generic Access token, to validate our application and fetches the Hot and Bursting Topics data along with the Most Trending Story links associated with these topics in JSON format. We have used Threads to make two network API calls simultaneously to Bitly(one to bring Hot Topics and the other to bring Bursting Topics), instead of triggering them sequentially, thus saving us time and patience to see our Bot’s response.

class Bitly

  def initialize()
    @access_token = $config['access_token']
    @colorize = Colorize.new
  end

  def get_url(phrase)
    @base_url = "https://api-ssl.bitly.com/v3/realtime/#{phrase}_phrases?access_token=#{@access_token}"
  end

  def get_topics(phrase_types)
    threads = []
    phrase_types.each do |phrase_type|
      base_url = get_url phrase_type
      threads << Thread.new(base_url, phrase_type) do |url, phrase_type|
        begin
          response = JSON.parse RestClient.get url
          if response['status_code'] != 200
            puts  @colorize.display 'Error: ' + response['status_txt'] + '\n', :error
            exit
          end
          display response,phrase_type
        rescue
          display_error_message
        end
        puts "\n\n"
      end
    end
    threads.each { |aThread|  aThread.join }
  end

  def display(response,phrase_type)
    puts GrowlNotifications.display "#{phrase_type.capitalize} Topics"
    puts @colorize.display "#{phrase_type.capitalize} Topics", :heading
    response['data']['phrases'].each do |data|
      puts @colorize.display("#{data['phrase']}", :text) + " " + @colorize.display("http://bit.ly/#{data['ghashes'][0]['ghash']}", :link)
    end
  end

  def display_error_message
   puts @colorize.display 'Unable to connect to the Server', :error
   exit
  end

end

We have a class named Colorize which contains a method named display that displays the different parts of APIs response in different colors, while also colorizing an error message that is displayed when we are not able to connect to Bitly. Another class named GrowlNotifications simply echoes a text on the terminal that contains the code which triggers the Growl Notifications on Mac OS X.

class Colorize
  def display(text, element)
    color_code = case element
      when :text
        ['1;','32;','40m']
      when :heading
        ['1;','33;','40m']
      when :error
        ['1;','','31m']
      when :link
        ['4;','31;','48m']
    end
    "33[#{color_code[0]}#{color_code[1]}#{color_code[2]}#{text}33[0m"
  end
end  

class GrowlNotifications
  def self.display(text)
    "\e]9;#{text}07"
  end
end

Now that we have finished writing our bot script, we would like to run it as a Daemon in a terminal window. Most processes that run as Daemon, are run as background jobs, however, in our case, we would like to see the Trending Topics links inside our terminal window, for which the daemon has to run in the current terminal window in which it is started. We specify the bot to run in our current terminal window by giving an additional parameter ontop when writing the code to run our Daemon.

Daemons.run('application.rb', {:ontop => true, :app_name => 'Bitly-Bot'})

Now we code our application to run continuously with a delay of X minutes while controlling it via our Daemon process.

loop do
  Bitly.new.get_topics ['bursting', 'hot']
  sleep $config['delay'] * 60 # delaying in minutes
end

That’s it! We are ready to receive Trending Story Links from our Bot after every X mins, along with Notification Popups and Colored Output to grab our attention.

I hope this article explains and motivates you enough to create a bot in Ruby by yourself, and explore the amazing stuff that you can perform with a bot at your disposal. Feel free to ask questions and give feedback in the comments section of this post. Thanks!

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Posted by Apoorv Saxena

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