Sunday, 10 July 2016

Telegram bots all the way

So it suddenly became rather cool writing various bots, and I was like, I want to build one as well. There was no good reason for it, and distinct lack of good ideas, but then I got an email from TfL, reminding that once upon a time I signed up for their API key ... bingo! That did sound like a plan.
And this is how @london_tube_bot was born. Right now it is fairly stupid, and can either:
  • Give full status breakdown for all lines (/status/ command)
  • Give an update on specific line (/line <line-name> command)
  • Send a not very helpful help message (/help)

Not really sure if I'm planning to develop it any further, as this was a very simple proof of concept ("because I can") -- but if you are interested, I can publish the code to GitHub at some point.
From the technical standpoint there were a few interesting observations:
  • Telegram documentation is shit. Most of what I learned I did by reverse-engineering the messages they send.
  • OTOH, Telegram API is awesomely simple - I used Advanced Rest Client to do most of my testing to play with it (cUrl would work as well, but former is far more user-friendly).
  • Building a bot on AppEngine is surprisingly easy once you get a gist of it -- I think this is the best platform for doing this at this point, as you get fully-working WebHooks for free.
  • totally rocks - I used it to build Java wrappers (yes, I used Java - just because I didn't feel like learning yet another language at this point) for JSON messages, without even having any dedicated JSON schema document. Works like a charm and requires only minimal manual fixing after classes are generated.
All things considered, I think this were half a day well spent - should I add support for Google Allo once it's out? :)

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