Sparrow - A Python Twitter Bot Shell for AWS Lambda

Reading time ~6 minutes

Meet Sparrow - a Twitter bot shell that makes it easier to create interesting automated accounts. In this post I’ll show you how to make a simple automated Twitter bot on AWS using Sparrow and AWS Lambda. Better yet, it’s all free!

Here’s a few examples of ways I’m using it:

Setup Steps

Here are some things you should make sure are done before working with this repository:

  1. Install pip

    The latest version of Python 2.7 should have pip installed by default so you likely have it already! If you need help getting pip read more here: http://pip.readthedocs.io/en/latest/installing/#install-pip

    This should be the case for all modern operating systems.

  2. Install virtualenv

    If you don’t have virtualenv installed you can install it with pip. One of these commands should work:

    pip install virtualenv
        
    sudo pip install virtualenv
    

    If neither of these commands work you can read more in the documentation here: https://virtualenv.pypa.io/en/stable/installation/

  3. Install boto3

    If you don’t have boto3 you can install it with pip. This command should work:

    pip install boto3
    

    If you have any issues you can review the documentation here: https://boto3.readthedocs.io/en/latest/guide/quickstart.html

  4. Install the AWS CLI

    If you don’t have the AWS Command Line Interface setup you can install it with pip. One of these commands should work:

    pip install awscli
    
    sudo pip install awscli
    
    sudo pip install awscli --ignore-installed six
    

    If none of these commands work you can read more in the documentation here: http://docs.aws.amazon.com/cli/latest/userguide/installing.html

  5. Get your AWS Access Keys

    Log into the AWS console and follow these instructions:

    a. Go to https://console.aws.amazon.com/iam/home?#home

    b. Choose “Users”

    c. Choose your IAM username (not the check box)

    d. Choose the Security Credentials tab and then choose Create Access Key

    e. To see your access key, choose Show User Security Credentials. Your credentials will look something like this:

    Access Key ID: AKIAIOSFODNN7EXAMPLE
    Secret Access Key: wJalrXUtnFEMI/K7MDENG/bPxRfiCYEXAMPLEKEY
    

    f. Choose Download Credentials, and store the keys in a secure location

    If you have any issues with this step review the documentation: Reference: http://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSSimpleQueueService/latest/SQSGettingStartedGuide/AWSCredentials.html)

  6. Configure the AWS CLI

    Once you have your access keys you can configure the AWS CLI.

    Open a shell and use this command:

    aws configure
    

    Follow the prompts and enter in your keys and the region you are working in. You can see a list of regions and region codes here. Example of what you should input (except press enter where it says ENTER):

    AWS Access Key ID [None]: AKIAIOSFODNN7EXAMPLE
    AWS Secret Access Key [None]: wJalrXUtnFEMI/K7MDENG/bPxRfiCYEXAMPLEKEY
    Default region name [None]: us-east-1
    Default output format [None]: ENTER
    

    You should now be ready to go with the AWS CLI

  7. Twython

    You should be able to install Twython with:

    pip install twython
    

    If you can’t do this because of any errors hold off on this for now. documentation.

  8. Twitter API Keys

    You’ll need to make a twitter account and then get Twitter API keys at apps.twitter.com. Go through the signup process and go to the “Keys and Access Keys” section to get the following values:

    • Consumer Key (API Key)
    • Consumer Secret (API Secret)
    • Access Token
    • Access Token Secret

    Important Notes:

    1. Don’t put API credentials in your source code
    2. API creds are sensitive info that are roughly equivalent to usernames/passwords
  9. Next you’ll need to grab the Sparrow code from my repo here. I suggest you do this with git, but you could also just download the zip file and unzip it.

    git clone https://github.com/fernando-mc/sparrow
    

OKEY DOKEY. With those setup steps out of the way, let’s move on.

Code and Config

Now that you have all the code locally, open up creds.json and replace the values in quotes with your API credentials. The result would look something like this:

{
    "consumer_key": "EXAMPLEajsgdfvAJSDyugakshjd",
    "consumer_secret": "PCEXAMPLE0CHaisdgkjasdgASDGYJHBlasgdkjashdg",
    "access_token_key": "48123612522-6TyALjkashdGAsdlkajsEXAMple",
    "access_token_secret": "EMAMple8lakJkajlshdlkjncXZkjlasdasd"
}

Save that file and start a virtualenvironment:

virtualenv .env && .env/bin/activate

Then install Twython in the activated virtualenv

pip install Twython

Your terminal prompt should look something like this now:

(.env) $ 

Now start up python and import your sparrow_nokms file and send a sample tweet using send_tweet and the handler. For reasons we’ll get into in a moment, the handler function needs to have two values passed into it. But for now it doesn’t matter what they are.

from sparrow_nokms import send_tweet, handler
send_tweet('Using Sparrow by @fmc_sea rocks! https://github.com/fernando-mc/sparrow')
handler('anything', 'anything-else')

Check to make sure this sent a tweet out! If it worked, your configuration is good to go and you’re ready for the next steps!

Now open up the sparrow_nokms.py file and navigate to potential_tweets. In there you’ll find an array of potential tweets to send out. Change those to whatever you’d like to send out:

# Sample random tweets
potential_tweets = [
    'This is my first tweet with Sparrow by @fmc_sea - https://github.com/fernando-mc/sparrow',
    'Wow! Isn\'t Sparrow by @fmc_sea just the coolest! https://github.com/fernando-mc/sparrow',
    'Jeez! Everyone should learn about AWS Lambda and Twitter Bots from @fmc_sea'
]

You can get as complicated as you want, form the array from scratch, or have the function create a custom tweet using some logic you determine. Just remember to stick within 140 characters!

Next, you’ll need to bundle up for function for AWS Lambda. In the same directory as the code, run the setup script for your environment.

bash setup.sh

This should create a zip file containing everything you need to upload to AWS Lambda.

Now login to AWS and navigate to the Lambda console.

  • Click “Create Function” or “Create a Lambda Function”
  • Click “Blank Function”
  • Skip the event schedule section for now and just press Next
  • Name your function and change the runtime to Python 2.7
  • From the “Code Entry Type” dropdown Select Upload a .zip file
  • Upload your recently created zip file
  • Skip down to the “Handler*” section and change the value to “sparrow_nokms.handler”
  • Select a role from the dropdown (you might have to create one but AWS will guide you)
  • Skip the advanced settings and press “Next” and then “Create Function” on the next page

You’ve just created your first Lambda function! Now test it with the test button and accept the default test event AWS offers. If the test is successful and you see a new tweet on Twitter you’re all set!

If you want to learn more fun things like how to securely use your API credentials with Amazon Key Management Service or how to add a CloudWatch Event to have your function run on schedule check out my Pluralsight course where I go into AWS Lambda and Sparrow more in depth!

Questions? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments!

comments powered by Disqus