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:
- Powering my Days Left of Trump countdown - https://twitter.com/fmc_sea/status/846119578933612546
- Running The Daily Patent - https://twitter.com/dailypatent (code here)
- To help folks learn about Python when I teach courses on Python or AWS Lambda
Here are some things you should make sure are done before working with this repository:
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.
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/
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
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
Get your AWS Access Keys
Log into the AWS console and follow these instructions:
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)
Configure the AWS CLI
Once you have your access keys you can configure the AWS CLI.
Open a shell and use this command:
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
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.
Twitter API Keys
You’ll need to make a twitter account and then get Twitter API keys at https://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
- Don’t put API credentials in your source code
- API creds are sensitive info that are roughly equivalent to usernames/passwords
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:
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:
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')
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.
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!