I started writing EnfieldTownBot using Azure Logic Apps. It’s pretty easy, but i soon hit a challenge – it’s so expensive! My app was pretty simple – a trigger, a “for…each”, a condition and a http callout to my Twitter Poster Function App:
So – if there are no delays, that’s (recurrence + httprequest + foreach + 3 x (condition)) = 6 actions. There could be up to 9 if the postToTwitter action also triggers. I want to run this function 2x (once for trains FROM Enfield Town, once for trains TO Enfield Town), so that’s 12-18 actions per request. And I want to run it every 15-30 seconds to get the latest information published ASAP. So that’s 48-72 actions per minute. Over a day, that’s 69,120 to 103,680 actions. Over a (31 day) month, that’s 2,142,720 to 3,214,080 actions. Taking a mean of these (2,678,400), and looking at the current pricing, it would cost me £450 a month to run this app. Wow. I don’t care about late trains THAT much…
So – I rewrote the whole lot as a function app (actually 2 or 3 function apps, as some of the items, such as parsing the XML from National Rail to JSON are reusable elsewhere). Each execution takes about 300ms, and it executes (24 hours x 60 minutes per hour x 4 times per minute) = 5,760 per day. Over a month that’s 178,560 executions. That’s well within the “permanent free grant” provided for Functions. In fact, I’d have to run it something like 30,000,000 times per month, or about 600 times per second to even hit a cost of £1.
The Function App will return a JSON with the data returned by the Twitter API, or an error. Note that as long as it gets SOME response from the Twitter API it’ll return a 200 code. In future I’ll work on making this more granular (e.g. pass through 50x errors).
I have to say that the twitter API documentation is absolutely abysmal. It’s impossible to navigate – calls make reference to other calls but the major problem is that there are almost no examples – they almost all recommend that you use a library. So how on earth are you supposed to learn how the API works? How do you write a bot which tweets as itself (such as my https://twitter.com/EnfieldTownBot)?
Once I got a good grip on the API itself – which isn’t too bad – I now have to figure out how to create an Azure Function App to create and send the tweets – as OAuth 1.0 requires all messages to be signed (hashed). Twitter has a pretty good set of instructions on how to create the hash: https://dev.twitter.com/oauth/overview/creating-signatures
But – oh my gosh. This is a very complicated process. Here are some samples of libraries or code which i’m looking through to try to implement…
When we bought our house a few years ago, we totally gutted it and one of the things we installed was an evohome heating system. Honeywell has an iphone app for the evohome, so recently, I decided to explore the API. Unfortunately, Honeywell doesn’t seem to offer a public API, so I spent a bit of time deconstructing the app with the help of the excellent Charles Proxy.