Thursday, August 5, 2010

Scripting Campfire

My team uses Campfire, a web-based chat tool from 37signals, to communicate throughout the day. We've divided it into various rooms, one of which is a Status room where we do a virtual version of the daily stand-up that many teams do: a quick meeting where everyone says what they're working on. (One of our team members is in England, and our hours vary a bit, so a classic stand-up isn't practical.)

About a month ago, one team member started posting the date in the status room before anyone gave their update. For some reason, Campfire itself doesn't do this reliably, and when you have a room with nothing but status updates, it's not always clear where one day's messages end and another's begin.

Usually one or two people on the team did this, but I followed suit on a couple of occasions, and of course thought about automating it. We already had a bot account for some very early automation, and Campfire has a good web service. Insert Tab A into Slot B.

Here's the relevant Ruby source code, which I have hooked up to a cron job (Note that if you want to script Campfire, I suggest creating a "Bot Test Room" that you can use for experiments without spamming your real rooms):

require 'date'
require 'json'
require 'net/http'
require 'net/https'
require 'uri'

def send_text_to_campfire(text)
message = {
:message => {
:type => "TextMessage",
:body => text

def send_to_campfire(message)
url = URI.parse("https://<your base URL>/room/<your room number>/speak.json")

request =
request.basic_auth(<your auth token>,<any password string>)
request.content_type = 'application/json'
request.body = message.to_json
request.content_length = request.body.length

http =,url.port)
http.use_ssl = true
response = http.start do |http|

puts response.body.to_s

# construct message
today = Date::today
formattedDateString = sprintf("%02d/%02d/%4d",today.mon,today.mday,today.year)
dateStatusString = "=== Today is #{Date::DAYNAMES[today.wday]}, #{formattedDateString} ==="

#send status message to campfire

Filling in the date each day isn't a huge time savings: It will take us a lot of days to recoup the time I spent automating a five-second typing task. But once I figured out the gist of posting to Campfire, I started adding new functionality. Our "Today is ..." status message now includes a few choice statistics — gleaned from our telemetry system — about gameplay from the previous day. I also wrote a "canary" script that does a health check on our dev server and posts to our general chat room if it seems to be slow.

Naturally, some of my co-workers have suggested writing an adventure game on top of the API. That may be a bit silly, but it does emphasize a point I often make: You can't really imagine all the possibilities for a technology until you get your hands dirty a bit and play with it.

This whole experience underlines again why web applications should have APIs. The lack of a date is probably a Campfire bug, but we don't have to wait for them to fix it. And we've added functionality that is only relevant for our team, resulting in something that more closely ties in with our real needs.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks a Lot, an awesome post !!!