Teacherbot Dev-Log #2: On the Rise

After the incredible success of the last blog, with a grand total of 0 negative comments (and approximately 0 positive ones too), I’m here to once again update you on the progress of Teacherbot. Since the last blog post zip files have been conquered, the back-end of the site has been overhauled and we have stirred up some new interest from within the University.

The zip file solution was an infuriatingly simple one. The random characters appearing in filenames were the product of a safety feature built-in to the file storage system. Whenever the system noticed files with the exact same name it would add random characters to one of the files, to avoid ambiguity. Fixing this required only a small tweak in the file storage: overwriting the file instead of saving a new one and thus avoiding the wacky filenames.

Random Characters Begone!

With the horrors of zipping and uploading left in the dust, I shifted my focus towards the more cobweb riddled aspects of the website. Gavin McCormack, the programmer behind most of the Teacherbot website, began simplifying and enhancing the communication with Pandorabots allowing for more straightforward chatting, uploading and compiling of the bots on our service. I also began to pursue the task of simplifying the chatbot management page in the hopes of collating the ‘Files on Chatbot’ and ‘Active Files’ boxes into one. The dream is to have one box, showing all files attached to the chatbot and a small “synced” button to indicate to the user if his/her bot is using the files listed.

This site ain’t big enough for the both of us…

Treading on thin ice, as I’m not sure how much I can disclose at this point, there have also been developments for Teacherbot’s exposure and usage within the university. Thanks to a push from my line manager, Stewart, the WGI Graphic Design team is currently working on a small rebranding campaign to increase exposure within the University and to stir up interest for both students and lecturers alike.

Additionally, I have been asked to build a prototype bot to trial on a University service. Though not intended to interact through Twitter, this is the inception of a more administrative use-case for Teacherbot and depending on its success, a potential rethinking of the standard in administrative work. As sickening as my naïve optimism may be, it’s difficult to imagine all the possible use-cases of bot technology and even harder to picture a future without it.

Once again, I’ll plug our Sign Up page for anyone who’s interested in getting to grips with Teacherbot and exploring its potential:

Sign Up

Also, due to powers beyond my control the GitHub repository I linked in the previous blog has been abandoned. The new repo on which progress is being made is here: https://github.com/TheGrimJam/teacherbot

Sam Knight (s1503602@sms.ed.ac.uk)

Teacherbot Dev-Log #1: Z.I.P.

Hello everyone, Sam the Intern here! I’ve decided to start a development (b)log here on the website so anyone who is interested can see the progress being made on the Teacherbot service.

For those that have never seen it, the Teacherbot test site is an environment to develop and house our beloved chat/Twitter bots. Over the past two weeks I’ve been working on reformatting the test-site with first time users in mind. Instead of tossing the user into the deep end and hoping they can stay afloat juggling both the chatbot creation and getting the bot onto twitter, I’ve been actively separating these two steps. Whereas previously to make a bot you had to equip it with both chat and Twitter functionality, now we have two separate sections in the bot-hub. Users can now focus on each function in isolation, hopefully lightening the mental burden and increasing the end-quality of the bots.

A new divide between Chatbot and Twitterbot opens

Additionally, by moving the ‘bot files’ section away from the ‘bot hub’ I aimed to erect a barrier between testing the bot and tampering with its inner workings. With the initial hurdles lowered, I’m confident the site will feel more welcoming to users…unless they come loaded with zip files.

Currently, the core service we use to develop and host our bots is Pandorabots and to get your bot’s brain from their site to ours, requires the download and upload of a ‘harmless’ .zip file. The first time I tried to upload said innocent .zip file, it crashed the test-site. How naïve I was at that moment to think “it’s probably a quick fix”. From Wednesday to Friday I toiled, sunrise to late afternoon, and finally, abruptly, I arrived at a solution.

There’s still work to be done: right now the files inside the zip are uploaded with file-names distorted by random characters, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. My first two weeks working on Teacherbot have been exhilarating and the team has been very welcoming so my spirits are high. And, after all, it’s probably a quick fix.

Spot the difference

For anyone who’s interested feel free to navigate over to our Sign Up page and we’ll send you the details to test out the service yourself. All feedback is appreciated!

I’ve also been uploading all my programming progress to a public github repository so the main website code can be found here: https://github.com/dev-teacherbot/dev-teacherbot-site

Sam Knight (s1503602@sms.ed.ac.uk)