twilight

Twitter (crawling) tools.

npm install twilight
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twilight

Tools for accessing the Twitter API v1.1 with paranoid timeouts and de-pagination.

Node.js

  • twitter-curl for querying the streaming API (/sample.json and /filter.json).
  • rtcount for pulling out the retweets from a stream of JSON tweets, and counting them.

Python

  • json2ttv2 converts directories full of Twitter .json files into .ttv2 files, bzip2'ing them, and ensuring that the result is within a reasonable size of the source (greater than 2%, but less than 6%) before deleting the original json.
  • twitter-user pulls down the ~3,200 (max) tweets that are accessible for a given user (also depends on the ~/.twitter auth file).

Crawling quickstart

Install from npm:

npm install -g twilight

Or github (to make sure you're getting the most up-to-date version):

npm install -g git://github.com/chbrown/twilight

Authenticate

This app uses only OAuth 1.0A, which is mandatory. As of June 11, 2013, basic HTTP authentication is disabled in the Twitter Streaming API. So get some OAuth credentials together real quick and make a csv file that looks like this:

consumer_key consumer_secret access_token access_token_secret
ziurk0An7... VKmTsGrk2JjH... 91505165... VcLOIzA0mkiCSbU...
63Yp9EG4t... DhrlIQBMUaoL... 91401882... XJa4HQKMgqfd7ee...
... ... ... ...

There must be a header line with exactly the following values:

  • consumer_key
  • consumer_secret
  • access_token
  • access_token_secret

Tab / space seperated is fine, and any other columns will simply be ignored, e.g., if you want to record the screen_name of each account. Also, order doesn't matter -- your headers just have to line up with their values.

The twitter-curl script expects to find this file at ~/.twitter, but you can specify a different path with the --accounts command line argument.

From my /etc/supervisor/conf.d/*

(See http://supervisord.org/ to get that all set up.)

[program:justinnnnnn]
user=chbrown
command=twitter-curl
    --filter "track=loveyabiebs,belieber,bietastrophe"
    --file /data/twitter/justin_TIMESTAMP.json
    --timeout 86400
    --interval 3600
    --ttv2

twitter-curl options

  • --accounts should point to a file with OAuth Twitter account credentials. Currently, the script will simply use a random row from this file.
  • --filter can be any track=whatever or locations=-18,14,68,44 etc. A querystring-parsable string. If no filter is specified, it will use the spritzer at /sample.json
  • --file shouldn't require creating any directions, and the TIMESTAMP bit will be replaced by a filesystem-friendly iso representation of whenever the program is started.
// Specifically:
var stamp = new Date().toISOString().replace(/:/g, '-').replace(/\..+/, '');
// stamp == '2013-06-07T15-47-49'
  • --timeout (seconds) the program will die with error code 1 after this amount of time. Don't specify a timeout if you don't want this.
  • --interval (seconds) the amount of time to allow for silence from Twitter before dying. Also exits with code 1. Defaults to 600 (10 minutes).
  • --ttv2 (boolean) output TTV2 normalized flat tweets instead of full JSON.

Because in most cases of error the script simply dies, this approach only really makes sense if you're putting it behind some process monitor. (By the way, I've tried most of them: monitd, daemontools's svc, god, bluepill, node-forever---and supervisord is by far the best.)

The script does not abide by any Twitter backoff requirement, but I've never had any trouble with backoff being enforced by Twitter. It's more than curl, though, because it checks that it's receiving data. Often, with curl and PycURL, my connection would be dropped by Twitter, but no end signal would be sent. My crawler would simply hang, expecting data, but would not try to reconnect.

But beyond that, without --ttv2, it doesn't provide anything more than curl.

TTV2

TTV2 is the Tweet tab-separated format version 2, the specification is below. Fields are 1-indexed for easy AWKing (see Markdown source for 0-indexing).

  1. tweet_id
  2. created_at parsed into YYYYMMDDTHHMMSS, implicitly UTC
  3. text, newlines and tabs converted to spaces, html entities replaced, t.co urls resolved
  4. lon,lat
  5. place_id
  6. place_str
  7. in_reply_to_status_id
  8. in_reply_to_screen_name
  9. retweet_id id of the original tweet
  10. retweet_count
  11. user.screen_name
  12. user.id
  13. user.created_at parsed into YYYYMMDDTHHMMSS
  14. user.name
  15. user.description
  16. user.location
  17. user.url
  18. user.statuses_count
  19. user.followers_count
  20. user.friends_count
  21. user.favourites_count
  22. user.geo_enabled
  23. user.default_profile
  24. user.time_zone
  25. user.lang
  26. user.utc_offset

This format is not the default, and will be the output only when you use the --ttv2 option.

Examples

Install json first: npm install json. It's awesome.

twitter-curl --filter 'track=bootstrap' | json -C text
twitter-curl --filter 'track=bootstrap' | json -C user.screen_name text
twitter-curl --filter 'track=انتخابات' | json -C text
twitter-curl --filter 'track=sarcmark,%F0%9F%91%8F' | json -C text

It supports unicode: انتخابات is Arabic for "elections," and decodeURIComponent('%F0%9F%91%8F') is the "CLAPPING HANDS" (U+1F44F) character.

If you use a filter with url-escaped characters in supervisord, note that supervisord Python-interpolates strings, so you'll need to escape the percent signs, e.g.:

[program:slowclap]
command=twitter-curl --filter "track=%%F0%%9F%%91%%8F" --file /tmp/slowclap.json

TTV2 Example

Instead of JSON, you can use AWK to look at the TTV2:

twitter-curl --filter 'track=data,science' --ttv2 | awk 'BEGIN{FS="\t"}{print $4,$3}'

Stats

  • RSS usage per-process is between 20-40MB.
  • VSZ on a machine running six of these crawlers is 80-90MB.

Python contents vs. Javascript contents

easy_install -U twilight

The Python and Javascript components are mostly complementary. The Javascript offers crawlers, Python provides post-processing.

Testing with Travis CI

The tested CLI commands now check for OAuth in specific environment variables before reading the given --accounts file or the default one (~/.twitter).

To get tests to run on Travis CI, we can use travis command line tool to encrypt a quad of valid Twitter OAuth credentials so that only Travis CI can see them.

Put together a file that looks like this (call it twilight.env):

consumer_key=bepLTQD5ftZCjqhXgkuJW
consumer_secret=jZ4HEYgNRKwJykbh5ptmcqV7v0o2WODdiMTF1fl6B9X
access_token=167246169-e1XTUxZqLnRaEyBF8KwOJtbID26gifMpAjukN5vz
access_token_secret=OVm7fJt8oY0C9kBsvych6Duq5pNIUxwagG143HdR

And then, from within the root directory of this git repository, run the following sequence:

gem install travis
travis encrypt -s -a < twilight.env

.travis.yml should now have those variables, but encrypted with Travis CI's public key.

License

Copyright © 2011–2013 Christopher Brown. MIT Licensed.

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