Slack Enterprise Grid and BotKit

I have the pleasure of using Slack Enterprise Grid on a daily basis as IBM has adopted it internally, I work there, and there are far too many of us to use a single slack instance. The main downside of Slack Enterprise Grid (apart from having about 15 slack organisations running in your client all the time) is that it returns different data when integrating with the Slack Web API and RTM (Real Time Messaging) systems. We had some bot integration that stopped working as a result, and I ended up moving to BotKit and then using a mixture of the RTM and Web API from Slack to get things to work. I won't remember how I did it so I thought I'd better write it down. Continue reading

Testing API calls in PHP with Guzzle Mocks

I'm working on a CouchDB library for PHP, and so I needed to write some tests for it. CouchDB has an HTTP API so I'm basically making web requests and while I could certainly set up a test database and run full-on integration tests, there are a few limitations with that approach. Firstly: it means I'm testing the database as well, which isn't what I want and brings extra dependencies that make the tests harder to run. Also: I want to be able to test error cases, rate limiting and so on, that would be difficult to recreate reliably. Continue reading

Live Demo: Risks and Rewards

I'm not a huge fan of the live demo in conference talks - it's really hard to do well so I see a very large number of bad ones. Also, it's super hard work to include them in my own talks in a meaningful way because they are so difficult to pull off. I could write a very long list of reasons not to ever live demo (nobody wants to watch you type, now you are talking to your laptop, conference wifi rarely works, you could tell me three much more useful things in the time you've spent doing this ...) but in truth as developers we love the "new shiny" and it can be super helpful to get an actual walkthrough of how to do a particular thing. So if you absolutely must live demo, here's my own general plan and tactics: Continue reading

Connecting PHP to MySQL on Bluemix

Most of the PHP I write runs on Bluemix - it's IBM self-service cloud, and since I work there, they pay for my accounts :) There are a bunch of databases you can use there, mostly open source offerings, and of course with PHP I like to use MySQL. Someone asked me for my connection code since it's a bit tricky to grab the credentials that you need, so here it is. Continue reading

Handling Incoming Webhooks in PHP

An increasing number of applications now offer webhooks as an integration, often in addition to an API. The classic example, familiar to most developers, is the GitHub webhooks which can notify your other systems such as CI tooling that a new commit has been added to a branch. If you imagine how many repositories exist on GitHub, and how many other systems react to changes on each repository ... there's a reason they are excellent with webhooks! Whether it's your source control, updates from your IoT sensors, or an event coming from another component in your application, I have some Opinions (TM) about handling webhooks, so I thought I'd write them down and include some code as well, since I think this is an area that many applications will need to work with. Continue reading

HTTP Tools Roundup

At a conference a few days ago, I put up a slide with a few of my favourite tools on it. I got some brilliant additional recommendations in return from twitter so I thought I'd collect them all in one place in case anyone is interested - all these tools are excellent for anyone working APIs (so that's everyone!). First, my original slide:

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Deploying OpenWhisk Actions With Dependencies

I mostly use OpenWhisk with NodeJS (which is lucky for me, it's the best supported of the languages and default for the documentation examples!) and while there are a bunch of npm modules already installed on OpenWhisk, sometimes there will be others that you also want to include. Alternatively or additionally, you might also want to deploy your package.json since this can specify the entry point if it's not index.js which is the default.

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Building Conversations With Alexa

Having an Amazon Echo Dot in my office is quite fun, and I've accidentally started writing more skills and giving a few talks about building skills for the Alexa toolchain. Today I created a skill that uses multiple steps to make a conversation and thought I'd better write down what I did so I'd be able to remember!

The basic idea is that when creating the "intent", i.e. the action that you want Alexa to do, you also define "slots". The slots are the variables; if this were a command line tool, they'd be the arguments you typed. It's possible to include both intent and slots in your wording when you speak to Alexa, but equally you can just invoke the skill and have it prompt you for the rest of the information. Continue reading