The surprisingly easy way to build a reliable Twitter auto-retweet bot

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6th January 2020
@frontendtweets on Twitter

Back in 2018 I had the impulse to build a Twitter bot focusing on good quality/interesting "Front End Tweets", mostly to find out if I could establish a significant number of followers with absolutely no input from me. In the year and half since, the bot has gained around 500 followers - not a huge number by any means but, considering the fairly niche subject matter and people in the industry's well-justified suspicion of such things, I'd call this a minor success.

How I built it

This is the surprisingly boring bit. I threw around some code for a few hours, tried out a couple of different libraries, before realising that the problem I was trying to solve had already been well and truly solved for me with DigitalInspiration's fantastic Twitter Bots Google Script Macro - so I used that!

I originally intended this version to be a proof of concept, before developing my own bot from scratch, however over a year later this tool has served its purpose beautifully and continues to do basically everything I could hope for.

The only upkeep required is to keep on top of sensible exclusions from the search parameter - the best example of which being Pakistan's "Central Superior Services" exam (or CSS for short). A lot of tweets on this subject tend to get a large number of retweets which, of course, piques my rather simple bot's curiosity.

How I filter for quality

Rather than just retweeting everything with the word "javascript" or "CSS" in it, I wanted to try and establish a level of quality from the outset. The simple way I did this was by only sharing content over a certain threshold of favourites and retweets. It took some fiddling to get the numbers right to begin with, but I'm fairly happy with where I've settled - and I genuinely now find a lot of interesting content by following my own bot.

What's next?

As I mentioned above, DigitalInspiration's Macro is serving its purpose nicely for the time being - however if I ever have a new language I want to try out and don't quite have a project in mind, this is the kind of thing I'd like to revisit in order to give myself more granular control over the topics covered, and a bit more intelligence around exclusions.

In the meantime, the bot can just tick along on its own, hopefully racking up a few more followers along the way!

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