Publishing My First Bot

Yesterday the Bot for Messenger Challenge organized by Facebook came to a close. It marked the end of a month filled with highs and lows.

Today StockQuotes is live. Giving me the right to call myself a Bot Developer. In truth though, I am a far from being competent but its always great to end a month with a new achievement.

StockQuotes was built in 1 day. I started it on the 25th of this month and submitted it on the 26th. It wasn’t what I had in mind when I started my entry for this competiton and this blog post will look into how this came to be.

The way StockQuotes works if that when you type in a symbol for a stock on the global stock market eg “msft”, it returns its name and price. I used the Yahoo! Finance API for this.

When I first heard about the competition, I had some misgivings about submitting an entry. I was working with some teams for the Technovation Challenge and I knew I would need time to get an entry ready.

This wasn’t helped by seeing the term ARV in the terms and conditions for the competition. I was also in the middle of writing my 3rd book.

I remember making a post in the Facebook Developer Circle: Lagos about this. It turned out that I didn’t need to as it was me who failed to read the terms and conditions correctly.

I didn’t attend the Bot Party as I thought of it as  a waste of time. I personally think all tech events are a waste of time so nothing personal here.

I had to make a decision. I stepped back and considered the competition from all sides. Why would Facebook do this? The most basic reason would be to spread awareness about the Facebook Messenger Bot platform. Why should I do this? With IoT being the rave, bots represent a possible use case.

Once I had my answers I decided to enter the competition. My entry was to be a simple bot for playing Tic Tac Toe. I made my designs using the paradigms I had and started doing my research.

Going into this competition, I faced 3 major constraints:

  1. The absence of electricity at home
  2. No special funding
  3. A lack of experience in developing bots

If you live in Nigeria, you will understand Constraint 1. Constraint 2 is due to the fact that it is always great for a developer to be able to focus exclusively on a project especially a new project like this. I didn’t have this luxury so I had to balance work and this competiton. Constraint 3 would be true for a lot of developers entering this competition.

Building Tic Tac Bot took a lot from me. I wanted to make it work but sadly that turned out not the be the case. The Facebook Messenger platform is still under developed. I discovered the hard way that it is a memoryless system and in trying to use a MySQL database, it crashed. The screen shot of this is given below:

That was when I knew I wouldn’t make it in time. I discovered this on the 25th with 3 days left to go. Distraught I gave up for a while. It was while bathing that I realized that I could design StockQuotes based off a tutorial in App Inventor.

App Inventor is the unofficial programming language for the Technovation Challenge. I had to learn it in mentoring the teams from Lagos State so I had a strong grasp of it.

That was how StockQuotes came to be. In just 1 night after a whole month of toiling. I have developed and submitted my first Bot.

I developed my first bot on the 24th of last month. It was based off a Youtube tutorial. In that tutorial, I had gotten the basics of developing for the Facebook Messenger Bot platform.

The Facebook Messenger Bot platform needs to get the following for me to recommend it to anyone:

  1. Facebook Messenger SDK: I didn’t enjoy naked coding against that platform even though I have a sandbox because of the data cost.
  2. Error Reporting: At the moment if there is an error in your code, your bot doesn’t work. It tells you nothing.
  3. Debugging Capabilities: There is no way to print how what a value is doing except to change it to a message.
  4. Session Handling: PHP developers will understand this concept. There is no way to do this.
  5. PHP Support: Nigeria is PHP country. The reason for this is because Nigeria is a failed state where nothing works. If I struggle to download a programming environment and need to go online everytime I want to create a new project, that programming environment doesn’t match my reality and that is why NodeJS struggles for adoption in Nigeria.

I intend to develop Tic Tac Bot but I need to learn how to use Amazon Web Services and MongoDB. At the moment, that is the direction I am heading in.

The Technovation teams from Lagos successfully submitted their entries and my third book also came out. The month of April although stressful for me turned out to be a great month for me.

See you in May.

 

How I Self-Published My First Book

Android Development for Everyday People - Book Cover

This month ends on a high for me. On the 23rd of this month, I officially became an author. Clicking the image of the book above will take you to the book page on Amazon.

Writing a book was no mean feat for me. It was a process of transformation that spanned 9 months. I started off writing the tutorial series for Android Development for Everyday People.

The first blog post of the series was posted on February 2oth. By the time I did the last post of the series on  I knew I had enough content to create an ebook.

I reached out to Packt in order to be able to publish my book but they never returned my email. Once I accepted that I was on my own, I knew that if it was to happen, it would depend on me making it happen.

I drew a line in the sand and decided that I would publish this book by October 25th. It was a hard deadline I set for myself and as the date drew near, I blogged everyday about my struggles. You can find it on my new blog. The series of posts can be found here.

Since the writing was completed, the next phase would be to start editing the book. In my case, editing would also mean compiling the individual drafts of the book into a single ebook.

I needed to use a WYSIWYG editor to create the single ebook. There are a lot of options available but I settled on BlueGriffon. I created a single HTML file for the entire book.

Inspiration hit and I got the idea for what my cover design would look like. In the end, I used MS Paint to create my book cover.

Once I was done, I had to compile the book into a form suitable for Kindle. To do this, I used Mobipocket CreatorMobipocket Creator then created the Kindle version for me. Once I figured this out, I had to do the book layout again.

I will not bore you with how difficult it was to edit, create and preview an ebook several times. At the end, I got a book I was satisfied with.

Creating an Amazon KDP account was easy. The hard part was getting filling the tax forms. It took up to an hour to get it right. Once this was done, I uploaded the book file and book cover to the Amazon store.

The next day, I got confirmation that my book was on the Amazon store from my publisher account. Later in the day, the book was available on the Amazon store.

It has been a long and tiring 9 months of transformation. In the end the result is there for you to see.

Have a great weekend.

Android Development for Everyday People – Cover Design

Android Development for Everyday People - Book Cover

Welcome to a new month.

Its been a long road getting here. Today I have finally gotten to the place where I can show the world the cover design for my book Android Development for Everyday People.

As the year runs to an end, I plan to release it this month across various on-line stores. Currently editing the final draft. It should go on sale this month.

I am grateful to have made it this far.

Teaching App Inventor to Kids

MIT App Inventor Logo

At work, its been really busy. With the start of a new year, we decided to teach mobile application development to kids ages 7 and above.

That decision led to me doing the edx App Inventor course last year. This year, I have developed a learning curriculum to teach the kids mobile computing. The lesson plans have been completed and our portfolio site is up. Some material from Mobile CSP was used in creating the curriculum so I dare say that I have done my homework.

I wish I could say I wasn’t nervous about tomorrow but it would be a lie. My experience in teaching kids has made me acknowledge the fact that kids have a way of throwing out the plan. So whilst I am confident of the content that I have spent time developing, somewhere at the back of my head is the knowledge that I might have to adapt my curriculum to the needs of the class.

Have a great weekend and see you next week.

Global Game Jam Lagos Update

Global Game Jam Logo

Welcome to a new month!

Last month was awesome. I attended my first Global Game Jam. It felt good hanging out with game developers of the future.

Its been 5 years since I created my first game. With certain personal events, I have lost my fire. Being in that room made me remember why I started.

Initially I didn’t want to go as I just wanted to take the weekend off and rest. But fate intervened and I had to go. I missed the Friday session (big mistake) and went on Saturday. For me one day was enough to find my fire again.

The event held at Center 4 Tech. In my 5 years in the industry, I have never visited this venue. A friend assured me that it would be awesome and true to type, the event did not disappoint.

I don’t have the final head count of those who attended but in all 6 games were developed. You can view them here. Yours truly built a simple crossword puzzle with the words that make up ritual. It is called Ritual.

I wanted to build a falling object game. Sadly missing Theme Friday put me way behind of the thought process. So I settled for something simple.

All in all, I had fun. Let’s do it again next year. Special thanks to the guys at Center 4 Tech for making this event happen.

The Little Match Girl

The Little Match Girl

This is my 140th post on this blog and also my last post for this year. Its been a long and difficult year but at the end of the day, I am grateful that I survived the year.

Today, I am happy to announce that The Little Match Girl is now available on the Google Play and the Amazon Appstore.

It is a classic Christmas story by H.C Andersen. It was first published in 1845. You can read the original script here.

Do take a look at it by downloading either the Google Play version or the Amazon Appstore version.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

eRead Africa Summer Program Day 17

You can find the blog post here -> http://ereadafrica.com/2015/08/25/eread-africa-summer-program-day-17/

This is Truston Ailende. I am the CEO at Dreamquest Multimedia and the Scratch Instructor at eRead Africa. This is my report on the eRead Africa Summer Program 2015 Day 17