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IRC bot using twisted that supports plugins

Project description


A python-based IRC bot using Twisted. Original inspiration came from olga. Why re-implement another bot? Because olga is written in perl, and I wanted something a bit more sane to look at.


All requirements for helga are listed in requirements.txt. However, there is a single external requirement, and that is MongoDB. You don’t need it, per se, but many of the included plugins use MongoDB for storing consistent state between restarts.

Getting Started

Start by creating a virtualenv where helga will reside:

$ virtualenv helga
$ cd helga
$ source bin/activate

Then grab the latest copy and install requirements:

$ git clone src/helga
$ cd src/helga
$ python develop
$ pip install -r requirements.txt

Once you have performed the above steps, there will be a helga executable placed in the bin dir of your virtualenv. Run helga by calling this:

$ /path/to/venv/bin/helga

Note that this uses the default settings file, helga.settings to start. You can, and should, use your own custom setttings. This file must a be an importable python file on $PYTHONPATH. To run helga with your custom settings file, set an environment variable HELGA_SETTINGS to be a python import path:

$ export

This will preserve any defaults in helga.settings, but you can override at will.

Local Development

The included Vagrantfile will let you spin up a VM to run both MongoDB and an IRC server for local development. Once you’ve followed the previous instructions for installing helga, simply vagrant up. This will forward host ports 6667 (irc) and 27017 (mongo) to the guest. At this point, simply runing helga from the command line will connect to this VM.



Helga supports plugins outside of the core source code. Plugins have a minimal API, but there are some basic rules that should be followed. All core plugin implementations can be found in helga.plugins.core. The basic requirement for plugins is that they have a process attribute that is a callable and determines if the plugin should handle a message, and a run method that actually performs the legwork of what the plugin should do. By convention, the process method should accept four arguments:

  • client: an instance of helga.comm.Client
  • channel: the channel on which the message was received
  • nick: the current nick of the message sender
  • message: the message string itself

The run is a bit different as it is up to the plugin implementation itself to decide what arguments are necessary to generate a response. This method should be called by process and should return one of:

  • None or empty string, if no response is to be sent over IRC
  • Non-empty string for a single line response
  • List of strings for multiline responses

Really, as long as you follow the above conventions, you can write plugins however you wish. However, you should try to keep plugins simple and use the included decorators command, match, and preprocessor (explained later). However, if you prefer writing a plugin as a class, you can subclass the included Plugin base class, provided you have followed the above rules. Here is a simple example:

import time
from helga.plugins.core import Plugin

class MyPlugin(Plugin):
    def run(self, channel, nick, message):
        return 'Current timestamp: {0}'.format(time.time())

    def process(self, channel, nick, message):
        if message.startswith('!time'):
            return, nick, message)

NOTE the previous example is not the preferred way. You should use the included decorators instead (shown below).

Plugin Types

For the most part, there are two main types of plugins: commands and matches. Commands are plugins that require a user to specifically ask for helga to perform some action. For example, helga haiku or helga google something to search. Matches are on the other hand are intended to be autoresponders that give some extra meaning or context to what a user has said. For example, if helga matches for a string “foo”:

<sduncan> i’m talking about foo in this message <helga> sduncan is talking about foo

For the sake of simplicity, there are two convenient decorators for authoring these types of plugins (which is usually the case). For example:

from helga.plugins import command, match

@command('foo', aliases=['foobar'], help="The foo command")
def foo(client, channel, nick, message, cmd, args):
    # This is run on "helga foo" or "helga foobar"
    return "Running the foo command"

def bar(client, channel, nick, message, matches):
    # This will run whenever a user mentions the word 'bar'
    return "{0} said bar!".format(nick)

You may notice in the above example that each decorated function accepts different arguments. For commands, there are two additional arguments cmd and args. The former is the parsed command that was used to run the method (which could be “foo” in the above case, or the alias “foobar”). The latter is a list of whitespace delimited strings that follow the parsed commend. For example helga foo a b c would mean the args param would be ['a', 'b', 'c'].

For the match plugin, the single additional argument is matches which is for the most part, the result of re.findall. However, the @match decorator accepts a callable in place of a regex string. This callable should accept one argument: the message being processed. It should return a value that can be evaluated for truthiness and will be passed to the decorated function as the matches parameter.


Plugins can also be message preprocessors. These are callables that may perform some modification on an incoming message prior to that message being delivered to any plugins. Preprocessors should accept arguments (in order) for client, channel, nick, and message and should return a three-tuple consisting of (in order) channel, nick, and message. To declare a function as a preprocessor, a convenient decorator can be used:

from helga.plugins import preprocessor

def blank_message(client, channel, nick, message):
    return channel, nick, ''

Complex plugins

Some plugins do both matching and act as a command. For this reason, plugin decorators are chainable. However, remember that different plugin types expect decorated functions to accept different arguments. It is best to accept *args for these:

from helga.plugins import command, match, preprocessor

def complex(client, channel, nick, message, *args):
    # len(args) == 0 for preprocessors
    # len(args) == 1 for matches
    # len(args) == 2 for commands

Plugin Priorities

You can control the priority in which a plugin is run. Note though, that preprocessors will always run first. A priority value should be an integer value. There are no limits or bounds for this value, but know that a higher value will mean a higher priority. If you are writing Plugin subclass style plugins, you will need to set a priority attribute of your object. This is done automatically if you call super(MyClass, self).__init__(priority=some_value) in your class’s __init__.

However, if you are using the preferred decorator style for writing plugins, you can supply a priority keyword argument to the decorator:

from helga import command, match, preprocessor

def foo_preprocess(*args):

@command('foo', priority=20)
def foo_command(*args):

@match(r'foo', priority=30)
def foo_match(*args):

For convenience, there are constants that can be used for setting priorities:


Also, each decorator/plugin type has its own default value for priority:

  • Preprocessors have default priority of PRIORITY_NORMAL
  • Commands have default priority of PRIORITY_NORMAL
  • Matches have default priority of PRIORITY_LOW

Publishing plugins

Helga uses setuptools entry points for plugin loading. Once you’ve written a plugin you wish to use, you will need to make sure your python package’s contains an entry_point under the group name helga_plugins. For example:

entry_points = {
    'helga_plugins': [
        'plugin_name = mylib.mymodule:MyPluginClass',

Note that if you are using decorated function for a plugin, you will want to specify the method name for your entry point, i.e. mylib.mymodule:myfn.


As of helga version 1.3, there is an included plugin for exposing an HTTP server to support webhooks. This might be useful if you need to have a public facing HTTP service that you would like to use to perform some sort of announcement on a particular channel. This is also very extensible and should allow you to create new webhooks in a very similar way plugins are created. This plugin is enabled by default and requires two settings: WEBHOOKS_PORT and WEBHOOKS_CREDENTIALS. The former is of course the port on which to run this service. The latter should be a list of tuples in the form of (username, password). These are used to perform HTTP basic authentication on any webhook that requires it.

Webhook plugins work by declaring routes. This will not only feel similar to helga’s decorator style plugins, but it will also feel very similar to anyone who has used something like Flask. There are two primary decorators you will need to get started: route, which declares a function as a route endpoint, and authenticated, which ensures that the route function cannot be called without proper HTTP basic authentication. Both of these can be imported from helga.plugins.webhooks. For example:

from helga.plugins.webhooks import authenticated, route

def foo(request, irc_client, id):
    # This will require auth

@route('/bar', methods=['POST'])
def bar(request, irc_client):
    # This will not require auth, and will only accept POST

NOTE: For authenticated routes, you MUST specify @authenticated as the first decorator. This may be changed in the future.

The route decorator accepts two arguments: 1) a path regular expression and 2) an optional list of HTTP methods to accept. If you do not specify a list of HTTP methods, only GET requests will be served. All regex paths must be named groups and they will be passed as keyword arguments.

To register a new webhook plugin, you must declare an entry_point much in the same way normal plugins are done. However, the entry_point group name is helga_webhooks. For example:

entry_points = {
    'helga_webhooks': [
        'name = mylib.mymodule:myhook',

The webhook plugin itself has some commands for IRC interaction: start/stop to control the running HTTP listener, and routes, which will show all the route paths and the HTTP methods they accept.

Third Party Plugins

Here are some plugins that have been written that you can use:

Plugin Description Link
excuses Generate a response from
isup Check
karma Dish out karma points to other people
norris Generate Chuck Norris facts for users
updates List and record IRC channel updates.
zen The Zen of Python

Written a plugin? Send a pull request to be listed in the above table!


All tests are written to be run via tox. To run the test suite, inside your virtualenv:

$ cd src/helga
$ tox


Contributions are welcomed, as well as any bug reports! Please note that any pull request will be denied if tests run via tox do not pass


Copyright (c) 2013 Shaun Duncan

Dual licensed under the MIT and GPL licenses.

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