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Sopel tutorial, Part 4: Memory and URL info functions

NOTE: This tutorial is being updated for 6.0. Most of it will work with 5.4.1 or above, but below 6.0 you may need to replace “sopel” with “willie” in some places.

Communicating safely between modules can be very useful. Sopel provides for this with the Memory system. The intended use is for when you have volatile information which needs to be quickly and safely accessed and updated while the bot is running. In this part of the guide, we’re going to cover how to use it.

Memory basics

The bot object that gets passed to callables has the attribute memory. This is basically a Python dict with some added thread safety. True to form, though, you don’t need to worry about how that works. The only difference is that, if you want to be thread safe (and you do), you should use the contains function rather than the in keyword when checking if memory contains a given key. So very simply, to see if a key is in memory you can just do bot.memory.contains(key). If you want to access that key, you just do bot.memory[key]. Keys can be any of the same things they can be in regular Python dicts - numbers, strings, tuples, etc. - but they’re usually strings.

Sample use: Keeping track of the last URL

One frequent use of memory is to keep track of the last URL that was seen in a channel. The bot currently ships with a .title command , found in, which will give the title or other URL information on the last URL posted in the channel. The module knows how to keep track of urls that other people say, but what about when Sopel itself says a URL, like as the result of the .duck command in, which gives the first link from a DuckDuckGo search of a given query? The answer is to put that link into memory.

What different memory keys exist and are used for is entirely by convention; the API spells out no special rules here. However, one of the ones used by the modules the bot ships with is last_seen_url which, as you’d expect, contains the last seen URL. The key itself is a Python dict of channel names to the last URL seen in that channel. So when the .duck command wants to update it, it uses code like this:

    if 'last_seen_url' not in bot.memory:
        bot.memory['last_seen_url'] = SopelMemory()
    bot.memory['last_seen_url'][trigger.sender] = url

Where trigger.sender, as you’ll recall, is the channel (or nick, if a PM) the message came from, and url is the result from the search. To make the bot memory thread-safe, we use SopelMemory objects instead of normal dicts.

URL info functions

One of the things that the memory system enables is advanced URL information. For example, Sopel will respond to a link to a YouTube video with not just the title, but the uploader, the time it was uploaded, the duration, and more. This part is simple enough. Where it gets interesting, though, is that Sopel will also do this in response to a shortened link, or other redirect link, to a YouTube video, and it even knows to do this when the last seen URL is from YouTube and someone uses .title. Yet (or whatever simmilar module you want to write) doesn’t have to handle shortened links or .title itself. And thanks to memory, this magic is pretty simple to perform. We start in’s setup function:

def setup(bot):
    regex = re.compile('(\S*v=|[\w-]+)')
    if not bot.memory.contains('url_callbacks'):
        bot.memory['url_callbacks'] = {regex: ytinfo}
        exclude = bot.memory['url_callbacks']
        exclude[regex] = ytinfo
        bot.memory['url_callbacks'] = exclude

The first thing we do is compile a regular expression which matches YouTube video links. The rest of the function is just making sure that a memory key called url_callbacks exists in memory. It will be a Python dict, mapping the compiled regular expression to the function to call when it matches (in this case, ytinfo which is defined later in the file). will use this to determine whether there’s extended information available for a URL. If there is, it will shut up and let the other function handle it. If there isn’t, but the URL is a redirect to a link that does have extended information, it will call the appropriate function and let it handle the URL.

Next, we need to see how the ytinfo function works. We only need to see four lines of it to get the gist; the rest is just retrieving the information from YouTube.

def ytinfo(bot, trigger, found_match=None):
    match = found_match or trigger
    vid_id =

The first line defines a rule that this function will trigger on. Note how it’s the same as the one we associated with it in memory above. This way, this function will handle it directly when it sees it in the channel, rather than relying on being there. (This design makes the system a bit more modular.)

The second line will seem a bit unusual. We have a third, optional argument here that you don’t usually see in callables. When is calling this function, it will provide the regular expression match object in this third argument. However, when the function is triggered directly, no argument will be provided for it, so it will default to None.

There are a few different ways you can go about doing what this third line does. Here, what we’re doing is saying that the variable match will be the found_match argument if it’s given, but otherwise it will be the trigger argument.

The fourth line takes advantage of Python’s “duck typing”. trigger is a Sopel Trigger object, and found_match is a regular expression MatchObject. However, both of them define their group function to mean the same thing, so we can safely do and know that it’s going to give us the second group from the regular expression match that created it. Since the regex we told to match on, way up in the setup function, and the regex we made trigger this function, are the same, the results of this line will be the same regardless of how this function was called. So we can, in just a few lines of code, get the video ID from the URL regardless of where this function was called.

Want to learn about how to document (and test!) your module’s commands? Continue to part 5!