Almost everything can be automated. And whatever can be, should be.

Cracking GRE using a Twitter Bot

Back in 2016, when I was preparing for GRE, I was falling short of days to prepare properly, especially for the verbal section. I had to learn over a thousand new words in a couple of weeks and improve my vocabulary somehow really soon. And I did just that by building a Twitter bot.

With 8+ hours going in at work every day, there wasn’t much time left for myself to learn all that had to be done. It did not feel ethical to me to study for GRE while I was at work, so I did not do that. However, I noticed that even at work everyone was checking notifications on their phone. I also checked every single notification on my phone – be it WhatsApp, Gmail, or something else. This gave me the idea that perhaps I could utilise my habit of checking notifications for some good – If there could be a system that would push notifications with GRE words and their definitions to my phone, my habitual glance at the notifications would end up benefiting me.

So, I decided that I needed to build a GRE Words App.
Did it benefit me? Well, I scored a 325 / 340. So, I would say it did. 🙂

Now, I could have gone with building a full fledged Android App, but that would have required a lot more time and effort, and every minute was crucial for my preparation. If you’re giving GRE, you know this. People don’t put up vocabulary chrome new tab extensions, or word meaning screensavers for no reasons.

So, I settled for building a Twitter bot, and let twitter take care of pushing me the notifications. Moreover, it was also safe to say that even if my manager or peers saw my phone, no one’s going to judge me for some Twitter notification. 😉

This gave rise to @GREWordVocab on Twitter. If you’re preparing for your GRE exam, you can subscribe to this twitter account. And voila, every half an hour you’ll have a twitter notification on your phone with a GRE word and its definition.

An example showing a tweet with a GRE word

What I found a very nifty feature was to #hashtag the word. So, I could just click on the hashtag and it would show me other tweets using that hashtag, which often served as a good way to know real world examples for that word.

The code for the twitter bot is completely open sourced and decently documented on Github. Any Pull requests, or additions, or issues to the code are welcome.

The rest of this post is about how I built that bot, and how you could build a similar twitter bot as well.

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Quickfix : Save ACR Recordings with a sensible name

This is a new section on my blog wherein I would be posting small scripts I have written to fix some very tiny troubles of life. Mostly they’re here to automate some manual work which would be cumbersome. These are not going to be rocket science. There might be little that you gain out of this, but you might gain some knowledge. While creating such scripts I often take aid of StackOverflow and get to learn something new every time. That is why I’m starting this section. I’m going to start the post with things you might learn from the post so you do not have to go through the whole post if it does not seem worth or you already are aware of it.
Remember that the codes written in these will not be very general. They were written to solve a very specific issue.

Things you might learn out of this:

  • Time and Date formatting in python (strftime, strptime)
  • A way to record calls on your android phone
  • How to move these recordings from phone to some storage device but still keep sensible names

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Testimonials Downloader – BITS Melange

Well, I got a good number of sweet testimonials and I’m one of those who keeps these things saved like a treasure, and every once in a while is ready to drown back into nostalgia by going through things like this.

So, I went ahead, and now that the testimonials deadline is way past over, I decided to download all my testimonials. But. Uh oh. I ended up getting this ugly output from the otherwise beautifully built website.

Screenshot from 2014-09-20 21:52:22
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