Second-ever hackathon experience

Took part in a hackathon!

Over the last weekend, I took part in a hackathon called HackRU at Rugters University, over at New Jersey.
At the beginning, I was really not looking forward to it. I had a really bad week emotionally (some minor fuck ups at work, being careless etc), and wanted nothing more than to just curl up in a ball and sleep off the weekend. Even though I learnt a lot through work like get used to ES6 syntax which i’ve known for quite a while but wasn’t actively using in my projects (it has been around 2 months since i moved here to do an internship … shall elaborate more in a separate post), i felt like i had a long way to go as a front end dev and felt slightly burnt out at this juncture. =(
Plus, the commute was pretty long (1 hour subway ride to Penn station, and 1 hour train ride to the venue). But I am so glad my friends encouraged me to go for it anyway (since we had already RSVP-ed a few weeks back and I was on the confirmed list of attendees).
Unfortunately (or expectedly) I ended up being the only one coding, cos I knowingly went to the hackathon with my friends who didn’t know how to code and wanted to just experience it.
I was pondering if i should stick to something familiar like build a mobile app, use Google Maps API etc, or try to learn something different. Thanks to my friends, I ended up building a Telegram bot with node.js, using a wrapper for API calls that i found on GitHub called botgram. A few hours in and I was regretting my decision because the wrapper uses a pretty old version of the Telegram API. The syntax was pretty easy to use though.
I also used request and ofc dotenv.


I was pretty curious about .env as I was wondering how in the world do i use my env variables without directly passing in from the command line.
I was reading tutorials furiously at that point and they were telling me to pass in my bot token through the command line, which isn’t wrong per se.. but I needed something that would be able to do so by itself because I wanted to deploy on to a server online and just run a command like node index.js.
Tbh it was the first time I was more conscious of .env or environment file outside of work context. I also found out it was quite easy to setup the .env file by just :
TELEGRAM_BOT_TOKEN=TOKENHERE. Then I need to use dotenv.config()
and then destructure them to use it as such: const { TELEGRAM_BOT_TOKEN } = process.env;
Also, I had to remember to add it into my gitignore file. Which I conveniently forgot to do so for stuff like node_modules etc too 🙁
This is a way more informative read about this topic: Node.js Everywhere with Environment Variables! – Node.js Collection – Medium

Deploying live to Google Cloud

I wanted to try other services such as Now, since this tutorial recommends me to do so: Part 2 How to deploy a Telegram Bot using Now (Building a Bookmark Manager Bot series). However I think some changes in their services meant that I had to be constantly making requests You tried to create a Now 1.0 deployment. Please use Now 2.0 instead · Issue #1843 · zeit/now-cli · GitHub and there was no way to use Now 1.0 which was what the tutorials recommended. It was super frustrating because within a span of a few months, the recommendation became ‘obsolete’… and i spent hours trying to figure out if there’s a workaround but nope.
After trying several other services, I tried out Google Cloud. And it worked like a charm (well, iirc it ‘stops’ after 5 minutes of inactivity.. but at least that’s better off).
I just followed the instructions to setup via the Documentation for Google Cloud SDK:
Google Cloud SDK documentation  |  Cloud SDK  |  Google Cloud

Download SDK
Place unzipped SDK contents in your root directory for the app you want to deploy
run command in correct directory: ./google-cloud-sdk/

After installing the SDK, install the Command Line Tool on your machine.
Quickstart: Using the gcloud Command-Line Tool  |  Cloud Functions Documentation  |  Google Cloud
Just follow steps on this website.
Also ensure before deploying app, you need to set up a app.yaml file where you state your runtime env: Example for nodejs
runtime: nodejs10


Unfortunately, this project didn’t win any prizes haha. But I really learnt quite a bunch of stuff during the hackathon, and it brought back fond memories of me coding overnight for school projects. I’m glad to have tried out something new, and I was quite amazed by how much i learnt in just a day. I felt motivated/recharged to go back to work to continue coding and learn more things!
*To improve on my project… *

use async await (unfortunately i couldn’t get the hang of it during the hackathon itself).
Implement Dialogflow for sentiment analysis
Just use Telegram API direct!