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From Christopher Brind <>
Subject Re: [PROPOSAL] Chatterbot, a lightweight framework for chat responders
Date Fri, 29 Jan 2010 08:44:57 GMT

I have read through the proposal and I like the idea of it.

The only issues I have are around modularity and shell/console.  Apache
already has a modularity solution (Felix) based on an open standard (OSGi) I
don't think the Java community as a whole needs yet another modularity
solution. =)   Felix also provides a shell which allows you to manage module
(bundle) lifecycle (install, start, stop, update, uninstall) and while I
don't know what the status is regarding the 'Standard Shell' (OSGi RFC 132)
it is quite easy to add new commands to the Felix shell.   Felix is also
very lightweight, so it wouldn't add much to your footprint, but would give
you a sophisticated dynamic module contain in which to work as well as
making it compatible with various environments already using OSGi now (e.g.
Application Servers, etc).

I could see potential uses for this project in my own work, but as I've
implied, it would have to be compatible with OSGi which is where I spend
most of my time.  I'd even offer to assist that effort on this project.

This is more of a question, is there any Java API standard abstraction for
chat protocols?  e.g.  I don't think there is but there is of
course JMS, is ChatterBot significantly different from JMS?  If so, perhaps
a low priority side goal of the project should be to develop a standard Java
API standardisation for chat?


On 29 January 2010 03:32, Donald Whytock <> wrote:

> Hello all...
> As discussed before, here is the current wiki text of the proposal for
> Chatterbot, a lightweight framework for chat responders.  The proposal
> is at
> Interested in comments, feedback and participation.
> Thanks...
> Don
> - wiki text -
> Abstract
> ChatterBot is a lightweight, multiprotocol framework and container for
> chat responders.
> Proposal
> ChatterBot is a framework for developing chat responders (applications
> that respond to messages received via online chat) and a container for
> deploying them. It is written in Java SE, and runs as a Java
> application. Chat responders are built by extending a single class and
> modifying a configuration file to reference the new class.
> ChatterBot's focus is on the following characteristics:
> - Small: The current framework consists of eight core classes.
> - Standalone: ChatterBot does not require external servers to operate.
> - Portable: ChatterBot should work as run from any Java-capable
> machine. For full functionality that machine should have internet
> access, but localhost and console connectivity are possible. It should
> be possible to run multiple instances of ChatterBot on the same
> machine or on separate machines with no loss of functionality.
> - Extensible: An instance of ChatterBot can support multiple message
> parsers and protocols. Adding more is done by editing a configuration
> file.
> - Dynamic: Activating and de-activating modules should be possible
> during runtime.
> Multi-user access: Multiple users, over multiple protocols, should be
> able to access deployed applications.
> Rationale
> A chat responder can serve as a user interface to applications, either
> those built into the responder or external applications with which the
> responder communicates. Such an interface is more secure than
> interfaces such as Telnet or web services since it does not require
> open ports in the firewall; the container connects out through the
> firewall to the chat server, rather than allowing users to connect in.
> A lightweight chat responder can be installed on any system to allow
> command-line access to users over whatever protocol a user may have
> access to. Thus applications can be accessed from web interfaces,
> instant-message systems, text messages, email, etc. A scalable
> container can allow as many or as few access protocols as are desired.
> ChatterBot, therefore, has value for those circumstances where a user
> interface is needed but a server-based or enterprise solution is
> either not possible or not desired. It also can serve as a bridge
> between applications, where one or more uses a chat protocol such as
> XMPP to communicate.
> Background
> ChatterBot began in 2005 as a thin-server approach to online
> multi-user board games, implemented as applets sending gamestate
> changes to one another via message relaying. The idea was to make as
> general-purpose a server as possible, so that multiple games could be
> built that employed the same message-relaying system.
> Version 0.2 of the server was then refined in 2008 to allow for more
> varied and functional message-handlers, and was used to implement a
> room system that allowed for room-specific applications -- parsers
> that checked the user's room before handling a command and sent
> responses to other room occupants. This version was structured
> entirely around XMPP. The global namespace was introduced to allow
> modules to communicate with relatively limited coupling.
> The current version, 0.3, as of late 2009, functions with XMPP and has
> the capacity to function with whatever other protocols channels are
> coded for. Applications built using 0.2 are being ported to 0.3. At
> this point the original thin-server backend intended in 0.1 would be
> built as an application using 0.3.
> Current Status
> Meritocracy
> Peer review and alternate ideas are welcomed in this project with open
> arms. This project was intended specifically as an alternative to
> traditional server-based or enterprise architecture; however, it is
> recognized that tried-and-tested principles established in enterprise
> architecture may be applicable here.
> Core Developers
> As of late 2009, there is one developer, Donald Whytock (dwhytock at
> gmail dot com). Donald Whytock has several years of experience as a
> software developer, working in a variety of languages, including C,
> Java, Perl, PHP, JavaScript and SQL. He develops both professionally
> and casually; ChatterBot has been an independent, voluntary effort.
> Alignment
> ChatterBot's primary potential alignment with ASF is that of a
> framework for internet-accessible applications. At its core, it is
> largely free of outside dependencies, though modules can be built to
> utilize other technologies. Embedded Derby is used in one application;
> use of Derby and/or ORM should be explored as a base capability.
> Initial Goals
> ChatterBot currently exists as a functioning prototype; protocol
> modules built for it provide access to chat responders via
> XMPP/Jabber, localhost connections and a chat-simulating console.
> Further development is to consist of refinement of the core classes
> and expansion of the secondary modules.
> Core Classes
> Shell: The main-method class, used to launch the application.
> Potential refinements: re-entrance, clean shutdown, restart
> Listable: The foundation class for the global namespace.
> Potential refinements: configuration file format, persistence
> Module: The interface for all modules loaded by Shell.
> Potential refinements: restart, shutdown
> Channel: The interface for protocol handlers that accept incoming and
> outgoing messages.
> Potential refinements: an interface for relaying XML/HTML data within
> messages
> Listener: The driving module that routes messages to Parsers.
> Maintains a list of Parsers, submitting an incoming message to each
> Parser in turn until a Parser indicates successful handling.
> Parser: The abstract class for message-parsing modules.
> Potential refinements: built-in parsing/tokenization, persistence
> Sender: The module that routes outbound messages from Parsers to Channels.
> Potential refinements: time-delayed messages, in-system messages
> Secondary Modules
> XMPPChannel: Extends Channel; protocol handler for XMPP.
> LocalhostChannel: Extends Channel; handler for localhost connections
> with other processes.
> ConsoleChannel: Extends Channel; supplies a simple Swing console for
> entering messages and receiving responses.
> INIParser: Extends Parser, allows examination and manipulation of the
> global namespace.
> New modules should be developed to add optional functionality. In
> particular, new Channels should be developed for AIM, YM, MSN, etc.
> Other potential modules include:
> SystemParser: Extends Parser, allows dynamic activation and
> de-activation of modules.
> FileXferParser: Extends Parser; implements file transfer between
> client and ChatterBot's host. Will require refinement of Channel and
> protocol-specific extensions of Channel.
> DB: A database interface. One application built using ChatterBot
> currently uses embedded Derby as its interface, preserving server
> non-dependence.
> RoomParser: Extends Parser; implements chatrooms, relaying messages
> among users in a room and allowing room-specific applications.
> Known Risks
> Orphaned Products
> Currently the project has only one committer, though Donald Whytock
> has been working on the code for a few years and is committed to
> seeing a functional product available.
> Inexperience with Open Source
> While the developer has experience working with open-source products,
> this is the first time opening up a project for open-source
> collaboration. As modular as the project is, however, open-source
> collaboration should not be a problem. It is greatly desired that this
> project not be developed in a vacuum.
> Fascination with the Apache Brand
> Association with the Apache brand is not sought for personal
> publicity; rather, it is sought for the associated community and
> access to collaboration and peer review. This project will see its
> full potential through public use and refinement, and a product more
> refined for everyone's use is a more refined product for the
> developer's use as well.
> Initial Source
> Original code developed by Donald Whytock.
> Required Resources
> Mailing Lists
> chatterbot-private
> chatterbot-dev
> Subversion Directory
> Issue Tracking
> JIRA ChatterBot
> Initial Committers
> Donald Whytock (dwhytock at gmail dot com)
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