Deploying bots in production
Usually, work on a bot starts on a laptop. At some point, you'll want
to deploy your bot in a production environment, so that it'll stay up
regardless of what's happening with your laptop. There are several
options for doing so:
- The simplest is running
zulip-run-bot inside a
screen session on
a server. This works, but if your server reboots, you'll need to
manually restart it, so we don't recommend it.
supervisord or a similar tool for managing a production
zulip-run-bot. This consumes a bit of resources
(since you need a persistent process running), but otherwise works
- Using the Zulip Botserver, which is a simple Flask server for
running a bot in production, and connecting that to Zulip's outgoing
webhooks feature. This can be deployed in environments like
Heroku's free tier without running a persistent process.
The Zulip Botserver is for people who want to
- run bots in production.
- run multiple bots at once.
The Zulip Botserver is a Python (Flask) server that implements Zulip's
outgoing webhooks API. You can of course write your own servers using
the outgoing webhooks API, but the Botserver is designed to make it
easy for a novice Python programmer to write a new bot and deploy it
How Botserver works
Zulip Botserver starts a web server that listens to incoming messages
from your main Zulip server. The sequence of events in a successful
Botserver interaction are:
Your bot user is mentioned or receives a private message:
@**My Bot User** hello world
The Zulip server sends a POST request to the Botserver on
"content":"@**My Bot User** hello world",
This URL is configured in the Zulip web-app in your Bot User's settings.
The Botserver searches for a bot to handle the message.
The Botserver executes your bot's
Your bot's code should work just like it does with
for example, you reply using
Installing the Zulip Botserver
pip3 install zulip_botserver
Running a bot using the Zulip Botserver
Construct the URL for your bot, which will be of the form:
hostname is the hostname you'll be running the bot
server on, and
port is the port for it (the recommended default
Register new bot users on the Zulip server's web interface.
- Log in to the Zulip server.
- Navigate to Personal settings () -> Bots -> Add a new bot.
Select Outgoing webhook for bot type, fill out the form (using
the URL from above) and click on Create bot.
- A new bot user should appear in the Active bots panel.
zuliprc file for your bot from the Active Bots
panel, using the download button.
Run the Botserver, where
helloworld is the name of the bot you
want to run:
zulip-botserver --config-file <path_to_zuliprc> --bot-name=helloworld
You can specify the port number and various other options; run
zulip-botserver --help to see how to do this.
Congrats, everything is set up! Test your Botserver like you would
test a normal bot.
Running multiple bots using the Zulip Botserver
The Zulip Botserver also supports running multiple bots from a single
Botserver process. You can do this with the following procedure.
botserverrc from the
your-bots settings page, using
the "Download config of all active outgoing webhook bots in Zulip
Botserver format." option at the top.
botserverrc. It should contain one or more sections that look like this:
Each section contains the configuration for an outgoing webhook bot. For each
bot, enter the name of the bot you want to run in the square brackets
For example, if we want
foo-bot@hostname to run the
helloworld bot, our
new section would look like this:
To run an external bot, enter the path to the bot's python file in the square
. For example, if we want to run
new section could look like this:
Run the Zulip Botserver by passing the
botserverrc to it. The
command format is:
zulip-botserver --config-file <path_to_botserverrc>
hostname defaults to
Running Zulip Botserver with supervisord
supervisord is a popular tool for running
services in production. It helps ensure the service starts on boot,
manages log files, restarts the service if it crashes, etc. This
section documents how to run the Zulip Botserver using supervisord.
Running the Zulip Botserver with supervisord works almost like
running it manually.
Install supervisord via your package manager; e.g. on Debian/Ubuntu:
sudo apt-get install supervisor
Configure supervisord. supervisord stores its configuration in
Update supervisord to read the configuration file:
(or you can use
/etc/init.d/supervisord restart, but this is less
disruptive if you're using supervisord for other services as well).
Test if your setup is successful:
The output should include a line similar to this:
zulip-botserver RUNNING pid 28154, uptime 0:00:27
The standard output of the Botserver will be logged to the path in
your supervisord configuration.
If you are hosting the Botserver yourself (as opposed to using a
hosting service that provides SSL), we recommend securing your
Botserver with SSL using an
Apache reverse proxy and
Make sure the API key you're using is for an outgoing webhook
bot and you've
correctly configured the URL for your Botserver.
Your Botserver needs to be accessible from your Zulip server over
HTTP(S). Make sure any firewall allows the connection. We
recommend using zulip-run-bot instead for
development/testing on a laptop or other non-server system.
If your Zulip server is self-hosted, you can test by running
http://zulipbotserver.example.com:5002 from your Zulip server;
the output should be:
$ curl http://zulipbotserver.example.com:5002/
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 3.2 Final//EN">
<title>405 Method Not Allowed</title>
<h1>Method Not Allowed</h1>
<p>The method is not allowed for the requested URL.</p>