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@data[:responses], but selecting a single random phrase gets ugly fast. This looks like an
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excellent opportunity to create a private method that retrieves a random phrase from a selected response group:
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private def random_response(key) random_index = rand(@data[:responses][key].length) @data[:responses][key][random_index].gsub(/\[name\]/, @name) end
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This method simplifies the routine of taking a random phrase from a particular phrase set in @data. The second line of random_response performs a substitution so that any responses that contain [name] have [name] substituted for the bot s name. For example, one of the demo greeting phrases is Hi. I m [name]. Want to chat However, if you created the bot object and specified a name of Fred, the output would appear as Hi. I m Fred. Want to chat
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CHAPTER 12 TYING IT TOGETHER: DEVELOPING A LARGER RUBY APPLICATION
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Note Remember that a private method is a method that cannot be called from outside the class itself.
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As random_response is only needed internally to the class, it s a perfect candidate to be a private method.
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Let s update greeting and farewell to use random_response:
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def greeting random_response :greeting end def farewell random_response :farewell end
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Isn t separating common functionality into distinct methods great These methods now look a lot simpler and make immediate sense compared to the jumble they contained previously.
Note This technique is also useful in situations where you have ugly or complex-looking code and you
simply want to hide it inside a single method you can call from anywhere. Keep complex code in the background and make the rest of the code look as simple as possible.
The response_to Method
The core of the Bot class is the response_to method. It s used to pass user input to the bot and get the bot s response in return. However, the method itself should be simple and have one line per required operation to call private methods that perform each step. respond_to must perform several actions: 1. Accept the user s input. 2. Perform preprocessing substitutions, as described in the bot s data file. 3. Split the input into sentences and choose the most keyword-rich sentence. 4. Search for matches against the response phrase set keys. 5. Perform pronoun switching against the user input.
CHAPTER 12 TYING IT TOGETHER: DEVELOPING A LARGER RUBY APPLICATION
6. Pick a random phrase that matches (or a default phrase if there are no matches) and perform any substitutions of the user input into the result. 7. Return the completed output phrase. Let s look at each action in turn.
Accepting Input and Performing Substitutions
First, you accept the input as a basic argument to the response_to method:
def response_to(input) end
Then you move on to performing the preprocessing word and phrase substitutions as dictated by the :presubs array in the bot data file. You ll recall the :presubs array is an array of arrays that specifies words and phrases that should be changed to another word or phrase. The reason for this is so that you can deal with multiple terms with a single phrase. For example, if you substitute all instances of yeah for yes, a relevant phrase will be shown whether the user says yeah or yes, even though the phrase is only matching on yes. As you re focusing on keeping response_to simple, you ll use a single method call:
def response_to(input) prepared_input = preprocess(input).downcase end
Now you can implement preprocess as a private method:
private def preprocess(input) perform_substitutions input end
Then you can implement the substitution method itself:
def perform_substitutions(input) @data[:presubs].each { |s| input.gsub!(s[0], s[1]) } input end
This code loops through each substitution defined in the :presubs array and uses
gsub! on the input.
CHAPTER 12 TYING IT TOGETHER: DEVELOPING A LARGER RUBY APPLICATION
At this point it s worth wondering why you have a string of methods just to get to the perform_substitutions method. Why not just call it directly from response_to The rationale in this case is that you re trying to keep logic separated from other logic within this program as much as possible. This is how larger applications work, as it allows you to extend them more easily. For example, if you wanted to perform more preprocessing tasks in future, you could simply create methods for them and call them from preprocess without having to make any changes to response_to. Although this looks inefficient, it actually results in code that s easy to extend and read in the long run. A little verbosity is the price for a lot of flexibility. You ll see a lot of similar techniques used in other Ruby programs, which is why it s demonstrated so forcefully here.
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