Getting Started

A few days ago I decided to pick up a new programming language. For a while I’ve been a predominantly Python dev, with scatterings of C, Javascript, HTML, and CSS depending on the project at hand. Seeing as Golang has been become fairly popular in the DevOps realm, I decided it’d be worth while to pick it up.

Getting started wasn’t too bad, I made sure Go was installed, opened up my favorite editor and started getting to work. I decided my first project would be a simple program to take in the XKCD API, and post the latest comic to a discord webhook.

Please note that this just a braindump of my experience creating this project with Golang, so if I’m not 100% on best practices, or paradimes I apologize in advance!


The XKCD API only returns a few items:

Sample Return { "month": "4", "num": 2916, "link": "", "year": "2024", "news": "...trimmed...", "safe_title": "Machine", "transcript": "", "alt": "The Credible Machine" "img": "", "title": "Machine", "extra_parts": { "headerextra": "", "pre": "", "post": "\n <script src="//"></script>\n", "imgAttr": "" }, "day": "5" }

In-order to craft our webhook with the comic we only really need a couple items:

  • title
  • img
  • alt (this one is kind-of optional in my use case)

Since I know the keys and types from the API, I can easily create a Struct to hold the data I need.

// Basic struct for grabbing only the items we want from the json type Comic struct { Title string Alt string Img string }

With this I was able to use json.Unmarshal to decode the json from XKCD into a struct, the resulting output was:

{Machine The Credible Machine}

Now that I had the required elements from the input, I could move onto crafting my response. This led me down looking into how maps and interface{} worked.

Here is an example JSON we want to create:

{ "content": "Daily XKCD", "embeds": [ { "title": "Machine", "image": { "url": "" } } ] }

Since I am coming in from Python, I immediately thought about how I would do it in Python, as a result I essentially wrote Pythonic Golang. Instead of treating JSON objects as actual objects, I instead looked at it all as key->value pairings. Meaning in Python I would’ve crafted my embed array, and added that to my final payload dictionary as a value for the image key.

A few takeaways from that:

  • interface{} is good for working on arbitrary types.
  • If you know the exact keys and types you should create a Struct

So I ended up writing Pythonic Go code? If that’s a phrase.
The code below does three things:

  1. We create the imageURL map, to map the url key to the actual image_url.
  2. We then create an array containing the title and image: imageURL
  3. We append this array to our mapSlice variable, to create the final embeds map.
type M map[string]interface{} func create_embed(comic Comic) []M { var mapSlice []M imageUrl := map[string]string{"url": comic.Img} image := M{"title": comic.Title, "image": imageUrl} mapSlice = append(mapSlice, image) return(mapSlice) }

At the end you essentially get something that looks like this:

{"image":{"url":""}, "title":"Machine"}

Now, someone more experinced than me pointed out I shouldn’t use interface{} in this case. The better method would have been to create an Embed struct and Image struct, as these are two JSON objects.
I intend to go back and make those changes but I wanted to stick with what I did/figured out in my first few days.

Now that we have our embed array ready we move on to the final payload. For this payload I created a struct:

type DiscWebhook struct { Content string `json:"content"` Embeds []M `json:"embeds"` }

I made use of the tags to make sure when the JSON was formed we

  1. Exposed the Content and Embeds fields to Go, so we could set the values correctly.
  2. When encoding the JSON our objects where named content and embeds.

My understanding of tags is they provide additional information about the field. Specifically with JSON it determines the JSON object we’re talking about.

Crafting the remaing response was fairly straightforward. I simply instantiate the DiscWebhook struct, and then pass in the values

discordData := DiscWebhook{ Content: "Daily XKCD", Embeds: embeds, }

Using the json.Marshal function, I was able to pass my struct in, and form the payload for our post request.

jsonData, err := json.Marshal(discordData) if err != nil { panic(err) } resp, err := http.Post("<discord_webhook>", "application/json", bytes.NewBuffer(jsonData)) if err != nil { panic(err) }

The result was a nice Discord post with todays XKCD image!

Future Plans

I do want to improve on this more, firstly by fixing the use of interfaces{} and instead using Structs for forming the end JSON.

I also want to try an integrate this into a discord bot down the line and have it automatically post a daily XKCD comic, either the latest or just a random one.

You can view the code on my Github: Go-XKCD.