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Emoji Bullet List ⚡ Behind the Scenes

Have you ever seen tweets like these?

Our @buffer Social blog numbers for October:

🖥️ 1,431,160 sessions
👀 1,702,867 pageviews
🔍 80% search traffic
🕑 4m 24s average time on page
🏀 12% inverse bounce rate
💰 1,641 signups directly from the blog

P.S. What else would you want me to share?

— Alfred Lua (@alfred_lua) November 20, 2017

Bulleted lists that use emoji

(Can you guess how I made that emoji list?)

Painful to write, though. Like, I know emoji better than most, and I struggle to quickly pick out the right emoji to go with each line.

I built Emoji Bullet List to make creating emoji dot point lists really easy. Just copy in your list, hit the big “Emojify” button, quickly choose from the suggested emoji if the first suggestion doesn’t fit your needs, and hit “Copy” to get an emojified list back. Too easy!

This idea originated as a nice-to-have feature for Rocket, but I realised I could use Rocket’s emoji keyword/phrase dataset to build this into a web app. More people can access it, it’s a bit easier to use, and hopefully a few more people will find Rocket because of it.

I couldn’t figure out a good way to monetise it, so it’s completely free 🤷‍♂️.

Technical Notes

Simple, useful logging for Node.js apps

I added unremarkable-yet-incredibly-useful logging with ten lines of JavaScript that lets me see in detail how (anonymised) users are interacting with the app. (This is great for low volume apps, but I don’t do this for services running at scale.)


app.use((req, res, next) => {
	if (!req.cookies[COOKIE_NAME]) {
		res.cookie(COOKIE_NAME, uuid(), { maxAge: 900000, httpOnly: true })
app.use(responseTime((req, res, time) => { 
	const cookie = req.cookies[COOKIE_NAME] || 'no-cookie                           '
	console.log(cookie, req.path, time)

(The extra spaces next to no-cookie are so that it lines up with our UUIDs in the logs.)

# A new user comes to the app, gets their identifier set as c5ff9a10
0|index    | no-cookie  / 						0.5199119999999999
0|index    | c5ff9a10   /styles.css 			0.39601899999999995
0|index    | c5ff9a10   /app.js 				0.33612

# Another new user comes in, set as 1378f9d0
0|index    | no-cookie  / 						0.37545999999999996
0|index    | 1378f9d0   /styles.css 			0.362075
0|index    | 1378f9d0   /app.js 				0.491498

# The first user asks for some suggestions and uses them!
0|index    | c5ff9a10   /api/v1/suggestions 	0.964749
0|index    | c5ff9a10   /api/v1/used-suggestion 0.5390269999999999

# Some previous user comes back to the app and asks for a suggestion
0|index    | f92af790   / 						0.46471999999999997
0|index    | f92af790   /styles.css 			0.40573299999999995
0|index    | f92af790   /app.js 				0.217364
0|index    | f92af790   /favicon.ico 			0.31112999999999996
0|index    | f92af790   /api/v1/suggestions 	0.921465

# Our original user is playing around with different suggestions until they're happy
0|index    | c5ff9a10   /api/v1/suggestions 	0.676022
0|index    | c5ff9a10   /api/v1/suggestions 	0.8778859999999999
0|index    | c5ff9a10   /api/v1/suggestions 	0.71288
0|index    | c5ff9a10   /api/v1/used-suggestion 0.522269

There are a bunch of fancier ways using external services or adding full user tracking, but honestly there’s nothing more fun than tailing your logs in realtime while someone is successful with your app.

I even saw one person come in, play around with the app for a minute, and click on the link to my Twitter profile. I opened up Twitter, and 30 seconds later I had a tweet from them about how much they liked the app 😁.

(As a side note, you’ll notice attackers and bots trying to crawl your site for security vulnerabilities. /manager/assets/modext/modx.jsgrps-min.js, /media/system/js/core.js, /privacy_policy.php (why!?), /a2billing/common/javascript/misc.js, are some common ones.)

Dead-simple Node.js and Express app deployment on DigitalOcean

I’ve got a dead simple deployment strategy that’s great for small apps. Put this in a file called (or whatever) in your project.


# Copy this to your package. Change the IP.
rsync -azv --exclude node_modules/ --progress -e ssh "$PWD" [email protected]:~/app/

# You may need to npm install on the DigitalOcean box

And to your package.json, add

"scripts": {
	"sync": "./",

And I simply npm run sync to update the app. Don’t do it at scale, but it’s super fast and works for small apps. I’m not fancy 🤷‍♂️.

Other Notes

If there’s anything you’d like me to write more about, let me know.

My products
💅 Vanilla – hide icons from your Mac menu bar for free
🚀 Rocket – super-fast emoji shortcuts everywhere on Mac… :clap: → 👏
Horo – the best free timer app for Mac
📂 FastFolderFinder – a lightning-fast launchbar app for folders and apps
📖 Kubernetes – my book on Kubernetes for web app developers
😄 Emoji Bullet List – easily emojify your bullet point lists (like this one!)

Jump on my email list to get sent the stuff that’s too raunchy for the blog.
(Seriously though, it’s an occasional update on apps I’ve built and posts I’ve written recently.)