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Swizec Teller - a geek with a

My favorite serverless project

When's the last time your first project in a new technology was also your favorite? Doesn't happen very often ...πŸ€”

It happened to me in November 2018.

Pat Walls of Starter Story fame posed a challenge: Build a startup in 24 hours.

Absolute mad man. There's no way.

Is there ... what if? No, no that's crazy. But maybe ... no hell no. Unless ...

I have been paying someone \\$500/mo to do a boring task πŸ‘‰ take my markdown, put images on imgur, screenshot tweets, code snippets, and youtube embeds, export to HTML and paste into a newsletter.

That sounds automatable ...

Fuck it, Pat Walls you're on!

12 hours later, TechLetter.App was born. You see its output every time you read my email.

And every day it feels like magic. πŸ§™β€β™‚οΈ


TechLetterApp showing off

Write email in markdown. Paste into box on the left, get rendered HTML on the right. Basic markdown parsing and rendering. There's libraries for that.

Here's where it gets cool πŸ‘‡

TechLetter.App uses an AWS Lambda to spin up a Chrome browser and take screenshots. Tweets, Youtube thumbnails, Instagram, code snippets, CodeSandbox, and a few more.

How TechLetterApp takes a screenshot
How TechLetterApp takes a screenshot

Think about it – every time you paste a link, a few dozen steps go just right in a dance of magic:

  1. Markdown plugin recognizes a link
  2. Matches link to Regex of screenshottable stuffs
  3. Renders a <Screenshot > React component
  4. Component uses useEffect to make an API request
  5. DNS config maps request to my API Gateway
  6. API Gateway says "Oh, _that lambda"_
  7. AWS Lambda spins up a whole new server
  8. That server runs my JavaScript function
  9. Function starts a Chrome browser
  10. Browser loads the link (another magical dance)
  11. My code uses browser JavaScript to find the correct DOM node to use
  12. Tells browser to take a screenshot of that node
  13. Uploads screenshot to S3 as a file
  14. Returns the URL as an API response
  15. <Screenshot> component renders image

All this in 3 seconds for \\$0. 😳

The future boggles the mind my friend. You can try it at this URL πŸ‘‰ link to my AWS Lambda

Before you ask: Yes, a lot has happened to this Lambda over the years. Fixes to how Chrome works, tweaks to screenshots, new features, cleaned up the codebase recently. It's been a fun project.

Even got 91 stars on GitHub despite being hardcoded for my usecase and with a Readme so out of date it's hilarious. I should fix that πŸ˜…

Why I love this project

Sometimes you love things just because they're cool. You don't need an excuse to be a nerd.

And it's saved me countless hours and almost \\$10,000 in outsourcing cost. So that's nice. πŸ˜‡

Not bad for a few hours of hacking and \\$0 in hosting cost huh?

What would you build, if running server code was a breeze? Hit reply

Cheers, ~Swizec

PS: want to learn serverless in a focused setting without investing 2 years of pain and reading random blogposts? Join my Serverless Workshop, sales close tomorrow. Also available in installments

PPS: the distributed serverless data processing pipeline chomping through millions of events per day that I built at work sounds impressive on a resume, but it isn't cool

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Published on September 24th, 2020 in

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