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Serverless and Slack

In the early days of building out Kaomoji.moe I was learning about the Serverless framework and the benefits around being able to simply write code without worrying about deployments, security, or infrastructure planning.

The problem

Serverless framework promised me super scalable and encapsulated functions that could be deployed in seconds. So this is what I did; I built my app with this idea that Serverless was the way to go. Kaomoji.moe was originally built as 3–4 functions that dealt with everything: OAuth, slash commands, event subscriptions, you name it.

Slack has a hard requirement of responding to any slash command in under 3 seconds. No matter what I did to optimise the cold-start time or the speed of my code, I simply could not create a consistent Serverless endpoint (via AWS Lambda) that returned a result quick enough. Many of the responses were perfectly fine, but my users were often complaining about timeout issues in their commands. This is not great for user experience.

The "solution"

Kaomoji is now written as an always-on Koa server (deployed by GitLab CI and AWS Elastic Beanstalk) that can consistently respond in less than a second. It's also been a great way to extract some repetitive actions like verifying Slack requests and retrieving user information into isolated and testable middleware functions.

I think Serverless has a place at massive scale, until then for a fast slash command experience, stick with traditional Node.js servers.

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