Tutorial/AI-Powered Movie Recommendations with Go and HTMX

AI-Powered Movie Recommendations with Go and HTMX

Tawanda
Tawanda Munongo Software Engineer Fri Mar 08 2024 | 15 min read
AI-Powered Movie Recommendations with Go and HTMX

I said in my last post that I had no intention of getting caught up in the HTMX hype. While I have become quite disgruntled with React, it has served me well whenever I need to venture into the frontend. However, after a particularly unnerving bout of decision paralysis trying to pick out a state manager and router for an SPA that I’m working on, I decided to try HTMX and see what the fuss was all about.

It blew my mind.

Some Background - What is HTMX?

HTMX is the brainchild of the team behind intercooler.js. If, like myself, you are unfamiliar with intercooler.js, it was a frontend framework built to simplify AJAX interactions in web applications using HTML attributes. It allowed developers to add dynamic behaviour to their websites within familiar HTML-like syntax without writing complex JavaScript code.

For example, we can use the ic-post-to attribute to make an element perform an AJAX request when clicked.

<a ic-post-to="/click">Click Here!</a>

HTMX (basically, intercooler.js 2.0) builds on the same ideas, bringing modern web features directly into HTML using attributes. Some of these modern web features include AJAX, CSS transitions, web sockets, and server-sent events without having to rely on JavaScript.

HTMX removes an existing limitation in HTML that only allows a and form tags to make HTTP requests. It offers a wide range of triggers beyond just click events that can be attached to any HTML tag and used to make HTTP requests. Just like React and other JavaScript frameworks, it allows page updates without triggering a full page reload. And, best of all, it does all this while coming in a much smaller bundle than React, reducing codebases by up to 67%.

To get started with HTMX, all you need to do is include the script in a plain HTML file and, for the example below, an API to handle the POST request to /clicked.

<script src="<https://unpkg.com/htmx.org@1.9.10>"></script>
<button hx-post="/clicked" hx-swap="outerHTML">Click Me</button>

Test-driving HTMX With a Simple Project

I dove straight into HTMX by building a simple, AI-powered web application. By the end of this, you should be able to build something similar that leverages the unmatched brilliance of Go on the backend, HTMX on the front end, and some AI trickery thanks to the OpenAI API to wow your users. You can follow along or check out the final code in the GitHub repo.

Project Setup

We start by initializing a new Go project inside an empty directory.

mkdir go-htmx-tutorial && cd go-htmx-tutorial

go mod init github.com/<your_username>/go-htmx-tutorial

With your project initialised, create a src folder and then a main.go file inside that folder. There are better ways to structure a Go project, and I might explore that in detail in a future post. Create the rest of the files following the structure below:

- go-htmx-tutorial
  - src
    - templates
      - index.html
      - styles.css
    - main.go
  - Makefile
  - .env

Start by creating a simple Go server. We will use the Go html/template library to serve our index.html. Go templates allow us to generate HTML output by executing a template against a data structure. html/template is preferred over text/template because it has built-in mechanisms to safeguard against certain attacks such as code injection.

func main() {
  tmpl := template.Must(template.ParseFiles("src/templates/index.html"))

	http.HandleFunc("/", func(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
		err := tmpl.Execute(w, nil)
		if err != nil {
			log.Fatal(err)
		}
	})

	log.Print("Listening on :8080")
	log.Fatal(http.ListenAndServe(":8080", nil))
}

We parse the HTML file in our templates directory, making sure to use the template.Must helper. This is a wrapper that will allow our program to panic if err is not nil when we parse the HTML file.

Our initial handler is fairly simple - we are not applying any data structure to the template, instead passing in nil along with the customary error handling.

Improved Routing

The recent Go 1.22 update made some interesting improvements to routing with the net/http package, but not quite enough to render libraries like Gorilla, Chi, and Echo obsolete just yet.

We want to avoid any confusion between our web and API routes by adding a /api prefix to all our API endpoints. For this, I will be using [gorilla/mux](https://github.com/gorilla/mux), a versatile and powerful HTTP router for Go web applications. Add it to your project by running this command

go get -u github.com/gorilla/mux

Then, update the code in main.go by:

  • creating an instance of the mux router
  • creating a subrouter with the /api prefix
  • registering a new route /hello that should be automatically prefixed with /api
func main() {
  r := mux.NewRouter()
  tmpl := template.Must(template.ParseFiles("src/templates/index.html"))

	apiRouter := r.PathPrefix("/api").Subrouter()

	r.HandleFunc("/", func(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
		err := tmpl.Execute(w, nil)
		if err != nil {
			log.Fatal(err)
		}
	})

	apiRouter.HandleFunc("/hello", func(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
		fmt.Fprintln(w, "Hello, API!")
	})

	http.Handle("/", r)

	log.Print("Listening on :8080")
	log.Fatal(http.ListenAndServe(":8080", nil))
}

After recompiling your code, navigate to /api/hello, and you should see the “Hello, API” response. Similarly, if you try to navigate to /hello, you should receive a 404 error because we do not have any handler set up for that URL path.

Making an HTMX Request

Even better yet, instead of using Postman or Insomnia to test your API, let’s jump to the front end and use HTMX to query our API. We can achieve this by making a few small changes to our index.html.

Assuming you have the Emmet abbreviation HTML5 template ready, all you need to do is add the HTMX script to your head tag and a button in the body that will make the request when clicked.

<head>
	%% other code here %%
  <script src="<https://unpkg.com/htmx.org@1.9.10>"></script>
</head>
<body>
  <h1 id="greeting">Welcome</h1>
  <button hx-get="api/hello" hx-target="#greeting">
    Get greeting
  </button>
</body>

In the code segment above, we are making an HTTP GET request to our /api/hello endpoint when the button is clicked using the hx-get directive. The default behaviour would be to replace the button with the response content, but we can use the target directive to replace a specific element that we can target by its id.

welcome image

Navigating to http://localhost:8080, you should see the welcome message and the button as shown above. After you click the button, the welcome message should be replaced by the response from the API.

hello API message image

For more information about HTMX and what you can do with it, check out their extensive documentation.

Building on this, we want to create a better UI that will allow us to input two lists of movies, submit them to the backend for processing, and then display a list of similar movies to those provided. We will be using Bootstrap because, in my experience, it is the fastest and easiest way to consistently style a website.

You can use the links below or head over to the official site for the latest version.

<head>
	%% other code %%
    <link href="<https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/bootstrap@5.3.3/dist/css/bootstrap.min.css>" rel="stylesheet" integrity="sha384-QWTKZyjpPEjISv5WaRU9OFeRpok6YctnYmDr5pNlyT2bRjXh0JMhjY6hW+ALEwIH" crossorigin="anonymous">
</head
<body>
    <script src="<https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/bootstrap@5.3.3/dist/js/bootstrap.bundle.min.js>" integrity="sha384-YvpcrYf0tY3lHB60NNkmXc5s9fDVZLESaAA55NDzOxhy9GkcIdslK1eN7N6jIeHz" crossorigin="anonymous">
    </script>
</body>

The form below has two columns, each with three text inputs. When submitted, this form will make a post request to /api/get-films using the hx-post directive and update the element with the id result with the response data. Each input has a name attribute with its input number and column number, allowing us to parse the data correctly in the backend.

<form id="combinedForm" hx-post="api/get-films" hx-target="#result">
  <div class="container mt-5">
    <div class="row">
      <h2 class="alert alert-info">Please input your and your friend's 3 favourite movies in each column and receive a list
      of movies that you will both enjoy! :)
      </h2>
    </div>
    <div class="row">
        <div class="col-md-6">
            <h3>Person 1</h3>
                <div class="mb-3">
                    <input type="text" class="form-control" name="input1_column1" placeholder="Movie 1" required>
                </div>
                <div class="mb-3">
                    <input type="text" class="form-control" name="input2_column1" placeholder="Movie 2" required>
                </div>
                <div class="mb-3">
                    <input type="text" class="form-control" name="input3_column1" placeholder="Movie 3" required>
                </div>
                <input type="hidden" name="column" value="1">
        </div>
        <div class="col-md-6">
            <h3>Person 2</h3>
                <div class="mb-3">
                    <input type="text" class="form-control" name="input1_column2" placeholder="Movie 1" required>
                </div>
                <div class="mb-3">
                    <input type="text" class="form-control" name="input2_column2" placeholder="Movie 2" required>
                </div>
                <div class="mb-3">
                    <input type="text" class="form-control" name="input3_column2" placeholder="Movie 3" required>
                </div>
                <input type="hidden" name="column" value="2">
        </div>
    </div>
    <div class="row mt-3">
        <div class="col-md-6">
            <button type="submit" form="combinedForm" class="btn btn-success">Submit</button>
        </div>
    </div>
  </div>
</form>

Handling Movie Submissions

We need a handler that will receive these two lists of films, process them, and respond with a list of common movies. We can start with a handler that will receive the form data and respond with the supplied movie names and the column number, and then build on that.

apiRouter.HandleFunc("/get-films", func(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
	err := r.ParseForm()
	if err != nil {
		http.Error(w, "Failed to parse form", http.StatusBadRequest)
		return
	}

	// Process each input
	var inputs []Input
	for key, values := range r.Form {
		for _, value := range values {
			// Extract column number from the input name
			// Assuming input names are in the format "inputX_columnY" where X is the input number and Y is the column number
			// Split the key by underscore to get the input and column parts
			parts := strings.Split(key, "_")
			if len(parts) != 2 {
				// Skip this input if the format is invalid
				continue
			}
			// Extract the column number from the second part of the key
			column, err := strconv.Atoi(parts[1][len(parts[1])-1:])
			if err != nil {
				log.Fatal(err)
			}
			inputs = append(inputs, Input{Name: value, Column: column})
		}
	}

	fmt.Fprintf(w, "Your lists:\\n")
	for _, input := range inputs {
		fmt.Fprintf(w, "Movie Name: %s + Column: %d | \\n", input.Name, input.Column)
	}
}).Methods("POST")

The handler above starts by parsing the form. If there is an error, we respond with the error and immediately return.

If there is no error, we process each input into an array of inputs. Create the Input type and then create a new inputs variable.

type Input struct {
	Name   string `json:"name"`
	Column int    `json:"column"`
}

Our nested for-loops will loop through each form value and then, from each form value, extract the name of the movie and the column number. Each input - the movie name and column number - will be appended to an array of inputs.

image of form UI with API response

This code will give a basic response with no styling showing our lists of movies and the column number. Each time you run this code, you will get the movies in a different order - a weird quirk of Go maps being inherently unordered such that each time we parse the form, we do not preserve the order of insertion.

Adding Intelligence

As it stands, our site isn’t very smart so we should add some intelligence using the OpenAI API. At this point, we should probably move things around to improve the code organization. The last thing we need is a bloated main function.

We can extract the handler function for /api/get-films into a separate function with the same contents (which I will omit below for brevity).

apiRouter.HandleFunc("/get-films", processFilmsHandler).Methods("POST")

We define a struct for the movie lists and create two empty slices to hold our movie titles. This will make it easier to pass them correctly to the OpenAI API.

type MoviesList struct {
	List1 []string
	List2 []string
}

movies := MoviesList{
	List1: make([]string, 0),
	List2: make([]string, 0),
}

In our handler function, we want to replace the code that appends our movies to the inputs array with code that will append the movie titles into different lists based on the column numbers.

if column == 1 {
	movies.List1 = append(movies.List1, value)
} else {
	movies.List2 = append(movies.List2, value)
}

We will use the two lists shortly, but, first, we must set up our application to connect with the OpenAI API. For that, you will need to create a key at https://platform.openai.com/account/api-keys. If your OpenAI is new, then you should have $5 free credit which is enough to make a few hundred requests to the API.

Once obtained, you can save your API key in your .env, making sure to add it to your .gitignore if you plan on pushing your code to a remote repo.

We also need to install the Go OpenAI library. This community-built library will allow us to interface with the OpenAI API.

go get github.com/sashabaranov/go-openai

In the handler function, get the API key from the path using the os package. Export your key to the path with:

export OPENAI_API_KEY=<your_key>

The key can be retrieved in Go using os.Getenv, and if there is no key we want to log an error.

apiKey := os.Getenv("OPENAI_API_KEY")

if apiKey == "" {
	log.Println("No OpenAI API key found. Set the OPENAI_API_KEY environment variable.")
}

client := openai.NewClient(apiKey)

From here, we can build the query with the client.

resp, err := client.CreateChatCompletion(
	context.Background(),
	openai.ChatCompletionRequest{
		Model: openai.GPT3Dot5Turbo,
		Messages: []openai.ChatCompletionMessage{
			{
				Role: openai.ChatMessageRoleUser,
				Content: fmt.Sprintf(`I will provide two lists of movies that two different people like.
				You must respond with a list of three different movies that both people would like in JSON format
				with the name of the movie and a percentage likelihood of both people liking them:
				List 1: %q
				List 2: %q

				common_movies: [
				   {
					 "name": <movie_name>,
					 "likelihood": <percentage>
					},
					{
					 "name": <movie_name>,
					 "likelihood": <percentage>
					},
					{
					 "name": <movie_name>,
					 "likelihood": <percentage>
					 }
				]`, movies.List1, movies.List2),
			},
		},
	},
)

Feel free to make improvements to the query if you fancy yourself a prompt engineer and leave that in the comments, let’s see if you can improve the results. Ideally, we also want to set the response format to JSON because the rest of our code assumes that the response is a JSON object.

Processing and Displaying the Response

Let’s create a struct that will match the format of the expected response data.

type Movie struct {
	Name       string  `json:"name"`
	Likelihood string `json:"likelihood"`
}

type Response struct {
	CommonMovies []Movie `json:"common_movies"`
}

After the customary error handling to check that err from our GPT query is empty, we unmarshal the response JSON into a variable of type Response.

var response Response
err = json.Unmarshal([]byte(resp.Choices[0].Message.Content), &response)
if err != nil {
	fmt.Fprintf(w, "Error parsing chat response: %v", err)
}

We will be sending HTML back to the front end, and we can create a template with some Bootstrap styling that will be populated with the response data.

const htmlTemplate = `
<div class="container mt-3">
	<div class="row">
		<div class="col">
			<h3>Common Movies</h3>
			<ul class="list-group">
				{{range .}}
					<li class="list-group-item">
						<strong>{{.Name}}</strong> - Likelihood: {{.Likelihood}}
					</li>
				{{end}}
			</ul>
		</div>
	</div>
</div>`

We will use the template package to parse the template with the response data.

tmpl, err := template.New("common_movies").Parse(htmlTemplate)
if err != nil {
	fmt.Println("Error parsing template:", err)
	return
}

In the last step, we use a string builder which is a great way of dynamically constructing large strings in Go. Using strings.Builder helps avoid potential bugs related to string manipulation and memory management as well as offering a more efficient and convenient way to construct strings.

var builder strings.Builder
err = tmpl.Execute(&builder, response.CommonMovies)
if err != nil {
	fmt.Println("Error executing template:", err)
	return
}

Finally, we use the builder to write the constructed string into our response object.

fmt.Fprint(w, builder.String())

We already set the target (hx-target="#result") in the form, and this is where our data will show up.

final

Conclusion

From a back-end developer’s perspective, that was pretty easy. We can build modern, dynamic websites without the need to write complex JavaScript or use frameworks like React. We can extend this further with Alpine.js, another minimalist front-end tool that I’ve been playing around with.

I hope you enjoyed working through this as much as I did. If you have any questions or feedback, you can leave a comment below or reach out to me on Mastodon. If you loved this, sharing is caring. Until the next one, happy hacking!

About Me

I'm a fullstack developer focused on building digital experiences that harness the power of cutting-edge web and cloud technologies. My primary area of focus is building backend systems with a proficiency in TypeScript, Java, Go, and PHP.

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