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Writing a Chatbot for Slack – How to Make a Slackbot

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Maybe you’ve heard about Slack, a platform for team communication, designed to help cut down on internal email. Slack lets you communicate with team members in a conversational style, rather than the more one-sided emails, and lets you send attachments, create subgroups, and search through your archive for previously agreed upon decisions.

In addition to this functionality, Slack also offers chatbots, their first bot being named Slackbot. Slackbot helps users by answering questions about using Slack, and can be programmed with responses to specific group questions. For example, it may have a programmed answer for when group members ask what the Wifi password is.

Beyond Slackbot, many chatbots have emerged to complement Slack’s functionality. Here, we’re going to examine some popular ones.

Guru is a chatbot designed to maintain a database of information that has been discussed by your Slack team, in order to make it more readily accessible. It can search for and post knowledge, as well as verify knowledge accuracy, essentially creating an encyclopedia of the team’s knowledge. This bot is largely designed to prevent some users from having to answer the same questions over and over, by allowing a bot to give the answer once it has learned it.

Ace is another popular bot, used to manage to-dos, assign tasks, and create polls and surveys. It can also track company expense claims, and request images of the receipts, in order to simplify the work for claimants. Ace, like guru, is a pull bot, meaning that it does not pop up trying to tell you about things, but works quietly in the background, and responds only when you talk to it.

Howdy is a bot designed to facilitate virtual meetings, and help you get updates from different groups. He can be taught different sets of questions to ask team members, and can be automated to have regular meetings with teams and ask a predefined set of questions. He then collates those responses for you and presents them to you via Slack, allowing you to collect team information quickly, without going to each group and asking the same questions.

While push bots, who talk to you without being spoken to first, can be a little more annoying to users trying to keep a clean workspace, they can also be useful, or just plain cute.

On the cute side, we have Humblebot, a chatbot that sends you advice every morning about how to be a better person. On the more useful side, Paperbot monitors all of your Slack channels and creates a daily digest of content posted by team members. To make it more useful, team members can hide channels from their digest, allowing them to focus on their projects, while giving them the option of seeing an overview of what other groups are working on.

Apart from more productivity and communication oriented bots, Slack also has bots that play games like Connect 4 and Poker. These bots offer a fair bit of added functionality within the Slack interface, and if you’re on Slack, I encourage you to check them out.

charpioWriting a Chatbot for Slack – How to Make a Slackbot

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