In the first part of this post, we took a dive into bot building for Twitter and Telegram. Now it’s time to take a look at Slack, a team collaboration platform that’s teeming with all kinds of bots, thanks to its passionate community and flexible, detailed APIs.
The platform itself is currently used by more than a million people or 60,000 teams daily. If you’re working along with other people, chances are you communicate on Slack (if you don’t, give it a go, it’s worth it). With each team having its own particular information needs and its own data to leverage, you probably already have a few ideas what your bot could do.
What’s even more interesting, Slack bots can be a source of income for developers. At the end of the post, there’s a few examples of startups, the products of which are services represented by clever and useful bots.
Let’s see what the platform has to offer developers, and what are the most interesting bots to spark your ideas and inspiration.
How to bot
Building a Slack bot is fairly simple, as it should be on a platform that encourages use of bots for every need, from entertainment to productivity enhancement.
First of all, here’s a few basic things about bots. Bot users in Slack are free, the same way as normal users are. For teams on the free tier of Slack, every bot counts as a separate interaction, of which you can build up to 10 before you’ll have to pay.
Bots don’t have passwords and can’t be used to log in to Slack. They’re also slightly restricted in the API methods they can use. You can check the full list here.
To create a new bot, start with going to the list of available integrations (http://slack.com/services/new). From here, you can take different ways.
The easiest way is to just use the Slackbot that’s already there and customize it to answer users’ queries. To create simple rules and just have a little fun, there’s a possibility to configure Slackbot responses.
If you want Slackbot to do something more – for example, send certain data from elsewhere every now and then, – the Slackbot integration from the list. This will give you a unique URL that can be used to send messages as Slackbot to your public channel. There’s a great step-by-step tutorial on customizing the Slackbot with a few simple scripts, check it out.
The other way of building a bot is to write a “standalone” one in your language of choice and connect it via the Real Time Messaging API. Slack has a detailed documentation on the ways you can leverage the API, while the community has created a long list of libraries and frameworks that make it possible to easily write and deploy bots in virtually any programming language.
There’s a bot for that
Now that we’ve understood the basics of Slack bot creation, it’s time to get inspired by the work of the others and see what are some interesting bots are already there to use, modify and play around with.
This nice guy tracks group lunch spending. It gathers the orders from team members and reports to the person buying the lunch. When necessary, Lunchbot provides the balance for each team member.
As follows from the name, this bot turns Slack into a Texas Hold’em client. It will deal hands to 2-10 players, ask players for their actions, determine the winning hand and handle the pot.
The expense management bot called Bill isn’t free (the price starts at $5 per active user/month) but it’s able to help you out with taking care of your team’s expenses. Bill accepts plain text expense reports, as well as scanned copies of receipts that it can analyze and process.
Every month you will receive a tidy report in Google Spreadsheets.
Another paid-for bot, Sofi is a PM that can assign tasks to team members, track the progress and eventually get things done. Actually, what Swipes offers isn’t exactly a bot but rather a Slack client with built-in PM functionality represented by a bot. It’s nice enough to leave it in the list though.
Simple and useful bot built on the Blockspring platform, it will give you the weather by postcode or the city/country name.
Another simple Blockspring-hosted bot, which will search YouTube for you and return the first result right into the channel window.
A Slack-based task management bot that keeps your tasks structured, organizes them by channel and lets the respective channels know when a task is completed.
This one is capable of running meetings and stand-ups that queries your teammates on their status on the project and provides you a report of their responses. The check-in can be done either publicly on the channel or through direct messages. It also allows to specify questions you want to ask your team, so it can be used as a scheduling or polling tool.
What’s your favourite bot on Slack? Have you built any already? Share your experience and ideas in the comment section!