Dr. Smarty or How I learned to stop worrying and love the bot?

Posted on by in Culture, Development, Everything Else

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Twice a year, all of the Carbon Five offices congregate for our company-wide Summit. One of the funnest parts of these all company trips is the Codeo, which we have been running for the last few years and they have become an integral part of our DNA.

For those that don’t know, our Codeo (short for “Code Rodeo”) is a 2-day internal hackathon. The goal of the Codeo is to have fun creating a product with people you haven’t had a chance to work with in a while (or maybe ever).

The teams are made up of mixture of office locations and cross-functional groups so that everyone has a different role to play (developers, designers, product manager, and operations). The focus of this Codeo was “Slackbots” with the overall goal to create something that helps out our co-workers and/or Carbon Five as a whole. The only rule was to use an existing internal Slack channel as inspiration for the project.

Here is a snapshot of each team’s Slackbot, as told by the team.

1) Creepi

We have a company Wiki full of helpful information and jammed packed with knowledge but it is massively underused. Most of us turn to Slack to ask questions we need answers to. To solve this problem, we created Creepi. Creepi listens in on Slack channels, looking for opportunities to provide information from the Wiki in the channel when relevant. Whilst creating Creep, we developed the bot’s persona and decided that Walter White from Breaking Bad was a perfect fit for an all-knowing and mysterious Slackbot.

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2) Blocky

Ever found it frustrating when project blocking issues remain unresolved? We do. We wanted to create a Slackbot that identifies these blocking issues with in project trackers and broadcasts them to the team Slack channel to encourage their resolution. Blocky can prompt the team about unresolved blockers ahead of daily meetings, mention relevant (blocking) team members and also sends silly gifs when a project status is healthy.

As a team, we pretty diligently adhered to Carbon Five processes, using six ups and dot voting to identify and refine our concept, Tracker for defining product requirements and track work, and remote collaboration tools.

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3) Dr. Smarty

As a new team member to any company, even in the most welcoming of environments (like Carbon Five!) it is easy to feel intimidated about posting potentially silly questions in Slack. So, we created a Slackbot that enabled you to ask questions anonymously. Furthermore, Dr. Smarty also helps you find past questions and information within Slack, this encourages the whole organization to use the product, not solely new people.

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4) Alec Botwin

As companies grow, it’s more difficult to build relationships with team members in other offices and across disciplines. We created a Slackbot to facilitate spontaneous interactions and create shared experiences. Meet @alecbotwin. This Slackbot will generate a Slack conversation between randomly selected team members, at any time with a spontaneous topic of discussion. We gave our bot an engaging personality and drew on popular podcast host, Alec Baldwin to lead playful conversations.

 

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5) Pigeon Post

With multiple office locations, we found that digital messages don’t always allow us to convey the emotion we’d like to share with coworkers, whereas in person messages carry more weight. With this in mind, we needed to create a quick, lightweight, physical medium to send inter-office messages. This led us to create Pigeon post, which via Slack commands delivers in person physical messages via carrier physical pigeon (or modelled RC car)!

We used an experience map to help us put our backlog together with full acceptance criteria while separate teams worked on important physical integrations between printers and the RC Car.

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6) Di Di

Throughout a normal working day there is so much information that flies through Slack channels that is often missed. We think the most interesting content should be preserved to capture the day. Didi, the Daily digest assistant, helps solves this problem. All members in Slack can react to any post with the :didi: emoticon. At the end of the day, Didi sends out a link and email capturing the most reacted posts.

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7) Expensy

Filing expense reports are inconvenient for everyone, we wanted to find a way to simplify this painful process. We created Expensy, a Slackbot that lets you take photos of receipts (and annotate them) during your trip instead of having to wait until it’s over, then generates an expense report to send to your office manager for quick, easy and pain-free expenses.

 

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8) Yodabot

Timesheets are the last thing anyone wants to do on a Friday afternoon, when the weekly email is rotated. So to help get more folks get their hours in on time and to help Don (our COO) when it comes to chasing us all on hours we created Yodabot.

Yodabot will remind everyone before hours are due and then after the due date has passed, it will nag people who haven’t completed their timesheet.

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Overall Codeo is a great chance to spend time with our fellow Carbon Five team members that we don’t normally work with and enjoy creating something fun and useful together. However, there were some definite themes within our teams that highlight some of our Slackbot findings.

  • Bots can be really handy to chase and nag so humans don’t have to. A couple of our Slackbots touched on this point and by removing emotion by simply stating clear data points and communicating what is required or outstanding a Bot can really help with particular pain points.
  • Using Slackbots to automate information sharing was a recurring theme too, mainly in the form of a daily digest or a summary of what information had been shared throughout a time period.
  • The final theme to highlight from our Codeo is using a Slackbot to search Slack for information. With such huge amounts of content shared daily, that is often lost quickly having a Slackbot to repurpose and reproduce information at relevant times within channels is extremely helpful.

Once everyone presented their Codeo projects with the rest of the company, we had a vote (via our Codeo Slackbot, created by Jeremy and Jon) and the clear winner was Dr. Smarty.

All in all, this Codeo was a great success, bring on the Carbon Five Fall Summit!

Team credits:

Team Creepi: Matt, Christian, Ingar, Yasmine, Anna , Katie & Chris.

Team Blocky: Ryan, Erik, Nicole, Francesca, Zoe, Clark & Nate.

Team Dr. Smarty: Janet, Sam, Michael, Annu, Marc, Craig & Sean.

Team Alec Botwin: Allie, Rob, Elias, Alex, Greg, Brandy, Shannon & Tommy.

Team Pigeon Post: Virginia, Alex, Rae, Kelsey, Eric, Brian & Anna.

Team Didi: Rudy, Laura, Kristin, Courtney, Greg, Dan, Lilei, Amanda, Doug & Jaythan.

Team Expensy: Audrey, Ken, David, Justin, Andrew, Chris & Michael.

Team Yodabot: Suzanna, Don, Jon, Bobby, Sue Anna, Eric & Sidney.


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