Office Hack #18 — Zapier’s Bot Family
Envoy is all about making things easier and more fun in the office. In that spirit, we are proud to bring you our new Envoy Office Hacks podcast series. Every week, we deliver the coolest, most ingenious, and just plain fun fixes people have invented to improve efficiency and productivity in their workplace.
Today’s Envoy Office Hack brings a remote team closer together with the help of parents…but not the real kind.
Zapier is a company that automates digital tasks. Its team is entirely remote, scattered across eight time zones. They only meet face-to-face twice a year at special retreats. In between, they communicate almost exclusively online, primarily through Slack.
“Our water cooler is the general chat room in Slack.”
- Jordan Sherer, Full Stack Engineer, Zapier
With a team this spread out, some felt the need for a stronger bond, like the one you might have with family. So they invented a mom bot and a dad bot.
Bots are pieces of software that are programmed to communicate on their own in messaging channels. With the Zapier web automation app you can create ‘Zaps’ that allow those bots to communicate with other applications outside of Slack, like Google Calendar and Evernote. (Pssst.. see below for clickable zaps.)
Take Mom Bot. Mom Bot makes sure team members are taking care of themselves. You know, like a real mom would. So for example, when Mom Bot detects the word ‘dentist’ on your calendar or elsewhere, she reminds you, and everyone on the team, to visit the dentist regularly.
Sounds pretty great, right? The problem was Zapier’s Mom Bot had a glitch.
“We just finished dinner and I saw a whole bunch of Slack notifications coming into my phone. Everyone saying, “Kill the Mom Bot! What’s it doing?” ” Jordan Sherer, Full Stack Engineer, Zapier
It turns out Mom Bot, triggered any time the word ‘dentist’ was used, could also trigger herself! This resulted in an endless loop of Mom Bot reminders about visiting the dentist.
Needless to say, Mom Bot was silenced. Forever.
“We remember her fondly and we joke anytime anyone has to go to the dentist about Mom Bot. Long live Mom Bot,” Carlin Sack, Marketing at Zapier.
Out of Mom Bot came a “punny” spin-off called Dad Bot.
Zapier’s Dad Bot looks out for the word “dad joke” in Slack channels. He then refers to an Evernote app doc chalk-full of corny dad jokes. Dad Bot picks a zinger from the list and fires it off through Slack.
“A ham sandwich walks into a bar and orders a beer. Bartender says, sorry, we don’t serve food here,” Dad Bot
The beauty about Zapier, is it makes it really easy for anyone to make a zap, a bot, and other automated three-letter-word things. It’s not always known who created a bot or exactly why. In the case of the Dad Bot, some Zapier staff suspect it could be some of the new dads on staff, trying out their new-found dad humour.
“…knowing the Zapier team we always, literally every week there are new bots that people create. That’s what we do for fun. We create things that either save us time, or that are really funny…” Carlin Sack, Marketing at Zapier ### How to hack it
If you’re looking to boost morale in your workplace — why not employ some bots or other useful Zaps? Here are some handy Zapier recipes:
Zaps to help depict Mom Bot
Slack and Zapier will both guide you step-by-step on how to build bots and connect them with other apps. Here’s a helpful blog post from Zapier to get you started. And, in case you need it, here’s a resource for dad jokes: http://niceonedad.com
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