Yep! Chatbots.

Color me converted. I previous wrote about my opinion that people would visit chat rooms to get work done.

Then I took an online class at work about an up and coming IT trend known as devops, where we learned how many successful companies use the Slack chat app to improve productivity. My boss took the same class a few weeks later, and then learned our company blocks Slack, but has approved access to a competitor, which works an incredibly similar fashion, with the glaring exception that it has no slackbot equivalent. Also, we aren’t allowed to use the api/chatbot interface yet.

The whole team signed up and logged into our team chatroom on Monday and Tuesday, and by Friday, about half the team wasn’t even logged in or saying anything. Even I forgot about it on Thursday until the afternoon, because it’s yet another step to follow at login time. We haven’t stopped using the company’s Skype For Business service, just added yet another chat room service. Big difference is, if you install the iPhone app, they can reach you 7×24 (good for managers, sucks for employees).

Honestly, I don’t find the whole thing better, especially since we don’t have api/bot access to this chat service.

I have thought about bringing up my own internal XMPP chat server, and creating my own competing custom chatbot services. But my boss rarely supports any architecture choices I make, so I’m reluctant to even try it. Too bad we can’t use the actual market leader, and have to suffer with the one our company has a business relationship with.

I tweeted Ryan Block, a popular blogger, about my original opinion of chatbot interfaces, and he wrote back saying he disagreed. After I changed my mind, I tweeted him again, and he wrote back asking what changed my mind. I told him we were doing a project at work, and I finally saw the light.

Originally I was thinking chat rooms in general, as if you wouldn’t use search engines, you’d login to facebook chat to search for things. Now I realize that cooperative work groups (and social groups) can benefit by project or group based chatrooms and email and bot integration for internal system access. How much easier is “!lookup ip xyzabc12345” to find a production host’s IP address compared to opening up and searching an Excel spreadsheet? Monitoring system alerts can be directed as chatroom messages, instead of email’s clogging up your Outlook inbox.