10 most useful Slack bots

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We experimented and tinkered with numerous bots that are available for Slack, the cloud messaging service meant mainly for business. (You can still use Slack for non-work reasons, particularly under the service’s free option.) Here are 10 that could be most helpful working alongside your Slack team.

1. Ace: Saves your to-do list, and conducts your polls and surveys

You can build a to-do list by sending each task item as a message to this bot; it will store them, and show the list to you upon command. A task can be designated to a channel and assigned to a member in your Slack team, and labeled as prioritized (i.e. more important than others). Ace includes other functionalities: you can create simple polls and number ratings surveys with the bot, for which it will tally and provide a summary of the results of your team members’ responses.

2. Brisby: Programmable answer-bot

This bot serves to answer commonly asked questions that new members of your Slack team may have. You “program” Brisby by asking it questions and then entering answers for it to remember. For example, the first time you ask it “What’s the Wi-Fi password?” it will respond that it doesn’t know but ask if you would like to add the answer to this question. If you then type in the answer (the Wi-Fi password), the next time someone asks Brisby what’s the password for the company Wi-Fi, it will reply with the answer. In this way, a database of answers to frequently asked questions contributed by you and your team can be built over time for Brisby to give.

3 – DBOT: Scans for malware

DBOT acts as a watchdog (watchbot?) that automatically scans files and links as soon as they are shared in the channels and direct messages of your Slack team. If it finds a file that certainly or possibly contains malicious code, or a link that could lead to malware, DBOT alerts you and your fellow members before you click the affected item. While this bot works passively in the background, you can use it to actively check files and links that you want to ensure they are not fishy -- just upload the suspect file or post the link to your team and wait for DBOT to scrutinize it. This bot provides detailed reports of its security analyses.

4. EmojiBot: Searches emojis by keyword

To look up emoji you can use in your conversations, send a word or phrase to this bot in a channel, or a direct message to it. EmojiBot will helpfully provide a list of any emoji that are associated with those words, along with the codes you need to type to enter them in your conversation. You can also program this bot to link a word (or a term you that you make up) with a phrase. So you won’t need to type the full phrase -- just this word or term -- whenever you want to look up the emoji related to it.

5. Howdy: Asks questions and compiles responses from your team members

You can deploy Howdy to check up on certain members or everyone who’s assigned to a channel of your Slack team. The bot will ask each person questions (such as how far along they are on an assignment, or what they want for lunch) and compile their answers into a report for you. It can be set to run on a one-time or recurring schedule. Basically, Howdy frees you from messaging members individually with questions and gathering up their replies yourself.

6. MailClark: Lets you send and receive emails within Slack

This bot lets you and your team members compose emails and send them from inside a conversation window. To compose an email, you enter the email emoji in a conversation, then write your email. When you’re finished, you summon MailClark and type an email address -- the text you wrote that follows the email emoji will be sent to this address. From outside the Slack service, an email can be sent directly to a channel in your Slack team, and the contents of that email will appear in that channel’s conversation window.

7. Meekan Scheduling Assistant: Finds common free times among members’ calendars

One of the toughest things to figure out among a group of people is when everybody has the same upcoming day and time free for a meeting or other event together. Meekan analyzes the online calendars belonging to each member in your Slack team to compile a list of available times when everybody will be in sync. This bot works with a member’s calendar on Google Calendar, iCloud or Office 365. (Your team members need to grant the Meekan bot access to their calendars through whichever of these services they use.)

8. Pogo: Saves and retrieves links posted in a channel

When invited into a channel, you and your team can then save links to this bot for later retrieval. Links can also be saved under a label you designate. In this way, you can tell Pogo to bring up only those links that you marked with that label (e.g. “press releases,” “research studies,” “video”).

9. Polly: Lets you create polls

Polly offers more sophisticated polling features over Ace. A poll can be deployed to appear in the conversation window on a specific time or on a recurring schedule. In the simple poll format design, team members reply to a question by choosing from a selection of emoticons, each representing an answer. Advanced poll formats allow team members to add comments or to respond anonymously. Polly is free, but the company behind it sells two tiers of service, starting at $5 monthly, which provide analysis reports.

10. Sway Finance: Provides digest reports about your company’s finances

Not to be confused with Microsoft's presentation app Sway, this bot posts a financial digest to a channel (e.g. #finances) every day which summarizes your company’s current revenue, expenses, balance and most recent activity. Additionally, you can message Sway Finance to compile a digest of your bank account’s status on a prior calendar day, month, or range of days. Of course, this bot needs access to your bank account to do these things. The developers assure that your username and password go through the secure Plaid network, and their bot doesn’t have the ability to move money in your company’s account. Sway Finance also works with the online payment platform Stripe, if your business uses that service.

Howard Wen is a freelance writer. He can be reached at howardwen@gmail.com

This story, "10 most useful Slack bots" was originally published by Network World.

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