Most chat bots consist of nothing but pre-configured if-then statements instead of having any actual or artificial intelligence. It’s a lot easier to do stuff with just a simple mobile app or even a website. If you want to order a pizza, why waste time chatting with an impersonal bot, when you can do it with just a couple of clicks yourself.
Chat assistants like Siri or Google Assistant are a whole different thing altogether. They silently work in the background, understanding your preferences and like, to help you when it matters in future.
That’s where Niles, a company in YC’s Winter 2017 batch, comes in. Niles is a slack bot that wants to be your company’s chat assistant. It sits inside Slack and learns the Q&A’s your team has over time. Now, users can ask Niles for an answer instead of bugging each other.
Here’s how it works:
1. Users in a slack room can @Niles a question. If it knows the answer, it will reply back, else it will pass the question to the rest of your team.
2. If someone gives an answer, Niles will pass it back to you and also store it for future use.
3. Since things change over time, user can also flag outdated/incorrect answers. In this case, Niles will flag the question and ask the person who last answered it to provide up-to-date information.
One challenge Niles may face is privacy concerns about user chat logs. To learn & understand most common questions of each team, Niles logs the conversation and stores it on an encrypted AWS instance, each team’s data is stored separately. It’s important to note that it does not store logs of rooms that it’s not a member of nor direct messages, and the logs are encrypted both during transfer and storage.
Niles is an effective alternative to the typical internal Wiki’s and documentation that no one reads, and also helps avoid repeat conversations you’ve had so many times. I can already see it automating some of the most common questions I’ve faced such as “When did X mail us?” or “Where is file Z located?” or “What are the contact details of company Y?”.
Speaking of files, Niles also integrates with Google Drive. You can connect it to Google Spreadsheet through OAuth and ask something like “@Niles How much did we sell this month?”
Having faced this problem many times, I really appreciate what they’re doing. Do try it out and let us know what you think.