Say Howdy to your new robot co-worker

by Colin Morris
October 21, 2015

In the tech community, people’s opinions of Slack fall into two categories: They either haven’t heard of it, or they’re part of the 1 million users who can’t stop talking about how awesome it is. The collaborative chat app has become so crucial to some teams that one Austin startup is developing its own slackbots you can use to push that efficiency further.

Yesterday’s official launch of Howdy included the announcement of a $1.5 million seed round. The Howdy team is collaborating closely with Slack for smooth integration, and co-founder Ben Brown said Howdy has been warmly received by beta users.

“If you look at the tweets about yesterday's launch, you can tell we've captured the imagination of thousands of people,” he said. “We’re getting lots of love.”

It’s easy to see why. Howdy uses API tokens, to interact with your team through Slack in the form of conversational bots who can take a variety of administrative chores off your plate. For example, Howdy can hold simultaneous conversations with every team member, then issue a status report to the Slack channel where the meeting occurred. It can also run private reports for you via direct message, or just gather everyone’s lunch order.



It’s up to users to decide how it’s used, and that’s kind of the point — flexible, intelligent AI you can interact with almost like another person on your team. It’s like the AOL Instant Messenger bots of yore, updated for the tech teams of today.

Brown says it’s part of a larger trend toward interacting with software via messaging. He frames it this way: SMS is built into every phone on the planet, we rely on Twitter and chat for news, work and entertainment, and all of it supports integration with software that can talk to us.

He added that this is just the beginning of what he called messaging experience design, or MXD. The term describes intelligent, chat-based software we interact with through conversation rather than a lot of clicking and tapping.

It’s already making its way into consumer tech in the form of chat-based concierge AI like Denver-based Pana. But Brown says this is just the beginning, both for for Slack and MXD in general.

“Ask yourself, what are the things in my day that reliably waste my time? What do I do over and over again,” he said in a recent post on Medium. “Can it be automated?”

More and more, the answer seems to be yes.

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