How taking a week off allowed one CallRail engineer to build a Slackbot that streamlines internal workflows
Nestled between the rolling hills of northern Georgia, just north of Lake Lanier, lies Montara Farm. For almost a week in late February, this picturesque haven was home to an unlikely group: 10 members of CallRail’s product and development team. CTO Elliott Wood and principal software engineer Justin Kronz spearheaded CallRail’s first Investment Week –– company-sponsored time carved out for a self-selected group of software engineers, product owners, UX designers and content writers to work on passion projects.
“It definitely encourages us to work with people on the development team who we don’t always work with. It also shows that the company cares about your ideas, even if they’re not related to your daily tasks, and encourages us to try new things and explore new areas of product development that we may not have otherwise,” says Justin Moulton, a software engineer who participated in the Investment Week pilot.
Justin spent his time at Montara Farm developing a Slackbot named Reptar. As the inter-office communication method of choice at CallRail, Slack is a space prime for developer interference. From a bot that allows you to place requests for snacks or swag to a plethora of slash command bots that deliver everything from an index of case studies to reminders for 3 p.m. Cafecitos to random facts about cats, Slack is just as much a space to keep company culture thriving as it is a productivity tool.
After creating a slash command bot that delivers quotes from NHL players and commentators on demand, Justin wanted to branch out and develop a more advanced Slackbot that addressed a problem CallRail employees often face: determining which of the designated meeting, or “huddle,” rooms around the office were available to book at their desired time.
“We have so many different rooms on different floors, and for the most part, you have to go into Google Calendar and create an event to see if a room is available. Sometimes you see people wandering around with their laptops looking for a room. Since Slack is part of our daily life, I wanted to build something that let us see this directly in Slack,” Justin explains.
At CallRail, each huddle room is branded with a Slack emoji and has a specific email address associated with it that keeps track of calendar events. With Reptar, employees can simply type into Slack “Is [fire emoji] available?” The bot then prompts you to authenticate and uses Google’s API to pull the email address for that huddle room to let you know what calendar events it has booked for that day at specific times.
Additional functionalities include the ability pull the top five events booked in a specific huddle room for the day, or to list all the huddle rooms and see how many people they hold and if they include a whiteboard or TV.
“I got to put a lot of my personality into the bot. I added the functionality for it to compliment you, say hello ten different ways, and pull quotes from The Office’s Michael Scott. There’s still a lot of room to improve. I want to make a functionality so you can book rooms and invite people directly through Slack without having to ever open Google calendar.”
Justin has booked CallRail’s first Investment Week as a success.
“It gave me the freedom of time with no distraction. We could disassociate ourselves from the everyday. That allowed us to reset and gave us time to focus on one thing and knock something out that we otherwise wouldn’t have time to work on.”
Justin is a member of the Cost-Speed-Uptime team in CallRail’s engineering department and is currently working on our soon-to-be-launched Local Swap feature.
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