People seem to like Slack, the San Francisco-based messenger and collaboration platform. And part of the reason they like it is its bots, programmed to deliver a customer experience that is both goofy and productive.

There's Slackbot — or Slackie, as it is affectionately called at CMSWire, which among other things will interject non sequitur-ish comments in a conversation among us humans. It also can be used as a notepad and a place to keep files. 

Another example is Howdy, a Slackbot developed by Austin, Texas-based XOXCO that automates such functions as gathering status updates.

All Pumped Up

Last December Slack kicked up its bot strategy by several notches, rolling out a development framework, an app store and $80 million in funding for startups to build software that integrates on its platform. 

In short, Slack primed its already robust collaboration platform to become even more robust by making it easy for third party vendors to build on Slack's platform.

Some two-and-a-half months later that is clearly happening.  

After some six weeks of development, Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Looker has introduced a business intelligence bot for Slack.

A Voice for BI

For users on the front end, the integration means a new voice will be joining the conversation alongside Slackie and the other bots.

So, for example, with Lookerbot installed, employees could be having a conversation about a particular account and one employee realizes she doesn't know the name of the account manager. She can ask Lookerbot, "what is the name of the account manager for this account," and Lookerbot responds with the answer.

The questions and answers can dig even deeper. Back to our example: another employee participating in the conversation then asks, "what were the five main incident reports with that account in the past six months?" and voila — Lookerbot responds.

So how detailed can the Q and A go? As detailed as the data in Looker, Looker CEO Frank Bien told CMSWire.

"Anything in Looker is exposable as a bot command."

The data displays in Slack exactly as it appears in Looker. Lookerbot is able to support several visualization formats, such as charts, maps, and tables. It can also support custom visualizations and colors.

'Data Everywhere'

Lookerbot was developed using Slack's botkit and Looker's own API.

Looker is planning to develop similar bots for other platforms such as the Waterloo, Ontario startup Kik's chat platform and the Sydney, Australia-based Atlassian.

In a way, what is happening is the market’s vision about data is catching up with how Looker has viewed it all along, Bien said.

“It make sense to take enterprise data out of all these wonky business intelligence tools and put it where people can use it when they need it? Why else have this data in the first place.” Looker’s goal is to continue to productize itself like Lookerbot and "exist everywhere", Bien said.

So does Slack, for that matter. Or rather, it wants the inverse — that is, for everything to be on its platform.

Learning Opportunities

From Smart to Goofy

Bots and apps, both goofy and smart, will be the ones to lead the way.

Some two years out of the gate, Slack has already assembled an interesting army of bots.

Birdly, for example, built by developers in Paris and San Francisco, is a Slack bot that can call up customer data from CRM databases like Salesforce and Zendesk.

Another is GeekBot, a bot assistant that sets up meetings inside Slack across multiple timezones.

And oh yes. The Slackers at Philadelphia-based RJMetrics recently released Sir Gifs A Lot , which is best described by the Slackers' own words.

"There lives quite a cheery Slack bot

who takes all the vids that you've got.

He lets out a whoop

til the gif starts to loop

whether you like it or not."

The new framework Slack introduced last December, Botkit, will only add to the crazy mix. Built on Howdy, this flexible codebase can handle a range of tasks from authenticating apps to a team to the sending, receiving and processing of messages with Slack's API.

Slack is not just relying on these third-party vendors to build out its bot army. The company is at work on more of its own, according to comments made by CEO Stewart Butterfield at SXSW.

A manager-bot is asking me if I have finished my article. Gee, I can't wait. I hope it is as personable as Slackie.