Niles is a Slack bot that learns your team’s questions and answers them so you don’t have to

Most chat bots are dumb. Nobody desires to message a soulless stack of if-then statements simply to order a pizza when a half-decent app or web site interface can do the identical job in half the time.

Chat assistants are a special matter. Quite than actively bugging you for data in a back-and-forth nobody enjoys having, chat assistants lurk within the background of the conversations you’re already having and glean little particulars which may assist later. It’s the strategy Google is taking with their aptly named Assistant.

Niles, an organization in Y Combinator’s Winter 2017 batch, desires to be your organization’s chat assistant — an alternative choice to that inside wiki that each firm has and nobody makes use of. It sits in Slack and tries to study the solutions to the questions that your workforce is bored with listening to for the billionth time.

The fundamental premise:

  • Any consumer in a slack room can @ Niles a query. If Niles is aware of the reply, it’ll cough up the reply. If not, it’ll ask for assist from the remainder of the workforce. If somebody provides Niles a solution, it’ll keep in mind it for subsequent time.
  • Over time, the workforce says, Niles will study to parse frequent questions with out being straight requested.
  • If a solution to a query is not right, the consumer can flag it — Niles will then flag the query and ask whoever it thinks may know (like the one that answered final time) to supply up-to-date data.

One thing like this requires a very good quantity of language processing, permitting Niles to reply a query with out you having to ask it in a pre-set concrete means. It’s not excellent, but, but it surely’s one thing they’re specializing in enhancing.

Most interactions with Niles — together with modifying solutions, flagging those who want updates, or tagging matters (for shortly retrieving all the things Niles is aware of on a topic) — occur inside Slack, with the Niles workforce having discovered just a few intelligent hacks to keep away from having as well you into an exterior interface.

However Niles can even attain exterior of Slack by means of its Google Drive integration. Need it to verify how a lot your workforce offered final month? Join Niles to Google Drive via OAuth, level it on the related spreadsheet, and say one thing like “@Niles How much did we sell in February?” It will possibly faucet into your Salesforce information, too — although that at the moment requires a bit extra help from Niles’ assist workforce to get working.

One problem I see Niles dealing with right here is similar one which just about “assistant”-type factor (be it one in your chats, like Google Assistant, or one in your lounge, like Amazon’s Alexa) faces: privateness. You’re placing a very good quantity of religion in this stuff, each of their creator’s intent and their potential to maintain any data it logs safe.

On this case, Niles logs the conversations in any room it’s part of and shops it an encrypted AWS occasion, with every workforce’s information silo’d individually. It wants that information to determine what any given workforce’s frequent questions are and reply them down the highway. The Niles workforce was fast to make clear that nothing is logged in rooms the place Niles isn’t intentionally included as a member nor in direct messages, the logs are encrypted each in transit and at relaxation, and that they “take great care to make sure the data is stored securely” whereas nonetheless permitting the idea to work. It may not be one thing all organizations are snug with, however the workforce is a minimum of being open about it when requested.

As somebody who has labored on the identical firm for a lot of a 12 months, I’ve each answered the identical questions 100 instances and helped construct wiki-esque issues instead, so I can deeply recognize what they’re going for right here.