The 22nd of October was a very special day at Landbot.
It was the first time all of us (myself included) visited the Barcelona HQ and met most of our co-workers in person. It was also the day we held the first-ever Landbot Botathon!
A botathon is exactly what it sounds like — a hackathon, only instead of developing software, we built bots. Not just that, but we also made a competition out of it.
Lessons in Bot Building
There were three botathon categories to compete in: the funniest bot, the most beautiful bot, and the most advanced bot.
We were split into teams of three or four and then had four hours to come up with the idea for our bot and develop it before presenting it in front of the whole company.
That last part was a bit nerve-wracking, but I must say the botathon was a very fun event. It was also a great opportunity to get to know my co-workers a bit better and get a broader understanding of how our product works.
Here’s everything I learned from the event.
Working as a Team
The team selection process for the botathon was random. We couldn’t pick who to work with, and I get it. I can just picture everyone flocking around the Product people, asking them to be on their team for a competitive advantage and better chances of winning in the most-advanced bot category. Instead, we were distributed among multidisciplinary teams.
This could have been a challenge on its own.
Since a lot of us are still working remotely, both in different cities in Spain and in other countries, there was a very high possibility of being assigned to a team where you didn’t know anyone upfront. Additionally, despite all the advantages a remote-friendly work environment has to offer, it doesn’t present that many opportunities to get to know your colleagues and work with them unless you’re involved in the same projects.
Working together to build a bot and win a competition could have been tricky. Rather, it was a great way to practice our teamwork skills.
First, we had to decide on the bot we were going to build. Everyone laid out their ideas on the table, and there was a bit of back and forth between each. In our case, this was the part of the project that took the longest.
But after debating each idea and understanding how difficult they would be to pull off, we settled on an Onboarding Bot With a Twist!
Why, you ask?
I’ll tell you.
At Landbot, all new joiners present themselves to the rest of the company with a Slack message where they share what they want about themselves. With our onboarding chatbot, they simply need to reply to the bot’s questions. We ask them their names, role, and team they’re joining, but also some random questions about their most treasured possession and thoughts on optimal toilet paper roll position.
In the end, the bot generates a message based on the replies and sends it to our General Slack channel.
Playing to One’s Strengths
I did mention there was a twist to our chatbot, and the twist was, we decided to make it very judgy and, frankly, uninterested in the person joining the company.
As I said before, we didn’t even try to aim for the most advanced bot category. That’s because our team was made up of people from Marketing, UX/UI Design, and Customer Success. Anything that involved any type of animation, like our Halloween Experience bot, for example, was completely out of the question.
Instead, we focussed on the strengths each of us could bring to the table and realized our best chances lay in the funniest chatbot category.
Since we had two marketers on the team, myself included, we really focussed on the text-based content of the chatbot and the generated end message. And because both our senses of humor matched, we made our chatbot sound super sarcastic, and borderline mean.
As for the actual bot building part, we relied on our Customer Success Specialists to come up with the flow of the bot, since they’re the ones most familiar with common issues that come up and how to overcome them. Although we didn’t add anything too technical to our bot, we still played around with the builder’s features, making sure to include several answer types (open-ended questions, drop-down options, and buttons) and GIFs.
We relied on our UX/UI teammate to make sure the bot was as user-friendly as possible, as well as visually appealing. And to guarantee that we were opting for the right answer choices for each question.
Getting to Know our Product
As an Editorial Writer at Landbot, my job is to write content for this blog. While that sometimes includes writing bot-building tutorials, those are usually very straightforward and have a set of rules for me to follow and then explain to our readers. But that’s as much contact with our product as I have.
The botathon presented a great opportunity to explore more of our product’s features.
I said we played around with the bot builder’s features, and although I already know the basics, like how to add GIFs and edit the text, there were things I didn’t know our product could do or how easy it was to do them.
For instance, how could we send a bot-generated Slack message to the General channel?
It was shockingly easy.
It was just a matter of setting up a Slack integration between the last message the new joiner reads and the bot closer. Then you just add the message you want to send directly to the Slack notification.
Just be sure to set up all the right variables along the flow that you’ll need to include in the welcome message. For example, when you ask new joiners about their hobbies, their answers should be saved under the variable “hobbies,” like this:
Good old Team Building
At the end of the day, the botathon was a great team-building activity.
Sure, team building can happen over drinks, dinner, and even on the karting track. Those are all great fun, even though I’m personally not a fan of the latter.
But who says team building can’t be related to your product?
It had the work component to it, there was a task we had to complete as best as we possibly could, and in some cases, it might have forced us out of our comfort zones. Hello, meeting new people and working with them on something on the same day?
Yet, everyone still enjoyed themselves.
And the Winner is...
I’m sad to say, it wasn’t us.
However, I must tip my hat to the winners — they did an amazing job in their respective categories.
The funniest bot was named “The Baby Show.”
Fortunately, this had nothing to do with babies and all to do with entertainment.
The winning bot in the funniest category is a game that consists in writing a sentence for the next player to make a drawing of it. The next participant then writes a sentence based on the drawing and so on, until all participants have had a go. In the end, they’ll either end up with matching drawings or sentences or with something that has nothing to do with the original idea.
This bot required a tiny bit of coding to make the drawing elements work, as you can see:
It’s clear that one of our top developers was on the team. Even though this is next-level bot building and you might not need it for your own bots, it’s still quite an eye-opener on bots’ possibilities.
Now, depending on the drawings, sentences, and end result, the game itself could end up being more or less fun. However, for us, it had an added comical element to it — GIFs of one of the team’s members along the game:
Most Beautiful Bot
The most beautiful bot award went to the team that created a recipe-generating bot.
All you have to do is select the ingredients you want to use and voilà, the bot will give you a recipe so that you don’t have to worry about dinner. It was very easy and straightforward to use, and oh so pretty. Just have a look at their background illustration:
Most Advanced Bot
Finally, the winners of the most advanced category were the team who called themselves The Onboarders.
If you’re thinking, “what, another onboarding bot?” you are right.
This is no ordinary onboarding bot. Rather, it offers a full onboarding experience via WhatsApp.
To start it, you have to leave our office in Barcelona, find the fingerprint scanner by the door, and scan the QR code next to it.
I know, they didn’t win for nothing!
Then, you had to follow a set of instructions that took you on a tour of the office, showing you all around the different areas with little clues and challenges along the way, including a ping-pong match. In the end, you get to meet a founder and book a one-on-one meeting with them and get to know a bit more about the company.
Neat, huh? Just take a peek into the experience:
Sad as I am that my team didn’t win, I’m glad I was part of Landbot’s first Botathon!
I learned a lot from all the teammates I got to work with and the bots everyone built. The experience also opened my eyes to all the different things possible with a chatbot.
Hopefully, after this event coverage, you, too, have found inspiration and new ideas to implement in your chatbots or create new ones from scratch with a particular goal in mind.
Or, who knows, maybe even host a botathon of your own?