Building YellowAnt — The perfect digital assistant

Building YellowAnt — The perfect team assistant

The age of the Bots has begun. From Siri and Cortana on the consumer applications side and Slack and HipChat on the business applications side, bots have finally found a mainstream ecosystem to live in alongside humans. We’re building the YellowAnt, a bot assistant for teams. In this article we take you through some of our thoughts on the why, what and how we built the YellowAnt.

Why — You juggle 5–10 apps in the workplace everyday. This includes team tools like Email, Calendar, Messaging, Project Management, CRM, File Management, Code Repositories etc. apart from your core work tools. In a day, a you deal with over 500 messages, over 100 emails, use 3–5 devices, and keep context-switching to avoid FOMO(Fear of Missing Out). 44% of your colleagues can’t find the information they need and 48% of your time is spent looking for information! How, under these conditions can you focus on the important stuff — building amazing things that delight your customers?

Multi-tasking mayhem

For every person, there are limits to multitasking. In a well-known graph about productivity and multi-tasking (from a 1990′s Harvard Study by Steven C.Wheelwright and Kim B.Clark), two researchers showed the benefits of multitasking — but only in situations where the subject worked on two things at once. Any more than two, and productivity declined to a great extent. The graph below shows the relation between number of concurrent tasks and productivity associated with those tasks. The Lesson: People who multitask actually do far worse on performance than people who eliminate distractions and focus their attention on one or two things.

What — When we took a long hard look at the way people manage tasks, and specifically applications performing a task, we realized two things — One, most of the tasks performed across multiple applications are linked. For example, if you raise a support ticket on JIRA or Zendesk, you are most likely to also shoot an email, create a calendar event and send a message on Slack/HipChat to alert your team members who would be responsible for resolving the ticket. And two, the user doesn’t really have to switch to the applications to perform that task. Most of your tools have open APIs that allow you manage your apps through a console. With these two observations in mind, we built the YellowAnt. The YellowAnt is a team assistant that helps you manage your apps through simple intuitive commands. The YellowAnt provides a console where you can command the YellowAnt. The YellowAnt is also available as a team member inside your team’s Slack application and listen to your commands from within Slack. The YellowAnt will notify you of any new activity on your apps. In the above scenario, you can raise a Zendesk ticket, create a calendar event and send an email through three back-to-back commands and in the coming months even club these commands into a single command to avoid redundancy. Want to schedule a meeting? Check for any new mails? Looking for a contact? Need help searching your files? Check for any outstanding tasks for the day? The YellowAnt will get it done!

How — The YellowAnt connects with all your team applications on your behalf through the application’s API and oAuth. Presently the YellowAnt can communicate with GMail, Calendar, Google Drive, Google Contacts, Trello, GitHub, Zendesk and Twitter. The YellowAnt then identifies common tasks associated with the application and lets you perform them through simple commands.

YellowAnt Command line
YellowAnt inside Slack

Below are some commonly used YellowAnt commands:

Creating an event on Google Calendar

google calendar create an event Meeting with Marketing Team at 5pm tomorrow for 2 hours. Invite john@yellowant.com, jane@yellowant.com

Sending an email from Google GMail

google gmail send — to “michael@gmail.com” — subject “Q4 Sales Report” — message “I have updated numbers for EMEA & APAC. Will send it over in an hour.”

Searching on Google Drive

google drive search “NA Market report for Digital Advertizing”

Searching for Contacts

google contacts search “Vishwa Krishnakumar”

Tweeting on Twitter

twitter tweet @YellowAntHQ This is awesome!

Searching for a ticket on Zendesk

zendesk search ticket “Printer issues”

Every application command has arguments or inputs associated with it. For example, if you want to send an email using the YellowAnt, you need to give the ‘to’, ‘subject’ and ‘message’ values. We are working on the YellowAnt API that will allow developers to create “Command Workflows”, ie bundling different commands inside one elegant super-command.

The YellowAnt is your team’s assistant — While it assists you to do your work, it also acts as a bridge between you and your co-workers. If you have a question, you can ask the YellowAnt to fetch answers for you from your co-workers. Your co-workers can put the YellowAnt to work and get you answers very efficiently. This is where YellowAnt’s “Spaces” and “Private Groups” come in. Spaces are areas public to your team, where you can share things/questions/files/answers/discussions etc. with your team through the YellowAnt. Private Groups are like Spaces, except they are private to a few team members and need invitations.

We’re looking to integrate the YellowAnt with many applications in the coming weeks (GitHub, Jira, Asana, SalesForce, MailChimp, Intercom and Stripe), open up our API for developers to build cool stuff on top of the YellowAnt and also make the YellowAnt mobile, starting with Android(launching Feb 27th) and iOS(launching April 30th).

Do you have any feedback feedback on the YellowAnt? Drop us a line below!