Photo by Ilya Ilyukhin on Unsplash

VolunteerLog enters beta testing

I had a completely full and slightly obsessed day on Wednesday: got up at 730am, sat with my laptop, and ended at 230am with only a few hours break. Why? Because making things is fun!

(Okay, also because debugging mistakes is curiously satisfying.)

Thank you so much to the beta testers who have been wonderful in finding the edges and showing me where the conversation flows are misleading, or end abruptly. If you’re one of them: Your patience and ability to break things has been incredibly useful! THANK YOU!

So what happened in that busy day, and the few days since, and why’s it important?

Firstly: it now looks like this. The chatbot no longer just sucks in data, it also builds your profile for you.

Okay so it’s not the prettiest, but it does have a cute little fox.


  • It works. It takes in data via the chatbot and publishes it to a page. It respects privacy, passwords work and show your private notes, and .. yeah… it just works. Lovely job.
  • You can set reminders. So it reminds you on the days you volunteer, and only on those days.
  • We have a mascot. Which is infinitely cuter than the teddy bear I considered, and much less scary than the bald smiling guy with the angle grinder…
So cute!
Thanks for trying, guys! Better luck next time!
  • It’s location aware. Knowing where you are means we can start to push relevant local opportunities to you.
  • There are stats! So many stats!
    1. Personal stats which show your average rating for each organisation you volunteer for, which is pretty cool. 
    2. A leaderboard & overview:
    3. And then also general stats ( to help us keep track of how we’re doing. They.. need a little work. I’ll put more effort in when we have more users.

Feedback from the Beta Testers

  • “Get to the point!” When designing a service it’s so tempting to ask for lots of info up-front before delivering value. I was asking email and location and all sorts before I was kindly reminded by a beta tester that I should get to the point quicker. What do you NEED to deliver the service? Trust from your user, and their permission to store their data. You can fill in the profile details later.
  • “Be more human.” When saving the number of hours you’ve volunteered it asks you for a number. In fact, it enforces a number. And only a number. If you deviate it will fail. How un-human. I’ll add in natural language processing for this soon, so “2 1/2 hours” and “4 hours 15 minutes” work just as well. (Just don’t hold your breath for “from 8 until about 2ish”!)

Misc things, for the record

  • MORE stats! I set up advanced bot analytics with
  • There’s a survey after 10 days of use, and a check-in for feedback at 3 days.
  • I’ve tested a donate button, connected to Stripe for payments (but it’s not working yet for reasons unknown.. later for that one)

Tech notes for anyone building bots

  • I started with the idea that using Zapier was going to be quick and easy, but it gets limited retty quickly. By all means prototype with it, but the limitations and the ongoing expense make substitution with plain code much easier.
  • It runs on https, because.. it should.
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