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07 Feb

Microsoft wants everyone to develop their own bots.

The idea seems scary and the company knows it too, but it envisions a future that is not about “man versus machine,” but “man with machines.” Today at the Build 2016, Microsoft’s chief Satya Nadella said that the bots are like applications that you converse with.

She found a public Slack channel, says Laura (not her real name).

“It was eight account managers, and it was pretty much dedicated to just bashing everybody in sales, from the top, top people, all the way down.” Within two hours, word had spread to the entire sales team, which spent a Friday afternoon reading the channel’s history start to finish.

Slack was not the first company to offer workplace chat and instant messaging: Before Slack, there was Campfire; there was Hip Chat. Slack comes in a free version with limited storage and features but also offers several tiers of expanded plans, priced per active user.

Open Slack, and it greets you with a friendly message as it loads: “Be cool. The day just got better.” Or: “Always get plenty of sleep, if you can.” (They’re all signed from “your friends at Slack.”) The left side of the screen lists your contacts and group “channels,” with green lights to indicate whether users are active and pink badges to mark unread messages.

The question is, what does this intrusion do to the delicate diplomacy of office life?

The last thing to see in the chat record was the account managers’ boss entering the room.

But the medium made that gossip searchable and public to anyone who knew where to look. And yet, at the same time, Slack was also the obvious place to do it.

Slack, first released in 2013, has essentially ushered employer-sanctioned social media into the workplace.

Microsoft assembled a chatbot on stage for Domino’s to demonstrate this newly built system, replacing the conventional online ordering forms with a conversational interface.

It sounds all delicious, unhealthy and appetizing when these bots feed us pizza, but the next thing we’ll know Stephen Hawking was right all along.