Chewing through the 'net

Finding Domain Experts with Slack

One of the most frustrating experiences a developer can have is not being able to find the right domain expert when they need them. When you’re stuck, finding the right contact can mean the difference between getting something done today and beating your head against a wall for 8 hours.

I’ve run into this problem many times, both in large and rapidly growing mid-size companies. It’s doubly bad when you’re new and learning the lay of the land in a mature business, It’s triply bad when you’re new in a blitz scaling business where everyone else is new and no one has time to help you navigate.

Sure there are tools that are supposed to help. They’re the kind of people-ish tools you find in any large enterprise IT portfolio. Yammer, Outlook, maybe even a long forgotten Sharepoint page. Problem one is that no one wants to use them. They’re almost always imposed by management (I’m looking at you Yammer). Problem two is that, for directories that require deliberate updating of things like job titles, they’re never updated.

What if there was a tool that we could infer domain knowledge from that people 1) want to use and 2) is up to date by nature? What if you were already using it? What if that tool was Slack.

Here’s my modest proposal. Create a Slack bot that will

  1. Watch conversations in public channels
  2. Build frequency matrixes of terms that the various conversants use
  3. Give extra points for people responding to questions containing given terms
  4. Answer questions from those in need of help with names of recommended contacts

Sounds simple and useful to me. Maybe even a lifesaver for the newbies.