Amidst the raging war in Ukraine, Lemon.io continues to care about all its employees and developers and designs a bot for checking out their safety.
A quick checkup between the air raids
For the last month, I’ve been starting my days checking the news about the Russian-Ukrainian war and pushing the button I’m safe in the Telegram bot to let all my colleagues know the night went well. I’m at my parents’ place, the Russian border is some 30 kilometers away, so we consider every quiet morning a blessing — especially knowing that the neighboring town is fully occupied by the enemy.
The bot appeared among my channels some two weeks ago — when its author, Oleksandr Kachanov, announced that he created this simple checkup tool that can potentially take some burden off the HR and Customer Success departments.
“In the second week of the war, I had to solve a very concrete problem: a problem of letting many other real and virtual people know I was OK.
Back then, Russians shelled my native city of Bila Tserkva with rockets. After the air raid sound, everyone flees to the shelter — and reads the news. People from other cities and towns do the same — and start writing: Are you OK? Are you safe?
Of course, we’re answering — but not immediately. It sometimes happens that some people request us to turn off our cell phones, and we can’t write a message until we go out. That means 2-4 hours off the line—more than enough to start panicking.
I thought I might need some tool for letting a particular list of people know I’m safe ASAP — just by pushing a single button.”
One more useful bot
Oleksandr says he’s skilled in creating Telegram bots — small wonder this bot is also Telegram-based (and it won’t migrate on other platforms, says the author). Since the war started, Telegram messenger harbored numerous news channels that instantly mirror rapid daily shifts. Probably, no other online messenger has comparable popularity in Ukraine nowadays.
The channels are copious, whereas the bots are not, and that’s both a curse and a blessing. On the one hand, people get used to reading the news mixture, stick the critical info channels to the top, and will forget about the bot very quickly. On the other hand, if it’s easy and people-centered, it can deserve a place in the front row.
Developing the concept
The bot’s functionality is very simplistic. As soon as you subscribe to it, you get your identification number. Give it to the people who care (and also have subscribed to the bot). They add you to their subscriptions list. From now on, they can track your statuses (the bot will show them automatically). The statuses are of two kinds. Either you push the button and automatically post “I’m safe” or write any custom message you want to share. The bot asks you and all your subscribers to confirm or alter your status twice a day. At first, it didn’t ping users. Now it started to do so. All the functionality is subject to constant changes: Oleksandr says he monitors the subscriptions and asks for feedback.
As of now, around 80 people added the bot to their Telegram channels list.
“I wrote on Twitter, on Facebook, told my friends and web developers in the professional Slack community,” says Oleksandr. “Approximately 30 of my contacts added the bot via direct link.
Now, I’m thinking over improvements — keeping in mind that the secret of the popular bots is their simplicity. Nobody likes things that are too complicated or boring. The safety bot should do one thing well: check if you’re safe. It should be pretty straightforward for those interested in your safety to learn about it.”
Still, there’s some space left for know-hows. After adding customized safety messages and pings (twice a day), Oleksandr is considering the possibility of sending updates about your status to all the people who subscribed to you in the chatbot.
One more feature could be some kind of a “safety feed” where you’ll see the safety messages from all your subscriptions. Nevertheless, if you care about many people, your safety feed becomes overcrowded: 2 messages from 10 people equals 20 messages a day. Will you follow them? So, this idea is still left on the shelf.
Let’s ping our devs!
“Sooner or later, I’d be tired of manually pinging all our Ukrainian developers and asking them if they’re safe,” says Malky Volodarsky from the Customer Success department at Lemon.io. “This bot can ease our lives: we should ask many people a similar question every day, so why can’t we automate this job?”
Together with Evgeniia Stoicheva (a product manager at Lemon.io), Malky is now starting to spread the word about the bot among coders situated in the war zones.
Some are from Kharkiv, and some are from Odesa, some are from Kyiv. All these cities are being (or can be) bombed now, so it’s our highest priority to monitor their safety.
“We won’t force them, but we suppose 70-80 % of those we ask will be using it daily. Letting to know that you’re safe doesn’t hurt,” says Evgeniia. “Besides, they can also use the bot privately — for learning about their relatives and parents.”
During the upcoming week, the developers will start downloading our bot. We all hope they are and will be safe, and the bot’s feed will be full of the assuring custom messages.