Organizing a conference with bots

notes • August 10, 2016

Last year, Ela Conf organizers and I relied on Google Forms for women to submit anything from talks to volunteer applications. Forms worked well for us, but reviewing abstracts in a spreadsheet wasn’t exactly a fun thing to do. With the help of Zapier, I created some efficient little bots that keep us organized and motivated.

Volunteer, proposals, and grant bot

Every time someone submits a volunteer application or an abstract, a new GitHub issue is created in our private repository and then our organizer Slack channel receives a ping:

abstract volunteerbot

:raising_hand: Under the hood: First, I created a GitHub account @elaconfbot (to not inflate my GitHub graph, make it clear that I’m not creating new issues, and because bots are cute). I made a zap in Zapier that will submit a new GitHub issue by @elaconfbot once a new row in the form’s spreadsheet is added (aka someone fills out the form). We also have a Slack integration that watches the repository for new issues.

With Zapier, you can also assign labels and even add issues to milestones as someone submits a form. Now instead of reading a spreadsheet, we’ll be able to comment on each abstract and use all GitHub’s organizational features. I absolutely adore this workflow.

We have this workflow set up for all our forms:

form workflow


Every time a someone requests to join our Slack channel, we get pinged in our organizer channel:


:wave: Under the hood: Zapier listens for additions to the spreadsheet and sends a message to our Slack channel. We can now add women to our community even faster!

zapier workflow


Every time someone buys a ticket, we get pinged in our organizer channel:


:ok_woman: Under the hood: I created a catch hook in Zapier and entered it in nvite’s RSVP webhook setting (thanks for being a sponsor, nvite!) as the trigger. I think this is our favorite bot!


Bots, bots, and more bots

Every time we get a ping from our :raising_hand: :wave: :ok_woman: bots, we all get excited. Seeing women wanting to take part with and at Ela Conf in real-time is much more magical and meaningful than I think we all anticipated.

It’s also going to be fun watching @elaconfbot’s contribution graph:


Can you tell when we opened our call for proposals?

My next challenge will be building an anonymous feedback system for our speakers. I have a suspicion that it will involve a form, GitHub, and then a delivery service. I cannot wait to get started!

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