Betwixt.us: A Slackbot for Human Connection
In this day and age of too-much-tech we know that the art of conversation has suffered–and this company wants to do something about it. Betwixt.us is using technology to create conversations that bring companies together. Or in their words, they have made “a digital conversation engine… to create more authentic connection and communication between individuals and teams.” Shaina Stigler, betwixt.us’ Chief Empathy Officer, told us more.
Tell us about betwixt.us.
betwixt.us is a NYC based, female-powered tech company that exists to help people uncover all that lies betwixt them. We firmly believe (and research shows) that we do our best work when we feel safe and supported by each other, when our relationships are built on trust and powered by vulnerability. That’s why we created zanie, a Slackbot that uses conversation as encouragement and catalyst for building the bonds between people that make magic happen.
What is the goal of your company?
It has been proven that trust is the #1 indicator of team productivity and innovation, which makes total sense! But in the newly distributed and digitally dependent workforce, trust can be really hard to build. Especially when our new virtual workplace (reliant on Slack and the like) was designed with efficiency, not intimacy, as a top priority. If trust is what makes great teams great, then teams need a way to build trust where they are spending their time working. Our goal is to use the same technology that allows us to communicate and collaborate across distances (both physical and virtual) to bring us closer together emotionally. Which, as it turns out, can only happen when people are having conversations about the stuff that matters.
What advice would you give others who are trying to build technology for a better world?
Start with IRL. We’ve tried very hard to ground ourselves in the real life experience of gathering around good conversation. We ask ourselves: How would this work if we were at a dinner party? What would it look like? What would it feel like? From there we do our best to map and adapt that experience to the digital context we’re working within. This approach has allowed us to think less about features and gamification and more about intention and purpose.
What does mindful technology mean to you?
When I think about mindful technology I think of the extremely simple yet incredibly powerful phrase: Time Well Spent. As a tech company, we take that challenge very seriously in that we’ve tried to build a useful tool that is responsible with our users’ time. We want people’s time with our product to be meaningful, especially since our objective is to encourage banter and discussion between our users. The role of our bot, then, is to spark conversation and then get out of the way and let it happen. Because of that, we have tried to be extremely careful and respectful of the relationship we’re establishing between bot (computer) and user (human). Our philosophy is definitely less is more when it comes to those interactions.
We have just begun to understand the impact and potential negative consequences that technology can have on the lives of humans. To me, mindful technology is technology that accepts and takes ownership of that responsibility and uses it to fuel building practices that put people first. Our company motto is start with empathy, always. If tech consistently started from a place of empathy for the humans they were building for, all tech would be mindful.
What can we expect next from you and how can people follow along?
Over the past 3+ years of building this business, the big question we keep coming back to is: How can technology be used as a tool to enable more of our empathy and collective humanity? This has forced us to become aware of the darker themes and issues within the tech industry. It’s incredibly affirming to see so much work being done in the consumer education / awareness and digital mindfulness space. However, big tech has been slow, if not completely reticent, to initiate the larger shifts that will establish a responsible relationship between tech and tech user for all the generations to come. We think the key lies in transitioning tech from rogue to pro. We’re producing a summit in summer of 2019 that aims to start the process of professionalizing the industry by codifying its standards and certifying its practitioners. We’re super excited about this initiative, which you can check out at the Pivot Summit 2019 website.
We love betwixt.us’ ideas and what they are doing to bring conversation and connection into tech! Find out more about betwixt.us by checking out their website.
All images from betwixt.us.
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