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How to Make a Slack Bot That Apartment Hunts for You

Local tech guy explains it all

Few chores are as harrowing as finding a new place in San Francisco. The competition is downright aggressive, the stakes are tremendous, and the market all but chases you through the tall grass. In terms of stress, it ranks only just below gladiatorial combat.

That is, unless you’re Vik Paruchuri, founder of the data science education site DataQuest. When Paruchuri moved to San Francisco from Boston earlier this year, he found an apartment in about a week. His secret? Slack.

Slack, for the uninitiated, is like a social media chat network for your office. But that description doesn’t really do it justice: At some companies, Slack has replaced every other form of inter-office communication, including basic email.

Part of its appeal is that, for the savvy, Slack can do virtually anything. Witness the power of Slack bots, for example, the customized, automated programs that conduct basic chores for you on a loop.

You can create a bot to do almost anything. For example, here’s one that keeps track of how many times your coworkers use the word "should." Precisely why anyone would want to do this is, admittedly, unclear. But the fact that you can is illustrative.

Paruchuri wanted a bot to troll Craigslist ads for him and pick out the ones that matched specific criteria: neighborhood, proximity to transit, et cetera. Rather than spend hours blindly crawling through ads in the hope of eventually stumbling on the Promised Land, the machinery can simply roundup the best ads for you in real time.

"At first we assumed we just wouldn't be able to find a place in San Francisco," Paruchuri told Curbed SF. "The media outside of San Francisco love horror stories about this place. We figured if we wanted a real shot, we'd have to find a better way."

The bot was just one of many approaches he took, up to and including wandering around on foot and looking for "For Rent" signs (the most analog of all methods). But the bot was what eventually netted Parachuri and his girlfriend a place in Pacific Heights for "more than we wanted" but still well less than the city median.

So apparently it really works. If you don’t want to just take his word for it, he’s provided an exhaustive step-by-step-by-step process for creating your own apartment finder bot on the DataQuest blog. The raw meat of the thing is available on GitHub.

Of course, if you lack the technical prowess of a DataQuest IT engineer, then Paruchuri’s instructions might as well be magical incantations in a dead language. Fortunately, if you want to get better educated about this kind of thing, Paruchuri can probably recommend also a service for that: his own.

Convenient, that.