Documentation as an API – the docsbot

In a recent presentation, Twilio’s Jarod Reyes and Andrew Baker mentioned their plans to make Twilio’s developer documentation available as an API. They plan to start with an API for code samples, stored in a github repository.

Making documentation available as an API means means users can create or remix their own versions of the documentation. For example, they could embed Twilio’s code samples. It also means those embedded code samples will be updated whenever Twilio updates those snippets of code.

Jarod and Andrew suggested something new that we’d not heard before – the API can also be used to create a “bot” in Slack, to help new users. The Twilio bot, currently in development, is called docsbot. If users type “lookup py” in the Slack command line, docsbot will reply with a message containing a code sample for the Python development environment.

Twilio's Slack docsbot

It relies on users knowing the relevant Slack commands, but it’s an interesting way of providing users with documentation when and where they need it.

See also: Advanced technical writing & new trends in technical communication training course 20th October


Beth Aitman

A docsbot reminds of an idea I’ve heard of before from the Haskell community – they have Lambdabot (, which will look up Haskell functions for you, look up the source code of things. It’s for IRC rather than Slack, but same principle.

(It also has a bunch of other utilities, like testing or running little bits of code, and refactoring)

Sounds like it’s really handy when you’re doing collaborative development.

Ellis Pratt

Thanks Beth. Interesting. As Siri and Google Voice are effectively closed off to developers, it’s one of the few ways of providing a conversation-based channel for Help information.

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