Interviews

Café: a custom Cobot feature built and shared by Fase15

Café: a custom Cobot feature built and shared by Fase15

Fase15 was facing a dilemma that will be familiar to many coworking spaces in the process of launching: should all drinks and snacks be included in a membership? They made the decision to include tea and coffee and charge for premium drinks separately, with discounted pricing for members. The next logical question was how to manage drink payments in Cobot so that invoicing remained streamlined and comprehensive. Cobot’s Tip Jar feature was the obvious first choice. However, the wide selection available and different pricing for members and visitors meant that the Tip Jar just wasn’t cutting it. A creative solution was needed to cater to the specific needs of Fase15’s team and members.

Tamay, Fase15’s community manager, became head of the local creative industries support agency in Saarbrücken in September 2012. Two months later a coworking space also opened its doors that would become not only Tamay’s neighbor, but his community too. “The coworking space’s community has always been part of my work,” Tamay shares, and it’s through this community he met Tobias, now a Fase15 member.

Aware of the headaches that coffee-seekers were experiencing — and an avid coffee drinker — Tobias decided to build something during his commute to Fase15 that would optimize the experience for everyone.

He read through Cobot’s API documentation and discovered Cobot’s bots, ready to facilitate personalized solutions. Using the source code of their example applications available on Github, and the source code for Tip Jar as a starting point, Tobias began developing the custom Café feature.

The installed Café bot visible from the admin dashboard

The initial version was created in a single commute, and despite being “a little hacky,” to use Tobias’ words, it remained an essential part of the Fase15 dashboard for the next year.

Member view of the Café function
Member notification when purchasing an ice-cream

Originally the prices were hardcoded, so Tobias would have to manually change them whenever the prices changed. At first that was relatively easy, but the short-notice German tax changes this year introduced an obstacle that nudged them to upgrade their fix.

Instead of hardcoded prices, Tobias integrated a Google API that pulls data from a Google Sheet on which admins can update information directly, including which VAT rate applies. At the same time, he included an update that adds a purchases’ accounting category.

The Google Sheet used by Tamay to update items and prices
A view of the Javascript editor with implemented Google Sheet API

So that’s how the technical side was developed. But what impact has Café had on Fase15’s community? The way that Café was put together means that it is based on an honesty system, a decision that reflects their community values. “Someone goes and grabs a soda, ice-cream or a piece of cake, and when they’re back at their desk, they can add the charge to their invoice,” Tamay says. “It’s a feature that contributes to the philosophy we’re living here.”

It’s also kept purchasing uncomplicated. Now that it’s easier to add and remove options, Tamay is free to update the chocolate selection of his choice whenever he restocks the counter.

True to form, Tobias and Tamay have shared the Café repository on GitHub so that other Cobot spaces can use and expand on their work. You can also find it in our API tutorials. Will yours be the space that develops and shares extensions for this bot? If that caught your attention, Tobias suggests that inspiration may come from thinking about an admin user interface for updating pricing, eliminating the need for a Google Sheet.

Thank you again to Tamay and Tobias for sharing Café with the Cobot community! We hope that others will feel inspired to implement it too — we can’t wait to see what future additions the community comes up with.

You can keep up with Fase15 by following them on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Madeleine Dymond

Communication Assistant at Cobot and former coworking space organizer. Part analog bookbinder, part digital publisher, and lover of classic film scores and animal colors.