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Skellington: the logo is jack the chat bubble, get it???

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The skeleton for your Slack bots.

Composable Slack Bots

Skellington is a skeleton for your Botkit Slack bots. It handles the boilerplate connection and error handling and let's you get down to the business of bot-making. You can write a new bot in just a few of lines of code!

Skellington has a robust plugin architecture letting you import plugins into your Skellington bot to mix and match functionality. This will let you keep your bot small, code clean, and your deployments simple.


This is all the code you need to write to make a Skellington bot for a single team:

  slackToken: 'xoxb-abc123-def-456',
  plugins: [require('gobot'), require('awesom-o')]  

Creating a Slack App

You can also use Skellington to set up a Slack app for incoming webhooks, slash commands, and multiteam support. Just pass a few configs:

  clientId: 'jack',
  clientSecret: 'shhhhhh',
  port: 433,
  scopes: ['bot'], // optional, scopes can come from the config or from plugins
  state: 'kentucky', // optional state passed back during the OAuth authentication flow
  redirectUri: '', // optional redirect URI configured in Slack for your app
  plugins: [require('gobot'), require('awesom-o')]  

OAuth and slash command endpoints will be created for you. The oauth path will be /oauth and the slash command endpoint will be /slack/receive.

If required configs are missing, Skellington will exit with a helpful error message to get you up and running.

Built-in Help Commands

Want to know what commands your bot supports? Direct mention (@bot help) or direct message your bot help and your bot will give you a list of help topics. Each plugin you register with your bot can add it's own help commands.

Skellington Config Options

Skellington will allow you to create a single team bot for that team or a Slack app capable of multi-team bots, slash commands, and incoming webhooks. These types are mutually exclusive and which type you create depends on the options you pass.

  • botkit (Object) An optional object of options passed directly to Botkit.slackbot.

  • logger (Object) A custom logger, defaults to Skellington's internal logging. Logger must implement debug, info, and error methods.

  • plugins (Array, Required) An array of plugins. See below for details.

  • port (Number, Required for Slack App) If passed, will create an express server listening on the port. The express app will be passed to plugins in the init callback. The paths /oauth and /slack/receive are reserved.

  • debug (Boolean) Whether to turn on debug mode. By default this value will be used for the botkit.debug option, but this can be overridden in the botkit config.

  • debugOptions (Object) Used if debug is true.

    • debugOptions.formatter (Function) A formatter function that will be used to log any message to a hears call. Will be passed the message object. Additional debug information will be added onto the message on the skellington key.

Single Team Bot Options

  • slackToken (String, Required) If this is a single team bot, the Slack API token used to connect to the Slack API. When slackToken is passed, Skellington will create a single team bot. Otherwise Skellington will attempt to build a Slack app.

  • exitOnRtmFailure (Boolean) Whether to exit the process if an RTM connection cannot be established. Defaults to true.

Slack App Options

  • clientId (String, Required) Your Slack OAuth client ID.

  • clientSecret (String, Required) Your Slack OAuth client secret.

  • redirectUri (String) A redirect URI to pass to Slack during the OAuth flow. If passed, Slack will redirect to this URI therefore it should be the Skellington host. To redirect from Skellington after the OAuth flow is complete, use successRedirectUri and errorRedirectUri.

  • state (String) State that will be returned from Slack as part of the OAuth flow. This is usually used to verify the callback from the Identity Provider (Slack, in this case) is legitimate.

  • scopes (Array) The OAuth scopes your app will be requesting. Defaults to no scopes. Scopes can be passed from plugins as well.

  • startRtm (Boolean) Defaults to true. If strictly false Skellington will not initiate an RTM connection when adding a new bot. Setting startRtm false is good for Slack apps that will rely solely on the Events API for events. NOTE: When startRtm is false the botConnected lifecycle method will never be called.

  • successRedirectUri (String) A URI to for Skellington to redirect to after a successful OAuth authentication flow.

  • errorRedirectUri (String) A URI to for Skellington to redirect to after a failed OAuth authentication flow.

Botkit Versions

Botkit is a core dependency of Skellington and is caret matched in package.json. This means that any bug fixes (patch releases) and new features (minor releases) in Botkit will be automatically picked up each time you install Skellington. This is a bet on semver which the Botkit project has appeared to follow well.

Note: Botkit is currently in 0.X.Y versioning, so a ^ match will only pick up "patch" releases.

When/if Botkit publishes a breaking change, I will file a Skellington issue to track it and for the community to comment on. The subsequent Skellington version bump will either be a minor or major release, depending on the impact.

If you find an issue related to a Botkit version picked up by Skellington, please file an issue.

Tips on Managing the Botkit Dependency

  • Shrinkwrap your bot, this will give you consistency from build to build.
  • Test your bot before you deploy to production. Fire it up and click around and look for anything weird (don't forget to check your logs).
  • If you run into an issue due to a Botkit bug, try downgrading Botkit:
    • cd node_modules/skellington && npm install [email protected]<version> && cd ../..
    • If this solves the issue, shrinkwrap your bot and please file an issue.

Plugin API


  • init(controller, bot, expressApp)

Each plugin passed to Skellington can export an object with an init function that will take a botkit controller, bot, and optionally an Express app (this will only exist if config.port was set). This callback will be called once when Skellington is started. This is when most plugins will set up their listeners for Slack and Botkit events. Learn more about the Botkit API in the howdyai/botkit docs.

NOTE: the bot parameter will be null for Slack Apps, since init is called only once before any teams have connected. If you want access to the team bot, you can write a botConnected callback that will be called whenever a new team initiates an RTM session with Slack.

module.exports = {
  init: function(controller, bot, expressApp) {
    // build your bot logic here!
    controller.hears('hello', 'direct_mention', function(bot, message) {
      bot.reply(message, 'Hi!');


  • botConnected(controller, bot)

The botConnected callback is called any time a bot connects to an RTM session with Slack and is passed a reference to the controller and the bot. botConnected can be used for building a cache of team specific entities (like channels or users) or gather whatever information about a team you could need.

botConnected is called for single team bots and Slack apps, though for single team bots it is called at the same moment in the lifecycle as init. If startRtm is false for a Slack app then this lifecycle method will never be called.

It is only fired if the RTM session can be established unlike the Botkit create_bot event, which is called after a successful OAuth authorization flow, but before an RTM session is established.

module.exports = {
  botConnected: function(controller, bot) {
    // do some interesting things with the connected bot!  


  • Array

For plugins that are for Slack apps you can pass an array of OAuth scopes your plugin will require.

module.exports = {
  init: function(controller, bot, expressApp) {
    // what an awesome multi-team bot!  
  scopes: ['bot']


  • Object

You can optionally include help text for your plugin. This is a great way for To do this, you will need a a help object with command and text properties on your exported object. As in life, help is optional, but it does make things easier.

  • command (String, required) The command the user will use to get help about your plugin. For example if command is funny gifs, users will get help by typing @bot help funny gifs.

  • text (String or function, required) Either a string or a function. The string will be displayed as is. If text if a function, it will be passed an options object with the following properties:

Property Description
botName The user facing name of the bot. Useful if you have commands that require @-mentioning the bot.
team The team ID the help message came from.
channel The channel ID the help message came from.
user The ID of the user who initiated the help message.
// basic help
module.exports = {
  init: function(controller, bot, expressApp) {
    // initialize plugin
  help: {
    command: 'funny gifs',
    text: 'They are so funny!'

// advanced formatting
module.exports = {
  init: function(controller, bot, expressApp) {
    // initialize plugin
  help: {
    command: 'funny gifs',
    text: function(opts) {
      return `${opts.botName} ${} ${} ${opts.user}`

Considerations When Building a Plugin

Plan for Multiple Teams and Multiple Bots

Your plugin could be part of a Slack app or a single team bot. Users can also be running multiple Skellington bots within the same process, see the functional tests for an example. If possible, build your plugin to be stateless, but if you need to build a data store make sure to key it by team ID and/or bot ID.

Be Considerate With Data

Assume there will be several other plugins running in the same Skellington instance, so be considerate when you put things into the shared storage. Namespace any data specific to your plugin and don't modify things you didn't set.

When you read from storage, remember to always merge your updates with what was present in storage before. Here's an example of how to do that using lodash's merge method:

var myTeamData = {funnyGifs: 'some data'};'teamId', function(err, team) {
  var mergedData = _.merge({id: 'teamId'}, team, myTeamData);, function(err) {
    console.log('data updated!')

Namespace Express Paths

If you are adding additional routes to the express app use a namespaced path, like /funny-gifs/endpoint. Don't add things to the root path, those are likely to conflict with another bot. The paths /oauth and /slack/receive are reserved.

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