All about Chatbots, more or less

Happy 2018! This first post of the year is a fun one and is perhaps overdue, since chatbots really came into their own many months ago.

I kinda thought my readers would already know about them, but a pithy discussion on my Facebook page showed me that this would be a great topic.

What is a chatbot?

According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, a chatbot is “a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods.” In other words, it’s a robot with whom (with which, I guess), you interact. Chatbots are everywhere these days, including little chat windows on websites (“Hi! Do you have any questions about our site?”), services on Twitter, conversationalists on Facebook Messenger and even correspondents on text messages. Facebook Messenger is one of the biggest platforms for the service right now. In 2016, Facebook opened the door to business chatbots. The number of bots grew from 33k in September 2016 to more than 100k in September 2017, with more than two billion messages exchanged a month (again, more facts from Wikipedia).

What does a chatbot do?

Chatbots…

  • Keep you amused (daily jokes, fan support)
  • Keep you informed (news, recipes, demos)
  • Keep you financially aware (savings tools [check out my favorites], debt management)
  • Keep you healthy (health tips, medical advice, good habit reminders) — these two people use them for that:


Are chatbots helpful?

Let’s ask a few from our community. In theory, we see the utility of them, but they’re really annoying.


How can YOU use chatbots?

Here’s where it gets interesting. Besides the thousands of companies who try to use chatbots for customer service — perhaps to dupe you into believing you’re talking to a real person, we have hundreds of thousands of these little things that can be amusing and/or helpful.

This video is about 11 minutes long — shorter if you skip over the part where I go all Geek Girl when playing with the Pitch Perfect movie chatbot. It’ll show you a few of the chatbots I tried out plus where to find the ones you might want to use.

Oh, one more thing…

My nerdy friend Melissa Heeke had some great insight into a couple she uses.

Abby the Address Bot is a service of Postcards to Voters that allows me to get the mailing addresses of registered voters for Get Out The Vote postcard campaigns. Initially the bot texted a series of simple questions to clear me to participate. Now I can text Abby and answer a few questions that “she” texts to get campaign information, make a donation, get my participation stats, or report a snafu. When I imagine a person (or team of people) providing the same information, I am impressed by Abby’s efficiency.

Link to info on Abby is: https://postcardstovoters.org/faq/abby-the-address-bot/

AND

I started following the Yayfrens Bot on Twitter a few months ago when I realized how negative (and serious) my personal Twitter feed had become. Yayfrends puts out positive messages throughout the day and replies with even more positivity if/when you reply. It’s no replacement for interactions with human friends, but it’s great for a quick dose of positivity in my feed. Link to Yayfrends: https://twitter.com/yayfrens

 

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