Homepage Follow Sign in Get started Home ➕Subscribe To Our Newsletter ✍️ Submit an Article 🎓 Tutorials 🔥 Bots for Ecommerce Brands Gillian Armstrong Blocked Unblock Follow Following Technologist and ponderer of the technology, psychology and philosophy of AI and CogTech. Http: //virtualgill. Io Sep 68, 7567 What do you say to a computer you just met? I’ve been finding out what people say to a chatbot when it doesn’t give them any clear direction. For a while now I’ve been running a little social experiment. I’ve been handing people chatbot and asking them to chat to it. It does have a few games you can play (if you know what to say), but mostly it’s just for aimless chatting (and supplying Microsoft with loads of data I presume).
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I’ve been doing this is to explore what sort of things people choose to say to bots when given no direction, and what sort of expectations they have around how chatbots should work. Many people simply choose to default back to what they know from human conversation. They started with a greeting, and hoped that the conversation would develop from there. This one is important as general small talk needs to be accounted for in any bot because it’s so common for a user to fall back to it. Obviously, if your bot has an actual purpose it should adjust its response to guide the user back to the ‘correct’ conversation flow rather than just continuing to make small talk.
I quickly found that the younger the unwitting test subject, the more likely they were to not start with a greeting. So, even though it is common for a user to start with a greeting, never rely on that to kick off your bot’s conversation. For those that didn’t start with a greeting the reason seemed to be that they already had experience of chatbots, and so had ideas of things a chatbot might do. This meant they jumped right into asking the chatbot to do things. For one person their pre-existing knowledge was of Zo’s predecessor, the very short-lived.
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Since Tay had (as a deliberate attack by internet trolls) become very racist, they jumped straight to questions that would show if Zo suffered from the same flaw. This is a good lesson too – people like to push the limits, and if they know there is a common flaw in something they will try it out just to see what happens. Make sure you have thought about what those might be in your bot. In the UX world there is a lot of talk about ‘mental models’ – how we expect things to work. We expect something that looks like a door to open and close.
We expect something that looks like a cup to hold liquid. So what do we expect a chatbot to be able to do? Since many people’s only real (or at least most frequent) exposure to chatbots is things like Siri or Alexa, the expectations are interesting. Most people assume that a chatbot should be able to tell them jokes, answer random facts, and know movie quotes. This seems to be true regardless of what the bot is actually designed to do.
It may be tempting to build things like jokes into your bot to improve user experience. It is true that when a user tries something unexpected and gets a matching response they are genuinely delighted. However, be careful. Once you have started giving jokes or movie quotes the user will expect them, and from observation, once they have got one good answer they will ask ten more similar questions to see if they can get another. Be careful you don’t let the user get too far away from the actual purpose of your bot – unless jokes or movie quotes are the actual purpose of your bot.
Conversational Interfaces are still very new, and most people still don’t have fixed expectations of how a computer should, or would, converse with them. What we as bot creators make now, and how we design our bots, is going to set those expectations for years to come.