Chatbots

Popular Chatbot Publishing Platforms

Social and messaging platforms have become the most common place for hobbyists and experienced developers to learn about and interact with bots. These platforms each have their own bots and allow users to build and deploy them. Here’s how the major players in this space have been utilizing chatbots on their platforms.

April 24, 2018

Developers deploy their chatbots, or bots, from publishing platforms, which serve as launch pads for devs of all experience levels. Hobbyists, amateurs, and experts alike use these tools to create bots to interact with users on a specific platform.

The three largest platforms for publishing chatbots are Twitter, Facebook, and Slack. Here’s a look at how developers use these tools to create bots.

Some popular chatbot publishing platforms

Twitter

A Twitter bot is a program that controls a Twitter account through Twitter’s API. The bot is fully capable of seeming like an actual Twitter profile. Twitter bots can autonomously like, follow, unfollow, tweet, retweet—and even direct message—using this publishing platform.

If you’ve ever used Twitter, you’ve probably spent some time looking at a strange account and wondering whether it was really authored by a human. You might have been followed or messaged by someone without a profile picture or with a username that’s just a string of numbers. And even if you’ve never seen a tweet in your life, you’ve probably heard about Russian Twitter bots influencing the last election in the United States.

It is estimated that an astonishing 15 percent of Twitter users are bots. But there are plenty of good Twitter bots out there.

Most of the popular Twitter bots exist to help users and to automate interactions. What the Fare can help estimate the cost of an Uber ride. If you’re curious about which shows are coming to Netflix, ask Netflix Bot about next month’s hot new releases. Know a tweeter who’s grammatically challenged? Recommend that they consult the Grammar Police before posting their next potentially embarrassing tweet.

Twitter bots can also create surreal or artistic experiences. For example, moth generator creates nonexistent yet realistic images of moths and their scientific names. Thinkpiece Bot generates imaginary titles for think piece articles, like “Hipsters Are Ruining Chaucer” or “What Can the Muppets Tell Us About Colonialism?” The very popular Olivia Taters, created by Rob Dubbin (of The Colbert Report), mimics the speech of a teenage girl. On Olivia’s feed, you’ll find randomly generated nuggets like, “lol if you didn’t have a bf i would have basically given up my seat lol.”

Twitter bots can go rogue, too. Take Microsoft’s Twitter bot Tay. Tay was a highly intelligent Twitter bot that learned its speech patterns from the users with which it communicated. Less than 24 hours after its release, it turned from a whimsical bot into a racist, sexist bully. It learned its communication skills from other Twitter users who taught the bot crude, offensive language.

If you plan on launching your own Twitter bot, a word of advice: you may not want to let the Internet teach it how to talk.

Facebook

Facebots are an unintended consequence of the Facebook Messenger app, and they’re changing the way we interact with messaging technology. Messenger used to be an app to talk to your friends. Today, it’s also an app for talking to apps.

For the last decade, companies and tools have developed apps to allow their customers to interact with their brands. But apps require extensive development, testing, and maintenance. More importantly, you have to convince users to download and use them.

Facebook Messenger, however, sidesteps the traditional app. It uses an existing tool that most users already have on their phones or computers. And it’s a lot easier to get someone to open a familiar tool than to get them to launch a download.

One of the most impressive bots? The Messenger-based personal assistant Niki allows users in India to buy movie tickets, search local businesses, get a rideshare, send their laundry to the cleaners, or pay bills.

There are also Facebots for women trying to negotiate a better salary or immigrants and refugees trying to connect with volunteer translators. As noted in the previous chapter, the robot therapist Woebot lives in Messenger and helps users deal with depression and anxiety through conversation, inspiration, and educational quizzes.

Recently, the era of Messenger bots has taken a new turn. Bots can be displayed in the Messenger app without the chat interface. For some e-commerce brands, what may have started as a website became an app that became a bot that now just functions like a website. Sometimes the future of innovation will surprise you with its familiarity.

Slack

Slack is a cloud-based digital workspace. A primary function of Slack is as an internal messaging platform, used widely by business teams, groups of friends, and networks of people who share a common interest.

One of Slack’s features that made it such a successful platform is its capacity for modification and automation. As noted in Chapter 3, its Slackbot can be customized to perform many functions. One of Slackbot’s main tasks is to provide basic insights into how to use Slack. If you type, “Slackbot, how do I change my username?” it will answer.

Other times, Slackbot is more like an office assistant, reminding you of the Wi-Fi password and aggregating articles from your favorite reading list. It can also set reminders for meetings or log deadlines. Slackbots are even capable of managing emails and acting as CRMs.

Sometimes it’s more of a prankster. You can set Slackbot to respond in certain ways to keywords and phrases. An easy “Slack-hack” is to automate a message from Slackbot that no one expects. For example, offices across the world have probably used Slack to Rickroll each other thousands of times.

Slackbots can also integrate with project management software. Companies that use Trello for projects can use Trello for Slack. The results allow for seamless communication across both tools. Users can even create their own virtual assistants to help with day-to-day tasks.

And that’s only the tip of the Slackbot iceberg. Best of all, they’re among the simplest bots to build.