*Barbara is a software developer whose bot, Mica, the Hipster Cat Bot, is a friendly venue recommendation bot for various messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Skype and more. As one of the featured speakers at next month’s Talkabot Conference, she spoke to us about the challenges a developer faces when trying to make a bot that is both friendly and useful.*
With Mica I learned a lot about user experience-design. Most people just try out which combinations or commands a chatbot understands and where its capabilities and limitations lie. For instance, there is still no common standard established for chatbots, although most understand “hi”, “start” and “help”.
People also get upset easily when a bot does not meet their expectation. In order not to frustrate my users, Mica sends a funny cat picture to entertain if she doesn’t find venues in the vicinity or does not understand the request. Mica is polite and responds accordingly with basic conversation skills.
Mica is based on my cat, my real cat, at home. Mica is friendly, always hungry, sometimes a bit intrusive. She also likes hip and trendy coffee shops, she likes to share funny cat pictures and doesn’t like water. Although the hipster mustache implies a male character, Mica is a female cat.
To begin with, Mica was chosen (as a joke) as the official “Head of Communication” to be addressed for PR requests with another project of mine: LIKE A HIPSTER.
I also decided to use a cat as the character to chat with because I think every single cat owner would love to actually talk to their cat! Also, people tend to be disturbed when they cannot distinguish whether they are chatting with a person or a computer program. Thus, I chose Mica as the perfect dialog partner.
Some people start to swear just for fun or send disturbing questions such as “where is Barbara?” ;)
Since Mica also has quite a narrow aim (to find hip venues worldwide), people are usually quickly satisfied when trying a chat.
Join us Sept 28–29th in Austin, Texas to discuss bots, conversational software and community for the first ever Talkabot Conference. Full track tickets are still available but going fast!
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