Decoded Chats – Barbara Ondrisek on Chatbot creation and maintenance

Barbara Ondrisek

Barbara Ondrisek (@electrobabe) is a developer and bot creator from Austria, and owner (minder) of the Mica, the Hipster Cat chat bot.

We invited her to chat with Chris Heilmann about creating bots, how to deal with issues of privacy and security and what’s important when you want to create a bot. Her work with Mica yielded many good insights and should help you to get started when you want to get into the bot world. Spoiler: it is to the largest part *not* about technology.

If you prefer to have an audio version, you can download it here (MP3, 40MB)

Here are the questions we covered:

  1. You are running a very successful bot, can you tell us about it and what it does?
  2. Where do most of your users come from and do you know who they are?
  3. There seems to be a privacy issue there. Are people aware how much of who they are is known to a bot they choose to chat to? Apps have a permissions interface/workflow for that. Should bots, too?
  4. How important do you think is the “Persona” of a bot. Do you think more people are likely to interact with a cat than with a “search things in your area bot”?
  5. What are the most bizarre ways people interact with a bot? Do you have some example of odd interactions?
  6. Would you agree that the creation of a successful bot is more of a writing or persona creation task than a technical one?
  7. What’s the biggest challenge when it comes to bots? Is it the initial development or the ongoing maintenance?
  8. How hard or easy is it to add new functionality? How do you tell users about it? Is it better to let people find it and rely on word-of-mouth or are messages by the bot advertising new functionality the way to go?
  9. What did you use to build the bot? Where does it run?
  10. What is your recognition engine? Are simple commands enough or do you use deep language analysis? Are there instances where people try to game the system to make it say things it shouldn’t?
  11. Do you have users of various backgrounds and languages? Does that pose an issue? Are the bot platforms ready for an international, diverse audience?
  12. What would you love your bot to do next? What is functionality you can’t do at the moment but would like to have?
  13. What are the day-to-day maintenance tasks of a bot? Is it more or less “build it and let it interact” or is there some technical overhead you have to keep doing?
  14. What are tips you have for someone thinking about their own bot? What should people concentrate on to ensure a success?
  15. Any final thoughts? Do you have any questions to our audience? Do you want help with something?

If you are interested in joining the Bot-themed BarCamp in Vienna that Barbara mentioned, you can learn more about it on web site

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