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What's all the noise a-bot?

Mike Brevoort
September 15, 2016

What's all the noise a-bot?

What’s All the Noise a-Bot? - Denver Startup Week 2016
Thursday 9/15/2016
10:00am — 11:30am MDT

Driven by the explosive growth of messaging platforms, bot APIs, recent gains in natural language understanding and a machine learning renaissance, the world has gone a bit bot crazy. Is it a flash in the pan or a fundamental shift in computing?

Mike Brevoort—founder of the bot hosting platform Beep Boop—and UX researcher Dr Jonathan Haber explores why bots matter, best practices for designing conversational experience, and opportunities with bots for consumers and at work in the enterprise.

Mike Brevoort is CTO at Robots and Pencils and GM of Beep Boop, a ridiculously simple hosting platform for Slack bots. Mike has nearly 20 years experience creating products, building real-time distributed systems, service architectures, user experiences and data science.


Jonathan holds a PhD in Human Computer Interaction and Information Visualization. His research focused on human computer interaction, interaction design, and information visualization. He loves designing intuitive and useful software, teaching, and sharing UX knowledge with others. He is actively involved in the international UX/HCI research community as a contributor and reviewer, having published in numerous international peer-reviewed conferences and journals. Jonathan is currently working across a diverse set of areas, designing applications in the mobile space related to conversation interaction, learning systems, the financial sector, and game development. When not working Jon can be found at the gym, yoga studio, or hanging out with his cat.


Some points in this presentation (slides 42, 57) were inspired by these two great posts:
- http://alistapart.com/article/designing-the-conversational-ui
- https://blog.intercom.com/principles-bot-design/

Mike Brevoort

September 15, 2016

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  1. What’s all the noise a- bot? Denver Startup Week Denver,

    CO September 15, 2016 Jonathan Haber & Mike Brevoort Robots & Pencils / Beep Boop
  2. Sub Title Everything we do starts by blending the sciences

    with the humanities - the robots with the pencils - the engineers with the designers.
  3. Why Bots? Why Now? 1. Rise of Messaging 2. A

    great undercurrent war over discoverability and distribution 3. Natural Language Understanding / AI / Machine Learning Renaissance 4. Billions of mobile, context-aware, sensing, connected, omnipresent computing devices.
  4. “Smartphones brought a step change in the level of abstraction

    and simplicity in UIs. AI will do the same again. - @BenedictEvans
  5. Hardware Operating System Application People People Hardware Operating System Application

    People 101100 People bots:Systems Slack Computer First Human First words/ signals words/ signals
  6. How Are Bots Different? Social Meta-Platform “native” A character in

    the scene Passive and Active Rich interactive notifications
  7. Questions To Ask About Your Product Is your product an

    alien, visitor or citizen of these meta platforms? Is there value to your users? Primary or supplementary? Is my product an ivory tower?
  8. CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION - NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION. Human Computer Interaction (1830-2016)

    Touch 1.0 > Touch 2.0 > Touch 3.0 > Voice / Conversational Source: http://www.kpcb.com/blog/2016-internet-trends-report

    Evolution Millennials = More Global / Optimistic / Tolerant Source: http://www.kpcb.com/blog/2016-internet-trends-report
  10. CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION - NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION. Rapid Messaging Communication Growth

    Leaders = WhatsApp / Facebook Messenger / WeChat Note: Users are becoming more comfortable interacting with chat systems for more than just chat. Source: http://www.kpcb.com/blog/2016-internet-trends-report
  11. Messaging Secret Sauce Magic of the Thread = Conversational; Remembers

    Identity / Time / Specifics / Preferences / Context Source: http://www.kpcb.com/blog/2016-internet-trends-report
  12. We will explore the design of the bot- human conversation

    piece of interaction. Keep in mind this may represent just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to what is happening with bot-2- bot interaction behind the scenes.
  13. 29 % of smartphone users will immediately switch to another

    site or app if it doesn’t satisfy their needs (e.g. they can’t find information or it’s too slow) - thinkwithgoogle.com
  14. 40 % of shoppers will wait no more than three

    seconds before abandoning a retail or travel site - thinkwithgoogle.com
  15. What starts conversationally, need not stay that way! Would you

    like to pay now? (yes/no) Yes Would you like to pay now? (yes/no)
  16. Which seat would you like to book? B-7 What seat

    would you like to book? Click the seat below. Which would you prefer? - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
  17. Provide an escape hatch Provide an escape hatch “I’d just

    rather wait and talk to a real person.” :https://blog.intercom.com/principles-bot-design/
  18. Support undo and redo. Users often choose system functions by

    mistake or enter incorrect information. Don’t make them go through an extended dialogues to fix this. Bot: You just told me your home location is Antarctica. User: Forget what I just said.
  19. When we design something that can be used by those

    with disabilities, we often make it better for everyone. - Don Norman
  20. An interface that doesn’t depend on users being able to

    recall specific commands or methods of interaction means the interface is by its nature accessible: each person uses the system in his or her own way, so every use case is accounted for. Users no longer have to translate their intents to actions. Now the intent is the action. - Alan Dix
  21. Roles Negotiate New Contracts Find new clients and offer solutions

    for their needs, negotiate pricing for services. Sign off Authority • Reviews all company work and has final say • Handles payments and collections Company Goals • Increase the size of contracts and clients • Add 30% more architects & support staff in the next year • Grow use & understanding of technology in business Persona for Banking Customer - SAMPLE Debra Edworthy, 48 Occupation: Architect, co-owner of Edworthy & Sullivan with her business partner Angela Personal Description: • Worked 15 years for another firm before starting a business • Business owner for 6 years • Works 50-70 hours per week Values: • Prefers working with upscale clients • Worried about security of data • Is a designer, so appreciates well thought out technical design Technological (7/10) Internet Use • Email • Banking • Shopping • Professional publications & journals Smartphone • Client communication • Text with partner • Check & update calendar • Banking Desktop iMac at the office for work, another one at home for mixed business / personal use. Problems / Desires • Transferring money needs to be easy, fast and clear about what can and cannot be sent and where • Wants to be able to easily transfer money between banks, people and to other countries • Ease of paying bills & salaries & invoicing is a top priority • Wants single sign on for personal & business • Wants different visuals & branding for business vs. personal • Wants to go paperless • Web services must have all the features of competitions’ offerings • Ease of getting necessary tax information is a top priority Tasks Both Debra and her business partner have individual and shared business bank accounts. Typical tasks include: • Paying staff salaries • Paying for office tools & furnishings • Collecting income from clients, often in instalments • Collecting invoices and expenditures to give to accountant at tax time • Keeping track of deductible expenses • Paying various small business fees (licenses, bonds, etc.) • Paying business taxes • Using credit cards for short-term revolving credit
  22. Decision Space of Bot Personality Avatar-building sites hint at design

    choices: Gender 
 Male, female, neither, other Degree of realism 
 Photo real to cartoon / mascot Class 
 Servant or peer (eg. Uber vs Lyft) Stack depth of state Airplane flight vs roommate Vocabulary
 Formality, emoji, giphy, other IQ 
 Language abilities and limitations Consider your bot back story. Does it have a race? What does it wear? How old is it? What kind of cultural references is it into (music, sports, etc)?
  23. Let your bot display emotional states The person interacting with

    your bot should know: When a request is understood When something is easy OR difficulty to do When something wrong or inappropriate is happening
  24. Focus on acknowledging the user and letting them know when

    something went wrong We have the following colors: white, gray, brown, red, orange, pink, and black. What color would you like? smorange I’m sorry, “smorange”? Is that a color? We have white, gray, brown, red, pink and black. What color would you like? gray Cool! So a large gray t-shirt! Oops! Something went wrong. :http://alistapart.com/article/designing-the-conversational-ui
  25. Consider the follow: Displaying the bots level of pleasure /

    displeasure Energetic or exhausted Confident or anxious This allow users to learn about what the bot can do, how to interact with it, and even how to speak to the bot. “We teach others how to treat us and that is no different with a bot.” - Jon Haber
  26. Don't hesitate to praise, even if you're not sure the

    praise is accurate. Compliment sandwiches don't work… The bot should always blame itself when things go wrong…

    Practice A bot’s personality depends on the situation where it will be used. Bots that accept blame are more likeable. People feel that bots represent the organization more than the users. Bots shouldn’t be the primary interface for your app (yet). Users want to know when a dialogue or interaction is ending. I II III IV V
  28. Voice: Should be Most Efficient Form of Computing Source: http://www.kpcb.com/blog/2016-internet-trends-report

    Voice Interfaces: Consumer Benefits 1. Fast
 Humans can speak 150 vs type 40 works per minute on average 2. Easy
 Convenient, hands-free, instant 3. Personalized + Context
 Keyboard free, ability to understand wide context of questions based on history, interactions, locations and other semantics Voice Interfaces: Unique Qualities 1. Random Access vs. Hierarchical GUI
 Think Google Search vs. Yahoo! Directory 2. Low Cost + Small Footprint
 Requires microphone / speaker / processor / connectivity 3. Requires Natural Language Recognition & Processing
  29. Usability Evaluation Considered Harmful (Some of the Time) CHI Panel

    2008 Bill Buxton Principal researcher Microsoft Research
  30. Where can I go to find the best sushi in

    the city of Denver? Sushi Denver Best How will people want to talk to bots?
  31. Slash Commands The future is a simpler interface which looks

    less like this: And more like this: Discover of discreet conversational services becomes less of an issue if users are trained to think and type more like programmers.
  32. Sure, But What Does it All Mean? There is an

    obvious reason for the rising profile of messaging. Slack example:
  33. “Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me…

    you can’t get fooled again - George W. Bush
  34. “We more often than not over-estimate platform shifts in the

    short term but under-estimate them in the long term. – Steven Sinofsky