postcard from a Bot

I was reading Microsoft's response to it's Tay bot - the one that managed to go from mildly irritating teenager to racist in less than 24 hours thanks in part to the creativity of it's target audience. It got pulled of course, but it's an interesting lesson for all sorts of reasons.

One of the interesting points for me arose from an article describing Nadella's intentions for a demo showing the capability of a different, but functionally similar bot. Now the article may be completely wrong, but other articles I've read have taken a similar approach. As usual here, mistakes are mine.

Nadella seems to want anyone and everyone to create bots - including the coffee shop downstairs and the drycleaners on the corner. My experience with intelligent capable users is that they really don't want to be bothered with technical detail at any level. It may well be trivial beyond belief to add half a dozen lines of code to a framework to create a pizza ordering bot, but most non-geeks aren't going to care, and they shouldn't have to. To me, this suggestion smacks of a common misunderstanding by geeks about their intended audience.

You give me a bot framework and I'll play for hours and get it to do stuff that interests me - hopefully. But, you give it to my partner, a highly intelligent lady who spends her days helping sort out Health IT projects, and her response is going to be "Why do I have to do this?" Her interest in having to understand which half dozen lines of code she has to type will be exactly zero, and those boasting of the capability of their bots need to buy into this disinterest.

A bot has to be a framework with easy access to an interface library so that when it learns I order pizza at 7:30 every Friday, the interface to Eagle Boys, Dominos or that nice new Italian place in town has been pulled from the repository, initiated, and the menu is waiting for me to say "How about pizza?"

Interfaces have to be rock-solid, completely trustworthy and, in the end, available for the hundreds of thousands of organisations we interact with. The dry cleaning shop on the corner is not going to write their own.

Those of us who have dealt with Service Oriented Architecture recognise that the road to this idealistic future has a lot of serious pot-holes that need to be dealt with. I'm sure that the Microsoft geeks know that too. Lets hope Nadella listens.

Further reading:


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