Facebook just doesn’t get Bots

So, we have decided to build a bot.

It started like all cool things. A friend of mine, Idoco, sent me this great article about how to easily build a Telegram bot, I have read it and loved the idea of bots so I added the Giphy bot to my Telegram and spammed my friends with awesome GIFs.

awesome GIF

I liked it and thought why not build one myself? It looks so simple. It really is, at least for Telegram bots.

The problem was that most of my friends don’t use Telegram and because I don’t need an app for talking to myself I should choose a different platform for my bot. The obvious answer was Facebook. And that’s when it started to get complicated.

It began with Facebook asking me to create a Facebook Page associated to my app, a bit weird but I could see the point. Idoco and I wrote together a very simple bot using Hook.io named Doge bot. Basically, when you write something to Doge it responses with the famous Doge meme image containing your words.

Doge Bot answer to “Facebook Bots cool”

We have tested it on Idoco’s phone but couldn’t on mine. We thought this is due to the fact that it wasn’t published yet. We decided to publish it. Retrospectively, trying to publish was the start of our Via Dolorosa journey.

Facebook demanded us to provide:

  • Screen-cast of the app.
  • Privacy policy document (hosted outside of Facebook!).
  • 1024 x 1024 pixels App Icon.
  • A website (again, outside of Facebook) for the app.
  • Fill in a few paragraphs of bs, like: describe how you’re using the Send/Receive API, what are the main use-cases etc…

While a normal person would quit after these demands, we said to ourselves: “We have come so far that it will be a waste not to continue”. Idoco spent over an hour online finding some sort of a legal document and creating reasonable screen-casts, not to mention the web-page on git-hub. Finally we managed to publish it. Well, that wasn’t so bad, we thought. Maybe a bit annoying but we are past that.

A day later we got the following response:

Up to several weeks? Weeks? Seriously? Are we still in the Stone Age? Today, when a developer writes code it gets shipped to the user within the hour. Why does Facebook need weeks to handle my Doge?

A week later we saw something strange. Some Facebook user named Holly Golightly tried to use our bot.

Holly tries out Bot

We immediately thought our bot was approved by Facebook. A few minutes later we understood we were wrong after receiving the following feedback which pretty much concluded our bot experience:

“Please build a quality bot experience that is meaningful, stable and navigable.”
“Your app contains inappropriate content and does not meet the Facebook community standards.”

Suddenly all pieces fell into place. I realized that Facebook got it all wrong. Facebook want us to think they are leading the “bot revolution” but actually this is all just PR, and a very large one. In fact, they are just a pale version of Telegram’s bots platform which is way cooler.

Facebook has transformed the internet. A place where almost all chats in the past were done anonymously, has become a place where you share your most intimate moments with everyone. In this case, however, they have missed it.

Not so long ago Facebook managed to infiltrate commercial content into our news feed because they understood that it must happen one step at a time. First there were pages for companies. Then we saw people “like” those pages in our news feed. Finally the same pages where there, only now they were sponsored.

It’s so hard to believe that the same company just expect us to use bots like they were here the whole time. In order to make people order pizza using bots they have to trust the bots. This can happen only if we get to know “them”. If you want to get to know bots they need to be interesting and funny and not necessarily profitable. Profits will come later, ask Facebook…

What exactly do they mean by building a “quality bot”? Who are they to determine what is a “quality bot”? How can it be that they overruled my bot just like that? If You want to be the platform — be the platform, don’t intervene with the content!

The content is mine and I will decide if it’s a “quality” one or not. The days of dictating for others what is eligible content are way gone.

There is another way.

Telegram got it just as it should be. You don’t need to ask permission from anyone. Just build your bot and use it, whoever you are. They have done it so well that instead of some human tester arbitrary deciding whether your bot is “quality” or not, Telegram has Botfather (genius!) — a bot used for bot registration. Telegram don’t ask you no legal docs and website and all that crap.

Just a bot. Like it should be.

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