Botness wants you!
A call for participation in the first Botness Survey
At a messaging or bot startup? Make your needs heard to Facebook, Slack, Kik, Microsoft and Google by taking the survey here! Responses are due by 9/1/2016.
Back in the early days of bots right after Microsoft released its Bot Framework, and just prior to F8 announcements, the Kik Bot Shop, Google Allo, iMessage Apps, and the second wave of Slack-funded startups, an inconspicuous event was held at Slack HQ where the bot faithful convened to break bread, share knowledge, and discuss the future of messaging and bots. During this first meeting the modest-sized group discussed standards, impediments to the nascent market, and a range of other technical and business issues. At the end of the evening everyone agreed we had to do it again. Somebody threw out the word “Botness” (and before we had fully calculated the ramifications of autocorrect) the would-be initiative had a name.
Fast forward a few months after every major messaging platform company had announced support for bots and a bigger and better Botness event came together thanks to the patronage of Lili Cheng (Microsoft), Amir Shevat (Slack), Ivar Chan (Kik), John Borthwick (betaworks), Chris Messina (Uber), brady forrest (Highway 1), Ben Brown (Howdy), and Mimi Ito (UC Irvine). Many of the sessions from that event were captured on video here (make sure you watch Robert Hoffer’s “Smarter Child: A Bot Odyssey”; here’s someone who’s been there and done that!)
It was during this second get-together that many of us began to think that Botness could serve a larger purpose. Unlike the web which had standards bodies like the W3C or the mobile industry which was built on twenty-year old Objective-C and Java APIs, bots have neither standards nor mature technology stacks. The event attendees realized that these and a range of other issues (from consumer education, discovery, monetization, and the ‘shifting sands’ of the evolving platforms, etc) would be impediments to widespread success and the adoption of bots, and began to hatch a plan to address these issues.
As the founder of a startup myself (Automat), I have to say it was truly awe inspiring and encouraging to see platform leads from Facebook, Slack, Kik, Microsoft and Google meeting with over 30 startups to discuss working together to solve the problems we’d identified. Everyone quickly realized that transparency and collaboration were essential to turning the promise of messaging and bots into a viable market where both platform companies and startups can thrive building experiences consumers love. We left the second Botness with a mandate to continue to meet and to help the community as best we could.
Introducing the Botness Survey
To that end, our first step is to conduct a comprehensive survey of current bot startups in order to identify companies that should be part of Botness and to select the most important issues to work on at the next Botness gathering. If you are a startup interested in joining the cause, attending future Botness events, and making your voice heard to the various platform companies you can take the survey here.
My partners in this effort are Chris Messina and Jon Bruner, both notable community builders. We are backed by the messaging platform leads at Facebook, Slack, Kik, Microsoft, and Google. The plan is that everyone that takes the survey will receive the same detailed report on its results. The aim is to give everyone who is investing in messaging and bots access to the same information. Once published, we will extract the list of pressing problems and issues to be discussed at the next Botness event and solicit for participants for working groups. These working groups should make progress ahead of Botness to ensure that the conference is as productive as possible.
Our plan here is pretty ambitious, and some may say a little pie in the sky. Sure, it’s hard to get disparate, potentially competitive groups to work together for the common good, but that’s not going to stop us from trying. As many of us are fond of saying, in the bot space none of us will fail because of competition—we’ll fail due to lack of consumer demand or the ability to build viable businesses. Many of these problems (e.g. payments, discovery, virality, etc) will require startups and platform companies to come together, and Botness is where this can happen. Join us!
Make sure to fill out the survey by September 1, 2016 to be counted!