We’re trying something new. Say hello to Little Window, our chatbot.
It’s a cyber cat helping our users search.
Beyond the hype of chatbots replacing humans (they won’t), we’re dabbling in this space to see if this technology can help our users find content — fast.
The inspiration behind it is based on an observation from running Chayn for 5 years:
No matter how beautiful and simple we make our websites, women still get in touch with us to ask where they can find the information they need on our sites..
We’ve always dealt with this by doing design revamps or making navigation on our sites easier. However, earlier last year, we were commissioned to do a research project (Tech vs Abuse) by Comic Relief, alongside Snook and Safelives, on how domestic abuse survivors in the UK, as well as the organisations supporting them, are using the web to search for information and support. We found that often women had very short windows of opportunity when their partners were not around to find support online, but that the online world can be a ‘rabbit hole’ of information. This is especially true for women who have multiple factors that affect their circumstances. For instance, if you’re a Pakistani immigrant with low English skills stuck in an abusive relationship in the UK, not only do you need information related to laws and organisations in the UK, but also Pakistan where you may have to return. Similarly, there are many specialist services that you might want to search for, such as charities that cater to women with children.
Here are two quotes from the women we interviewed during Tech vs Abuse research that stood out:
“Bad websites make me have a very bad experience. You go round in circles finding information and that can become very frustrating. Both user journey and not finding what you’re looking for. Realising that this is just a website. This is the worst part for me. It’s only a website with a number that doesn’t work. I had nasty experiences and they make you feel desperate at the point.”
“It took me 15 clicks to find the information on a local refuge. If you only have 5 minutes alone, that’s at least 10 clicks too many.”
Ultimately, Chayn creates and curates key information online for women experiencing domestic abuse in a way that is easy to find, simple to navigate and quick to interact with. That’s what we have been good at. Nevertheless, for some, our sites will still be overwhelming. That’s where Little Window (or ‘khirki کهڑکی’ as I call it) comes in.
Little window is a smart search bot that directs women to the information they are looking for as quickly as possible. Think of it like google search on turbo for all of Chayn’s resources and those provided by our friends too. We want to drastically reduce the time women take to search for information which in many cases can save lives.
How it came about
I can’t remember when and how I came up with the idea for Little Window but I visualised it and tried to make it happen at my coding bootcamp (23 Code Street) and Mozfest 2018. After failing to make significant progress with it while juggling a job and the rest of Chayn, I finally conceded that it won’t happen until I get professionals involved. That’s when I applied for Kering Foundation Award on gender-based violence, facilitated by MakeSense. We came in the top 3 ideas!
By sheer luck, one of the students at Founders & Coders, Johanna, had been following Chayn on twitter for a while and wanted to see if we would like to do a chatbot. Founders & Coders is a UK-based nonprofit organisation that runs a tuition-free coding academy in London, and in return, students have to do a tech project with a charity. Within one week of Johanna contacting me (they were on a deadline!), we began the project.
Once we had enough data, we will use the output from the chats and the searches to do machine learning and analyze the most commonly asked questions, and how this information can best be delivered to women in seconds.
We see ‘little window’ as one of the first chatbot and AI innovations at the intersection of gender-based violence and tech for good. Want to help us make this bot better? Try it out.
There are some considerations with this chat bot:
- It becomes smarter as it interacts with more people and gets feedback, so if it doesn’t understand something you say, please cut it some slack and keep going. Keep going.
- The first iteration is in English but we’ll be expanding it to other languages soon.
- The bot never pretends to be a human. Frontline services are the lifeline survivors of abuse need. Nothing can replace them. This is not an alternative to that and we state this to users from the very beginning.
- The bot doesn’t want to provide counselling. It’s there to help women find links to our resources and other organisations’ materials too. If you want your resource included, submit it here.
- Little Window does not work on mobile — yet. That’ll come in our next iteration.
- You can see the code behind the project here. We will be blogging about the tech behind it soon. If you do end up using it, and feel like supporting us, please do get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) to make a discretionary donation.
How can you help make Little Window better?
Have a play: chayn.co. Help our chat bot learn by asking it questions.
Many thanks to Kering Foundation and MakeSense for supporting this project and Founders and Coders for breathing life into an idea. And thanks to Sam, for our cute cat friend. You may have seen her as one of the securikitties for DIY Online Safety.