Common Bot Misconceptions

With every new technology and paradigm, there are a lot of misconceptions, but I’ll try to set the record straight about the most common ones concerning bots.

1. Bots are AI

Wrong, most bots do not currently use AI, a lot of them will never need to use AI.

Some bots use Natural Language Processing/Understanding to map what the user is saying to the bot to an actual intent. For example, there are many ways to say you want to book a ticket to a movie — “I wanna book a ticket for later this evening”, “I want to go to the movies tonight”, “book me a ticket to a movie after 8pm”- all of these mean more or less the same, but for a developer it is quite hard to map these into an intent to book a ticket this evening. That is the most common use of AI today in bots, this is not what most people think about when they say artificial intelligence.

In addition, AI is not limited to bots - bots are by far not the only use case for AI. There are great AI solutions, for example image recognition or finding the right song you want to hear right now — solutions that uses AI but does not require bots.

2. Bots are easier to build than apps

Wrong! Building a great conversational bot is as hard to build as any app. The complexities are in different things - with conversational interfaces you have less control over the flow and need to accommodate more paths in the user funnel. In simple terms, building a conversation is as hard as building a good UI for an Android or an iOS app.

I was at an event where someone said “bots are super easy, we take care of all the experience in our platform”, here are my thoughts about that:

3. Text is the only way to interact with bots

Wrong, conversational interfaces can be rich, and provide users with an easy and productive experience. Most major chat platforms provide controls, such as buttons, that let you guide the user in the conversation.

Buttons!

4. Bots are the only way to integrate services into chat apps

Wrong. Building a bot is only one of three ways to integrate with Slack for example:

  1. Notifications — post content from your service into Slack
  2. Slash commands — use Slack as your command line for your service
  3. Bots — yes, expose your application through conversation

You can bundle these platform features into Slack apps. There are a lot of smart people out there that think integrations in chat apps can take many forms.

5. Bots are going to replace apps/services

For Services, that is just silly! That is like saying that the color blue is going to replace cars. Bots are an interface, they are a way to expose your service, they will not replace your service because bots have no meaning without the service.

Bots might, for some services, be the only interface, and that is fine. We might see some classes of apps fade away, because users will choose the bot as the sole interface. But for a lot of services bots will be one of several interfaces users will have to interact with the service.

6. Bots will make humans redundant

Bots will automate a few tasks, but in most cases bots will create more opportunities for humans to collaborate in a productive way.

Take for example the Sensay bot, it actually creates a lot of new job opportunities and there are many more like that. Bots can serve as a mediator between humans, it can facilitate new human services that were not available until now in chat mediums like this, such as support, mentorship and sales.

7. All bots are born the same

This is a brave new world and there are a lot of open questions and opinions left to be answered. If we treat bots as another great way to expose services, we can all improve the way we understand and interact with them.

There are all types of bots: work bots, game bots, art bots and more. They have some things in common, and some things very different. There are a few of articles that talk about the problem of too many platforms and too little use cases. This is not true for b2b bots, there are tons of profitable and valuable use cases to be built out there!

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