Please Read The Jack Principles

In 1997, Harry Gottlieb, creator of the trivia game You Don’t Know Jack and founder of Jellyvision wrote a white paper in which he shared some thoughts for what makes a good interactive conversation interface or iCi, as he calls it (pronounced “icky”).

Not only was this super generous, it also clearly proves he was a man ahead of his time. He and Jellyvision have been putting their own principles to good use for quite a while in the form of Alex — a chatty software suite for human resource departments, all without the use of deep learning or natural language processing.

Here’s a quick summary of the principles, but the entire document is certainly worth a read.

JACK PRINCIPLES TO MAINTAIN PACING

1. Give the user only one task to accomplish at a time
2. Limit the number of choices the user has at any one time
3. Give the user only meaningful choices
4. Make sure the user knows what to do at every moment
5. Focus the user’s attention on the task at hand
6. Use the most efficient manner of user input
7. Make the user aware that the program is waiting
8. Pause, quit or move on without the user’s response if it doesn’t
come soon enough.

JACK PRINCIPLES TO CREATE THE ILLUSION OF AWARENESS
Specifically Respond with Human Intelligence and Emotion to:
1. The user’s actions
2. The user’s inactions
3. The user’s past actions
4. A series of the user’s actions
5. The actual time and space that the user is in
6. The comparison of different users’ situations and actions

JACK PRINCIPLES TO MAINTAIN THE ILLUSION OF AWARENESS
1. Use dialogue that conveys a sense of intimacy
2. Make sure characters act appropriately while the user is interacting
3. Make sure dialogue never seems to repeat
4. Be aware of the number of simultaneous users
5. Be aware of the gender of the users
6. Make sure the performance of dialogue is seamless
7. Avoid the presence of characters when user input cannot be evaluated

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