Fun With Chat

Chat is becoming the next platform. Interacting with computers through channels that you already use to talk to people (Facebook Messenger, SMS, Slack etc) in a way that feels natural is a powerful way to accomplish many things for which web pages, mobile apps, desktop applications, or commandline scripts are cumbersome.

Chat is not a panacea for all user experience problems but there are many day to day things that might be able to transition to this way of interacting with computers or new ways that as yet haven’t been able to work.

In some ways this is evidence of more encroachment of technology into taking ever more jobs from humans.

Facebook has a bot they run on Messenger (available limited to Silicon Valley area) which can answer ‘any’ question and perform any number of activities on your behalf. Right now it is operating on a hybrid model. There is an ever growing list of queries for which it can automatically handle, and anything which the AI is not yet able to handle is directed back to an actual person to do. “what is a good pizza place nearby?” can be sourced from Yelp reviews. “Can you call and reserve a table for this evening” -> maybe can’t be handled automatically and will go to an actual person to do. As development continues the features that can be handled will be incrementally expanded.

I have a service running to maintain my healthy habits. Persistence is an app that messages me to do things when it can tell that I haven’t. It’s like a dependable friend that holds me accountable to my goals. There’s no reason why all this can’t happen through a communicative medium like chat. There’s no reason why this couldn’t feel like chatting to an actual friend.

After playing with the Slack and Facebook APIs around chat, it’s proving to be both more difficult and more interesting than I imagined. Difficult because in these early days creating interfaces that process natural language and conversation threads is missing a lot of tooling. Interesting because this is all so new that you really get a chance to build something that no one has really thought of yet. This is a new platform and there is still much to learn.