Chatbots are taking over the simple tasks in life that we often don’t realize could be automated. Paypal just launched a feature over Facebook messenger that allows you to transfer money between friends, saving you the pain of sending money or scrounging for cash. Facebook chatbots and the website bots of e-retailers are simplifying our shopping experiences too, by talking to you about which products you’re looking for. The chatbots will round up a shortlist of products you might like, and from there you can continue shopping or make a purchase straight through the chatbot.
A feature like this may seem accessible only to the realm of experienced coders, but did you know you can make a chatbot from your own home? All you need is a coding program and a tutorial. Easy as that. Here we’ve rounded up a list of resources to help you get coding. And if you need a reason to get started, we’ll provide that too! Why don’t you…
Get a few friends together.
Bonus points if they’re creative and can think outside the bot. I mean, box. Write a bot that hurls Shakespearean insults at its user, or sends compliments to brighten the user’s day. Chatbots with a singular function are the easiest to code, because you only need to think up various responses on the one theme that the bot can cycle through. These bots are generally referred to as “transactional” bots.
Or start out on your own.
You could write a proscrasti-bot that gives you a list of all the activities you could be doing instead of writing the paper that’s due on Friday. Incorporating questions into the bot is a higher level of difficulty and requires the bot to have a wider base knowledge written by you. These bots are “conversational” bots.
What kind of bot will you write?
You’ll need a program for writing code, first and foremost. A coder favourite is Python, beloved for its simple interface that minimizes clutter. The best way to learn a new program is to really get stuck in and consume all the information you possibly can. Try reading up on the basics or watch a Youtube tutorial before you get started.
Worldwritable.com has written a highly interactive chatbot tutorial that allows you to edit the code of their ‘Brobot’ and see how your changes affect the chatbot’s behavior. This will give you a good insight to personality too, as Brobot’s code is written to neg on its users and act like a stereotypical ‘bro’.
Once you’ve got a beginner’s understanding of coding a chatbot, expand your knowledge and keep trying. Or if you’re struggling to get a good understanding of it on your own, check out our list of programming courses near you which will take the difficulty out of learning code.
– Eliza Brockwell