It takes a village, or a global community, to raise a chatbot

It takes a village, or a global community, to raise a chatbot

In our line of work, you don’t often get many opportunities where you feel like your doing your bit for the world.

Yes, reducing friction in the online customer experience is grand and all, but when you compare it to what Greta Thunberg is doing, you can feel a little deflated.

But last week an opportunity to give a bit back presented itself.

Off the back of the Coronavirus outbreak, the good people at New Voices decided to create a chatbot to combat misinformation about COVID-19. Her name is Jennifer.

To get Jennifer up and running, New Voices asked for volunteers to help develop the content and training. And we decided to do our bit by taking some time out each day to help. Not quite Greta Thunberg level but it’s a step in the right direction!

It’s taught us 3 things:

  1. Good chatbots can be launched at speed

Getting Jennifer up and running quickly was crucial. The New Voices team used the Juji platform and the bot was live within a day.

If lives weren’t literally on the line, we’d always recommend a longer training phase. In Jennifer’s case, she’d have to learn on the job.

  1. The more people from varying backgrounds and cultures you have working on your bot, the better

Training is key to a good chatbot. That means the more you can figure out how a user may put something to a bot, the better trained it can be and the likelihood it’ll perform as you intended is increased.

For Jennifer, people are getting involved from around the world. The nuances in their speech and writing are helping Jennifer perform better every day.

And crucially, with a large team, people don’t get burnt out working on her. An hour of someone’s time a day figuring out what people want to know and how they might put it to the bot, or finding the right answers, helps her significantly. Multiply that by 20 people, and all of sudden she’s rapidly improving.

  1. When it’s truly important, personality takes a backseat

For Jennifer, the main goal is to get the right information out there. Yes, she could be chattier in places, and say things in a more concise way. With a bit more time, maybe she could even respond correctly to your emoji sentences. But that’s not important now.

What’s important is that the information she does put out can be trusted. That’s why she only quotes content gleaned directly from the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease and Control Prevention.

So far, she seems to be a success with around 40 new users daily.

Chat with Jennifer