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Beware the Wild Chatbot! | @ThingsExpo #AI #IoT #M2M #Chatbot
Do chatbots really need artificial intelligence? It may do more harm than good.

Chatbots are taking over the world. They have their own magazine, their own dot-org website, and their own versions of popular "meet someone" sites. Far too often, when we chat with them we think we're chatting with humans. Do you really think all those helpful "live chat" offerings that are popping up on e-commerce sites have call centers full of actual people behind them 24/7? Maybe they do, and maybe they don't. You may not be able to tell very easily, especially if the bot behind the chat utility you're using is programmed to hand you off to a human if you need a response beyond what the bot can give you.

chatbot.png

Illustration courtesy of Grid Dynamics

Are Chatbots Dangerous?
In the February 21, 2017 edition of Forbes, Nikki Baird wrote an article titled, Why Chatbots Are Dangerous Territory For Retailers. The contention here is that retailers are often tempted to let customers think they're interacting with a human, not a machine. When customers learn the truth, they often feel they have been duped, which does not exactly build trust or loyalty. It's better to have a chatbot that openly identifies itself by saying something like, "I'm Help-bot, your friendly silicon assistant." That's not only honest, but it brings a light, friendly touch to the conversation.

A smart customer can easily tell when a chatbot is a chatbot, not a real person. Even bots that have fairly sophisticated AI (Artificial Intelligence) behind them can be tripped up without too much trouble, while less-sophisticated ones, like the Amazon Alexa, are so limited that playing with their limitations can make a great game for children. A lot of Alexa's problems have to do with voice recognition, and today we're concentrating on text-based chatbots; we'll give voice-based chatbots their own article in the near future. But voice recognition isn't the only kind of problem chatbots face. Text-based chatbots can get into plenty of trouble, too.

The big difficulty with chatbots, AI, and machine learning is that AI isn't very intelligent at this point -- unless the device has been built, a la IBM's Watson, with a nearly unlimited budget. Meanwhile, machine learning sometimes works better than its makers expect. A famous example of machine learning gone awry was Microsoft's Tay, which lived on Twitter and learned to be a "Nazi" from Nazi-leaning trolls.

As one commenter on Ars Technica said, "So Microsoft created a chat bot that so perfectly emulates a teenager that it went off spouting offensive things just for the sake of getting attention?" This is exactly true. Microsoft built Tay to interact with young people on their own terms. The only problem was, it apparently interacted heavily with young people from 4Chan, who tend to delight in pranks, trolling, and putting out the alt-right party line while spewing hate speech about everyone else.

This is not how you want your branded corporate bot to behave. Maybe a little less learning ability would be better than too much, unless you have the resources to monitor your chatbots around the clock -- which defeats their primary purpose: saving on labor costs.

Three Rules for Building Safe, Useful Corporate Chatbots

  • Set your sights low. Don't expect your bots to pass a Turing test or be much more than a combination menu navigation system and information service. The less sophisticated your bot, the lower the chance of it misbehaving.
  • Program your chatbot's responses only after analyzing hundreds or thousand of real customer interactions with your customer service people. The ideal team for programming a chatbot's responses, and deciding what keywords should trigger which responses, might be a customer service person, a marketing person, a programmer, and a psychologist or sociologist. And after the chatbot is put into production, that team should periodically check its responses and make changes as needed.
  • Be honest! Admit that your bot is a bot. And don't be afraid to have your bot say, "I don't think I can answer that. Hold on a moment while I get a human to help you."

Follow these three basic chatbot rules and you will have helpful chatbots and happy customers. The meta-rule behind these three rules is the traditional KISS, or "keep it simple, sailor." Recognize the fact that your chatbot will have limitations, and that you need to recognize those limitations and work within them, because fake "do it all" artificial intelligence is worse than no artificial intelligence at all.

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Our next article on this topic will be about voice chatbots. Meanwhile, you may want to read this article: Chatbots in retail: 2017 is shaping up to be a big year. And if you're eager to start developing your own chatbot or want to modify an existing one for your purposes, bot Stash is an amazing resource that can take you all the way from from bot basics to advanced development, including APIs for platforms ranging from Facebook to Skype.

About Robin Miller
Robin “Roblimo” Miller is a long-time IT journalist known for his work on Slashdot, Linux.com, and other sites covering software so new that its edges haven’t even started to bleed. Nowadays, he writes for FOSSForce.com and works as an editorial consultant and blog editor for Grid Dynamics, “the engineering IT services company known for transformative, mission-critical cloud solutions for retail, finance and technology sectors.”

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Sponsorship opportunities are now open for WebRTC Summit 2017 Santa Clara, Oct 31-Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and for WebRTC Summit 2018 New York, June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. For sponsorship, exhibit opportunities and show prospectus, please contact Carmen Gonzalez, carmen (at) sys-con.com.



WebRTC Summit Silicon Valley All-Star Speakers Include

MATTHIEU
Octoblu

MAHADEV
Cisco

MCCARTHY
Bsquare

FELICIANO
AMDG

PAUL
VenueNext

SMITH
Eviot

BEAMER
goTraverse

GETTENS
goTraverse

CHAMBLISS
ReadyTalk

HERBERTS
Cityzen Data

REITBAUER
Dynatrace

WILLIAM-
SON

Cloud
Computing

SCHMARZO
EMC

WOOD
VeloCloud

WALLGREN
Electric Cloud

VARAN-
NATH

GE

SRIDHARA-
BALAN

Pulzze

METRIC
Linux

MONTES
Iced

ARIOLA
Parasoft

HOLT
Daitan

CUNNING-
HAM

ReadyTalk

BEDRO-
SIAN

Cypress

NAMIE
Cisco

NAKA-
GAWA

Transparent
Cloud

SHIBATA
Transparent
Cloud

BOYD
Neo4j

WARD
DWE

MILLER
Covisint

EVAVOLD
Covisint

MEINER
Oracle

MEEHAN
Esri

WITECK
Citrix

LIANG
Rancher Labs

BUTLER
Tego

ROWE
IBM Cloud

SKILLERN
Intel

SMITH
Numerex
WebRTC Summit New York All-Star Speakers Include

CLELAND
HGST

VASILIOU
Catchpoint

WALLGREN
Electric Cloud

HINCH-
CLIFFE

7Summits

DE SOUZA
Cisco

RANDALL
Gartner

ARM-
STRONG

AppNeta

SMALL-
TREE

Cazena

MCCARTHY
Bsquare

DELOACH
Infobright

QUINT
Ontegrity

MALAU-
CHLAN

Buddy Platform

PALIOTTA
Vector

MITRA
Cognizant

KOCHER
Grey Heron

PAPDO
POULOS

Cloud9

HARLAN
Two Bulls

GOLO
SHUBIN

Bit6

PROIETTI
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Smart

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nfrastructure

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MARSH
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PARKS
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OFF

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SHAN
CTS

MATTELA
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ARDO

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SKY

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GoTransverse

LESTER
LogMeIn

PONO
-MAREVA

Google

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Sencha

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KLEIN
Rachio

HOASIN
Aeris

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PHEMI

SPROULE
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SNELL
Intel

LEVINE
CytexOne

ALLEN
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MCCAL-
LUM

Falconstor

HYEDT
Seamless

WebRTC Summit Silicon Valley All-Star Speakers Include

SCHULZ
Luxoft

TAM-
BURINI

Autodesk

MCCARTHY
Bsquare

THURAI
SaneIoT

TURNER
Cloudian

ENDO
Intrepid

NAKAGAWA
Transparent

SHIBATA
Transparent

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testRTC

VARAN NATH
GE

COOPER
M2Mi

SENAY
Teletax

SKEEN
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KOCHER
Grey Heron

GREENE
PubNub

MAGUIRE
HP

MATTHIEU
Octoblu

STEINER-
JOVIC

AweSense

LYNN
AgilData

HEDGES
Cloudata

DUFOUR
Webroot

ROBERTS
Platform

JONES
Deep

PFEIFFER
NICTA

NIELSEN
Redis

PAOLAL-
ANTORIO

DataArchon

KAHN
Solgenia

LOPEZ
Kurento

KIM
MapR

BROMHEAD
Instaclustr

LEVINE
CytexOne

BONIFAZI
Solgenia

GORBA-
CHEV

Intelligent
Systems

THYKAT-
TIL

Navisite

TRELOAR
Bebaio

SIVARAMA-
KRISHNAN

Red Hat
Cloud Expo New York All-Star Speakers Included

DE SOUZA
Cisco

POTTER
SafeLogic

ROBINSON
CompTIA

WARUSA
-WITHANA

WSO2 Inc

MEINER
Oracle

CHOU
Microsoft

HARRISON
Tufin

BRUNOZZI
VMware

KIM
MapR

KANE
Dyn

SICULAR
Basho

TURNER
Cloudian

KUMAR
Liaison

ADAMIAK
Liaison

KHAN
Solgenia

BONIFAZI
Solgenia

SUSSMAN
Coalfire

ISAACSON
RMS

LYNN
CodeFutures

HEABERLIN
Windstream

RAMA
MURTHY

Virtusa

BOSTOCK
IndependenceIT

DE MENO
CommVault

GRILLI
Adobe

WILLIAMS
Rancher Labs

CRISWELL
Alert Logic

COTY
Alert Logic

JACOBS
SingleHop

MARAVEI
Cisco

JACKSON
Softlayer

SINGH
IBM

HAZARD
Softlayer

GALLO
Softlayer

TAMASKAR
GENBAND

SUBRA
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Emcien

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BERG

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IBM Cloudant

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CTS

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INNI

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GERSMA

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CenturyLink

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SLOPER
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SRINIVAS
EMC

TALREJA
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COLLISON
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PRABHU
OpenCrowd

LYNN
CodeFutures

SWARTZ
Ericsson

MOSHENKO
CoreOS

BERMING-
HAM

SIOS

WILLIS
Stateless Networks

MURPHY
Gridstore

KHABE
Vicom

NIKOLOV
GetClouder

DIETZE
Windstream

DALRY-
MPLE

EnterpriseDB

MAZZUCCO
TierPoint

RIVERA
WHOA.com

HERITAGE
Akana

SEYMOUR
6fusion

GIANNETTO
Author

CARTER
IBM

ROGERS
Virtustream
Cloud Expo Silicon Valley All-Star Speakers

TESAR
Microsoft

MICKOS
HP

BHARGAVA
Intel

RILEY
Riverbed

DEVINE
IBM

ISAACSON
CodeFutures

LYNN
HP

HINKLE
Citrix

KHAN
Solgenia

SINGH
Bigdata

BEACH
SendGrid

BOSTOCK
IndependenceIT

DE SOUZA
Cisco

PATTATHIL
Harbinger

O'BRIEN
Aria Systems

BONIFAZI
Solgenia

BIANCO
Solgenia

PROCTOR
NuoDB

DUGGAL
EnterpriseWeb

TEGETHOFF
Appcore

BRUNOZZI
VMware

HICKENS
Parasoft

KLEBANOV
Cisco

PETERS
Esri

GOLDBERG
Vormetric

CUMBER-
LAND

Dimension

ROSENDAHL
Quantum

LOOMIS
Cloudant

BRUNO
StackIQ

HANNON
SoftLayer

JACKSON
SoftLayer

HOCH
Virtustream

KAPADIA
Seagate

PAQUIN
OnLive

TSAI
Innodisk

BARRALL
Connected Data

SHIAH
AgilePoint

SEGIL
Verizon

PODURI
Citrix

COWIE
Dyn

RITTEN-
HOUSE

Cisco

FALLOWS
Kaazing

THYKATTIL
TimeWarner

LEIDUCK
SAP

LYNN
HP

WAGSTAFF
BSQUARE

POLLACK
AOL

KAMARAJU
Vormetric

BARRY
Catbird

MENDEN-
HALL

SUPERNAP

SHAN
KEANE

PLESE
Verizon

BARNUM
Voxox

TURNER
Cloudian

CALDERON
Advanced Systems

AGARWAL
SOA Software

LEE
Quantum

OBEROI
Concurrent, Inc.

HATEM
Verizon

GALEY
Autodesk

CAUTHRON
NIMBOXX

BARSOUM
IBM

GORDON
1Plug

LEWIS
Verizon

YEO
OrionVM

NAKAGAWA
Transparent Cloud Computing

SHIBATA
Transparent Cloud Computing

NATH
GE

GOKCEN
GE

STOICA
Databricks

TANKEL
Pivotal Software


Testimonials
This week I had the pleasure of delivering the opening keynote at Cloud Expo New York. It was amazing to be back in the great city of New York with thousands of cloud enthusiasts eager to learn about the next step on their journey to embracing a cloud-first worldl."
@SteveMar_Msft
General Manager of Window Azure
 
How does Cloud Expo do it every year? Another INCREDIBLE show - our heads are spinning - so fun and informative."
@SOASoftwareInc
 
Thank you @ThingsExpo for such a great event. All of the people we met over the past three days makes us confident IoT has a bright future."
Yasser Khan
CEO of @Cnnct2me
 
One of the best conferences we have attended in a while. Great job, Cloud Expo team! Keep it going."

@Peak_Ten


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Digital Transformation Blogs
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a member of the Society of Information Management (SIM) Atlanta Chapter. She received a Business and Ec...
Early Bird Registration Discount Expires on August 31, 2018 Conference Registration Link ▸ HERE. Pick from all 200 sessions in all 10 tracks, plus 22 Keynotes & General Sessions! Lunch is served two days. EXPIRES AUGUST 31, 2018. Ticket prices: ($1,295-Aug 31) ($1,495-Oct 31) ($1,995-Nov 12) ($2,500-Walk-in)
There's no doubt that blockchain technology is a powerful tool for the enterprise, but bringing it mainstream has not been without challenges. As VP of Technology at 8base, Andrei is working to make developing a blockchain application accessible to anyone. With better tools, entrepreneurs and developers can work together to quickly and effectively launch applications that integrate smart contracts and blockchain technology. This will ultimately accelerate blockchain adoption on a global scale.