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Designing Bots, 1st Edition by Amir Shevat

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Chapter 8. The Conversation

If it is a ten-minute speech it takes me all of two weeks to prepare it; if it is a half-hour speech it takes me a week; if I can talk as long as I want to it requires no preparation at all. I am ready now.

PRESIDENT WILSON

ACCORDING TO WIKIPEDIA, HUMAN language probably started to develop around 100,000 years ago (in comparison, the first computer was created in 1946). With about 5,000 languages in use in the world today, it seems like humanity should be very proficient at building productive conversations—so why is this still such a difficult problem?

The reason is that until now, humans had to adjust themselves to software, rather than the other way around. As designers we were taught to think in windows, controls, colors, and animation. Without being able to interact with them directly, we were trying to tell the users which buttons to push and which menus hid the information they sought. When designing conversations, we go back to the ancient art that has been at the core of our society for ages: talking to each other.

Remember that bots offer a new interface to an already established human interaction. Bots manifest themselves inside messaging apps, where humans have been communicating with each other for some time. This means that you will need to borrow a lot from preexisting human conversations—for example, users will expect bots not to ignore them, because it is not polite for humans to do so. There is also a big opportunity here to create a connection ...

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