Tag Archives: bots

Someone asked me about 2016 and 2017. This is what I said

Crystal ball image by Christian R. Hamacher

Crystal ball image by Christian R. Hamacher

Every year Nic Newman asks a bunch of people for their reflections on the last 12 months and their anticipations for the year ahead. Here’s what I’ve said this year — as always, to be taken with significant doses of salt. 

What surprised you most in 2016?

Perhaps the sheer number of significant developments (compare the posts for 2015 and 2014). It was the year when bots went mainstream very quickly, and platforms took further significant steps towards becoming regulated as publishers.

It was a year of renewed innovation in audio. 2016 saw the launch of a number of new audio apps, including Anchor, Pundit, Clyp and Bumpers.fm, as various companies attempted to be the ‘Facebook of audio’. The only problem: Facebook wants to be the Facebook of audio too: at the end of the year they introduced live audio. Continue reading

From Bana and #boycottdelta to gaslighting and AI – why we’re headed for confusion fatigue in 2017

Goodbye 2016, the year of The Boys Who Cried Wolf. Not just a year of ‘fake news’, but something more: a crisis in people’s ability to believe anything.

And in 2017 it’s likely to get worse.

To explain what I mean, you need to go back to 2003, when Salam Pax, the ‘Baghdad Blogger’, was posting updates in the middle of the Iraq War. While some questioned whether he was really based in Iraq, that debate was relatively limited by today’s standards. It was a manageable doubt.

The boys who cried wolf in Aleppo

Cut to Aleppo in 2016 and you see how things have changed. Bana Alabed is perhaps Aleppo’s ‘Baghdad Blogger’: a Twitter account about the experiences of a seven year old Syrian girl, maintained by her mother.

But she is not alone: the number of voices speaking from the ground has proliferated… Continue reading

2016 was the year of the bot — here’s a brief history of how they have been used in journalism

Robot gif

2016 was the year of the bot in journalism. In this edited extract from the forthcoming second edition of the Online Journalism Handbook, I outline what bots are, how bots have been used by media organisations from early Twitter bots to the recent wave of ‘chatbots’, and some tips and tools for getting started with journalistic bots.

‘Bots’ are ‘robots’ – only on the internet. Without the mechanical body of their physical counterparts, all that leaves is a disembodied computer script, normally created to perform repetitive tasks.

This broad description takes in a whole range of activities, and so the term ‘bot’ is used to talk about very different things in different contexts:

  • In search you might talk about bots used to index webpages, such as the ‘Googlebot’.
  • In finance and commerce you might talk about bots used to monitor information online and respond to it by buying or selling things.
  • And in advertising and politics you might talk about bots being used for nefarious purposes: for example, to make it look like more people are viewing webpages, clicking on adverts, or arguing for a particular candidate.

This article isn’t about any of those.

In the context of journalism and publishing, the term ‘bot’ is normally used to refer to something which users can interact with. Examples include: Continue reading

When chatbots talk about politics: 3 effective approaches

Since the trend is to use Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger rather than downloading new apps, the media is investing in chatbots to engage with the audience. They keep users awake and speak the same language.

There have been several examples of chatbots for cooking, shopping or travelling. However, politics chatbots are quite new. In a post first published on her blog, Maria Crosas Batista shares three effective approaches when it comes to cover elections or represent politicians:

1. GloBot · Canada

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Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail has built a Facebook Messenger chatbot for the American elections that shares text, audio, and video from their website. Continue reading

Google’s creepy Allo assistant and our rocky relationship so far

where-do-you-live

After playing with Allo’s chat prompts for those too lazy to write their own texts, I began to play with the in-conversation Google Assistant bot. Here are the highlights:

1. You can use the assistant without giving it permission

Whereas other chat apps like Telegram and Facebook Messenger make it possible to interact with bots, Google is making bots central to Allo. Specifically, the Google Assistant.

When you first open the app you are introduced to the assistant. It wants to help, it says, but it will only do so if you agree to give it a whole bunch of creepy permissions. Until you give it those, it will not answer any questions directly. Continue reading

Hello Allo: the first 12 things I learned about Google’s new chat app

very-true-indeed

Google’s new chat app Allo is out in the UK, and I’ve been playing around with it.

There are two key artificial intelligence (AI) features that stick out in the app: firstly, the ability to interact with bots (the Google Assistant, which I’ve written about in a second post here), and secondly the way the app suggests responses while you chat.

I took screenshots during my first conversations using the app to see how the AI algorithms were set up before it had begun to learn much from my behaviour. Here are the highlights… Continue reading

What next? How the news media can respond to losing

A road crossing from high up

The infrastructure is complete. Image by Miroslav Petrasko

You can see the future coming.